Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
Getting Lost in Bavaria
During my spring break in Europe, I was fortunate enough to spend five days in Bavaria, Germany to study the famous Neuschwanstein Castle and its surroundings. The reason I engaged in this research was to obtain a more accurate understanding of the layout of this area, which was the basis for a screenplay I wrote sophomore year. The main premise for the script was about getting lost and "living" secretly in the Neuschwanstein Castle which was a tricky plan to design thousands of miles from the site. My visit to the castle helped immensely in that aspect. For my project, I arranged a private tour with a well-informed guide who took me to areas of the castle not typically open to daily tours. I became comfortably familiar with the layout of the castle after taking the private tour and two additional tours. Additionally I visited the second castle, Hohenschwangau, and explored the three small towns surrounding the epic structures. My plan is to finish the script this semester, with new inspirational ideas from being there, and other information I found in Germany. I hope to translate the script into Spanish this spring for my Senior Honors Project, thus combining my two areas of study.
The castles lie in a beautiful location and replaced former constructions. The builder of the Neuschwanstein, King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886), spent his childhood exploring the forests around the Hohenschwangau Castle, which his father had rebuilt. This fairy-tale setting (along with an affixation for art, in particular Richard Wagner's operas) led to the king rejecting his political duties and turned his interest towards beauty and aesthetics. Utilizing credit and his "allowance" as king, he ordered the constructions of lavish castles and palaces, and in 1869 he had the building of the Neuschwanstein Castle commence. But this questionable spending made his advisers doubtful, and in 1886 he was declared insane and found dead by apparent suicide a couple days after this announcement.
The Neuschwanstein is an incomplete medieval-style castle that's open to the public year round. Visitors can step into the lower courtyard (the upper one is incomplete; lacking a keep) through the gatehouse, where the king stayed during construction to supervise the work. It's a quick tour, beginning in what would have been the Knights' Building on the first floor. Then the tourists have the privilege of ascending the king's staircase, which was exclusively for King Ludwig II (another, less elaborate staircase was intended for the servants) and eventually ends on the fourth floor with a pillar decorated as a palm tree extending up to a ceiling imitating the sky. Next to the pillar crouches a roaring dragon, a repeated figure throughout the castle (symbolizing evil, an essential figure in romantic medieval tales).
The second floor is generally incomplete so the tour continues directly to the third level. The next place of visit is one of the most colorful and thoughtfully-done rooms: the Throne Hall. Although it lacks an actual throne, the space is filled with references to tales (St. George and the Dragon, with no blood due to romantic taste), royalty (the chandelier in the shape of a crown and images of international kings), and God (religious decoration on the ceiling). I was able to tour the gallery (one level higher) which is incomplete, but still beautiful-especially the views f the lake through the windows.
The next areas consist of the Dining Room and the King's bedroom and bath. Seemingly anachronistic gothic-style woodwork dominates the decoration in the bedroom (the bed's canopy mimics a cathedral). Other important rooms include the grotto, a cave-like setting where the king could sit in solitude and image himself as part of Wagner's operas. The other more important room, the Singers' Hall, is found on the fourth level. Here the castle still hosts an annual orchestral performance in this banquet hall/ballroom. One feature that stands out is the stage, back-dropped with a mural of a fantasy garden.
There are several more rooms left to see, few of which are complete, but the various tours gave me great insight about which rooms my protagonists would be spending most of their time in, and the private tour let me see where storage rooms are located for hiding (in the gallery of the Throne Hall, for example). The only tricky part would be sneaking into the castle, which I determined would be nearly impossible, but with a little imagination a fantasy story could unfold here, in one of the most romantic, fairy-tale-like settings in the world.