13 years ago Chopper stayed in Germany for Christmas on his way home from Iraq. He had been sent out of Iraq because of a kidney stone and so he was in Germany for a little while as they decided what to do with him. I had been spending Christmas with my parents (rather than be alone) and was so so jealous -- of course after knowing he was safe and not dying. Chopper wanted to bring me a present but the only thing I could think of that I really wanted was a castle. He did bring me some good presents, but of course a castle just wasn't in his suitcase! This summer was rough and so I decided that I wanted to reward myself (honesty here) with a trip to see the iconic castle of Germany -- Neuschwanstein! Chopper is a great husband and he agreed so off we went this weekend!! Our location puts us about 3-4 hours away so it was perfect -- we got up Thursday mornings and drove out and saw Linderhof and Ettal Monastery that afternoon and then did Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, the Museum of the Bavarian Kings, and Wieskirche yesterday. Today we had planned to hike a little bit in Garmisch but it was rainy and cold and William was having a lot of meltdowns over ridiculous things (and kept asking to go home -- I think he was worried that we were repeating the upheaval of the summer!) so we came back just a little bit early. It doesn't matter because that area is close enough for us to visit often while we live here and really the entire vacation was absolutely fantastic!! So here it all comes -- lots and lots of pictures!!
This is the view from the front of Linderhof palace. Ponds and fountains and some kind of Greek thing at the top!
This is the front of the palace from right almost on the doorstep (so at an angle). The carvings and the detail work are magnificent. The tour guide said there were only 6 staff -- that poor cleaning maid had it bad!!
You can't take pictures inside the palace (and it is fantastic!) but when you come out the back door after the tour you have this on the other side! Ludwig II knew what he wanted and he wanted in this case French and grandiose!
The kids loved this statue of Neptune with his sea horses. They love that all the statues of animals that we see are basically barfing out water. Their words.
The side of the palace. Linderhof is Ludwig II's smallest palace and the only one that was completed in his lifetime. It's modeled in many ways after Versailles in France. All the portraits are of dead (in his time -- ok in ours too!) French rulers and their ladies and the gold carved gilt work is tremendous!! He lived there as a hermit basically -- he never married or had kids and this palace is basically his bachelor pad. The grounds are dotted with other small houses that are decorated like different places so that Ludwig could "travel" without going anywhere. We didn't see them all because we didn't realize until I looked at the brochure afterwards!
I have really enjoyed all the statuary that we've been seeing. I'm sure much of it is symbolic but I am mostly amazed that these can be carved from stone. In fact, in all his palaces I can't help but think of the amazing talent that is on display!!
This is the front of Linderhof and the amazing gold statue in the pool which apparently turns into a very tall fountain!
Our goal was to get a family picture in front of every castle. We forgot Hohenschwangau but our Linderhof pictures are the best.
So another weird thing about statues -- mermaids are not traditional one tailed creatures. This is the second time I've seen a mermaid statue that's really a naked woman with fish-scaled legs. Two legs! It's frankly weird.
This is a really good one! It was cold but not rainy and we were comfortable in coats wandering around outside.
You could tell in the grounds where they have flowers in the spring and summer. The patterns in the grass were still beautiful but I imagine that it is gorgeous when it's full of color.
A squishy family picture
One of the features on the grounds is a grotto that Ludwig had built for the production of Wagner operas. So the cave isn't natural and it's actually lit by electric light and the water can be heated for swimming in the winter. I read somewhere that Bavaria's first electrical tower/station whatever they are was built for this purpose. The grotto is closing for renovations for the next 5 years and we got in the last weekend it's open!
From the back up by the grotto. The setting just makes it that much more spectacular.
Ludwig was known as the swan king and swans are a pretty big part of Bavarian royalty symbolism and such. This one decided to come right up to us and fortunately didn't try anything but he/she did try to bite a British guy after this . . .
Poor William. I only took coats with us and his is way too big. I didn't try it on beforehand! Looks like I'll be buying another and saving this one for later years!
Chopper and Abby are a lot alike really. They both like to pose LIKE the statues (See Abby with lion above as well).
Ok I'm a little out of order here but I'm on the laptop without a mouse and things are hard to drag around. I need to find the mouse. So here we take a little detour to the Ettal Monastery (which we visited after Linderhof). This was a display of REAL tiny books in the gift shop. They are real and about 50 Euro apiece. But they're adorable.
That's the main chapel portion of the church. We should have taken a picture of the inside -- I think there was a no photography sign? Anyway it was pretty spectacular itself.
These are the ceilings of the Moroccan house. We didn't go in the Moorish house and we should have because there are peacocks in that one! But there were porcelain peacocks in the house that were put by the front door when the king was in residence.
Flower arrangements are porcelain as well. And a specific kind but I can't remember which. In addition to the gold leaf in the palace is the extraordinary amount of porcelain - Ludwig was apparently a big fan.
Some other features about the house -- this is one where a portion of the floor of the dining room could be lowered into the kitchen, the table set, and then raised into the room so that Ludwig didn't have to see anyone. He really was a hermit here. He also had a reading room (small like our reading nook but a LOT more fancy) and was reported to sleep late and then stay up all night reading. Because of the paintings and the gold leaf and such, the house was never really lit. There are some beautiful chandeliers lit by candle but they're mainly for show. Apparently they just carried around small lamps to reduce the amount of smoke exposure in the building.
Ludwig is Bavaria's favorite king, even if he was called Mad King Ludwig II. But I don't know that he was mad in terms of insane. He certainly was somewhat eccentric and wanted to live in a fairy tale world. Which I find ironic because he was a real-life king and yet he escaped into the fantasies of what he felt a kingdom should be. He idolized French rulers that lost their kingdom due to their extravagance and neglect and spent pretty much all of Bavaria's money on trying to recreate that world for himself. He never married and his father died when he was 18, making him the ruler. He was deposed when he was 40 and removed to another castle where he died mysteriously in the lake. It really is a fascinating story.
After Linderhof we went back into the town of Ettal and visited the Basilica there and these are the rest of the pictures from that that I couldn't get moved down here on the blog!
It is a working monastery. They have a boarding school, a library, and produce a lot of their own sustenance -- mainly a brewery (everything in Germany has a brewery) and a cheese making factory. The cheese making part wasn't open but we bought some cheeses. A really mild swiss type cheese that's good and a "feuerkaese" which is fire cheese but really is more like pepper cheese.
The kids and I were taking some selfies while Chopper finished purchases in the gift shop -- this is my favorite one!
Ok I'm going to stop here for now because the pictures are being weird on uploading. But all of this is just the first day -- the drive down and then Linderhof and the monastery. After just this one day I would say our vacation was a success. The kids were doing great and the travel was going well. The one thing was that William kept asking to go home and where our read house was. We've only been in the red house for a month and so in his mind I think he thought we were on the move again with staying in the hotels and driving. He has been a little bit of a homebody since this summer and I can't say that I blame him but he is adjusting pretty well too. I think we all are! We still have our hiccups but we're rapidly settling in to our new normal!