The Romantic Road is a tourist route through some very pretty parts of Southern Germany and while the road is not romantic most of the spots along the way are. Just to be clear they use the term romantic to mean old style and traditional rather than a place for lovers!). Our first stop was the delightful Harburg Castle which looks a castle should and is in a picture perfect landscape.
Just when you think things can’t get any cuter you arrive at Rothenburg. Firstly I was hooked on the wrought iron shop and hotel signs – these were some of my favorites.
When it came to the town I often felt I could be in Epcot Florida or really in Germany. It is almost too cute for its own good but it is also hard not to keep taking pictures. See what I mean?
It is also the place to come for Xmas markets and even in July the Xmas shop was doing a roaring trade – it is huge and easy to get lost in. Even I loved it and succumbed to a typical German toy purchase – a teddy bear (the small one of course, although I was tempted….).
Next stop: Vienna
En-route to the castles we stopped at Oberammergau (of Passion Play fame) and got to enjoy the pretty painted houses for which it is also famed. And I saw this lovely couple dressed in traditional gear so had to grab their phone -they were very nice about it and they are so cute.
While I was doing my castles tour I decided to stay overnight in Hoheschwangau which gave me more time to walk in the local area. There is a small (by Bavarian standards) like 5 minutes from the town centre which took about two hours to circumnavigate. There are points along the walk that you can see both Hoheschwangau and Neueschwanstein castle at the same time – virtually impossible elsewhere. So pretty.
As a child I listened in fascination as my Bavarian mother told me stories about “Mad” King Ludwig and we visited the castles back then too. Decided to was time to go again many years later and revisit the magic place that enchanted Disney so much that he copied it for his theme park and for those of us of a certain age it will forever be the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Castle (if you’ve no idea of what that is watch the movie – a family classic).
Anyway, King Ludwig became king suddenly aged 18 and was not very interested in the job. His heroes were the knights and ladies of the medieval times and in particular he loved stories about King Louis IV (the sun king) to whom he dedicated Neueschwanstein. What he really seemed to like about the French king was his “divine right” to rule (and wouldn’t we all like some of that sometimes?) but by the time he became King those days were well over and pesky ministers kept interfering in state matters – so he decided to ignore being king and build fantasy castles instead while cultivating his love of music – he was a close friend of Richard Wagner.
Why”mad”? He was declared unfit to rule when he was 40 (those pesky ministers again) and sent to live permanently in an asylum nearby. One day he and his psychiatrist went for a walk and never returned. Both were found dead in the lake. But no-one knows what happened? A drowning accident? A fight? A murder? – You decide as the descendants from the family will not allow his body to be exhumed which would of course most easily prove how he died (some say he was shot). I suppose the mystery is part of the myth.
He built 3 castles in his life and spent most of his time in Linderhof. By the time Neueschwanstein was inhabitable he only get to spend 170 days there. It is also only partially completed – an excellent multi visual show at the end of the tour shows how it would have looked if all the plans had been completed.
Footnote: before he went into the asylum the one thing he asked was that if he should die that his castles should be pulled down and reduced to rabble. He was such a recluse that he didn’t want anyone else in his home.
All I can say is he must be spinning in his grave if he can see how many people go through them every day in five minute intervals! Maybe he was not mad, just ahead of his time and creative? I like to think so…..
And here they are:
This one is Linderhof – a bijou number but very sumptious inside (no photos allowed which is a big shame but you can check the web)
And here is the famous Neueschwanstein
And finally Hoheschwangau which his Dad (King Matz II) built nearby and where he grew up.