In the 17th century, King Louis XIV of France was a champion of grandeur and decadence who presided over the most extravagant court in Europe . His Palace of Versailles provided the inspiration for many other residences of the European nobility. The absolutist ruler's most fervent admirer was Bavaria's 'fairytale king' Ludwig II, who did not just want to copy Versailles, but to surpass it. In 1873 he found the means to buy idyllic Herrenwörth island in Lake Chiemsee, the perfect place to let his imagination soar. Work on the fairytale palace, which would become a refuge for the melancholy king, began in 1878 to plans by the architect Georg Dollmann. The breathtaking interior is a work of pure extravagance in the French rococo style. The twenty state rooms open to visitors boast décor of the most exquisite quality: marquetry floors, carved panels, decorative features in stucco marble, opulent wall and ceiling frescos, and beautiful chandeliers and furniture. But the crowning glory is the huge hall of mirrors, an almost perfect copy of the original galerie des glaces in Versailles. The mirrored hall overlooking the garden is 98 metres in length. Wall mirrors, domed ceilings with fresco paintings, gilded stucco, 44 freestanding lights and 33 glittering pendant chandeliers add up to what must be the grandest banqueting hall in the world, reinvented here in Bavaria. Other attractions at Herrenchiemsee Palace include the Ludwig II Museum, which features state furniture, documents and sketches from building projects, correspondence with Richard Wagner and dioramas from his operas, and the Augustinian canon seminary with its abbey buildings. Just across the water, Fraueninsel island is perfect for relaxing strolls and boasts a Benedictine convent. In the lakeside town of Übersee-Feldwies stands the house of painter Julius Exter, one of the founding members of the Munich Secession.
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