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Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle is a Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau in southwest Bavaria and is one of the most beloved and easily recognized castles in the world. Despite its medieval look, it was built in the 19th century, and served no defensive purposes. It was commissioned and paid for by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner. King Ludiwg was Richard Wagner’s patron, and many rooms of the castle were inspired by Wagner’s operas. Ludwig II was fascinated by the medieval legends in the operas: Tristan and Isolde, Sigurd, the swan knight Lohengrin, Parsifal and the minnesinger Tannhäuser. So it is no surprise that paintings and murals in the rooms throughout the castle were modeled on these ancient myths and sagas. Incidentally, Neuschwanstein in English means the New Swan Stone Castle, the name derived from one of Wagner’s characters, the Swan Knight. In addition, the swan was the heraldic animal of the counts of Schwangau and it is the Christian symbol of purity. The designer of the castle was Christian Jank, who was not an architect, but a theatrical designer. Originally, the palace was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, even though he slept at the castle only 11 nights before his tragic death. Immediately after his death in 1886, it was opened to the paying public and since then more than 61 million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle. The palace appears prominently in several movies and was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle and similar structures.

Ludwig's father Maximilian II had admired the scenery around Hohenschwangau. He built paths and lookout points, as well as the "Marienbrücke" over the Pöllat Gorge which was a present for his wife. Since the Middle Ages two small castles sat on the rugged hill near Hohenschwangau, where Neuschwanstein stands today. These ruins, located on the narrow mountain ridge called "Jugend", were frequented by Crown Prince Ludwig during his summer visits at Hohenschwangau, which was the summer residence of the royal family. He loved the stunning views over the foothills of the Alps toward the lakes. Although it is said that the Wartburg was one of the models for Neuschwanstein, the final exterior design of the castle resembles more the second model, Chateau de Pierrefonds in France.

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