Although I got somewhat side tracked by my discovery of the sights in Prien am Chiemsee in my recent day trip from Munich, I did make it over to Herreninsel to visit Herrenchiemsee, the last and most costly castle built for King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
I made my way to the dock in Prien/Stock where the ferries depart which take visitors either on a round trip of the Chiemsee or to the Herreninsel and Fraueninsel. The best and most romantic of the fleet is the Ludwig Fessler, a paddle steamer and I was lucky to catch that one.
The trip to the Herreninsel is short, some 15-20 minutes but itâ€™s already beautiful to watch the castle which was modelled on the Palace of Versailles appear among the woods from the lake side.
Currently, a new movie, The Three Musketeers, is being shot in Bavaria and the romantic structure of Schloss Herrenchiemsee provides a perfect backdrop for filming. The cast include such celebrities as Orlando Bloom and Christopher Waltz, but, sadly on the day I visited, no filming took place and I missed that excitement.
But Herrenchiemsee is quite a curiousity. Itâ€™s a prime example of what happens, when a king runs out of money: one half of the castle is furnished and decorated with incredible opulence and baroque beauty and in the other you find nothing but bare and stark walls, including what Ludwig called his bath which is, in fact, a massive swimming pool which was to be heated by the most advanced heating system available at the time.
Leaving the ferry, you make your way to the ticket counter and book your guided tour to see the interior of the castle and the museum on the ground floor. Horse drawn carriages await to take you through the woods and slightly uphill to the castle and gardens, but I preferred to walk along the summer path which takes about 20 minutes.
Guided tours are available in several languages and I could have spent many more hours admiring the richness and fabulous decorations of the famous staircase and the mirror hall, but the tour guides are relentless and you are not allowed to stroll on your own. You can’t take pictures either.
Ludwig â€˜s idol was King Louis XIV of France and he planned Herrenchiemsee as a monument to his hero as well as a place of rest and retreat from the world from himself. No expense was spared to surpass even the splendor of Versailles but finally the monarch ran out of money and could find no further resources to borrow. His last dream castle remained unfinished although habitable, but Ludwig only spent nine days at Herrenchiemsee in the fall of 1885 and a year later he drowned in still unsolved circumstances in the Starnberger See.
Louis XIV was the sun king, whereas Ludwig II adored the night and the moon. Blue was his favorite color and he ordered a special blue lamp in the shape of a globe to submerge his bedroom in moonlight.
The museum on the ground floor exhibits his death mask as well as many furniture from the castle and from the Residenz, his main residence in Munich. After all that sparkle, gold and blue it is very nice to walk in the vast gardens and to watch the fountains and statues and then to walk on to the monastery which is important in modern German history because it was here that the new German constitution, the Grundgesetz, was hammered out in 1948.
Because of the filming a lot of scaffolds did impair the views and to make matters worse the magnificent Schlosshotel which offers luxury accommodation and a lovely garden for a typical Brotzeit is also shrouded in dust sheets and canvas because major repairs are under way, but even so a trip to the Herreninsel is a memorable outing in all seasons. In very harsh winters,, the Chiemsee freezes solid and sometimes itâ€™s even safe to walk across the ice to Prien.