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Friday 31st October 2008

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Friday 24th October 2008

A joy of working for Sony Ericsson is the fact that their headquarters is in Munich, which makes for some fantastic sightseeing at weekends.

These pics are from a trip out to the Bavarian Alps - about two hours outside of Munich. Above is Hohenschwangau Castle, where 'Mad' King Ludwig was raised as a child.

Click on pictures for a larger version.

And this is a view of Neuschwanstein Castle, that King Ludwig had built, overlooking Hohenschwangau.

The Castle is a 19th-century Bavarian palace commissioned by Ludwig as a retreat and as a homage to Richard Wagner, the King's inspiring muse.

Since its opening in 1886, over 50 million people have visited the Castle. About 1.3 million people visit every year, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. The palace has appeared in several films, and was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park and for the Cinderella Castles at the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland.

A view of the castle from the hill - the castle is 3,600 feet above sea level.

This is the moment I looked down and realised I was above the top of the cloud layer.

Back in the hotel I read a bit more about Mad King Ludwig. Apparently he had a 'special sleigh' built that he took out on winter excursions during which he 'persuaded' his male servants to strip naked and dance for him. This, coupled with his elaborate costumes and habit of referring to everyone as "ducky" (in German, "Entey"), can only lead us to speculate on the feather lightness of his fairy cakes.

The inner courtyard.

A view of the King's living quarters. For 9 euros you can tour the castle (but sadly not take pictures). The interior was amazing. Listening to the tour guide, I got the impression that Ludwig's accusation of insanity came about more because of political motives. Having said that, he did have a 'cave' constructed in his living quarters as a little haven to 'get away from everything'. Not a bad idea actually.

King Ludwig II - hello honky tonks

Ludwig was notably eccentric in ways that made serving as Bavaria’s head of state problematic. He disliked large public functions and avoided formal social events whenever possible, and was preferred a life of fantasy that he pursued with various creative projects. These idiosyncrasies caused tension with the king's government ministers, but did not cost him popularity among common Bavarians: the king enjoyed traveling in the Bavarian countryside and chatting with farmers and laborers he met along the way. He also delighted in rewarding those who were hospitable to him during his travels with lavish gifts. He is still remembered in Bavaria as Unser Kini, which means "our darling king" in the Bavarian dialect.

In 1868, Ludwig commissioned the first drawings for two of his buildings: the first was Neuschwanstein Castle, or "New Swan Stone Castle", a dramatic Romanesque fortress with soaring fairy-tale towers; the second was Herrenchiemsee, a replica of the central section of the palace at Versailles, France. Herrenchiemsee which was to be sited on the Herren Island in the middle of the Chiemsee Lake, was meant to outdo its predecessor in scale and opulence.

On June 9, 1886, a government commission including Holnstein and von Gudden arrived at Neuschwanstein to formally deliver the document of deposition to the king and place him in custody. Tipped off by a faithful servant, Ludwig ordered the local police to protect him, and the commissioners were held back from the castle gate at bayonet-point. In an especially famous sideshow, the commissioners were attacked by an elderly local baroness loyal to the king, who flailed at the men with her umbrella and then rushed to the king’s apartments to identify the conspirators. After holding the commissioners captive for the night, Ludwig released them on June 10.

On June 13, around 6:00 pm, Ludwig asked Gudden to accompany him on a walk along the shore of Lake Starnberg. Gudden agreed, and told the guards not to follow them. The two men never returned. At 11:30 that night, searchers found both the king and Gudden dead, floating in the shallow water near the shore.

Ludwig's death was officially ruled a suicide by drowning, but this has been questioned. Ludwig was known to be a strong swimmer, the water was less than waist-deep where his body was found, and the official autopsy report indicated that no water was found in his lungs. Ludwig had expressed suicidal feelings during the crisis, but the suicide theory does not fully explain Gudden's death.

Looking out from the castle. A tour guide spotted me taking this picture and slapped me and shouted "Schweinebacke".

This is Füssen, a lovely little town in the Alps.

Munich's Catholic Church of St. Johann Nepomuk, better known as the Asam Church, was built from 1733 to 1746 by the brothers Egid Quirin Asam and Cosmas Damian Asam as their private church. Due to resistance of the citizens, the brothers were forced to make the church accessible to the public, though they had taken on all the costs of building. The Asamkirche is an achievement of Bavarian late Baroque architecture or rococo.

The Catholic Theatine Church St. Cajetan (Theatinerkirche St. Kajetan) in Munich was built from 1663 to 1690, it was founded by Elector Ferdinand Maria and his wife, Henriette Adelaide of Savoy, as a gesture of thanks for the birth of the long-awaited heir to the Bavarian crown, Prince Max Emanuel, in 1662.

The church was built in Italian high-baroque style after San Andrea del Valle in Rome and designed by the Italian architect Agostino Barelli. His successor, Enrico Zuccalli, added two towers, which originally were not planned and then finished the 71 meter (233 ft) high dome in 1690. The facade in rococo style was finished only in 1768 by François de Cuvilles. Its Mediterranean appearance and yellow colouring became a well known symbol for the city and had much influence on Southern German baroque architecture.

The rich stucco ornaments inside the church have a remarkably light feeling owing to its brilliant white colour. The stucco decorations were done by Nicolo Petri (1685 - 1688) while Wolfgang Leutner was responsible for the stucco figures. The great black pulpit is a work of Andreas Faistenberger (1686). The altars keep paintings of Caspar de Crayer, Carlo Cignani, George Desmareés and Joachim Sandrart. Balthasar Ableithner created the statues of Saint Marcus and Saint John.

A small chapel contains the tombs of King Max II and his wife. The crypt also contains the Prince’s Tomb, where among others these members of the Wittelsbach family were buried.

This Gothic hall-church, originally belonging to the Hospice of the Holy Ghost (14th C.), was remodeled in 1724-30 by Johann Georg Ettenhofer (vaulting, refacing of pillars). After the demolition of the hospice buildings, in 1885, Franz Löwel added three bays at the west end of the church and gave it an imposing Neo-Baroque facade. The church suffered severe damage during the Second World War and its interior furnishings were largely destroyed; extensive rebuilding and restoration was carried out after the war.

Dachau concentration camp.

Dachau was a Nazi German concentration camp, and the first one opened in Germany, located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km (10 miles) northwest of Munich.

Opened in March 1933, it was the first regular concentration camp established by the coalition government of National Socialist (Nazi) NSDAP party and the Catholic Zentrum party (dissolved on 6 July 1933). Heinrich Himmler, Chief of Police of Munich, officially described the camp as "the first concentration camp for political prisoners."

Together with the much larger Auschwitz, Dachau has come to symbolise the Nazi concentration camps to many people. Konzentrationslager (KZ) Dachau holds a significant place in public memory because it was the second camp to be liberated by British or American forces. Therefore, it was one of the first places where the West was exposed to the reality of Nazi brutality through firsthand journalist accounts and through newsreels.

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