Mittenwald: Mittenwald is voted as one of the 10 most beautiful villages in Europe. Situated on the northern foothills of the Bavarian Alps in the valley of the River Isar, it is indeed beautiful. And almost surreal… Rainbows sliding down straight from the sky onto the greenest meadows and painted houses where in fairy-tales seem to unfold by themselves. Mittenwald also manufactures the world’s best Violins, Violas & Cellos. One can almost hear someone playing them when the breeze touches you by…
‘We are going to a village?’ asked my little guest. He had come all the way from Kolkata for his European vacation. And taking him back to a village which he had ‘seen so many times in India’ was definitely not a good vacation option.
But then, all villages are not fortunate enough to be Mittenwald.
Mittenwald, is absolutely breathtaking. Nestled snuggly in the German – Austrian border, one can almost see the Rainbows sliding down from the sky onto the yellow daffodil-scattered alpine pastures. The Rainbows seem so near and so real that one can almost touch them. And they seem to be everywhere! We would see them when we stepped out into our balconies, we would see them when we looked out of the windows, we would see them wherever we drove… Could we actually drive through a Rainbow? In Mittenwald, the answer would probably be YES!
Our guests and us – we stayed in a beautiful holiday cottage, the ‘Ferienwohnung’ as the Germans would call them. It belonged to a very old couple, who seemed so very kind and so very gentle. As if they were elves and their small little cottage matched the description of ‘Once upon a time there was a little cottage in the forest’! Just out of a fairy-tale book.
Each morning we would wake up in our fairy-tale cottage, step out into our balcony and touch the Rainbow! Oh, did I forget to mention the butterflies in the garden? Or, the clouds floating into the garden? And, the trains whistling by?
We were living in a beautiful German Postcard! And when we drove, we drove through another beautiful German Postcard!
The local history of Mittenwald is woven inseparably into violin making and the development of instrument making. The world’s best violins, violas and the cellos are manufactured here. The village is hence rightly called ‘the Village of a Thousand Violins‘ because of the stringed instruments that are made here. The ‘Geigenbaumuseum’ or the Violin-making Museum houses about 200 instruments from renowned Mittenwald workshops; high quality master violins and children violins as well as the simple instruments for trading companies. It also houses guitars, cisterns and zithers! Besides this, innumerable illustrative materials, pictures, maps and tools of musical instruments are on display. The Museum is complete with a separate room for concerts, lectures and different exhibitions.
Mathias Klotz, the founder of the industry, is commemorated by a statue next to the church. And this important statue is in the centre of Mittenwald, where the main pot of the Rainbows lie!
Our little 6 year-old guest, has been learning the violin from the age of three. He is supposed to be a gifted violin player. This is also an excuse that I cite to include Mittenwald in our travel itinerary! Modern kids cannot live without demanding. Their parents complain that they always want to buy ‘something’ (a trait passed on from their mothers, I suppose but which the mothers refuse to accept. This trait is also sometimes referred to as a Woman’s Necessity! People generally look down upon or look up to this trait, depending upon the expenditure. An alternative coinage to this trait is called ‘Retail Therapy’!).
In our case our little guest goes about ranting and moaning about his need for a world-class violin. I befriend him and assure him that I am going to convince his mum to buy his new toy. But before that he must tell me how he manages to learn and play the violin at such an early age? ‘With extreme difficulty really and do I have much of a choice?’ he asks. Oh parents, when will you learn to be a bit more subtle?
Mittenwald is dotted with magnificently decorated houses with painted facades and ornately carved gables. This form of art is popularly called Luftmalerei and dates back to the mid-17th century. Luftmalerei literally means ‘air paintings’ and painted as frescoes decorating the walls of houses, as if they are part of the architecture. As we wander through the old lanes of Mittenwald and amidst the decorated houses, we breathe in dollops of fantasy as our eyes are tricked into illusion. We fail to differentiate between the actual architectural facade from the frescoed ones.
Oberammergau, another village/town, where the practice originated, is situated very close by. It is an illusionist’s paradise. Luftmalerei – I realise that I have to venture once again into this art form and the place where it originates. Oberammergau really demands an entire writing space of its own. Probably in my next article…
The location of Mittenwald turns out to be absolutely ideal for us as we travel along with wailing and ranting kids strapped in the back seats of our car. A lot of typical tourist destinations are close by. We drive down everyday to one of these ‘have-to-tick-Places to visit‘ and before the two kids start their daily rantings and wailings and moanings we are back to our fairy-tale cottage, just when the darkness is about to set in!
One of our excursions from Mittenwald was to the Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein). It dates back to the 19th-century and situated on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria. This is the castle that inspired Walt Disney to create his Sleeping Beauty’s famous Castle. The tall turrets could be seen again and again in the other castles depicted in Disney’s other famous fairy-tale stories.
Why did Schloss Neuschwanstein inspire Walt Disney? The reasons are many…
Romantic, mysterious, enormous and almost dream-like – these are the simplest of adjectives I can find to describe Schloss Neuschwanstein. The giant turrets rise up to the sky piercing through the clouds. The turquoise blue water of the Lake Schwansee and the Alpine foothills form a breathtaking backdrop.The castle seems precariously perched on an elevation of 800m. When we approach the castle it seems to be hanging from the cliff. Again, sometimes it seems to float amidst the fleeting clouds.
The ultimate mystery lies probably in the person who visualised this castle – King Ludwig II of bavaria himself.
King Ludwig II was allegedly mad and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Mad King Ludwig’. The circumstances of Ludwig’s death remain unexplained; some say he committed suicide, others believe he was murdered. All this probably adds up to the dark mystery of the palace.
The palace was commissioned by King Ludwig II and was intended to be a personal refuge for the reclusive king. It was also to serve as an homage to Richard Wagner, the famous German composer that King Ludwig II so admired. Infact many a scene of Wagner’s operas are actually depicted in the interiors of the castle. Concerts (Schlosskonzerte) are still held each September in the Singers’ Hall (Sängersaal) of the castle!
In the Middle Ages three castles overlooked the village. Schwanstein Castle was one of them. Ludwig’s father bought its ruins to replace them by the comfortable neo-Gothic palace, the Hohenschwangau Castle. Finished in 1837, the palace became his family’s summer residence where his elder son Ludwig spent a large part of his childhood. The ruins above the family palace were all too known to young Ludwig, the crown prince. He already had sketches of his dream fairy-tale castle in his diary. When the young king came to power, he started constructing this fairy tale castle, with the help of a stage designer! He built it to feed his creative needs and pleasure. Unfortunately, he never enjoyed his dream castle. King Ludwig II died before Neuschwanstein was completely finished. He was supposedly drowned in a lake nearby and his death is shrouded in mystery.
Some interesting facts about Schloss Neuschwanstein –
- Despite the castle’s medieval appearance, Ludwig built in modern technologies of the day, such as flush toilets, running hot and cold water, and heating!
- It was opened to the public only after King Ludwig II’s death in 1886. Today, statistics indicate that more than 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer!
- I am in love with King Ludwig II, only because of his famous quote – “I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others.” And I do empathise with him. All great creative minds do seem to have some unusual twists and bends. I seem to be blessed. I seem to have only a ‘creative mind’ and not a ‘great creative mind’!
- Neuschwanstein symbolises the German term ‘Castle Romanticism’. In spite of having a dramatic visual treat when we visited the castle, all the ‘castle romanticism’ went kaput for us. Our two year old girl fell asleep. And my poor husband carried her throughout our trip. Up the narrow staircases, along the medieval halls, jostling along the curious onlookers and hiding away in the dark corridors lest the bright alpine sunshine filtering in through the medieval windows wake up our little princess and transform her into a sleepy but a very fiery wailing monster.
According to the notices hanging outside –
- Prams, large rucksacks and similar bulky objects may not be taken into the palace: Our pram was hence parked outside. Obviously, my king had to carry my princess!
- There is only very limited space for depositing these items: Our princess did require a bit of a more space than the limited space available!
- No liability can be accepted for any objects that have been deposited: But I am a typical Mum. I believe that everyone ought to be liable for our princess!
So, throughout the entire 2-hour long castle visit I kept on asking my husband – ’Darling, are you alright? Shall I carry her instead?’ As if I would immediately turn into a Super-woman if he had said ‘Yes’!
Why did we not stop somewhere, you may ask. We absolutely could’n STOP. Our little princess needed the rocking motion going!
Everybody says that King Ludwig had built in all the modern technologies of the day when he built his dream castle such as flush toilets, running hot and cold water, and heating… Remarkable indeed. He could have been the ‘Mad King Ludwig’ but what would he know of a two-year old whose age is also famously described as ‘Terrible Twos’? If he did, then he would have surely included an ELEVATOR and an ESCALATOR or an automatic ROCKING CHAIR and a REFLEXOLOGY CENTRE!
UnBlogging it all… Ishita
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