With impeccable timing, the first snow of the season fell on Munich this week just as the Christkindlmärkte were opening. In the words of Dean Martin, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Anyone who wants to experience the best of Munich’s famous Christmas traditions really needs to go on our Christmas Markets tour. For those unfortunates not able to do so, we offer a series of blog posts on Munich and all things Christmassy, beginning here …
King Ludwig’s Winter Wonderland.
Ludwig II is at the heart of so many stories of Munich and Bavaria that it is unsurprising that the fairytale king should feature prominently in the most fairytale time of year. His moonlight winter rides are the stuff of legend, with the eccentric king to be seen dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh as his desperate ceremonial guards puffed behind him, jingling all the way.
It’s equally unsurprising that the King of Bling should also rise to the occasion in the season of glitz and giving. On one Christmas alone he gave away close to 400 gold watches as presents.
Above all, however, Ludwig left the world a fairytale castle that, glistening impossibly amid snow-capped peaks, seems to belong more to a Disney holiday movie than to real life.
Does Ludwig’s magnificent castle in the sky owe its origins to his childhood Christmas memories? One of my favourite Ludwig stories is from the Christmas of 1852, when the 7 year old who would later become mad King Ludwig II received as a fateful present from his grandfather, mad King Ludwig I.
A set of building blocks.
This fired the childish imagination of young Luddi, and may have unlocked something deep within. “He loves to build,” wrote the impressed grandfather to his son, the child’s father Otto: “I witnessed him construct buildings that were exquisite, astonishing, and realised with excellent taste.”
“I recognise a real affinity between this future King Ludwig II and myself,” added the wistful grandad Ludwig I, the dreamy fantasist recently deposed after depleting the kingdom’s coffers on a building spree and alienating his government.
Could this have been the most consequential childhood present since the young Nero was given a scale model of Rome and a box of matches to play with? Look at the image above of the royal cherub posing happily with his Christmas toys. Look in particular to his left, where the result of his efforts with grandad’s building blocks can be seen, towering majestically to the heavens in the nursery room. Behold the fantasia in white; behold the tapering spires; behold the castle made by and for a fairytale king.
Does it not look … familiar?
To borrow from Christopher Marlowe: was this the Christmas game that launched a thousand tour guides, and built the topless towers of Neuschwanstein?
For details of the Radius Christmas Markets tour, click here.
For details of the Radius Neuschwanstein Castle tour, click here.