FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The Ludwig II trail

Posted in Füssen, Feldafing, Germany, Munich, Prien am Chiemsee by folkestonejack on June 6, 2015

We hadn’t intended to turn our trip into a Ludwig II pilgrimage, but soon found ourselves gripped by his unusual story and spectacular vision. So, with this in mind, I thought I would wrap up our trip report with a quick run through of our self-guided Ludwig II tour for any souls contemplating a similar endeavour.

Our tour could have been pretty expensive if it wasn’t for the 14 day passes from the Bavarian Department for State Palaces. A pass for two adults came to 44 euros, which compares incredibly favourably to the 127 euro bill we would have faced by paying for all our tickets individually. Children under the age of 18 are also included on this ticket at no extra charge.

Nyphenburg Palace
Ludwig was born on 25 August 1845 at Nymphenburg Palace, in the suburbs of Munich. The palace is easily reached by tram (Straßenbahn 17) and can be toured on a self-guided basis. The Queen’s Bedroom, where Ludwig entered the world, is one of the rooms open to visitors. The palace, park and park buildings are all delightful but the star attraction has to be the Marstall Museum’s collection of royal carriages.

Detail from one of Ludwig Ii's carriages in the Marstall Museum

Detail from one of Ludwig II’s carriages in the Marstall Museum

The Marstall Museum gave us our first glimpse into the world of Ludwig II with some of the most extravagant and ornate carriages and sleighs that can ever have existed. If they still have this effect on us today, how much more astonishing they must have seemed to Ludwig’s subjects in their time – especially with Ludwig’s preference for moonlit excursions!

Ludwig’s childhood summer home was a real surprise to me, as I expected something quite plain and found an altogether more elaborate castle. Maximillian II clearly had a strong artistic vision like his son. It is striking that the two palaces are just a short distance from each other. The castle can be visited on a hectic day trip from Munich or taken at a more leisurely pace with a stay in Füssen. I have written posts about our visit to Hohenschwangau and the pleasures of Füssen covering the practicalities in more detail.

Munich Residenz
The Residenz is a marvellous complex to visit, but the apartment that King Ludwig had fitted out for himself between 1867 and 1869 (in the style of Louis XIV) was destroyed during World War II. Thankfully, many of the moveable items of furniture and decoration were spared and can now be seen in three rooms of the museum at Herrenchiemsee.

Ludwig’s other major construction here, the winter garden, has also long gone. The garden was a 70 metre long glass hall constructed on the roof of the palace, abutting Ludwig’s apartment. It was no ordinary conservatory, presenting a fantastical Indian landscape, complete with a Moorish Kiosk, a lake and a large illustionistic backdrop to extend the setting way beyond the space available. It was dismantled in 1897 but we can still get a good idea of its appearance from surviving photographs and a gondola preserved at the museum at Herrenchiemsee.

The secluded summer house, known as the ‘Casino’, on Roseninsel (Rose Island) was the only finished building from Maximillian II’s Feldafing Palace project. It doesn’t have the wow factor of the palaces, but it is easy to see why Ludwig II enjoyed this retreat. It’s a little off the well-trodden tourist path in Bavaria but worth a diversion if you have a spare day. I have written posts about our visit to the island with some practical tips.

The modestly sized mansion at Linderhof, tucked away in the shadow of the Ammer mountains, was the only palace that Ludwig II lived to see completed. The palace was built and developed in stages between 1869 and 1885, growing out of the forester’s house constructed by his father Maximilian II. It must have presented a fascinating mix of styles in the early stages, blending the simplicity of an alpine house with splendour worthy of Versailles. All of this changed in 1874 when the alpine styled Royal Lodge was moved and the palace assumed the form that we see today.

The Royal Lodge can still be visited for a small additional charge (free to holders of passes from the Bavarian Department for State Palaces) in the grounds, with a small museum about the history of the palace and park (the text of the displays is only in german, but english language translations handouts are available).

Many of the coach tours that run from Munich offer limited time at the park, so we opted to use public transport instead (a train and two buses in each direction) and this worked out pretty smoothly. I covered our visit in the post Royal refuge in the Ammer mountains with some practical tips drawn from our experience.

My personal highlight of the trail came with the visit to Neuschwanstein Castle. It is one of the most visited sights in Germany and there are plenty of downsides to this, but nothing can detract from the wonderful interior that (in my eyes) exceeds anything else that Ludwig II created. Don’t believe the reviewers who say that it is not worth taking the tour!

Planning your trip in advance is a must here as the ticket queues can be horrendous. Various ticket combinations are available, depending on how you plan to arrange your visit and whether you are aiming to see everything in one day or spread out over a couple of days with a longer stay in Füssen. I covered our visit, with some practical tips, in the post Monument to monarchy

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Ludwig II’s attempt to recreate Versailles on an island in Bavaria is quite extraordinary (a word that gets used alot on any tour of Ludwig’s palaces!) and delivers some of the most spectacular rooms I have ever seen. The tours may be short but every second in this palace counts.

The opulence of Herrenchiemsee New Palace is in stark contrast to the relative simplicity of the King’s chambers in the Augustinian Monastery (Old Palace), which can be visited with a combination ticket. I summed up our astonished impressions in the blog post Versailles-am-see, though words are quite inadequate to describe this place!

The King’s House on Schachen
One sight that eluded us was the King’s House on Schachen, which is located 1,866 metres up in the Wetterstein mountains. It is difficult to reach at the best of times, as it can only be reached on foot and takes 6 to 7 hours to get there and back!

Whilst we were visiting the area many of the footpaths were closed because of the G7 summit, including those up to the King’s House, but this shouldn’t be a factor in anyone else’s visit! Guided tours are given during the summer months (in German only). The highlight is the upper floor, known as the Turkish Hall, which is a splendid vision of eastern delights.

Berg Castle, where Ludwig was living at the end of his life, is still home to the Wittlesbach family and not open to the public (indeed, Ludwig’s gothic additions have long since been removed). However, you can see the Votivkapelle (memorial chapel) constructed in his memory and the cross in the Starnberger See marking the spot where Ludwig died in mysterious circumstances on 13th June 1886, aged 40.

We didn’t make it to Berg but it is relatively easy to reach by taking the S-Bahn to Starnberg, followed by a 12 minute ferry crossing.

Ludwig was laid to rest in the crypt at the Michaelskirche in Munich on 19th June 1886 (though his heart was placed in an urn at the Gnadenkapelle at Altötting alongside those of his forebears). The crypt can be visited for a couple of euros.

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Run Rabbit Run

Posted in Füssen, Germany, Munich by folkestonejack on June 5, 2015

Although my trip to Bavaria was not designed with railway photography in mind, it would have been remiss to have passed up the opportunities that arose on our travels.

Class 218 diesel 467-9 approaches Füssen on 5th June 2015

Class 218 diesel 467-9 approaches Füssen on 5th June 2015

The trips we made to Burghausen and to Füssen just happened to be some of the last places in Germany with a concentration of turns by class 218 diesels, better known as ‘rabbits’ on account of the appearance of their two exhaust funnels. The class was easily spotted at its peak, with 398 built in the main production run between 1971 and 1979, but their use across the network has steadily decreased in recent years. Electrification plans scheduled for the next five years will inevitably reduce this further.

I didn’t come armed with the necessary diagrams which centre around Kempten (taking in Füssen, Munich, Memmingen and Augsburg) and Mühldorf (taking in Munich and Lindau) so I was delighted to see so many on our travels. I was particularly surprised when 218 467-9 turned up at Füssen to propel our service towards Munich, not least because this example has been painted in an attractive livery to promote the Bayern ticket with illustrations of Lindau, Neuchwanstein and the Königssee (whereas most of the class are painted in red).

The rabbits of Bavaria are not yet an endangered species, but it’s marvellous to see and hear these noisy beasts whilst they’re still around.


Füssen and the Forggensee

Posted in Füssen, Germany by folkestonejack on June 4, 2015

Füssen is a wonderful place to stay, with a collection of sights that make it worth a visit in its own right. Sadly, most visitors pass straight through on their way to the castles, missing out on the wonderful interiors of the State Gallery in the Hohes Schloss and the baroque halls of the Benedictine Monastery of St Mang, as well as the delights of a cruise on the Forggensee.

The church of St. Maria und Florian in Waltenhofen

The church of St. Maria und Florian in Waltenhofen

Although we thought our timing was pretty poor, having not realised that we were staying during a Bavarian public holiday (Corpus Christi) or the G7 summit, neither factor caused us any great complications. Nothing much seemed to shut during Corpus Christi and a planned closure of the castles during the summit was cancelled (though they did still project the flags of the G7 nations onto Neuschwanstein at night).

The State Gallery in the Hohes Schloss and the Benedictine Monastery of St Mang can be visited on a combination ticket for 7 euros which is great value (it costs 6 euros to visit each individually) and you share the space with hardly a soul (we only counted two other visitors when we wandered around the museum in the former monastery).

The Füssen Heritage Museum in the monastery is a labyrinthine place which includes a wonderful library, some beautiful baroque halls and a chapel with a macabre Dance of Death cycle. The cycle, painted by Jakob Hiebeler in 1602, presents images of 20 individuals from all classes dancing with death under the motto “Say yes or say no, you must dance”. Besides this, there are a plethora of fascinating exhibits including all sorts of rare wooden musical instruments that hark back to the town’s past as a manufacturing centre in this field.

The carved wooden ceiling in the great Knight’s Hall of the Hohes Schloss

The carved wooden ceiling in the Knight’s Hall of the Hohes Schloss

Our short cruise of the Forggensee in the afternoon gave us a different perspective on the local landscape and the castles. I never would have envisaged people sunbathing on beaches in front of Neuschwanstein without taking to the waters and it was all the more pleasurable with an on-board bar serving up radler. Besides, I would never have seen the even more delightful sight of a dog paddle boarding alongside us although others on board managed to miss this completely!


We stayed at the Hotel Sonne in Füssen which is handily located close to the railway station and right at the heart of the old town. I would heartily recommend this place with its unbeatable location, friendly staff and for serving up the tastiest breakfast of our travels. For similar reasons, we found the Ristorante-Pizzeria La Perla utterly charming – the most wonderful staff and an artistically arranged Tiramisu that we won’t forget in a hurry!

It is impossible to miss the museum in the monastery and the state gallery as they tower above the old town. It takes a couple of hours to do both places justice, though you could easily spend much longer. The church next to the monastery can be visited free of charge and is just as marvellous with some wonderful ceiling decoration.

It takes around half an hour to walk from the town centre to the boarding point for lake tours. Tickets for the trips are sold on the boarding ramp (prices range from 8 euros per adult for the small circuit, lasting 55 minutes, to 11 euros per adult for the large circuit, lasting 2 hours, with discounts for holders of the Füssen card). We opted for the small circuit, which takes you as far north as Rieden before crossing the lake to Waltenhofen with its distinctive lakeside church, then back to Füssen.