By Žikica Milošević
Some places are part of “the collective unconscious”, part of the imagination of each of us, ever since childhood, and a product of every child’s imagination. The Neuschwanstein Castle, in Bavaria, is such a place.
Disney recognized when he was creating his fairy tales. Some say Disney’s fairy tale castle was inspired by the Neuschwanstein Castle, while others claim that the good old Walt was fascinated by a castle in Sintra, Portugal. Maybe one does not exclude the other at all.
THE MIND OF THE YOUNG KING
This story begins at the time when the Free State of Bavaria was the Kingdom of Bavaria, located between Austria, which was already slowly abandoning the idea of the unification of Germany under its crown, and the northern and central German states, led by powerful Prussia, which later succeeded in uniting the majority of Germans under Kaiser. Bavaria was ruled by Maximilian II, the king who loved the countryside around the city of Füssen, or rather the village of Hohenschwangau. There used to be a sequence of 4 castles in that village, of which Max II managed to rebuild only one (the Old Schweinstein) and turn it into his summer and winter residence. Today this “yellow pearl” is called Hohenschwangau. In this castle, a handsome and romantic young man named Ludwig II was preparing to become king of Bavaria, and to finalize his father’s idea of rebuilding the ruined castles. The two castles that remained in the ruins did not impress him with their size, so he decided to remove their remains and build a magnificent “romantic castle” instead of them, the “New Swan on the Rock”, if you will, which would be as white as a swan. Back then, people used their money and titles to build themselves “romantic ruins” on their estates, so why not build an entire royal castle, which was supposed to be the Versailles of Bavaria.
FROM THE IDEA TO THE REALIZATION
In 1867, the King decided to engage in some public work to mitígate the economic crisis and reduce unemployment by hiring a multitude of workers on the construction site. A special canteen was set up for them, which today is a great hotel, decorated in the secessionist style, called The Zur Neuer Burg. Numerous visitors stopped by the hotel, curious to see how this wonder of architecture was being built. Ludwig II himself was inspired by the castle in Wartburg and the Romanesque architecture, so the castle was built in the neo-Romanesque style (a special faction of this style, used in castle design, was called Burgenromantik), with some very important details. Specifically, the king was very fond of Greece – every possible Greece there was – from the ancient to Byzantium. Hence, as a result of his fascination with Hellenism, he even changed the name of the country – instead of BAIERN, he spelt it BAYERN, because, in Spanish, the letter Y is called “the Greek letter I”. Besides, he decorated the interior of the castle in keeping with the style of the Renaissance palaces in Italy he adored, but he designed the church segments and motifs to have a strikingly Orthodox component with Greek inscriptions since he admired Byzantium. Thirdly, most of the interior decorations were done in the Gothic style, since the king “wanted a castle worthy of German knights” and the German medieval tradition.
A SAD END AND A HAPPY AFTERPARTY
The king had a sad demise. He died in 1886 or was killed by his opponents. This was the time when the German unification was a popular movement with Ludwig II opposing it. He further impoverished the Treasury with this monumental building. The castle was finished in haste and partially and the third floor was never completed. If it were completed, it would have been spectacular, done in Moorish style of Spain (“mudéjar”), similar to the Alhambra. This was the fourth pillar of the king’s romantic vision but to no avail. He slept only 11 nights in the castle, and his contemporaries declared him “a mad zealot”.
Regardless, the castle has outlived both the king and the haters. Today, 1.3 million people visit it annually. In summer, the castle has 6,000 visitors a day, which shortens the castle tours. The images of the castle are made into puzzles and found in children’s books and our imagination. The castle is located far from every day’s hustle and bustle of the modern world. This perfect Instagram site still stands solitary despite all the connectivity around us. As Ludwig himself told Anton Memminger, the Bavarian Railway planner: “Do not disturb the idyllic loneliness of this romantic landscape by building factories or railroads. For there will come a time when many people, like me, will seek a place remote and untouched by modern culture and technology, greed and haste, away from the noise and turmoil, dirt and dust of cities, a refuge. ” And so it came to be! There are no factories or smoke here. There is also no railroad leading to Neuschwanstein; just our imagination.
Photo: Hedwig Storch