The German state of Bavaria is filled with stunning castles and palaces. Thanks to the wasteful spending of a couple of its more infamous kings, there are dozens of monuments to fiscal extravagance particularly in the south.
Schloss Neuschwanstein near Füssen, close to the border with Austria, is recognised as the inspiration for Disneyland’s fairytale castle, drawing some 1.5 million tourists annually.
Adjacent is Howenschwangau, nearby is Linderhoff Palace, and east of the capital Munich, is Herrenchiemsee, a copy of the famous Palace of Versailles.
In Munich itself is the stately Nyphenburg Palace. In the coming weeks tourists will brave the icy winds off the snow-capped Bavarian Alps to mark the 170th anniversary of the abdication of King Ludwig I, and commemorate his death, 20 years later almost to the day.
Ludwig abdicated after a scandalous affair with Irish showgirl Lola Montez. When they met, Lola was 25 years old and Ludwig was 60. Defying his advisers he made her a citizen of Bavaria, elevated her to the status of Countess of Landsfeld, granted her a mammoth annuity, and built her a special home in the upper-class suburb of Harlaching.
He also had a portrait of her painted and hung in the Gallery of Beauties in the south pavilion of the palace. She is one of 36 portraits of women from the nobility and middle classes of Munich. It is common knowledge current visitors to the palace only have eyes for hers.
After Lola fled for her life to Switzerland, in 1848, Ludwig was forced to vacate the throne. But, before leaving office, he had to rescind her citizenship, revoke her title, and sign a warrant for her arrest if she ever returned to Bavaria.
Today, the Lola Montez Haus, where the pair would meet away from prying eyes, is an up-market function centre. It is adjacent to one of Munich oldest beer gardens, the Gutshof Menterschwaiger, dating back to 1012. Up to 2000 revellers gather to toast the infamous courtesan with one-litre steins of Löwenbräu beer, while nibbling on the local speciality of fish grilled on a stick or pork spareribs.
Lola visited Australia a few years after fleeing Bavaria. She outraged the conservative folk of Melbourne with an outrageous performance and when the Ballarat Times published a bad review of one of her shows, she took to the editor with a whip.