Where is Bavaria?
Bavaria is located in the South East corner of Germany and borders Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. The capital city of Munich is a popular city break destination, which is steeped in history and impressive architecture. It is particularly popular during the months of September and October, when people from around the world visit Munich to celebrate the folk festival of Oktoberfest.
I have a keen interest in architecture and these are three of the impressive buildings I visited during my brief trip to Bavaria.
Just 30 minutes over the Austrian/German border we arrived at the village of Ettal, situated close to Oberammergau (known for the Passion Play) and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We were here to visit Ettal Abbey, which is a stunning 14th century Benedictine monastery. I am not a religious person, but I do appreciate a beautiful building and was immediately impressed by the grandeur of the Abbey.
Front view of Ettal Abbey from the Courtyard
The abbey is located in a pretty and well tended courtyard, with a brewery and bookstore set off to the side. We didn’t pick the best day to visit weatherwise, but this did not detract from the imposing building, with the ornate detail and the 60 metre high dome which topped off this amazing Baroque architecture.
Our visit fell on the 4th of June, which was Pentecost Sunday and there was a service taking place. Standing at the back so as not to disturb the service, I was in awe with the detail of the interior.
Inside of Ettal Abbey. The walls are a pretty white and pink marble
There is plenty of light coming into the Abbey, through the good sized clear windows. The pink and marble walls assist in giving a light and airy feel to the interior and on the walls there are paintings depicting religious scenes, with gold decorative frames.
Looking down the aisle towards the altar
A panorama showing the detailed interior of Ettal Abbey
Looking up, I was amazed to see a mural painted on the ceiling of the dome. The painting is a typical example of Bavarian Rococo, measuring 83 foot wide and was said to be painted in 1751-2 by Jacob Zeiller. The detail in this painting is fascinating and is set off nicely by the ornate cornice which surrounds it. A spectacular and impressive piece of art.
Bavarian Rococo painting on the ceiling of the dome
The decorative Ettal Abbey organ
The inside of the abbey wasn’t as large as I expected, but it was large on decorative features. My initial impression was of surprise due to the amount of gold decoration which I couldn’t decide if I found too “bling”. But once I got past this and studied the detail, I decided I liked the effect of the dome painting against the marble pink and white walls. The Abbey also let in plenty of light with its large windows; a refreshing change to some religious buildings which can be dark and gloomy on the inside.
Just 11 Kilometres from Ettal is Linderhof Palace. The Schloss (which is the German word for palace), is one of three built by King Ludwig II and is the only palace he lived long enough to see completed. The other two castles he built were his fairy tale castle Neuschwanstein and Herrenchiemsee which is based on the French Palace of Versailles.
Map of Linderhof Palace grounds
The palace grounds are a good size with lots of gardens and buildings to view. The palace itself is an impressive looking building and there are guided tours available to visitors. Our visit was during a holiday weekend, so there were long queue to go on the tour of the palace and since photos are not permitted, we decided to spend our time exploring the grounds and taking in the impressive views of the garden.
View of the front of Linderhof Palace
The facade of Linderhof Palace
From the palace end of the grounds, there is a view across a pool and onward to the three level garden terrace. The centre piece is the water fountain which runs at regular intervals sending jets of water up to 22 metres high. The grounds are perfectly symmetrical apart from the one lime tree which can be viewed on the right side of the below picture.
The grounds looking from the palace to the garden terrace
One the lions guarding the entrance to the garden terrace
View from the second level of the garden terrace
The gardens are nicely tended with formal gardening throughout. On reaching the third level of the terrace, you can look back across at the palace and beyond to the 30 step cascading water feature called Neptun fountain. Unfortunately this was being restored at the time of our visit, so we were unable to see it in all its glory.
Formal garden on the first level of the garden terrace
Temple of Venus
At the top and on the third level of the terrace you can find the Temple of Venus, which is a marble statue within a round Greek temple. A theatre was originally planned for this site.
Other notable interests to be seen in the grounds of Linderhof Palace, are the Moorish Kiosk, the Hunting Hut, the Moroccan House, the Royal Lodge and the Venus Grotto, which is an artificial cave with own its lake and waterfall. Visiting the gardens are free, but be aware that there is a parking fee and the grounds can get busy particularly on a summer day.
If I were to ask anyone to name a German castle, this would be the one on everyone’s lips. They may not know it by its name of Schloss Neuschwanstein, some may even refer to it as the Disney castle, but this is the castle everyone wants to visit and people arrive from across the world just to visit the Bavarian fairytale castle. Its imposing position on the hills over look Hohenschwangau village, gives it a striking resemblance to Disney’s Cinderella castle.
The castle was built by King Ludwig II, who sadly didn’t live long enough to see its completion. He grew up at the neighbouring castle Hohenschwangau which belonged to his parents, his father being the Crown Prince Maximilian II of Bavaria.
Hohenschwangau Castle owned by Maximilian II
To view the castle there is a steady uphill walk which takes approximately 30 mins. Alternatively if you don’t want to walk, you can take the bus or a horse and carriage.
First view of Neuschwanstein Castle
This is a very busy place to visit and there are long waiting times to get on a tour to visit the inside of the castle. The tour lasts 30 minutes and although it is very impressive to see inside, I felt as if we were herded through much quicker than I would have liked. Again photography is not permitted, but I think the highlight for me was King Ludwig’s bedroom. The bedroom has impressive intricate wood carvings in the neo-gothic style and it is said that it took 14 wood carvers four and half years to complete.
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from Marienbrücke
To get the best views of the castle, ensure you walk to Marienbrücke. The bridge spans a gorge between two cliffs and below the bridge is a small waterfall which is fed by the surrounding mountains. The bridge is very popular and gets very crowded because it is by far the best photo opportunity for the castle.
I enjoyed visiting all of these stunning buildings in Bavaria, but for me the best by far is Neuschwanstein Castle. If you can put up with the crowds, a visit to to King Ludwig’s vision of a fairy tale castle is a must.