King Ludwig's Castle Neuschwanstein
Bristling with towers and turrets of grey limestone, this fortress sprung from the imagination of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886) looks like a fairy-tale castle. A fervent admirer of Wagner, the young king was determined to re-create the universe of the operas of the Ring of the Nibelungs. Not far from Hohenschwangau castle, where Ludwig had spent his childhood, he found the ideal site on which to bring his fantasy to life. He put Eduard Riedel in charge of the project, and the sketches were reworked by the theatrical designer Christian Rank. This doubtless explains the dreamlike atmosphere that envelops the visitor. In spite of the fact that three different architects were in charge of the project, the castle has a surprising unity. Only the great hall and the interior decoration of the 3rd and 4th floors were completed by the time of the monarch's death. In fact he lived there only 170 days. As one visits the interiors, lavishly decorated with gilded wainscoting and cornices and murals, the feeling of unreality grows. The rooms that most reveal the workings of the King's mind are on the 3rd floor. Note on in particular the false cave with its stalactites and the small adjoining winter garden, decorated to evoke the legend of Tannhäuser. The great hall has as its theme the legend of Lohengrin. Most of the 4th floor is taken up by the Minstrels' Hall, with its coffered ceiling and myriad chandeliers and candelabra.