Not long ago I told you about our recent visit toNeuschwanstein kasteel.Louis IIbuilt three castles, and Neuschwanstein is by far the most famous (after all, it inspired Walt Disney). But the other two are just as great in their own way, if not even more so. We decided to visit Herrenchiemsee, Ludwig's island castle.
By train to Herrenchiemsee
We got on the train in Salzburg and it was only a 45 minute ride to Prien am Chiemsee, a small town where we got off. Prien is the name of the town and Chiemsee is the lake (or 'See', as they say in Germany). It is logical that fewer people visit this castle than, for example, Neuschwanstein, because it takes some effort to get here. Once we got to the station, we hoped there would be some storage space for backpacks (remember, we did this trip with backpacks as luggage). Fortunately, there were lockers at the train station. For only two euros we rented a locker big enough for all three of our large backpacks. To get to the storage rooms we had to go down and then up another flight of stairs to get to the other side of the tracks.
Herrenchiemsee locomotive train
After we (fortunately) got rid of this weight, we went into town. There was a train station right away where you could buy tickets for a locomotive train that would take you to the wharf to take a boat to the island, which is called Herreninsel ("Men's Island").
Isn't it cute? However, our travels are all about staying power and, frankly, saving money. That's why we chose to go to the wharf. In hindsight it would have been really fun to ride the train. It was quite a long walk (maybe 20-25 minutes) through town, and on the day we were there the sun was shining pretty mercilessly. Most of the walk was not shaded either.
So we set off on foot. The footpath ran along the track. I will say that it was interesting to walk through the German town, and as an added plus, on the way back we stopped at a supermarket right along our path and bought some food there to take on the train to our next destination. destination. destination.
Boat to Herreninsel/Herrenchiemsee
It was a welcome sight to see the waters of the Chiemsee come into view. The girls noticed the cooler breeze off the water as we approached. This place had really upgraded (or you could say it had become more touristy) since I had been there in 1994. There were many buildings with food, souvenirs and boat tickets. The lady at the counter was very nice and thankfully she spoke English. Although I do speak a little German, you quickly realize how complex many things are that you want to say in another language. She gave us our price, told us which boat and port to go to, and told us what time the boat would leave. Nice, thank you!
Our boat trip there was very pleasant. We were baking in the heat on the deck, but then one of the girls discovered a much more pleasant (shaded!) spot on the other side of the boat. The drive was maybe about 15 minutes and we were able to see the various islands: the main others being Fraueninsel ("Ladies Island") and Krautinsel (believe it or not, "Cabbage Island", as cabbage was grown there years ago). As elsewhere in Germany, we saw many dogs. There were many dogs on the boat making the trip with their owners.
Once off the boat we started another hike. This one was quite pleasant, through a wooded area. There was excitement: we got close to the palace!
A little information about Herrenchiemsee:
- Ludwig certainly had his heroes. He built Neuschwanstein as a tribute to composer Richard Wagner. He built the Herrenchiemsee as a tribute to the French 'Sun King' Louis XIV. He wanted the palace to be a tribute to absolute monarchy.
- Originally, Ludwig planned for the palace gardens to cover a large part of the island. However, he died before this could be realized. Today, only the central axis of the gardens, together with the fountains, have been completed.
- Ludwig spent more on this palace than his other two combined. Much of the cost was due to the cost of transporting all materials to the island. And most of the palace is still unfinished inside.
- Despite all this money and effort, Ludwig only spent ten days in this palace.
After this pleasant walk, we came to an opening in the forest… and there it was, in all its glory: Herrenchiemsee Palace!
The fountains at Herrenchiemsee are amazing and huge. I'd read that the fountains were on for fifteen minutes twice an hour, and sure enough, we weren't long in the area before they came alive. We walked around for a while, enjoying all the details of the sculptures and the height of the water jets.
Tickets to see the palace cost a reasonable 11 euros. Kids under 18 are free which I thought was great value. And by chance we saw one or two school groups with small children wandering around the grounds. I had to imagine how different school trips in Europe were. You don't visit the local fire station; you will see an amazing palace!
You can only visit the palace on a guided tour and, as is typical for Ludwig's palaces, photography is not allowed inside. However, I cannot be responsible if a mobile phone camera was left in a pocket 🙂 We were able to choose an English tour, which was obviously a good thing. As a side note; I'm not sure what's behind the "no photography" rule in so many places. Since most cameras today do not use a flash, it cannot be the case that the flash is harmful to the device. Is it because they want people to buy books from the gift shop instead of taking their own photos? I was wondering …
Above you can see one of the most amazing sights: Ludwig's Hall of Mirrors. It is almost an exact replica of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, only 1/3 longer. That's Ludwig: always wanted things bigger and better. When he arrived, all those candles had to be lit individually. Imagine how wonderful this would have looked lit up at night - it's sad he only saw this spectacle once, but it was probably luck for the poor servants. I believe it is this room that a squirrel once ran into. A servant went to rush the animal, but Ludwig stopped him, pointing out that animals (unlike humans) were honest and truthful. Got to love Ludwig.
The palace had two entrance halls, one on each side. This is the unfinished;here's what the finished one looks like. Like the entire palace, it is amazingly detailed. Herrenchiemsee was built as a monument to the absolute monarchy and Ludwig spared no expense. Much of the furniture exceeds that of Versailles, especially the porcelain and fabrics. The artistic ideal of the nineteenth century was the perfection of historical styles, and no one was more willing to accept that challenge than Ludwig II.
After our 30 minute tour ended, we were able to visit some areas on our own (so no more 'no photography' rule). Here is the king's bathroom. Can you imagine this “tub” filled with water? The murals also provide quite an opulent sight. Of course, there was no footbridge across the pool in Ludwig's time.
If you've read itmy book on king ludwig, you know everything about his famous 'self-positioning table'. Ludwig was extremely introverted and he disliked even servants entering the dining room during his meals. He avoided this with his table, which could be folded through the floor to the kitchen below, where food could be placed, and raised again for him to eat. After the meal, the process was repeated. Here's the device for moving the king's table up and down - pretty complicated. Ludwig was known for being very pioneering for his time with inventions and technology.
The unfinished wing of the palace houses a museum about Ludwig's life. I won't talk much about that here, but you know I absolutely loved it. There were exhibits on future castles that Ludwig planned to build, a death mask of the king, his christening gown and other royal vestments, and a reproduction of his beautiful winter garden on the roof of the Residenz in Munich where he and his family lived. we'd have more time here than we needed, but we ended up having to hurry back to the pier to get back to the train station, and on to our next stop, in Füssen (where we'd visit two more of Ludwig's castles).
Have you ever been to Herrenchiemsee? If not - and if Germany is a place you'd like to visit - I highly recommend it. As we walked around the palace, I thought about how busy I'd heard Versailles is these days. This is a very good copy, and while I wouldn't say it was empty, the crowd was certainly manageable. I advise it!