Fairy tales, legends, kings and queens evoke images of picturesque castles and a romantic period of life long ago.
However, not all romantic fairytales are just legends, demonstrated by Bavaria’s Allgäu region.
Located on the Romantic Road, which leads from Würzburg to Füssen, the region provides a Bavarian winter getaway reminiscent of times gone by.
No German vacation is complete without a castle, and this area has two: Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, which stand guard over lake-studded Schwangau and Füssen areas.
The Schwangau region and both castles are made famous by the legendary “Fairy Tale King” Ludwig II.
King Ludwig II was mainly interested in art, not politics, as reflected by his castle today. He designed and built three castles: Linderhof, Herrenchiemsee, and the most famous, Neuschwanstein.
Ludwig II shied away from both public and political appearances, and spent most of his time escaping in dreamy legends and romanticized operas. Visitors can still see his mystical view of the world at castle Neuschwanstein, where Ludwig II only lived for six weeks before he died. He dedicated this castle to Richard Wagner, a German composer, conductor and stage director and one of his closest friends.
Fourteen of the castle’s rooms are open to the public, including the sacral throne hall (Thronsaal), inspired by Byzantine churches, which features an enormous chandelier, symbolizing a Byzantine crown. The hall stands for Ludwig’s concept of sovereignty; he believed he was the mediator between God and the world.
The castle also has an indoor grotto — an artificial stalactite cave — built by a stage designer. Another highlight is the Singer’s Hall (Sängersaal), which pays homage to the mystical world of knights, and still hosts concerts, due to the excellent acoustics.
The walls at castle Neuschwanstein are painted with scenes of the medieval Nibelungen and Lohengrin legends in Wagner’s operas.
Another significant symbol in both the Lohengrin legend and in Neuschwanstein is the swan, shown on all decorations, sheets, paintings and furniture.
“Since the Middle Ages, the swan was the official symbol for the Schwangau (Swangau) region,” explained a tour guide at the Hohenschwangau castle. “The swan is also represented in the coat of arms of King Ludwig II as the sovereign of Schwangau.”
Soon after the king’s mysterious death in the Starnberg Lake in 1886, along with his psychiatrist, Dr. Bernhard von Gudden, Neuschwanstein opened its doors for the public. However, according to locals, it was the king’s last will to tear down the castle after his death to avoid letting the public enter his private hideaway.
Fortunately for us, his last will was never enacted. According to statistics provided by the tourist information Schwangau, about 1.3 million people visit Neuschwanstein every year.
For visitors to the area, the castle itself is never really out of sight.
Both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau are visible from every pool at the local spa area, as well.
The Königliche Kristall Therme in Schwangau offers various saunas, steam baths, a Turkish Hamam, mineral water pools, a saline pool and whirlpools.
For an exclusive view of the Neuschwanstein castle, visitors can reserve a room at the Hotel Maximilian in Schwangau-Waltenhofen.
The hotel is also an exclusive wellness option. This family-friendly and traditional Bavarian hotel offers special winter packages.
Vacationers can also see the fairy tale castle from the seat of a horse-drawn sleigh. Group sleigh ride, including a visit to the feeding area for wild animals, are available, as well as a romantic torch ride in the evening. Costs vary between €10-55.
A visit to this fairy tale kingdom is not complete without visiting the medieval town of Füssen, just four kilometers outside of Schwangau. Timbered houses, old alleys and the Hohe Schloss make up this picturesque Bavarian town.
While the area is no longer a home for kings, it still offers visitors the royal treatment.
The area’s history, scenery and unique culture were that important during King Ludwig II’s time did not die with him. Today, visitors can take in the same atmosphere while making memories of their own.
For more information, visit www.schwangau.de. Sleigh rides can be booked by calling 08362-8094.