04 August 2008


Southern Bavaria is a natural playground of lakes, rivers, forests and mountains. On Sunday we visited Chiemsee, Bavaria's largest lake, about one hour from Munich.

There are flotillas of private yachts sailing the lake, but for those of us who haven't quite reached that stage yet there is also a regular scheduled boat service.

As well as cruising the lake the boats also stop at two of the islands in the lake. Frauenchiemsee has a monastery dating from the 8th century. Herrenchiemsee is the site of the Royal Palace.

We stopped at the latter and visited the palace. The palace was the work of Ludwig II, king of Bavaria from 1864-1886. Ludwig built or planned a whole series of castles, few of which were ever finished and many of which were never started.

The Linderhof Palace was the only one Ludwig completed and lived in, but the best known is best known is Neuschwanstein Castle, usually described as a fairy tale castle.

The Royal Palace on Herrenchiemsee was intended to be a Bavarian Versaille, but even though building continued for seven years it remained incomplete by the time of Ludwig's death and was never finished. Ludwig himself only visited the palace once and only stayed for ten days.

Ludwig's other great passion was the music of Richard Wagner. On becoming king, Ludwig brought Wagner to Munich, but was forced to send him away within six months. He continued to act as Wagner's patron though, funding the construction of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus home of the annual Bayreuther Festspiele.

Not only did Ludwig live an intriguing life, he also managed an intriguing death. One day after being deposed on the grounds of mental illness Ludwig and his doctor were found dead by Starnberg See. The circumstances of his death remain disputed.

Ludwig was buried in the crypt of Michaelskirche in Munich on June 19 1886.

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