Finally, my birthday trip came to a close, but it sure went out with a bang! As you read in my last post, we cut our time in Salzburg short and started our way home with an overnight at Lake Chiemsee. As we pulled off the autobahn I saw a sign pointing towards a castle. Immediately I decided I needed to convince Fil that I needed one more thrill for my birthday trip ;). That wasn’t too hard to do and after checking into our hotel we were back on the road headed to the castle.
Hands down, best part of the whole week.
After just a 10 minute drive to the lake front we boarded the ferry with just minutes to spare. Lake Chiemsee, just like every other experience was simply beautiful. It is a massive lake and on the horizon were snowcapped mountains, and just a handful of little villages and monasteries. You can take the ferry all the way around the lake which takes 2.5 hours, but we got off on the first stop, the island of Herreninsel. On this island King Ludwig II (same king from Neuschwanstein) built his ode to the French King Louis XIV, a near copy of Versailles.
Just like Neuschwanstein, this castles construction was stopped upon the king’s death. The current structure was completed in 6 years and features 16 completed rooms you can tour, and 50 (I think) uncompleted rooms.
Schloss Herrenchiemsee was such a surprise and a treat, but left us wondering why so many more people go to Neuschwanstein when this castle is far more beautiful. The inside is stunning, but the fountains and gardens outside are just as spectacular AND you don’t have to climb a mountain to get there!
The tour started in the entrance that would have been used for State events. Because of the Kings death it was never used to receive guests. Every inch of the floors and walls were covered in fake marble! To achieve the seamlessness that the king wanted fake stone had to be used. The kicker is that it was so expensive to make the fake stone it was more expensive than if he had just gone with the real thing.
From there we toured through a guard and receiving room where guests would wait to see the king. These rooms were massive. The guide explained that although these rooms were not needed in the late 1800’s when Ludwig was king, he had them built because they were important in the time of Louis of France. These rooms were copies of the ones in Versailles. Ludwig sent his artists to Versailles to photograph everything so they could copy every detail—even the paintings are copies of originals that you can see at Versailles and the Louvre. The next room was the throne room which featured a bed instead of a throne because well he is king! (By the way his actual bedroom was just as glitzy).
From there we toured through his office, war room, and a few more public receiving rooms, and then the big show, the Spiegelsaal, hall of mirrors. Just as in Versailles, one wall has windows and the opposing wall has mirrors to reflect the sunlight. The hall is, if I am remembering correctly, 95 meters long and completely captivating. Just as in all the other rooms so far everything was covered in gold. The walls were covered in gold-leaf, the candelabras and chandeliers were sparkling masterpieces, and the ceiling was the most magnificent mural ever. Our guide said that the only difference between this hall and the one in Versailles is that this one was longer and there was a slight difference in the mural. At the end of the hall, where the mural met the wall, the mural became 3-d and was painted on models reaching out of the ceiling onto the wall whereas in France the mural was just flat. She also told us that while they do not light the candles anymore because the smoke was damaging the ceiling, the last time they did light them it took 40 people 2.5 hours to light them all simultaneously. There are so many candles if you light one candle at the end of the hall it would be melted by the time you go to the opposite end of the hall.
As if we weren’t already in complete awe we then continued through the kings apartment where yet again everything was gold and reflected with mirrors. The dining room was different though. Here, the king ate by himself so it was just a small table with an enormous ceramic chandelier and floral centerpiece. The company that made the chandelier sells small, plain tea cups for 50 € so it was explained that the chandelier is literally so expensive it can’t even be estimated. The vase with flowers were also ceramic and I am still in awe just thinking about it. The flower petals were paper thin. I don’t know how they were able to make them and then transport them here and keep it in such good condition over the last 150 years.
You might notice in the picture above a seam in the floor around the table. In King Ludwig’s final years he did not want to see anyone so he had this table invented and installed in his residences. The table would be lowered through the hole in the floor to the kitchen where it would be set and then raised back into place. Going to such crazy lengths for privacy led to Ludwig being deemed insane.
The final part of the tour was really interesting. As I said before the castle was not finished. To finish the tour we walked down the unfinished private entrance that the king would have used. It was an exact replica of the State entrance but was still just in its brick form. Form there we got to see the underside of his apartment which included his dressing room, the room where his dining room table came to be set, and finally his bathtub. A 9 meter long bathtub. We walked on a bridge over the tub which was basically a swimming pool on our way to the gift shop.
God, it’s good to be the king!
We were both simply amazed to have stumbled on such beauty. Definitely the highlight of our week traveling. Usually when we go to a lake or river Fil is so preoccupied looking for fish or planning how he will fish it that he is in his own world. This island palace was the first time I ever saw Fil forget he was in a lake ;).
I hope you enjoyed reading all the posts about my birthday trip! Since we have been home we have just been catching up on things and keeping our usual schedule but we have a few weekend trips in mind happening soon. It is now summer in Germany so there will be plenty of special events and festivals for us to explore.
P.S. the hotel we stayed at for this last part of the trip had an amazing restaurant. Bavaria absolutely has the best food and sights!