Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria
The 19th century Neuschwanstein Castle in southwest Bavaria, Germany, rises majestically from the surrounding forest where it overlooks the picturesque village of Hohenschwangau. Commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria, the castle's 19th century Gothic Revival architecture has a fairytale quality to it, and was the inspiration behind the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland California and Hong Kong. Neuschwanstein Castle has also featured in a number of films and is a popular tourist attraction in this scenic location.
Ludwig II (1845-1886) was the King of Bavaria from 1864 until just prior to his death. He was a great admirer and devoted patron of Richard Wagner - the German composer, conductor, essayist and theater director. The castle was built in Wagner’s honor as the King related to the mythology of his operas and attempted to capture this fantasy-world in the architecture of the building. In a letter to Wagner, dated May 1868, he expressed his intention to build the castle and his hope that Wagner would join him there as his guest. Sadly, Richard Wagner never did visit Ludwig II at Neuschwanstein Castle, and the King himself only spent 172 days in the magnificent palace before he died.
Ludwig II actively supervised much of the construction of the castle, ensuring that it fulfilled his vision of the finished product. It is said that he was a recluse, and the castle was intended to be a refuge for him away from the public eye. He described the location of the castle as being “one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable” – and visitors soon understand why. Shortly after his death (under suspicious circumstances), the castle was opened to the paying public, and it is estimated that more than sixty million visitors have explored this remarkable attraction. In the summer months, as many as 6,000 visitors per day pass through the castle’s doors.
Although some have labeled Ludwig II as "Mad King Ludwig" because of his eccentricity, it was his fanciful imagination that led him to construct a number of spectacular castles and palaces in Bavaria - with Neuschwanstein Castle being the most famous – many of which continue to bring in sizeable tourism revenue.