German Castle Series
There is something about castles which has always stirred my imagination. Whether in ruins or fully-furnished I can’t help but think what it must have been like to live and work there or how many stories the walls could tell if they could talk. So this year I decided that I would travel to the Bavarian region of Germany to see some of its legendary castles. The three venues I visited were quite impressive so I have decided to do a mini-series about them rather than running the risk of writing too much! The first post will be about the MunichResidenz, the second about Schloss Honenschwangau and the third about Schloss Neuschwanstein.
In the heart of Munich’s expensive shopping district and beside the famed Opera House you find Residenz. Residenz started as a small castle in 1385 and over the years grew into a large palace. It grew to accommodate the Bavarian seat of government and became the home of many kings from the Wittlesbach family, electors and dukes. When our bus tour guide mentioned that it contained beautiful gardens and many items of artistic merit I decided to make the time to visit it, as it was not in my original holiday plans.
The main part of the palace was opened up as a museum in 1920. I was very sad to learn however that many pieces of art and furniture that it now contains are not original to the building, as much was destroyed during heavy bombing in the Second World War. However the items on display did all have connections to the Wittlesbach family; some came from summer houses, for example. This kept the items relevant to the history of the venue and its past occupants.
So for next few hours I wandered around the private quarters of the King and Queen and their courtyards. The furniture displayed in the rooms were examples of some of the finest and rarest craftsmanship of the time. It was very interesting to see the layout of the apartments, where residents lived and what they used the rooms for, examples being sleeping, receiving guests, gaming or for sitting on the throne!
The museum itself is huge! It is so big that there are different tours in the morning and afternoon and each of those contain a long and short route. As such it would be too difficult to go into a lot of detail on each part so below I have listed some of the highlights of the visit. Each part could merit a piece on their own so maybe in the future, if people are interested, I could focus in more detail on a particular aspect of the palace.
- Ahnengalerie: Here over 100 Wittelsbachs watch you walk down the hall from their wall-mounted portraits. The stucco is bright, gaudy and perfect for a proud gallery of ancestors in my opinion.
- Antiquariam: This is probably, for me, the most impressive room that I visited on the tour. It is the oldest room of Residenz, 66 meters long and packed full of busts dated from classical antiquity to the 18th century. What I found to be most impressive however were the wall and ceiling decorations. Here, 102 different scenes from towns around Bavaria were painted around the windows and framed by grotesques, while the ceiling depicted female figures painted by Peter Candid. It is a lush dining hall and I could easily imagine how impressed court visitors must have been with the beautiful surroundings and what I may have thought about his wealth and power.
- Mozart: No, sadly he was not there to greet me personally, but he did visit Residenz while he was in Germany. I was able to visit the room where he applied for work and there is a bust to commemorate this in the room. I was delighted to know this as I am a big fan (probably alongside most of the human race).
- Seashell Grotto: This I was not expecting. In one of the neatly manicured courtyards there is a grotto decorated with seashells and crystals. As surprising as it may seem for a royal decoration, it is quite charming and feeds into the idea of escapism and the exotic, which seems to have inspired other decorative choices.
- Cullvilliés-Theatre: This is not in the museum itself but situated on the Residenz grounds. This is where Mozart’s Idomeneo was first performed back in 1781. The theatre is smaller than I thought it would be but it is beautiful. It is currently decorated in lavish reds and gold with delicate wood carvings, but like the main building it is different to the original theatre which was destroyed during World War II.
- Treasury: If the main palace and theatre didn’t contain enough bling for you I am sure you will be satisfied here. The treasury displays some of the most valuable treasures and household items belonging to the royal family. The highlights for me were the displays of the crowns and ceremonial items. I have hinted that maybe they could be an inspiration for birthday gifts but I think I can keep dreaming! I also adored a vanity case which even today still contains what is needed to keep one groomed and fresh.
If you are staying in Munich, Residenz is very easy to visit as buses, trams and the U-Bahn all stop close to the venue. The Combination Ticket which grant you access to the Residenz Museum, the Treasury and the Cuvilliés Theatre costs only €13 for a full price ticket or €10.50 reduced. This includes an audio guide. So if you do visit I hope you enjoy all the beautiful artwork and architecture and perhaps think of uses for stucco at home!
Tips for visiting:
- Bring plenty of water with you as there is nowhere in the museum that I could find that sells water. I ended up leaving, going to Starbucks and coming back to continue the tour!
- Don’t listen to everything on the audioguide. It is a very detailed guide and a very long tour so you may find yourself skipping though bits at the end because you are running out of time. Pick the things you find most interesting and listen to those or pick at random.
- Wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot of walking involved and can be very tiresome. There are seats provided in the rooms but there is so much to see that you won’t want to continue sitting for long.