By Michael Schurmann from easyhiker.co
There is no shortage of attractive hiking destinations for day trips near Munich where you are during the Oktoberfest. Both the Goldsteig and the Altmühl-Panoramaweg “top trails” are just a train ride away, and of course, there are always the Alps.
But Lake Starnberg tops the list of day trip destinations because it is by far the easiest to reach and is the scene of a titillating piece of German royalty history. (More of that if you promise to read through.)
You can go there by City Rail (the S-Bahn) in 30 minutes from Munich Central Station, and the round trip is covered by the Munich day pass which gives you unlimited access to all the city’s public transport facilities (a steal at €20 for up to five persons).
Another reason why Lake Starnberg tops that list: it won’t take you long to reach it from Starnberg station.
On a clear day, you can even see the Alps at the far end.
This far end, it must be said, is quite a long way away. Lake Starnberg is about 20 km long, and although it is quite narrow (never more than 5 km wide), the whole tour around the big pond may easily come to about 50 km.
“Road leading to Possenhofen hiking trail in Starnberger See near Munich”
For a day trip, this is clearly off the scale. But thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives.
On the right side of the lake, for example, there are two more S-Bahn stations further down the track (Possenhofen and Tutzing), so in theory, you could take the train there and walk back to Starnberg (7 km and 14 km respectively).
This was, in fact, our original plan: a walk to Possenhofen, the childhood home and favourite retreat of the star-crossed empress Sissi.
But the road to Possenhofen was so busy (even used by trucks) and so far away from the actual lake – it was practically lined with residential homes, gardens and boat houses – that we broke off our trip after app. 1 mile and returned to Starnberg.
Fortunately for us, we then discovered that the “left” (or western) side of the lake provides a much more pleasant ambiente.
A recognized hiking trail, the “König Ludwig Weg”, runs down the entire length of the lake’s west bank. That should, at the very least, ensure that you are safe from truck traffic.
No S-Bahn trains circulate down this side of the lake, but ferries take you to several of the small towns that are scattered around, including Seehausen at the lake’s southern tip.
If you have a full day, this is what you could do: Hike all the way to Seehausen and return by boat.
We only had the time for one section of this trail, however, and decided to walk the 6 km from Starnberg to the town of Berg.
Out of the station and standing in front of the lake, turn left.
The first half mile takes you past a mix of residential and recreational buildings: homes, gardens, boat houses and a public swimming pool.
After the first of two wooden bridges, however, the scenery becomes far more idyllic: swans in the lake, groups of sturdily built Bavarian women training their Nordic walking skills, young families and students skipping a boring lecture.
When you return to the asphalted road, in the outskirts of Berg, you will see some of the most expensive real estate in Germany.
Lake Starnberg, so pretty and so near to Munich, Germany’s richest city, is very much the Alpine version of the Cote d’Azur (or Beverly Hills).
After walking about 15 minutes, you will find the boat pier on your right.
“Sign leading to Koenig Ludwig Weg hiking trail in Starnberger See in Munich”Check the arrival and departure times, because the traffic back to Starnberg is infrequent and somewhat irregular, and if you miss one boat, you may have to wait a couple of hours for the next one.
If you can, make time for an excursion to the Votivkapelle (just follow the signs) another 30 minutes away.
This chapel was erected to commemorate one of the great unsolved mysteries of German history.
It stands very near the place where the mad King Louis II of Bavaria, (builder of Neuschwanstein Castle and generous supporter of Richard Wagner’s operatic works), explored Lake Starnberg in a vertical direction. (A wooden cross in the water marks the spot.)
Was it an accident? Did he commit suicide? Or was some sort of jiggery pokery involved? (For a full round-up of events, go HERE.)
On the way to the chapel, you will come across a plaque on a boat house where it says that Ludwig often set out from there to meet with his “soul mate” Sissi on the other side of the lake.
I found it strange and almost touching to see that after all these years, the Bavarians still can’t quite seem to cope with the fact that their beloved “Kini” did not fancy girls all that much.
For a less shamefaced account of the king’s life, watch Ludwig II, directed by Luchino Visconti and featuring the male model Helmut Berger as the eponymous royal, one of the campiest movies ever made: the thinking man’s Wizard of Oz.
If you do not have the time to experience Mr. Visconti’s Magnum Opus in its full Wagnerian languor of 247 minutes, do yourself a favour: sample the director’s operatic ambition here.
The latter section also features here a must-watch Bavarian-style gay orgy with folk dancing, zither music and much mutual groping.
No wonder the locals hated the film so much that they tried to have it banned when it was first released in 1972.)
Now, return to the pier where – if there is still time – you can have a coffee or a beer on the terrace of the Hotel Berg before taking the boat back to Starnberg.
If you have started your day before 12, you can still be back at your favourite Oktoberfest beer tent before the evening rush begins – and won’t miss any of the action.
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The Castle of Mad King Ludwig
When you first set eyes on the formidable Neuschwanstein Castle, you are bound to feel enveloped by the air of romanticism it gives off. For a moment, you could well be in some setting from a knightly novel or a fairy-tale. This is how we think Walt Disney must have felt, as it inspired him in his design of the castle for the cartoon version of The Sleeping Beauty.
The artificer of this colossal architectural undertaking of medieval inspiration was Ludwig II of Bavaria, as a tribute to his childhood home, Hohenschwangau Castle. Situated in Schwangau, the latter was a ruined fortress rebuilt by his father, Maximilian II of Bavaria, thereafter becoming home to this unusual figure in Bavarian history.
Solitude, Romanticism and Wagner
The biography of Ludwig II of Bavaria, the son of Maximilian II of Bavaria and Princess Marie of Prussia, was clearly a product of the times, with the king’s reign in decline as protagonist, and romanticism and historicism as the backdrops to a king who yearned to have reigned in former times and who ended up alone and isolated in a permanent state of nostalgia, during which he fritted away the family fortune on building huge castles or acting as the patron to Richard Wagner, his great friend and icon.
Born in 1845, he was crowned king at the early age of 18, long before he was able to fulfil his dreams. The tensions at the time between Austria and Prussia and the end of the Bavarian Alliance led to a progressive decline in his power and his interest in politics. In 1886, his eccentric behaviour and melancholic bent prompted him to be declared unfit to rule. The day after he was deposed, he died in strange circumstances while strolling in the vicinity of Lake Starnberg in the company of Dr Gudden, his psychiatrist.
A good way to learn more about the life of this enigmatic figure is by watching the film ,Ludwig, by the great Luchino Visconti. It traces the life of Ludwig II and also features a stunning Romy Schneider as the Austrian Empress Sissi, his beloved cousin and close friend, who ended up nicknaming him “Mad King Ludwig”.
The “New Swan Stone”
During his reign and in keeping with the family tradition of building castles, Ludwig II of Bavaria commissioned a total of three castles – Linderhof, Herrenchiemsee and Neuschwanstein. The latter became the most popular of them and it is there he ended up living during the latter years of his life, although it hadn’t actually been completed. Sited near Füssen in the Pöllat Gorge and very near his childhood residence, it was originally named “New Hohenschwangau Castle”. After the king’s death, the name was changed to Neuschwanstein, meaning “New Swan Stone”.
Incredible as it may sound, particularly on account of its size, the castle was originally built as the king’s refuge, a place where he would live in solitude and give free rein to his passion for the Middle Ages, stories and Wagner. That makes it more of a fairy-tale stage than a residential palace. Who could have possibly told Ludwig II of Bavaria that the work he would end up being deposed for was to eventually become Germany’s most widely visited monument, chalking up 1.4 million visitors a year?
Neuschwanstein Castle is a landmark on one of Germany’s best known tourist routes, the Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse).The itinerary features a number of fantastic medieval castles, beautiful scenery, enchanting villages, splendid vineyards and a delicious cuisine. It starts at Würzburg, about 110 kilometres south-east of Frankfurt, and ends in Füssen, 82 kilometres south-west of Munich.
If you prefer to avoid doing the whole route and would instead like to just visit this wonderful castle, your best option is a getaway to Munich, which lies 120 kilometres away. Book your Vueling and discover this fairy-tale castle.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Images by Cezary Piwowarskimore info