See sites of royal splendour in Germany
Neuschwanstein is known all over the world as a symbol of idealised romantic architecture and for the tragic story of its owner. After losing sovereignty in his own kingdom, Ludwig II withdrew into his own world of myths, legend and fairytales.
Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Bavaria is without doubt one of the most frequently photographed sights in Germany. Ludwig II's ambitious project, begun in 1869, united aspects of Wartburg Castle with those attributed to the Castle of the Holy Grail from Wagner's 'Parsifal'. For Ludwig, Neuschwanstein was primarily a retreat. After ascending the Bavarian throne in 1864, he was forced to cede power to the Prussians just two years later, which left him with a hatred of the royal seat of Munich. To compensate, he devoted more and more of his time to the fine arts. After his sovereignty was taken away, he withdrew into his own world of myths, legend and fairytales. Among the castle's finest rooms are two magnificent halls. One of these, the Singers' Hall, is a larger and more exquisite version of the same room in the Wartburg, and also incorporates elements from the medieval castle's banqueting hall – though it never echoed to the sound of singing or festivities. The double-storey throne room reaches fifteen metres in height and is encircled by galleries on both floors. Its extravagant decorations dazzle in gold and blue. Ludwig's great passion, however, was for the Hall of the Holy Grail, in which he united his nostalgia for the Middle Ages with the latest technology of the time. The king even chose to wallow in the Middle Ages at mealtimes – his dining room is a veritable shrine to the minnesingers' contest at Wartburg Castle. Ludwig's sleeping quarters show a clear Gothic influence and are even embellished with details referencing Wagner's operas. The dressing table has a swan-shaped tap inspired by 'Lohengrin'. Another well-known feature of Neuschwanstein is the grotto, whose little waterfalls and coloured lighting create the impression of a mysterious cave. Excursions to neo-Gothic Hohenschwangau Castle, which was rebuilt from 12th century ruins in 1832, and to the Roman bath at Mount Tegelberg are also recommended.