Friday, 28 November 2014

A Poor Man's Replica - Herrenchiemsee

Having spend the previous day some distance from Seeon, Dad and I spent this day a little nearer exploring the lake the conference delegates had assumed we'd been exploring the day before. It was also a sensible move, as Mum’s conference ended mid afternoon and we then had to make the trek back to Munich to meet Tegan and Andy.

I’d heard about Herrenchiemsee from a book I’d lugged home on my last trip and thought it pretty enough to be worth a visit.
Instead the whole day turned out to be pretty strange.

For starters, every timetable indicated that the ferry across to the island left every hour on the hour and yet when we rocked up to buy tickets, the ferry was scheduled to leave in only 10 minutes (half an hour ahead of its timetabled departure).

On the island itself, with the icey air cutting right through you, we walked briskly up to the schloss for the guided tour.

Herrenchiemsee is beautiful, but its ultimately just a scaled down version of Versailles. Ludwig II, otherwise known as mad Ludwig felt that as a Ludwig/Louis he should be as powerful and magnificent as Louis XIV and so he decided to emulate the Sun king. He became the Moon King, and began building a replica Versailles complete with replica gardens on this island.


Unfortunately, he seemed to have failed to realise that Louis XIV was an absolute monarch, as opposed to a figurehead, was the King of France, as opposed to King of the much smaller Bavaria, and therefore had access to, and could get away with spending the same sort of money on Architecture.

The palace is very much a homage to Louis XIV; some of the rooms like the Hall of Mirrors have been replicated exactly (there were some slight changes in dimensions)down to the last smile in the last painting. (Unfortunately photography was not allowed and so the only pictures I have are courtesy of a book of postcards).

Other rooms are simply ‘in the style’ but look as though they’ve been transported out of Versailles.


We were told that there isn’t a single Bavarian element to this castle. All the styles, all the stories told, all the symbols are French, from the reign of Louis XIV or older.


Even the portraits of the king himself do not depict Ludwig, but instead Louis. In fact the only Bavarian element appears to be the nationality of the workers who did all of the replication.

While it is beautiful and whimsical in places, Ludwig only slept there for 10 nights, he never entertained and lived at night in the shimmering light of the thousands of candles he insisted were lit for him, alone.

Only a third of the rooms are complete, the incomplete ones no doubt destined to be more grandiose again, there isn’t even a kitchen.

At Versailles (the proper one) you get an idea of the life of the chateau and its past liveliness when it was the centre of the French court through the hoards of tourists who swarm through the building nad over the grounds. Here in Herrenchiemsee it looked as though it would have been a great house for parties and such and yet there was nothing, not even the ghosts of past festivities. It was sad, silent opulence in the middle of manicured gardens on an island in the middle of a large lake, about as far away from civilisation as a king could possibly get.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy your pictorial summary of your thoughts on the entire enterprise as encapsulated in the final two photographs.

    We are NOT amused.


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