Travelling the World Piece by Piece: Day 7 – Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle

It is day seven on our puzzle tour and this is what you call a house with a view. Neuschwanstein Castle must be one of the most popular puzzle castles because you can find so many different versions taken from almost every angle and in every season of the year. It is also one of the most popular tourist spots in Germany.  Commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, construction began in 1869 but it was never fully completed and after his death in 1886 it was opened to the public. If it had been completed it would have had more than 200 rooms, so maybe it is just as well, otherwise you would need a map to find your way around. One interesting bit of trivia is that King Ludwig financed the construction of the castle from his own personal funds. World leaders should take note. 

The castle was built in a style known as “castle romanticism.” It was a style that tried to reinterpret the Middle Ages but in a way that was more romantic and picturesque. Critics at the time weren’t particularly impressed, labelling it as “kitsch,” but over one million tourists visit it every year and it is recognised as one of the major works of European historicism. It also came very close to destruction. While its remote location  protected it during both world wars, the Nazis did use it to store all the artworks they had stolen, and towards the end of World War Two they had planned to blow it up. If they couldn’t have the artworks, nobody could. Fortunately that plan never came to fruition.  

As you can imagine, Neuschwanstein Castle has been a popular location for a number of movies, including some old favourites such as “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “The Great Escape”. I must admit it’s a pretty spectacular view but I do wonder about the logistics of living in a castle of that size. How do you clean all those windows? And just think of the energy consumption. While there’s definitely a romantic element to castles, they’re really not a very practical form of housing for the 21st century. You do wonder what will happen to them as time goes on.

Lübeck Cathedral

You can probably tell that we have had this puzzle for a long time. The colours are not as vibrant as some of the newer puzzles and the building itself is pretty ancient too. Lübeck Cathedral dates back to the twelfth century, with construction beginning in 1173 and completed by 1230. In 1873 it celebrated its 700th anniversary.  Initially built in the romanesque style, it was converted to a Gothic style during the years 1266-1335. At this time Lübeck was part of the Holy Roman Empire so it was a Roman Catholic cathedral, built for the bishop by Henry the Lion, who was the Duke of Saxony and Bavaria until 1180. However, after the Reformation Lübeck became protestant and it is now a Lutheran Cathedral. 

Sadly it is not quite in its original condition. During World War Two the cathedral was damaged in a bombing raid. While a 17m crucifix erected in 1477 was able to be saved, a 17th century altar and Arp Schnitger organ were destroyed. Schnitger (1648-1719) was a pretty big name in organ construction during the 17th century and we’re not talking tiny little church organs either.  Apparently he was responsible for building almost 100 organs throughout Northern Europe, some that are still in use today. During the reconstruction of the cathedral, the idea of getting the organ rebuilt was considered but it would be a pretty expensive undertaking so I suspect the idea has been shelved. This is an image of one of Schnitger’s organs still in existence today. While I cannot say I am a great fan of organs, the decorative work is just beautiful. It is a work of art in itself.  

The history of these two sites in Germany was particularly interesting for me as I have German ancestry on my dad’s side of the family but I don’t expect my ancestors ever saw them.  First of all, they had left Europe before Neuschwanstein Castle was even built and secondly, Lübeck Cathedral was so far from their home town , it might as well be on the other side of the world.  My great, great grandfather came from a town called Ransen in Silesia, a province of Prussia. You won’t find it on the map though, because it is now called Reszow and is in south-west Poland. 

European history is very complicated and borders have been what you might call flexible. Some populations have changed their religion and others have had their nationality changed. Sometimes more than once. In the 10th century Silesia was part of the early Polish state, then it became part of the Holy Roman Empire. By the middle of the 18th century it had become part of Prussia which then became the German Empire. Then after World War Two most of it went back to Poland again. Unfortunately the communist government of Poland expelled most of the Silesian population because they were of German descent so I doubt that we have any long lost relations there anymore.

We are approaching the end of our world tour and tomorrow we will be landing in the home country of the other side of the family. I hope you have been enjoying the sights and the bits of history I have been pulling up from the rabbit hole. Until then…

Happy Travelling

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