Travel Essay: Linderhof Palace - Home to Ludwig’s Dreams

Tucked away from view behind the deep green, fir-laden forests at the foot of the Bavarian Alps sits Linderhof Palace, the little known home to King Ludwig’s elaborate dreams of beauty, art and anonymity.

Upon entering the marble-rich foyer, one immediately recognizes the same splendor of Ludwig’s larger palaces, the gold and stucco, the putty angels and Meissner porcelain chandeliers. But this place is special: Linderhof Palace exudes a level of intimacy unmatched in the Fairy Tale King’s other grandiose constructions. The real difference to the better-known postcard-worthy palaces, of course, is that this comfy castle was actually his home for many years. It was here, where Ludwig found solitude. It was here, where he found time to dream. Big.

This neo-French Rococo palace is truly not much larger than many a mansion in the United States today. Visiting tourist groups find themselves squeezed inside the music and dressing chambers, not meant to house more than Ludwig and a handful of guests and servants. Despite its smaller scale, Linderhof is filled with oddities galore: a dining table, for instance, which could be lowered and raised directly from the down-below kitchen into Ludwig’s room. Rumor has it, that the King was too self-conscious about the state of his teeth to tolerate anybody watch him eat. Or maybe he just wanted to be alone – he was a well-known introvert after all.

Most notably, Ludwig had arranged for the construction of an underground theater in his backyard, including a water-filled lake and a rowboat shaped like a shell, in which he would be able to sit and float around this so-called Venus grotto. An ardent admirer of Richard Wagner, it was Ludwig’s great joy to watch his musical performances here, away from crowds and reality. Equipped with state-of-the-art electrical features, this theatric hideaway was likely the most modern cocoon, this lonely royal could dream up; a whimsical man-cave, surrounded by splendid gardens, horse-drawn carriages and other collected constructions from around the world, that reminded Ludwig of everything, but his political responsibilities.

The king didn’t shy away from all people, though: while he despised the court and all public functions his role entailed, he loved interacting with the Bavarian country folk. Ludwig would frequently attempt to mingle anonymously with the farmers in local pubs to have a beer and a chat, which – at over 6 feet tall, and thus towering over the much shorter countrymen of his time – was near impossible. People loved him for it, though, and to this day, King Ludwig is cherished among Bavarians. The royal leader loved the simplicity of the ordinary people, but because he could never be one of them, chose to escape to his home of eccentric abundance shielded by a thick cloak of Bavarian fir.

The monetary splendor and fantasy dreams may have cost him his throne and ultimately his life, but without his artistic endeavors, Bavaria would be starved of some of its most unique cultural treasures. Disney, too.