Lake along the way

Lake along the way

We left Schwangau this morning (8/3/13) to head to Schliersee where we will remain for the last week of our trip. According to the GPS, both Linderhof and Wieskirche were around 18 kilometers away, so we figured we’d have plenty of time to go by both, swinging through Oberammergau on our way. In reality, this little half hour jaunt to Linderhof took closer to an hour and a half. We suspected something was up when, after about 15 minutes of driving and the first highway turn off, we still had 20.5 kilometers to our next turn–when the starting distance was 18.1 kilometers. I’m not sure where the initial 18.1 km came from unless it was physical distance (the proverbial “As the crow flies”) instead of driving distance.

Approaching the castle (taken from the way back down...)

Approaching the castle (taken from the way back down…)

The road ambled around a glorious lake through the mountains and truly was beautiful, despite being what I now lovingly call a “one lane-two lane road.” The size of numerous roads here are approximately the width of one lane of an American road plus the shoulder (in some instances leave out the shoulder. In the case of parked cars on the street, leave out the road…). Additionally, it was incredibly windy and filled with motorcycles and bicycles. Crazy! But, mom got the scenic drive through the country complete with cows with the Swiss bells jangling.

Front view of Linderhof

Front view of Linderhof

Finally, we arrived at Linderhof. I had worn my wedge slip ons because mom had told me, “You won’t have to do a lot of walking. Linderhof, you just walk right in, though you’ll have stairs inside.” This was another change in the 45 years since my mom has been here. Where she and her friend had just driven up to the front of Linderhof and walked in, you now have to park a good mile away (and pay parking), hike uphill to the ticket booth, and more uphill to the castle. (By “hill,” I mean between a 30 and 60 degree angle).

We finally made it to the ticket booth and used our combination ticket for entrance to the castle, only to find out the next English tour was at 12:10 (It was 11:00 when we arrived.) Sigh. So much for seeing the other two places you can “stop by quickly” on the way to Schliersee.

Fountain

Fountain

So, we looked around the various souvenir shops, ate lunch at a little cafe that served homemade chocolate croissants (Stuffed with chocolate), and headed uphill to the castle. Linderhof is another of Ludwig II’s castles, and the only one that was actually finished. We were a bit early for our tour, so we had time to walk around part of the gardens for a little while. One interesting thing is the gold fountain, which wasn’t producing water when we came, suddenly had this amazing burst of water that went around 70-80 feet high (literally–I looked it up) and shot continuously for about 3 minutes. Apparently, they have to replace the gold leaf every so often because the force of the water is so strong. (I’d like to be wherever that water ends up!)

Linderhof itself was actually a wooden hunting lodge of King Maximilian II, which Ludwig inherited upon becoming king. Ludwig himself hated hunting. (They told us at Hohenshwangau he used to wear black whenever his family was going on hunting parties.) So, he promptly began additions, then five years later decided to tear parts of it down and reconstruct it, modeling it after Versailles, to the tune of almost 8,500,000 marks.

Side view of Linderhof

Side view of Linderhof

When we got inside, we learned that this palace really shows Ludwig’s love of all things French. In addition to portraits and statues of the French kings and their mistresses, Ludwig copies Louis XIV’s style in symbols of rulership and the architecture of Louis XV. Ludwig gave Linderhof its own “Mirror Room.” Also like Versailles, the bedroom is the largest in the palace, though Ludwig’s faces North, opposite of Versailles, showing him to be the “Night king” to oppose Louis XIV’s title as the “Sun King.” Bound by a constitutional monarchy, Ludwig loved to imagine himself the absolute ruler Louis XIV was. In fact, his imagination is everywhere.

Amazing stepped fountain

Amazing stepped fountain

At Linderhof, we received a few more pieces of the puzzle about the young tragic king who wanted history to remember him as an enigma. First, he didn’t just “Stay up late and sleep during the day,” as we heard at Hohenschwangau. He stayed up all night, every night, and slept during the day. He woke up at 6:00 PM to have “breakfast,” get dressed, and begin his day. (Servants would bring his clothes up to his dressing room through a secret door, where he would get dressed.) Then, he would often stroll around his gardens or sit and listen to private concerts under the stars (the love of which he must have inherited from his father.) Additionally, he had a number of inventions in place so he wouldn’t have to see his servants, including the fact that he had a special table that could be lowered to the kitchens and returned with food. Occasionally, he would play act meetings with the French Royalty and have a table set for four sent up. (All fuel for the insanity charge.) He also seems to have had historical costumes he appeared in on occasion as well.

Another fascinating feature is the two peacocks Ludwig would have placed outside when he was in the palace. (You can see their images here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Linderhof-8.jpg )

Start of the walkway to the grotto

Start of the walkway to the grotto

He didn’t like having flags out, as they reminded him of war. (I’m not sure if this is before or after his brother went to war and was traumatized by his experience there.) The Peacock is a symbol of peace, so these were used to indicate the King’s presence at the castle. The castle also contains two tables, which were a gift from the czarina of Russia. Apparently, she had two unmarried daughters and considered Ludwig quite a catch. He, however, seemed to prefer the tables. There were many more beautiful things, and despite the no picture rule, you can check out the different rooms by taking your own palace tour here: http://www.schlosslinderhof.de/englisch/palace/rooms.htm

Venus' Grotto

Venus’ Grotto

Completing the tour of this amazing palace, we headed out to enjoy the great beauty of the grounds. We wanted to check out the Venus Grotto, as it contained the boat modeled after the one used in Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser. The hike from the castle to the grotto–a “quick 10 minute walk” was nothing of the sort. First, the trek up the garden stairs, then the walk through the tunnel of trees, and finally, the hike up the 45 degree hill. We reached the top, only to discover the next tour was at 1:30–another 25 minutes from our arrival. Alas. So, I sat on a bench to catch my breath, while mom hiked back down to the Moorish Kiosk to see the Peacock mosaics.
View from the top--yes, we climbed all that way!

View from the top–yes, we climbed all that way!

The Venus Grotto is another example of Ludwig’s imagination, but also sported the latest technology. In fact, Ludwig utilized the gifts of Sigmund Schuckert and Werner von Siemens to build the world’s first power plant to use electric dynamos operating on the Siemens principle. In fact, Linderhof was equipped with electric lighting fully one year before Thomas A. Edison began his work on the lightbulb. These 24 dynamos were run with electricity from a steam engine housed in a machine building, so they technically had the first power plant 4 years before others who usually get the credit. The king also had lights on the sleigh he used to transport himself on his night time jaunts.

In the grotto, Ludwig could change the color using the equivalent of modern theater gels, though on separate lighting systems. He also had an element where he could heat the water in case he wanted to go swimming, and another switch to turn on a waterfall. I must say, for as dreamy as the King seemed to be, he was a marvel at design.

View from my window

View from my window

Finally, it was time to hike back down to our car, taking in the castle from a number of different views along the way. We eventually made it back, and completed our trip to Schliersee. We are staying at the Alpenclub, which has a wonderfully kind and helpful staff (and not just because they told us we got the best room in the hotel with an amazing view.) It’s a great home to have.

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