Between Salzburg and Munich is Lake Chiemsee and on this lake Ludwig II built another palace; this one just as grand as Neuschwanstein yet largely unfinished. We’d woken up that morning to a pretty heavy sky again but that wasn’t going to stop us getting to Schloss Herrenchiemsee.
As we left it looked to be clear but that changed within 15 or so minutes of the ride. We found a safe place to stop then got into our waterproofs, and did the same for the baggage. We continued through light rain and drizzle up to Chiemsee, but as we arrived it had cleared for our visit to the Palace.
Ludwig II built the palace in what seems like the most remote place he could find – on a large island in the middle of a lake.The island is also largely woodland so from the mainland the palace is hardly visible at all. Only a narrow strip of woodland has been cleared through which a canal runs from the lake to the palace.
To arrive at the palace, we took a small boat from the town of Prien am Chiemsee. As it was quite late in the day and the weather wasn’t the best many visitors were returning to the mainland but we knew that – rain or no rain – we had to ride to Munich that evening so we’d may as well see the palace first.
Because of the surrounding woodland, we came across the palace quite suddenly. We saw it first from the bottom of the garden and it’s easy to imagine what anyone in the 1880’s would have thought.
We joined one of the last tours of the day and thanks to the time there were only a handful of people in our group. Our guide was pretty good too. Although a lot of what she said seemed scripted she taught us so much about Ludwig II and his fantastic palace. Fantastic as in fantasy I mean – Herrenchiemsee is supposed to be a miniature Versailles. Ludwig idolised the sun king Louis XIV of France and created this in worship and desire to imitate Louis’ world. Inside there is a ‘hall of mirrors’, the fleur de lis decorates curtains and carpets, frescoes commemorate great French moments in history and in one room hangs a huge portrait of the sun king himself. The grandeur and opulence of Herrenchiemsee started to overwhelm – to imagine one man could create this place is absurd.
We learned a lot about Ludwig II himself here – he never wanted to be king. He planned to abdicate when his brother turned 18 but as this wasn’t possible he tried to seclude himself from his duties and retreat into this imaginary world of fairy tale castles. He loved arts and music more than his kingly duties. Sadly he died before this palace could be finished and only 20 of the 70 rooms are complete. Those unfinished have only the simple bare brick walls while those completed shine and sparkle with Crystal chandeliers, ornate gold decoration and rich fabrics.
In hindsight, we spent a little too long at the Palace, or just poorly timed our journey, as by the time we were back on the bike it was almost dark. Not only that, the heaven’s had opened but this time with a vengeance. We endured a horrible ride up the highway in the pouring rain, I was continuously blinded by the lights of the traffic around me. However, after and hour and a half we arrived at our friends’ house in Munich. Wet and tired we just spent the evening drying our clothes before having an early night.