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Exploring Germany’s Romantic Road, tale of Neuschwanstein Castle



On Germany’s Romantic Road, which starts from Würzburg in the north and extends to Füssen in the south, there are many towns where you will feel like you are in a fairy tale.

I claim that with this road and these towns, your ideas about Germany, which might seem cold with its chilly, foggy weather, disciplined, seemingly tough people and industrial country image, will completely change.

Honestly, that is what happened to me. Traveling from the major northern cities of Germany toward the south to see these fairy-tale towns was one of the best choices I made for my trip to Germany. As winter approaches, you can create a winter route for yourself through the towns on the Romantic Road. I can say that these towns, magical in every season, become even more fairy-tale-like in winter with their triangular, pastel houses and roofs covered in cream-covered snow. Therefore, as winter approaches, it’s the perfect time to add the towns on the Romantic Road in Germany to your itinerary.

Of course, the most fairy-tale-like structures you’ll see on this road will be the castles. Neuschwanstein Castle, Eltz Castle and Harburg Castle on the Romantic Road are structures you shouldn’t miss. I think descending from Würzburg on this route would be better. Starting from top to bottom for your journey and finishing at Neuschwanstein Castle, said to have inspired Disney’s logo, will crown this route.

When you see the castle on a steep hill in Hohenschwangau in the town of Füssen, you’ll say, “Oh, I recognize this castle from somewhere.” That’s because the castle has inspired many of us with Disney’s logo, fairy tale castles and the castle from the “Sleeping Beauty” tale. This castle, in the neo-Romantic architectural style, also has a very interesting history. The story of the castle intertwines with the peculiar personality of King Ludwig II, famously known as the “Mad King.” The castle that inspired Ludwig’s fairy tales stands out as the work of a king who wanted to live alone and in his own world beyond the mountains.

King’s dream

The Swan King, Bavaria’s Mad King, Dream King and Crazy Ludwig, also known as King Ludwig II, left his mark as the fourth ruler who governed the Bavarian Kingdom between March 10, 1864, and June 13, 1886.

Ludwig spent his childhood and youth away from his parents in Swangau, Bavaria. When he ascended the throne at the age of 19, being quite introverted and shy led to him being labeled as “mad.” The reason for his removal from the throne at the age of 41 was the castle he had built. Ludwig tried to colorize his colorless childhood with the castle he designed with his crazy imagination. When Ludwig was still a prince, there was an old small castle at the site of the current castle. Ludwig used to take walks around this castle, dream, listen to stories of old knights and make discoveries in the castle’s remains. The emotional bond he formed with this region led him to build the castle he dreamt of in place of the old castle.

A portrait of King Ludwig II (or Louis II) of Bavaria in a Bavarian general’s uniform wearing the coronation robe, Munich, Germany. (Getty Images Photo)

Ludwig decided to build a more magnificent castle, overlooking a splendid view, right opposite the Hohenschwangau Castle where he spent his childhood, resembling the operas he admired.

On May 13, 1868, in a letter to the famous German composer Richard Wagner, whom he admired and took inspiration from while building the castle, he wrote:

“I am planning to rebuild the old dilapidated Hohenschwangau Castle, located near the authentic style of old German knights in Pöllatschlucht. From there, one can see everywhere from the magnificent Säuling mountains, Tyrolean mountains and even the plain.”

Ludwig was also known for his admiration for Wagner’s music and talents. It’s evident when you explore the inside of the castle that Ludwig was significantly influenced by Richard Wagner’s “Song of the Swan.”

Ludwig, who lived in a completely different world, also stood out by escaping from public life and the daily affairs of the state during his time on the throne, engaging in exaggerated artistic and architectural projects.

When Ludwig began to spend excessively on the castle of his dreams, he constantly clashed with the public and other authorities. Despite spending all the kingdom’s resources here for years, Ludwig continued with the construction of the castle. Even after the construction was completed, although only four rooms were decorated, Ludwig, who settled in the castle, unfortunately, couldn’t stay there for long.

After 172 days, due to his expenses and obsessive behaviors, he was referred to a psychiatric committee. The committee declared that the king’s mental health was not in order and sent him to Berg Castle for observation. Unfortunately, Ludwig’s story remained unfinished here, and shortly after, he was found dead in a mysterious manner along with the psychiatrist who certified him as insane at Lake Starnberg. Whether it was suicide or murder has never been discovered.

The castle in Ludwig’s dreams was opened to visitors shortly after to cover the costs made for him. Since then, the castle has been one of the most visited castles in Germany and even in the world.

You can reach the castle using horse-drawn carriages or enjoy the view by walking. Along the way, the castle’s magnificent exterior accompanies you, proving that a lot of money was spent here for its interior design and decoration. Although most rooms’ decorations are not yet finished, you can explore the inside with a guide.

The best place to take beautiful photos of the castle from the outside is Marienbrücke (Queen Mary’s Bridge). The bridge, located about a 15-minute walk from the castle, is named after King Ludwig II’s mother. They say that the bridge and its surroundings offer incredible options for photography enthusiasts. Unfortunately, when we went, it was closed due to heavy snowfall. Seeing the castle covered in snow was incredible, but considering the possibility of the bridge being closed, you can also add this place to your autumn routes.

I experienced moments during this fairy-tale journey under the pure white snow that I will never forget. Exploring King Ludwig II’s dreams in the castle’s mysterious corridors and feeling like a part of this magical story while ascending to the castle by horse-drawn carriage made me feel as though I were in a magical tale. Be sure to add this enchanting castle to your itinerary.

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