This is the second part of a letter. For the first part see the post posted just after this one.
The train pulled into Fussen and everyone ran for the 78 Bus to Hohenschwangu to visit Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Holenschwanagau. The guys from Cancun got on the first bus out to try to get on the ticket line for Neuschwanstein. Neuschwanstein is the castle around which Walt Disney modeled his Disneyland centerpiece. I think Disney would do a better job of running this place than Bavarian Parks. It’s a 10 minute walk up hill to where you get on a very long line for tickets for the 35 minute tour. You have to give the time you want to take the tour. In choosing your time you need to account for either a 40 minute walk up to the castle, a 10 minute bus ride to above the castle (after waiting on line for a bus) and a 15 minute walk down to the castle, or a 20 minute horse and buggy ride (again, waiting on line) to a 15 minute walk up to the castle gate. At the top I heard a number of parents plead with kids “You have to move faster, our admission is at 2 PM.” I also heard discussions among groups as to who would run back down, and up again, to get tickets changed for a later time. As I hiked past the ticket office the guys from Cancun, who were in the middle of the line, offered to get me a ticket but I decided to skip the tour and explore on my own.
I wanted to visit Neuschwanstein because I have just finished a mystery centered around the death of Mad King Ludwig and wanted to see some of the places where it was set. Ludwig II was king of Bavaria. When he took the throne he was sovereign but during his reign he became a constitutional monarch and then subject to the German Emperor, mostly because of Bismarck’s political machinations. Ludwig did not like and of this this and first threatened to pull out of Germany and join Austria. However mostly he retreated into his own fantasy world building castles based on different themes, Moorish orientalism, heroic kings of the past or Neuschwanstein, which iss, in essence, a Wagnerian theme park with rooms reflecting different operas. The artwork was even painted by a Munich set designer. While Ludwig loved the illusion of the ancient Neuschwanstein used modern construction techniques, including iron and steel framework. The castle was not finished when he drowned, or was murdered, or committed suicide.
The conspiracies around Ludwig’s death make the conspiracy theories about JFK murder look bush league. Some say an accident, some suicide, some say Bismarck’s spies, some think it was parliament, some jealous relatives, and some that it was the finance ministers upset with the expense of his castles. There are Ludwig societies all over Bavaria, some of them secret societies with their own initiation and strange rites. The book by Oliver Pötzsch is a thriller that has a field day with all of them. And while some of the book is set inside the unfinished palace, much of it is on the grounds and surrounding mountains. The climax is on the Marien Bruche, (Mary Bridge) a foot bridge over a waterfall above the castle. The scene has a gun fight, fist fight, and ends with a literal cliff hanger. I couldn’t picture the scene from the description in the book. Now I can. So I spent most of the day walking above, below, and around the castle, entering the parts I could without a tour.
I enjoyed a conversation with a Hurdy Gurdy player (Kay Reinhardt). He called out to me after I put money into his cap. He asked me if I even knew what the instrument was. I did and that opened up a wide ranging conversation revolving around the German American Karl Schurz. He started as a German revolutionary in 1948, escaped to the US, became a journalist, general in the Union Army leading a regiment of German American volunteers, diplomat, Secretary of the interior, a journalist and the first German born US Senator. He was a very liberal Republican who fell out with President Hays for defending Native American rights. His most famous quote was “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” He was the first foreign born politician who caused serious debate about amending the constitution to allow naturalized citizen to become President. Neuschwanstein would have appalled him. I loved it. After about half an hour conversation I told the Hurdy Gurdy man that he was losing money talking to me. He said it didn’t matter, he loved history and English Folk music and I could talk about both. He ended up favoring me with singing and playing “Fiddler’s Green” and let me play his instrument a little. After our conversation I took the horse and carriage down the mountain. It costs less than half going down as it does going up and by then, with jet lag, I was hitting the wall.
To read the first part of this letter, please click here.