One of my favorite historical figures is King Ludwig II (“Mad King Ludwig”) of Bavaria, who lived in the mid to late 1800s. In another review, I told about his most famous castle, Neuschwanstein, which inspired the Disney World castle. In this review, I look at another of Ludwig’s concoctions: Herrenchiemsee.
If you have ever visited the Palace of Versailles in France, you know what Herrenchiemsee is like, because Ludwig used it as his model. King Louis XIV of France was an idol of Ludwig’s, and Ludwig built Herrenchiemsee as a tribute to Louis (although Louis was long dead at the time).
Herrenchiemsee is located on an island in the lake called Chiemsee. To reach it, you must take a boat to the island and then walk about 15 minutes through the woods. It seems impossible, but suddenly the trees disappear and there, before your eyes, is a magnificent, huge palace, complete with ornate fountains, gardens, and horse-drawn carriages.
Once inside the palace, you will see wildly opulent rooms: a classical/baroque entrance hall, the King’s bedroom, and a Hall of Mirrors which is just like Versailles’, only longer! However, the tour is somewhat disappointing, because this is basically ALL you will see. Although the palace is huge, most of it was unfinished at the time of the king’s mysterious death at age 40.
Some interesting facts about Herrenchiemsee:
*Ludwig was out of money when he died, and Herrenchiemsee was opened to the public just 6 weeks after his death so that entrance fees could help pay off its debt.
*Ludwig’s bathroom contained a combination bathtub/swimming pool which was 6’ deep and 15’ across. However, Ludwig died before he could ever use it.
*Ludwig was quite eccentric and like to sleep during the day and stay up all night. He only would go into the Hall of Mirrors at night when it was illuminated by its 44 candelabras and 33 chandeliers. Once a squirrel broke through the glass and ran into the hall. When a horrified servant attempted to scare it out, Ludwig protested and insisted that it be allowed to stay (he greatly loved animals).
*Ludwig’s bedroom here was only used by him 10 different nights. It is decorated all in blue (his favorite color), and is illuminated by a blue globe with a candle inside.
*Because of Ludwig’s extreme shyness, he insisted on a unique table being placed in the dining room. It was set on a platform which could be cranked down into the kitchen one floor below and then cranked up again, so that the table could be set and cleared without Ludwig ever needing to see the servants. He was known to request that the table be set for 4, so that he could pretend to have dinner with Louis XIV, Marie Antionette, and other favorite historical figures. Once he even had dinner in the ornate dining room with his favorite horse!
You can probably see why I think Ludwig is so fascinating. If you are ever in Germany, schedule a half-day visit to Herrenchiemsee. You will be glad you did!
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