May 2, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Bavaria

Yesterday was Labour Day in all of Europe, so Umair had a day off. And when you are living in Bavaria and the weather is gorgeous, it is silly not to take advantage of a day off. Bavaria has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty and culture, easy travel is an added bonus. So we decided to take a day trip down to Chiemsee - a small town with freshwater lake, around an hour train ride from Munich. In Chiemsee, there is an island where the eccentric King Ludwig of Bavaria built his Versailles-like Palace. But before I get to that palace, I would like to talk about, among other things, my love for Disney. 

I am a Disney fan, yes, still. Please do not age discriminate. Nor give me judgmental looks. A couple of months ago, they were showing Cinderella on Disney channel here and I was singing along with the mice..

We can do it, we can do it
We can help our Cinderelly
We can make her dress so pretty

...when I realized Umair was giving me the weirdest look and asking me what on earth was I watching. I gave him a look back that said get out of the rock you live under and continued singing.

Anyway, I grew up watching Disney fairy tales. And don't mind going back and watching Little Mermaid or Aladdin once in a while. I do realize the ridiculousness of those Disney fairy tales, but harm in indulging in a bit of ridiculousness sometimes ;). Also, watching Disney movies makes me nostalgic and gives me warm and fuzzy feelings. I always drooled over the castles shown in the Disney movies. Because well....who does not drool over castles?! And then, last summer, I got my chance to visit a Disney castle! Where I played my own fairy tale in my head....dancing to 'tale as old as time' with my Beast... 

Okay there was no Beast. It was just me and my 2 lovely sisters who were visiting Europe last summer.

And okay it wasn't exactly a Disney castle, but it was the very castle that became the inspiration for Walt Disney's fairy tale castles; the Neuschwanstein Castle.

picture off google image

picture off google image

Inside the castle grounds.

Situated on a high hill above a village, surrounded by gorgeous alps and lake, this 19th century Romanesque castle was the first of its kind, with the many towers and an innovative structure. It is situated close to a small village, Fussen, which is a 2 hour train ride from Munich. It was built by King Ludwig of Bavaria.The construction started in 1869. But the castle was never completed due to the sudden, mysterious death of King Ludwig.

King Ludwig. He was quite an interesting character. He was engaged to the princess of Vienna, I believe, but broke off the engagement because he was actually gay. Because of his love for castles, swans and romance, he is also called Swan King or Fairy tale King. He was only 19 when he became king.

The Bavarians were not very happy with Ludwig getting castles after castles constructed, especially because the Bavarian economy at that time was in bad shape. However, in Mr. Ludwig's defense, it is said that he used his personal money for the castles. 

Ludwig liked to keep to himself, avoid the public and live a life of mystery. Well, his love for mystery also led to his death being a mystery. Apparently, the government advisors wanted Ludwig off the throne, and thus plotted against him. This is what they did: they got doctors to report Ludwig as clinically insane and therefore incompetent to be king, without running any proper medical reports. And so Ludwig was forced to resign. A day after, he was found dead in lake Starnberg, which is pretty close to Munich. He was a great swimmer, so drowning doesn't seem to be a possibility. But the mysterious king of Bavaria died a mysterious death leaving his Neuchwanstein Castle unfinished.

Not exactly a fairy tale ending for a king who believed in fairy tales, now is it?

Imagine building the gorgeous castle and not being able to live in it. I've seen the inside, and too bad we're not allowed to take pictures but I kid you not the man had leather toilet seats in his washroom! And marble swans for sink faucets. The technology used in the castle was supposed to be very advanced for that time.   

He built another castle, Linderhof, for himself as well. I have yet to see this one!

His 3rd castle is what we saw yesterday in Chiemsee. We took a ferry to the island called Herrencheimsee, which is also the castle's name. Much like the Neuschwanstein, Herrenchiemsee was also left unfinished due to the sudden death of Ludwig and due to lack of funding. This castle is supposed to be a copy of Versailles Palace, and while there are similarities, it's got nothing on the Versailles! However, what's so awesome about this castle is that this is all there is on the island on lake Chiemsee. An entire island for Mr. Ludwig, and all the island's got is a castle!

One of the fountains by the castle - CREEPY CREEPY! 

So our Labour day was spent admiring the labour of many hardworking engineers, architects and builders; and admiring Ludwig's eccentric ways of life. Maybe a tiny part of the day was also spent with me having a conversation with Ludwig in my head...

Me: Buddy Wig, you were living a fairy tale! You were a king, you've got castles...
Ludwig: Yeah but when I mysteriously died, my prince never came to save me.
Me: Your prince...right. Too bad. But here's an idea! Let's build a castle more romantic and bigger than Neusch, and have a huge field with marigold flowers around it! But no swans. I want tortoises.
Ludwig: Anything for you. Where were you all my life? I never had anyone who understood my love for castles...
Me: I apologize, I was in North America and clueless about living the Bavarian dream. But let's get the project started - we wouldn't want an unfinished castle now, would we.
Umair: What are you thinking?
Me: Oh...umm, I don't understand this menu. 

Which actually was true. I've now started to read the menu on my own without Umair having to translate every single item to English. But yesterday's fish menu was extensive and very confusing to my already consumed brain. The sweet waitress tried her very best to explain each fish item on the menu to me.

After lunch, we walked around the promenade of Chiemsee for a bit before heading back...

...where I mentally checked off the number of castles I've seen since last summer. Way too many for my own good! I've seen the ones in Edinburgh, Munich, Meersburg, Vienna, Prague, 3 in Bavaria, Versailles...that's 9 already!

The next one I see is the one Umair is building for me. Shush, no need to laugh. He is building one for me. With fields of marigold flowers.

But in all seriousness, my favourite castle so far has to be the Neuschwanstein Castle. I think it is one of the top most popular castles in Europe, and definitely one of the biggest tourist spots in Germany.

Moral of the story? Don't mock or question someone who's building castles upon castles despite economic issues, because years from now those castles will be helping your economy! 

Castle next to Neuschwanstein where Ludwig spent his childhood

the area around both the castles is gorgeous with serene blue lake bordered by alps.

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