The article below was published in Pinnable’s newsletter in .


The Palaces of King Ludwig

One can immediately tell that the makers of the game Castles of Mad King Ludwig are Americans, because we would never call a king ‘mad’ — our noble rulers are eccentric at best. Having said that, the king in question, Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845–1886), was indeed somewhat over-obsessed with erecting palaces. Called ‘Le seul vrai roi de ce siècle’ by poet Paul Verlaine, King Ludwig was a tragic character who led a life of seclusion, which can be problematic when you’re head of state: from time to time you need to show up, and Ludwig chose not to. Therefore his cabinet found him unable to rule and in the end dethroned him, partly because of his excessive building activities and the resulting huge debt. A day later Ludwig died under circumstances that are still unclear. Two of his three palaces have never been finished.

Neuschwanstein Castle
Every year, well over a million people visit Neuschwanstein Castle

The relatively small Linderhof Palace is the only palace King Ludwig completed and actually lived in. The attendant at the ticket office described it to me as kuschelig, ‘cosy’, and that’s exactly what it is — especially compared to Herrenchiemsee Palace, a slimmed-down version of the Palace of Versailles, which is grand. The highly romantic and world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle, a homage to Ludwig’s favourite opera composer Richard Wagner, is of overwhelming splendour. (If you think the Singers’ Hall looks very much like the ceremonial hall in Wartburg Castle, you’re right.) It’s Bavaria’s most popular travel destination, so in the end the King’s enterprise turned out to be a good investment. In summertime, the castle has to handle some 6,000 visitors a day, and that’s why the guided tour is going slightly too fast to see everything properly — Hint: because of this, and because you’re already there anyway, just take the tour a second time.

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Ludwig II also built the King’s House on Schachen, a chalet-style holiday home that offers a magnificent vista of the Bavarian Alps. The house can only be reached on foot, the walk up & down taking between six and seven hours. In season, refreshments are offered next door at the Schachenhaus mountain inn, which also provides a spartan place to stay overnight.