Find the association: Scrooge McDuck and Opera
Let me help you. All of you must have watched Walt Disney cartoons in your childhood (and some like me, even till now). Everyone must have noticed the beautiful castle which appears at the starting of the production against the bluish-purple background, right? Or perhaps the once-little-princesses might remember the beautiful castle of Sleeping Beauty? The inspiration for that castle is the famed Neuschwanstein Castle actually built by Ludwig II of Bavaria (Germany).
But what’s that got to do with Opera? Now everyone who loves Opera must have heard Richard Wagner’s compositions. One of the foremost contributors to the operas, he shared a very enigmatic relationship with the ‘Mad’ Ludwig, as he is often referred to. And hence the connection of Scrooge McDuck & Opera. Read more for further details about this mysterious ‘relationship’.
After having a delightful time in Vienna, we had a good night’s sleep in Unterschleissheim. We had planned to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle the next day, and we left early. Fortunately for us, we had booked a guided tour, Radius Bikes & Tours; it indeed turned out a smart choice.
We took a train to the Hauptbahnhof Central station of Munich, and then a tour bus to Hohenschwangau, the village near the castle. Our guide, a spirited and beautiful German lady welcomed us and explained the do’s and don’ts in the castle. We passed through the beautiful countryside and various villages. The sight of the typical village house, with a pile of wood lying in the spacious garden, fencing all around, and smoke rising from the chimney, filled me with a new found longing for the place. Neatly trimmed crops, cows grazing in the rolling meadows, impeccable roads and minimal traffic- the place was straight out of typical Bollywood songs shot at amazing locations, like those of DDLJ. And on top of this, the beautiful narration on the history and interesting facts of the castle!
The King was known to be very intelligent and intuitive, specially interested in architecture and music. He had two obsessions, Richard Wagner, and building castles. He wanted to build more castles than his forefathers combined. He strangely felt very competitive about this fact, and wanted to prove that he could build grander and bigger castles than his ancestors. So much so, he built the Neuschwanstein Castle next to his father’s Hohenschwangau Castle, where he had spent his childhood, to prove his architectural superiority. What’s interesting is that his personal wealth & the state coffers were drained while building the castle. The castle was built only for the eyes of the King, and entry of outsiders was barred. He wanted all of it’s beauty for himself. But he could not live to see the completion of his magnum opus. And only seven weeks after his death, the castle was opened to the public to make up for the financial deficit of the state.
The circumstances of his death are equally baffling. In the later years of his life, he was declared mentally ill, to make way for his uncle to rule the kingdom. He was admitted into a mental asylum, and started undergoing treatment. Under the supervision of the doctors he was responding well to the treatment. But then, in a bizarre turn of events, his and his doctor’s body were found in a lake in the asylum one night, where they were taking an evening stroll together. The cause of his death could not be ascertained, and still remain one of the biggest mysteries of Bavaria.
“I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others”
King Ludwig had once remarked. And he finally succeeded in his efforts through his mysterious death.
Soon we came to the end of our journey and got down at the village. We started a 20 minute mild trek to the castle. For older people, or those who could not, or didn’t want to walk, the option of a horse and buggy was available.
The route went through some amazing forests. It was very cold around 8 degrees, specially for a guy like me coming from India.
The route was so beautiful I felt a little let down when we reached the castle early.
It was too foggy to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding mountains and we rushed straight into the castle compound,waiting for our turn to enter. The management was pretty impressive, and the castle really well preserved, and it made me wonder. What if Indian historical monuments increased their entry fares from the meagre 5 to 10 rupees? What if instead of people booking their own guides, and often getting swindled by unscrupulous people posing as approved guides, the management itself provided guided tours? I have recently been to Fatehpur Sikri, and although it was managed pretty well, but there is a difference, and it was palpable.
Once inside the castle, we were advised not to take any photos. Of course the more industrious ones were not daunted, but I only took photos in the section where photography was not prohibited. Our new guide took us through the castle, including the King’s bedroom, his courtroom, the pantry, the servant’s quarters, among others. The King had cancelled his engagement with the beautiful Duchess Sophie Charlotte, as he was in love with Richard Wagner. She told us that Richard Wagner’s operas have caves as one of the central themes, and the obsession of the King with Wagner was so much that one section of the castle was built like a cave, so that the King could actually live in Wagner’s operas. Also the wall paintings depicted scenes from legends used by Wagner in his operas.
Once outside the castle, we took a detour, and were soon rewarded for our efforts.