KING MAXIMILIAN LUDWIG II  of Bavaria was inspired by a visit to Wartburg Castle in Eisenach in May 1867.  Bavaria had just lost a war in 1866, and building a new castle for its king would provide much-needed employment.

    After the death of his father Maximilian in 1864, at the age of 18, he had become King of Bavaria. He had been living in Hohenschwangau Castle (on right), and he praised “this paradise on earth, where I can live out my ideals and thus find happiness.”  This castle was a source of inspiration for his ideas and he used the most modern methods and technical possibilities of the time.  Christian Jank, a painter for the theater in Munich, became his consultant and designer.

    “Do not disturb the idyllic solitude of this romantic setting, whose picturesque beauty is even greater in winter than in summer, by building factories and railroads.  For there will come a time when many other people will yearn, as I do, for such a piece of land where they can find refuge, a place left unspoiled by modern culture and technology, greed and haste, a place far from the noise and turmoil, the soot and dust of the cities.”  Ludwig II to Anton Memminger, planner of railroads.

    Ludwig II placed great importance on creating harmony between the natural landscape and the building itself.  His creations are proof that he was a master at this.

    On September 5, 1869, the foundation stone was laid.  Construction was concentrated on the gate house entrance (on right), which was finished and furnished in 1873.  Construction of the rest of the castle started after that.  A canteen for the some 200 workers was built below the site; it became a popular visiting point and exists today as the restaurant Zur Neuen Burg.

    Enormous amounts of material were involved.  In 1872 alone, 450 tons of cement and 1845 hectoliters of lime were used.  In 1879/80, materials included 465 tons of Salzburg marble, 4550 tons of sandstone from Nuering, 400,000 bricks, 3600 cubic meters of sand, 600 tons of cement, 50 tons of hard coal, and 2050 cubic meters of wooden scaffolding....all of which was transported up the newly built road, and pulled furthr by a steam-driven building crane.  Even in those days, construction equipment was tested annually by The Bavarian Steam-boiler Monitoring Union; its technical counterpart today is known as the TUV.  There was also a union for the workers, ensuring wages for sick or injured laborers.  A plaque in the lower courtyard commemorates this social institution.

       Ludwig met the composer Richard Wagner while Wagner was not being recognized for his talents.  Ludwig paid off his debts, gave him money and a villa, as well as painting his operas on the walls of the castle.  Wagner died three years before the castle was completed.  On May 4, 1864, after Wagner learned that Ludwig would sponsor him, said, “You know the young king had me call on him.  Today I was led before him.  He is unfortunately so noble and brilliant, so magnificent and soulful, that I fear his life must vanish like a fleeting stream in this coarse world.  My luck is so great that I am crushed by it; if he can only live; he is such an unheard-of-wonder.”

     Until 1881, costs stayed within the estimated range.  But during the last three years of Ludwig’s life, costs amounted to 3.7 million marks, compared with the 600,000 marks that he had planned on spending.  His falling in debt led to the “Tragedy of the King”.  The final cost amounted to 6,180,047 marks, all covered by the King’s private funds.

       Sadly, the king only lived in his castle 170 days.

   On June 12, 1886, government officials deemed Ludwig to not be competent to govern and removed him from his bedroom in the castle, along with his private doctor.  He was taken to Castle Berg on Lake Starnberg and locked away.  Four psychiatrists declared him insane without even examining him. On June 13, he and the doctor were given permission to go for a walk down by the lake.  They were gone for 4 hours before a search party was sent out.  The party found his hat, umbrella, and jacket, along with the bodies, determined to have drowned 3 hours earlier.  King Ludwig was 6‘ tall and the water was only knee deep.  Was his uncle, who had taken over the rule, involved?  Or was Maximilian trying to swim the lake to his cousin Sissy - an escape plan? - and the doctor had tried to stop him?  The truth behind the suspicious deaths remains a mystery to this day.

    Upon his death, all construction stopped and anything ordered but not completed was halted, which explains why so much of the castle is incomplete.  For example, there is no throne in the throne room, and the Moorish hall designed for the 3rd floor was never built.

    Nevertheless, the castle is equipped with all kinds of technical conveniences quite modern, if not revolutionary, for its time.  It has running water on all floors, a warm air central heating system for the entire building, a hot water system for the kitchen and bath, two telephones, and two electrical interior staff locator systems with optical signals which ran on dry batteries, one for the valet and one for the King’s personal adjutant.


King Max Ludwig II, who insisted that no portrait of him be allowed in the castle.

Richard Wagner

The Tea House at Linderhof Castle; peacock room below is inside this Tea House

Plans for Falkenstein, to be built on the ruins of a medieval castle.

His plans for a flying device, long before the first dirigible.  Upon seeing this, he was asked, “Are you MAD?”

Plans for a proposed flying machine, drawn by modern computer experts, based on Ludwig’s written plans.

He rode in this chariot at night.

Maxine Ryder was our superb guide, a proud Aussie, equipped with the notebook of photos and stories to no end.

Oktoberfest is laid out in the shape of a kidney - coincidence?  King Ludwig’s grandfather’s wedding is the source of the yearly Oktoberfest.

The Nazis stored many stolen art treasures in the castle.  Photo below shows workers removing boxes of the treasures after the war.

    On our train ride back, Maxine pointed out 4 memorials alongside the tracks.  Kaufering (on left) was a satellite concentration camp of Dachau, and a train had been bringing 4 carloads of prisoners to the camp when they received word of the impending end of the war.  The Germans abandoned the train to escape, leaving the prisoners locked in the train cars.  After the liberation of Kaufering, the abandoned train was found, with no survivors. They were buried in 4 mass graves and covered with memorial markers (the fuzzy photo to the right). Kaufering is now a memorial site also.

Kaufering then (above & below) and now (right).

Servants’ quarters, 2 servants per room.  Furniture made of oak.

The throne room (above) is minus the throne, since he died before its construction.  In this room, Ludwig wanted to pay homage to the idea of royalty as bestowed by the grace of God. The throne was to be placed on the top of the marble stairs, similar to an altar in the Byzantine church. Professor Wilhem Hauchild painted the six sanctified Kings standing between the palm trees: Kasimir of Poland, Stephen of Hungary, Henry II of Germany, Louis IX of France, Ferdinand of Spain, and Edward the Confessor of England. Above right is the view from the throne.

King Ludwig’s bedroom is to the right, left, and below, blue being his favorite color.  Check out the oak design above his canopied bed, larger than the norm at that time, as he was 6’4”.  To the left, the swan at his dry sink tilted and poured running water. When finished, tip the bowl to the side and it entered the castle’s sewage system. To the left below is the dressing room side of his bedroom. Directly below is where the commission from Munich declared him insane and legally incapacitated.

The throne hall’s mosaic wood floor (below) depicts the terrestrial sphere with all the animals and plants.

The dining room is decorated with highly ornate oak carvings.

    The living room is below.  Behind the 4 pillars, the King particularly liked to sit and read. The 4 pillars’ richly carved capitals depict the bust of Christ, an emperor, a king, and a crusader, intended to symbolize the foundation of the medieval world of Germany.

    Forty eight candles adorn the chandelier.  Interesting fact is that all large chandeliers in the castle have a number divisible by 12, since, according to the “Revelation of St. John,” Jerusalem had 12 gates, each lit by a sacred light.

The Grotto, below, is located between the living room and the study, complete with stalactites. It represents the cave in Mount Hoesel from Wagner’s Tannhaeuser saga.

The King’s study

The adjutant’s chambers.  Curtains and coverings, as from other rooms, are in safe storage elsewhere, to allow for visitors.  Entrance fees to the castle go to the government.

The Singers’ Hall (above) was designed after the banquet hall in Wartburg Castle.  The King wanted the hall to be a realistic setting for the ideas and impressions that Wagner’s compositions had kindled in the King’s mind. Sadly, nothing was ever performed there during Ludwig’s time.

The kitchen

    Firewood is stacked and stored all year round for the cold winters in the mountains.  The Germans have a phrase for a well-endowed female, “She has a lot of wood before the hut.”  Might be the origin of the English phrase, “she’s well stacked.”

In 1988, a bust of the King was gifted to the castle.

Entrance hall to the fifth floor (above) and to the fourth (to the left)

State of construction in 1874-5 (above) and in 1880 below.