When I visited Germany during the 2006 World Cup, I kept seeing postcards of this fairy tale looking castle at all the shops. But when I would ask the shopkeepers where this castle was located, none really knew. Finally, an older Turkish gentleman in a cafe told me that it was located near a town named Füssen close to the border with Austria. After Brazil was booted out in the quarter-final game by Zinedine Zidane and friends in Frankfurt, our World Cup party came to a sudden end. My traveling compadre, Robert, and I had a few Hefeweissbiers and we went looking for a new adventure. So we rented a car and hit the autobahn southbound towards Bavaria in search of the famed castle. After a four hour drive, we finally arrived to catch the final tour of the day.
Turns out there was nothing fairy tale about the origins of the castle. Schloss Neuschwanstein was built by the reclusive King Ludwig II and was under construction for 20+ years. The good king was kind of an eccentric fellow and devoted more time to building his extravagant castles than he did to affairs of the state. Also, he was fascinated with Richard Wagner operas and spent a considerable amount of money sponsoring operas & plays. When he exhausted his personal funds to continue the construction of the castle, he just went further into debt until no one would lend to him. In the end, the Bavarian government declared that he suffered from mental illness and had him deposed. Then one week later his body was found floating in a nearby lake. Authorities ruled his death a suicide. Hmmm…sounds like the plot to a Martin Scorsese mob movie minus The Rolling Stones soundtrack. Poor King Ludwig, they took him out Fredo Corleone style.
About two months after the king’s death, the acting prince opened up the castle and converted it to…a tourist attraction. That was in 1886 and it’s been a popular tourist destination ever since. The castle that was meant to be King Ludwig’s II own private Neverland is now visited by over a million tourists every year.
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