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Neuschwanstein castle with Hohenschwangau castle in the background
Most Neuschwanstein visitors overlook Hohenschwangau, which sits to the rightImage: AP

Taking On Neuschwanstein

Mathis Winkler
August 3, 2007

Bavaria's Neuschwanstein castle is flooded by tourists, but there's little to do for visitors once they've checked out the world-famous building. Descendants of the former royal family are now trying to change that.


Neuschwanstein isn't exactly tourist-friendly. It takes a good 90-minute car ride from Munich and a strenuous hike up a steep hill to reach the fairy-tale castle of Bavaria's "Mad" King Ludwig II that rises majestically in front of the Alps.

Hohenschwangau castle
Hohenschwangau was Ludwig's childhood homeImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Nevertheless, some 1.3 million annual visitors flock to the relatively young palace, which had not been completed by the time of Ludwig's death in 1886. A far smaller number of people, however, seem interested in nearby Hohenschwangau Castle, where the king spent part of his childhood.

"Most people visit Neuschwanstein and leave again," said Hanspeter Beisser, the legal counsel for the WAF fund that was established to compensate Bavaria's Wittelsbach dynasty after the abolition of the monarchy in 1918.

Broadening the spectrum

While the Bavarian state owns Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau is still WAF property and Ludwig's descendants are now looking for ways to get more people to add a second stop on their trip.

Chinese tourists taking fotos in front of Neuschwanstein
Tourists usually leave as soon as they taken in NeuschwansteinImage: dpa

"Tourists need a broad spectrum of attractions on offer," Beisser said, adding that a traffic congestion problem in the area sparked WAF officials to think of ways to spread out the crowds.

"Every day we see visitors who are struggling to get through traffic," he said. "They want to see Neuschwanstein and spend a nice day there, but the 'nice day' part doesn't always work out."

Connecting the dots

That's why the WAF, which also owns a hotel in the area, has proposed establishing a museum on the Wittelsbach family history at Hohenschwangau.

Two men in traditional Bavarian clothes carry a Bavarian flag with a portrait of Ludwig II in the middle
A museum could help tourists find out more about Ludwig and his familyImage: AP

"Neuschwanstein wouldn't be possible without Hohenschwangau," said Elisabeth von Hagenow, an art historian with the Hamburg architectural firm Studio Andreas Heller that WAF officials hired to come up with a new tourism concept for the region. "A Wittelsbach museum would connect the two points."

Other ideas that are up for discussion include construction of an arena for events and concerts as well as a panoramic train that would transport people up the hill to the castles.

Pleasing UNESCO

The train in particular hasn't been well received by local critics and Bavaria's Finance Minister Kurt Faltlhauser, who oversees state-owned palaces.

Panoramic view of Dresden's city center
Dresden could still lose its UNESCO world heritage site statusImage: AP

"Bavaria will categorically reject any proposals that endanger plans to turn the royal palaces into UNESCO world heritage sites," Faltlhauser said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the state had learned its lesson from Dresden, which could still lose the UNESCO seal because of plans to build a modern bridge across the city's Elbe River.

But Faltlhauser also said that he did welcome any other improvements for tourists in the area as long as they did not infringe on Neuschwanstein's integrity.

Focus on history

Hagenow said that the finance minister and others had no reason to worry.

The German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven
The German Emigration Center in BremerhavenImage: AP

"What we've done so far should make it clear that we're not planning to build an entertainment park," she said, adding that the German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven, which was designed by her firm, had just won the 2007 European Museum of the Year Award.

"Our aim is to convey history in a way that's scientifically sound and attractive for tourists at the same time," she said.

Town council members of Schwangau, where both castles are located, are expected to decide on the proposals in late October.

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