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It's hard to believe that this over-the-top creating that soars from its mountainside is real—it's no surpise that Walt Disney took it as the model for his castle in the movie Sleeping Beauty and later for the Disneyland castle itself. The life of this spectacular castle's king reads like one of the great Gothic mysteries of the 19th century, and the castle symbolizes that life. Yet during the 17 years from the start of Schloss Neuschwanstein's construction until King Ludwig's death, the king spent less than six months here, and the interior was never finished. The Byzantine-style throne room is without a throne; Ludwig died before one could be installed. However, the walls of the rooms leading to Ludwig's bedroom are painted with murals depicting characters from Wagner's operas. Ludwig's bed and its canopy are made of intricately carved oak. A small corridor behind the bedroom was styled as a ghostly grotto, reminiscent of Wagner's Tannhäuser. On the walls outside the
castle's gift shop are plans and photos of the castle's construction (it was conceived by a set designer instead of an architect, thanks to King Ludwig II's deep love of the theater). There are also some spectacular walks around the castle. The delicate Marienbrücke (Mary's Bridge) is spun like a medieval maiden's hair across a deep, narrow gorge. From this vantage point there are giddy views of the castle and the great Upper Bavarian Plain beyond. Tickets need to be purchased at the ticket center in the village of Hohenschwangau, so be sure to stop there first. To reach Neuschwanstein from the ticket center below, take one of the clearly marked paths (about a 40-minute uphill walk) or one of the horse-drawn carriages that leave from Hotel Müller (uphill €6, downhill €3). A shuttle bus leaves from the Hotel Lisl (uphill €1.80, downhill €1) and takes you halfway up the hill past an outlook called Aussichtspunkt Jugend to a spot just above the castle. From there it's a steep 10-minute downhill walk to the castle (not recommended for those with mobility problems) or a 5-minute uphill walk to the Marienbrücke.
Castle concerts. Castle concerts are held in September in the Neuschwanstein Castle's lavishly decorated minstrels' hall. Tickets are hard to come by as performers generally include world-famous classical singers and orchestras and the concerts are a cultural highlight of the area. Tickets go on sale in early February for the coming September, so plan ahead if you want to go. Neuschwanstein, Neuschwansteinstr. 20, 87645. 01805/819–831. www.schlosskonzerte-neuschwanstein.de.
Neuschwansteinstr. 20, Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, 87645, Germany