Last Sunday we headed west of Munich for the Alps – that is, the more moderate mountains of the Allgaeu. I picked an easy mountain hike – The Great Tegelberg Circle – for the family, including our Labrador, who climbs like a mountain goat. The route offers lots of views, but requires a bit of stamina and passes Neuschwanstein. A big part of the castle is wrapped because of a façade renovation – even dreams need revovation, I thought when I made the usual pictures. From the mountain station of the cabin we went up to the Branderschrofen top, and then down the nature trail on southern slopes to the Branderfleck. From here the trail leads straight up some switch back to the Ahorn (Maple) Saddle. After a short moderate climbing, the trail leads to the alpine meadows of the lower alpine meadow. From there we continued on comfortable way over a creek (always a highlight for a dog) to the forest service cabin, our first stop for a good beer (always a highlight for the adults).
The mountain walk on wide forest road to the Marienbrücke at Neuschwanstein rewarded us with beautiful views. The surrounding mountains are dotted with evergreen trees and numerous lakes. When I turned the last corner I couldn’t help but stop and stare. After six hours of solitude, we were surrounded by thousand of tourists. It’s the perfect castle of course, best seen from the bridge in a perfect setting perched high and precariously on its rocky foundation. The Marienbruecke is the best for taking pictures. I don’t have a huge fear of heights, but the thought of walking out onto a bridge paved with wood planks with so many people made me hesitate. At least most of the current visitors are not XXL anymore. In this beautiful landscape, the castle did right fit in without Disney’s help.
Every dream needs a renovation
Neuschwanstein Castle is a fairy tale palace, or better said a romantic Richard Wagner dream visualized. With its beautiful white limestone facades and numerous turrets and spires and with large windows it was built as a home, not a fortress several hundred years after medieval times.. King Ludwig II (or the swan-King) ordered the castle (as many others) to be built in the late 1860s as homage to the bygone era of knights and mythology. Good tourism investment, despite at his time people thought differently of his spending. I watched the shadows of clouds float lazily over a landscape dotted with villages that, aside from the modern roads, have probably looked the same for centuries. The lakes were a glittering white, and all the vegetation was a lush green.
Neuschwanstein and Wagner’s Myths
There is still an enigma of King Ludwig’s death by drowning in Lake Starnberg south of Munich under mysterious circumstances just three days after being declared legally insane.. By any measure, he was a somewhat odd young man who had problems relating to women and people in general. As their copious correspondence shows, Ludwig and Richard Wagner (by any measures even more social dysfunctional) became very close, if stormy, friends until the famous composer’s death. On several occasions Wagner was the beneficiary of Ludwig’s patronage and support, but the relationship with the notorious underfunded Wagner had its highs and lows. Ludwig was attracted to Wagner’s music and talents, but the composer’s egocentric ways put strains on the friendship between the two. Ludwig was also compelled rumors of Wagner’s dalliances with Cosima von Bülow (at that time wife of Wagner’s concertmaster and an illegitimate daughter of Franz Liszt). It took many years before they would meet again and Wagner managed to get Ludwig to help him finance the building of the now famous Festspielhaus (concert hall) in Bayreuth. I like Wagner’s music.
But it is still odd to see German’s “so called elite” flocking the hill of power ever since. I guess dreams have been abused by any politician to present their ego on stage. Neither Wagner nor the Swan King was a politician, Cosima (later Wagner’s wife) and Winfried (English born daughter-in-law) definitely catered to them.
Neuschwanstein as political statement
Bavaria was involved during reign of Ludwig II in a war on the losing Austrian side in the Seven Weeks War against protestant Prussia. Ludwig’s latent resistance against the military state of Prussia and his patronage of Richard Wagner has contributed to his legend. In 1868 Ludwig began the building campaign. Much of the Bavarian king’s fame is associated with his castles: Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, and Herrenchiemsee. Ludwig took a special interest in the building of all his palaces, sometimes to the extreme irritation of his architects and drew much of his inspiration for his castles from Wagnerian opera. I also do agree with on politician in our parliament (also an odd misfit), who connects today’s debate of Germans identity within the future identity of Europe: “Neuschwanstein castle was the Declaration of War of King Ludwig II after the loss of sovereignty” by postmodern art, I would like to add. The Bavarian King Ludwig II. saw himself in the wake of the French Sun King as King of the Night. The loved night sledging and carriage rides in the Moonlight, and artificial moonlamps were illuminated Neuschwanstein. King Ludwig II has been likened to Andy Warhol. Funny enough, most likely both got killed, but their political statements but prevailed globalization. Modern artist Andy Warhol helped to establish the puella (eternal girl) image as an icon in modern society with pop art images of Marilyn Monroe and King Ludwig the archetypal Bavarian castle in a stunning Alpine surroundings establishing such a clear link between the inner (dreams) and the outer (consensus reality) worlds. Archetypal psychology runs counter to all the scientific disciplines of the West pointing out, the fanciful, the poetic, the abstraction, the symbol, and the wisdom of the mystics and the insight of dreams and hunches.
Speaking about hunches, ironically, there is a Bismarck monument on the lake Starnberg as a symbol of the State Prussia standing for economic and military power and the birth of the first German nation-state. For Thomas Mann, it symbolized “Prussianizing (Verpreußung) of German intelligence” and that was not indignantly meant.
Then it was Prussia, however, now it is unfortunately the European Union (without Prussian values like efficiency and integrity). North and South became “eternally one and deleted is the border of the (river) Main” says the inscription of the Bismarck Tower. That is the very lake Starnberg where King Ludwig II died. After the Second German Reich with the Prussian King as German Emperor was proclaimed, Bavaria retained only some minor feudal rights, and was “meditated” in a political Union. In July 2012 the German parliament signed hastily away its core rights to a grandstanding chaotic autocratic entity, based on ambiguous documents in English, hardly understanding its language and implications.
Just a few meters away from the castle all the people were gone. We went sharp right down in the canyon (Pöllatschlucht), crossed the river and reached a meadow under the mountains. There we run by chance right in a local county fair (Schützenfest) with Bavarian music and good food. After a good dinner we walked to the base station in the valley headed back to Munich. But the light was still good so I made a small detour to the Wieskirche, made more pictures and listened to an unusual church concert (Saxophone and Organ). The sunset provided the light show. .
Felix Bavaria Neuschwanstein revisited
Felix Bavaria, still so much beauty and so much tradition on the countryside but again (or still) an odd state in today’s void Germany having no dreams but only illusions. Was the “Mad King Ludwig” mad or was he just one of the legendary figures in Bavarian history, a history full of legendary figures who had a dream a simple dream of beauty and sovereign life. This expropriation of the democratic sovereignty was and will be a central theme of the upcoming debate on the future of the EU institutions too. Is the formation of a centralized state like the Second Reich and Third Reich and today the EU (with a Germany in the role of powerless Bavaria before 1871) a right or left project? Maybe enforced centralization bundles historically disadvantages of both directions: A disoriented and delocalized left, the right being a wannabe-power with pro-active appeasement to the cruel gods of the “market”. Collectivism aimed at dispossession the self-sufficient, an unholy union of G&S, Marx and Mao. I think King Ludwig’s dream of Bavarian sovereignty needs to be renovated too if not re-built.