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Neuschwanstein strips off for summer

After many months of being cloaked in scaffolding, Germany’s favourite fairytale castle is ready for the cameras again, says author and castle enthusiast Edd Morris.

Summer brings the promise of holidays, and many of Germany’s tourism hotspots are gearing up for the seasonal crowds. But one of the biggest attractions – Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria – has been preparing for summer 2013 for longer than most.

On and off since 2009, the fairytale form of Neuschwanstein has been cloaked in scaffolding for exterior repairs. However, just in time for summer 2013, the castle is shedding its skin. Thanks to the completion of an extensive renovation programme, the 6,000 tourists who visit during each day in August will have the chance to take an unobscured photo of King Ludwig’s ‘fantasy in stone’.

Neuschwanstein Castle was built in the 1870s, and was never designed to accommodate vast crowds – hence the importance of the present-day works. Indeed, the castle was intended to be a private refuge for introverted King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Neuschwanstein’s whimsical turrets were devised by theatre-set designers – a mock-Medieval fortress for a day-dreamer of a monarch.

‘Mad’ King Ludwig was one of the last of the Wittelsbach dynasty to rule Bavaria, and a truly private soul. Haunted by problems in his personal and political life, the eccentric King channelled his energies, and his dynasty’s fortunes, into flamboyant pet-projects which included Neuschwanstein.

Nowadays, the 1.2 million annual visitors who tramp up to the castle cause problems that King Ludwig could never have imaged. One major headache was subsidence due to the vibrations of motor vehicles and tourists’ footsteps, which necessitated laying steel-supports deep into the bedrock.

However, the recent scaffolding has been used to address an altogether more cosmetic issue. Neuschwanstein was originally coated in an attractive limestone, chosen by King Ludwig for aesthetic affect. Despite its photogenic quality, there was one big problem with the limestone: it eroded badly in the winter snow. As a result, it has been a three-and-a-bit year project to re-clad and resurface the exterior and return it to its former glory.

The best news for tourists is that the exterior of the castle looks as perfect as King Ludwig could ever have dreamed. The bad news, though, is for the Bavarian Palace Authority – the maintenance tasks are never-ending, and their next project will be re-enforcing some of the internal walls. There’s a lot of work in preserving a fairytale.

 

Edd Morris is author of Neuschwanstein Castle: An Exploring Castles Travel Guide.

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