Neuschwanstein Castle – Bavaria, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle is a Romanesque Revival palace built in the late 1800’s by King Ludwing II of Bavaria. It sits high above the village of Hohenschwangau in southwest Bavaria, Germany. If the castle looks vaguely familiar, it is because Neuschwanstein castle was the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Professional photo taken from mountain across from Neuschwanstein Castle

King Ludwig II intended the palace to serve as a retreat from his palace in Munich and personally paid for its construction rather than using public funds. At least some of the inspiration for the castle’s design is attributed to Richard Wagner – a dear friend of King Ludwig’s. Richard Wagner was a composer and theorist whose operas and music greatly influenced the evolution of music in the western world.

When King Ludwig passed away in 1886, the castle was opened to the public and more than 61 million people have visited. A few of my favorite photos from Neuschwanstein Castle:

Scenic vistas walking up the steep road to Neuschwanstein Castle and the road going up beyond the castle:

Historical Context

The region known today as Bavaria was originally settled by Iron Age Celts. The Roman Empire took control of the region around 100 BC. As the Western Roman Empire collapsed, Bavaria become part of the Kingdom of Germany around 600 AD and later became a sovereign kingdom.

King Ludwig II ascended to the Bavarian throne at age 18 in 1864. Several years later, Bavaria joined the Prussian-led German Empire in the Franco-Prussian (French-German) War of 1870 and, became a German state.

Marienplatz – Munich, Germany

Established in 1158, Marienplatz is the historic central square in Munich, Germany. It has evolved over the centuries with new buildings and how the square is used but it has always been a place to gather. Today it is filled with restaurants, shops, and must-see architecture.

Heading towards Marienplatz, I am filled with anticipation. I realize it probably sounds a little silly, but these moments remind me of the feeling I had as a child on Christmas morning. The sights awaiting me are like gifts, and I can’t wait to see them.

Arriving on the west side of Old Town and west Marienplatz, I see the Karlstor. Karlstor is one of three remaining town gates from medieval Munich’s city wall. The city wall was a defensive fortification for Munich. It is thought to have been built around 1300 when Munich’s city wall fortifications were expanded.

Karlstor

Once inside the gate, I am in “Old Town” Munich. It seems that Old Town and Marienplatz are sometimes used interchangeably but Marienplatz is actually the name of the main city square inside Old Town. As I walk along Neuhauserstraße – a pedestrian walkway that has existed since 1293 -towards Marienplatz, the view is breathtaking.

Bürgersaalkirche Church (c. 1710)

In the image below, the white building is St. Michael’s Church completed in 1597. The building to left, known as the Old Academy, was designed originally as a college and completed in 1590. The building to the right is what was once the Augustinian Church originally built in the 1200’s and added to over the centuries. Today, it houses a German fishing and hunting museum, shops, and a few government offices.

St. Michael’s Church

After a short walk (that I was in no hurry to complete), the road changes into Kaufingerstraße and the towers of Frauenkirche begin to really capture my attention.

The Frauenkirche is a Gothic cathedral completed in 1488. It dominates the Munich skyline and no new buildings in Munich are allowed to exceed the height of the Frauenkirche towers.

Continuing down the road towards Marienplatz, I couldn’t imagine seeing anything more incredible than I had already seen and then…the New Town Hall. Wow! The building is a massive Gothic style structure that still serves as a government building today for the Munich Mayor and other city council and government officials. Construction began on the New Town Hall in 1887 and was completed in 1905. How is that for a building called the “New” Town Hall?

This building also houses the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Consisting of 43 bells and large figures, it chimes every day at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. (and 5 pm in the summer) to begin the reenactment of two 16th century stories important in Munich’s history. The performance lasts about 15 minutes.

Marienplatz was named after the Mariensäule (the Marian column) erected in the city center in 1638. These columns are common throughout Europe and usually depict the Virgin Mary or other Christian symbol on top of the column. They were typically erected in cities to celebrate the end of the plague or other significant events in a city’s history. In Munich, the Marian column was erected to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation after the Thirty Years War.

So, we have the New Town Hall but became of the old Town Hall? I didn’t really get a great shot of it but did the best I could to salvage the photo below.

Old Town Hall

Old Town Hall has some interesting history associated with it. The tower (right of center) was built on one of Munich’s original gates (the Talburgtor) in the late 1100’s and is now part of the Old Town Hall tower. The building to the left of the tower is Old Town Hall and was built around 1300. The facade has been remodeled several times over the centuries to reflect evolving architectural tastes. The building serves as a toy museum today.

Next on my list was to find the spot where people take the photo overlooking Marienplatz. It took some looking but I eventually found the high tower. There is a small entrance fee along with a steeeep stairwell but worth every step for the view.

While there is still much to explore in Marienplatz, there are also is a lot to see beyond Marienplatz within walking distance. I spent the rest of the day exploring beyond Marienplatz but ended the day right where I started. Time to enjoy a refreshing drink in the same square people have gathered for over 800 years.

Marienplatz is a great location to end the day

More from Munich – Englischer Garten

Englischer Garten – Munich, Germany

Established in 1785, Munich’s Englischer Garten (English Garden) is a beautiful oasis within walking distance of Marienplatz (the historic city center). Covering 910 acres – including 6 miles of winding streams, a lake, and miles of winding paths for running, walking, and cycling – the Englischer Garten offers a respite from city life.

While staying in Munich city center, I enjoyed several several runs in the Englischer Garten. It was breathtaking.

In 1972, a Japanese garden was created on an island at the southern end of the garden to house an authentic teahouse. It was a gift to Bavaria for the 1972 Olympics from Soshitsu Sen, head of the Urasenke tea school in Kyoto. Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies takes place here regularly. I wasn’t looking for this specifically but believe I caught the island and edge of the teahouse in the photo below. The fall foliage had me distracted and also covered much of the teahouse from my angle.

Monopteros is a Greek-style temple built in 1838. I took the second image while standing in the temple and looking down into the park.

Running along a stream, I unexpectedly came across surfers in the garden at the Eisbachwelle.

Surfing on….

There is much more to see in the Englischer Garten to include the Bavarian National Museum (located at the edge of the park) which contains medieval Bavarian sculptures and tapestries. If only every day were bright and sunny…

If you are in Munich, it is worth carving out several hours to visit the garden (probably best explored on a bike due to it’s size). An early to mid-morning or late afternoon to early evening visit would be best to capture the natural beauty in the best lighting.

Munich is located in Bavaria which is one of sixteen German states. Bavaria once existed as an independent kingdom with a distinctive history and became part of a unified Germany in 1918.