Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Michael Jackson syndrome

On Good Friday I was treated to a trip to the Chiemsee, a large and picturesque lake about an hour's drive east of München (thanks again to Dan and Doris (and Karla and Chico)). Apart from being a place of recreation, the Chimsee's most significant claim to fame is Ludwig II's third (and incomplete) palace.

Approaching the island on which the Herrenchiemsee was built (by ferry)

The palace in all its glory
Ludwig II (1845-1883) was the last king of Bayern (Bavaria), and is fondly remembered for his outrageous lavishness and uncontrolled spending. His commissioned buildings include the impossibly beautiful Neuschwanstein (the castle of which the Disney logo is inspired by, amongst others), and he was Richard Wagner's principal sponsor, but Herrenchiemsee, the palace in the Chiemsee, is easily the best example of his Michael Jackson-esque eccentricity.

The Herrenchiemsee was meant to be a palace of sixty rooms, and was envisaged to be a tribute to Louis XIV's palace in Versailles, only bigger and bolder. Of those sixty rooms, only ten were finished, and yet to just build those cost the Royal Family more money than his previous two palaces combined. The ten finished rooms (the rest have been left unfinished) include model replicas of Louis XIV's antechambers, private bedroom and the Halls of Mirrors (one of which, if you count the rooms at either end, is more than 100 m long!). Everything was faithfully reconstructed, only everything's been scaled up a little.

Throughout the palace an awful lot of marble was used, but more expensive than the marble was the fake marble used on some of the walls (the fake stuff holding dyes better)! Disappointingly, only about 2.5 kg of gold was used, everything's gilded, so it seems like there's a lot, but a little gold goes a long way as gold leaf apparently. Ludwig II was also really keen on really, really expensive porcelain, of which there are some stunning examples (including a completely porcelain chandelier).

Ludwig II's own bedroom and private dining room was also finished, as was the 60,000 L bath built underneath. The private dining room had a winch-controlled dining table which could be lowered and set before being wound back-up, allowing Ludwig II to dine without being disturbed by any servants; to run the bath it apparently took 4 hours to heat the water and another 4 hours to fill it - luckily the temperature could be maintained while filling though, because Ludwig II had central heating installed in the palace! Sadly though Ludwig only slept nine nights in this palace, before "drowning" alongside his Doctor in mysterious circumstances.

The largest of the three fountains to grace the front of the palace
It's an amazing palace to walk through, but as photography inside the palace is forbidden, you'll just have to make do with a few photos from outside, which at least is also rather stunning. I totally recommend a visit if you ever get the chance eh.

The Chiemsee also provided an opportunity to dine on locally caught fish, fish being something I'd been craving since I left NZ. At 19 euro it was getting a little out of my Goethe-Institut pocket-money based budget, but the food was delicious, the company excellent and the setting just about perfect (apart from a missing wife and daughter of course).

The view from the shoreline

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