Thursday, August 30, 2018

They Don't Call Him "The Swan King" For Nothing


I think before today I've only seen a swan two or three times in my life. That total was easily tripled today.

Hello today from Fussen, a German town at the foot of the Alps that's home to two of King Ludwig's big castles and, as it turns out, a tradition whenever Loraine and I come here. You see, whenever Loraine and I come here it turns rainy and cold. It doesn't matter how warm it was the day before, but whenever Loraine & I come here it turns rainy & cold. I have no idea how the tradition started, nor do I have any idea why it keeps going, but the residents of Fussen can thank us for breaking their summer-long hot spell.

No, that's okay. It's the least we could do for you.

I hope you've read the blog I wrote before we came over about the slightly off-center but now highly beloved King Ludwig II of Bavaria. If you haven't yet, may I suggest you do so, so that we're all on the same page?

Go ahead; click here & check it out. I'll wait.

(this is just me waiting)

Okay, we now all on the same page about the slightly out-of-the-ordinary King Ludwig? Well, today we visited one of his childhood homes, where he spent summers before he became slightly out-of-the-ordinary, Hohenschwangau--

This might be the one major castle associated with Ludwig that he himself didn't build. It was his father's project. He took the ruins of an older fort and built his family's summer home there, where he did kingly things and the rest of the family hiked in the mountains and fed the swans. When he died, Ludwig inherited the place, and actually lived in it before starting to build his dream home, Neuschwanstein, a castle we'll be visiting tomorrow, made world-famous as the model for Cinderella's castle at various Disney theme parks across the planet.

In fact, it was so close to Hohenschwangau that you can see it wherever you look--

Heck, you can even see it from our hotel, and that's six or seven miles way--

Enough about that castle; after all, that's one of our main projects for tomorrow. Like his slightly whistling-to-his-own-tune son Ludwig, King Max II--

Who's the dude pictured with the mustache (that's a teenage Ludwig on the left), sometimes whistled to his own tune, as well. For instance, Max liked swans. Max really REALLY liked swans, and when he built Hohenschwangau he put them everywhere. One room of the castle? Painted with swan murals. All over the castle grounds? Swan fountains--

Don't believe me? Here's another one--

Max, in fact, passed his love of the birds on to Ludwig, who then combined his father's love of swans and his love of the Wagner opera “Lohengrin” (which has, if I remember correctly, a giant killer swan leading Bavarian soldiers to victory in battle, a tale I'm surprised Hollywood hasn't milked every single possible cent out of) to become known as, among other things, “The Swan King”.

Besides the painted swans, the sculpted swans, and the swans vomiting water out of their mouths, there were also real-life swans on the lake across the road from the castle--

I'm sure they were put there for the benefit of tourists. At least it seems that way based on the hordes of people feeding and photographing the beasts. And yes, I guess I have to count myself among the hordes; after all, I did take that picture of the swans to show you. But how many other people, I wonder, would also take a picture of a swan's butt?

This is probably just me. In fact, I KNOW it's just me. But when I first saw the picture back at the hotel tonight, the first thing that popped into my head was that the swan on the left was looking at the other swan and thinking to itself, “Hey—nice...”

You're right. It is just me.

After a very informative visit to the Museum of the Bavarian Kings (where Loraine was able to get quite the King Ludwig fix), our other task of the day involved driving up a long and winding road to the ruins of an old castle, a location on which Ludwig had hoped to build a dream castle that would allow him to get away from his other castles.

In fact, it's these ruins you see off in the distance, on top of the mountain--

This is a slightly better view of Falkenstein, Germany's highest castle at almost a mile in elevation. So high, in fact, that it was above some of today's clouds--

But I guess I can kind of understand why Ludwig would want to build a castle at that location, especially with views like this--

Of course, he ran out of money and was mysteriously killed before all that could happen. That, however, is a story for another day (Saturday, in fact). So details then.

I realize this is starting to ramble a bit, so I'll wrap it up for now, but not before I leave you with today's animal picture. We did see lots of creatures...cows, horses, sheep, and, obviously, swans. But aside from the swans, the only other picture I was able to take was this--

That's a slug bigger that a tree leaf. You don't see that every day. Or at least I don't see that every day.

Tomorrow, like I said, it's another castle. And we're also doing something we've never done before, at least in Europe. In fact here's a tease, a picture of a girl and her (faux) king--

The who, what, where, and why tomorrow!

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