Thoughts on… Palace design

I’ve really neglected my blog in recent months. I’ve started and restarted lots of things but none of it has quite stuck. Being back at home has been nice: I’ve been able to catch up with friends and family, I’ve worked in an auction house, in a museum, as a tour coordinator and as a tour guide, I’ve ditched my Masters, watched Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and failed my driving test. It’s been a busy six months.

I managed half a year at home but now I’m back adventuring, this time in Austria with the family. We’ve been here five days now and life is pretty damn good. Think mountain views, summer walking, great food, and lots and lots of laughing and you’ve got a fraction of what I’m experiencing right now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s had its stresses: there are ten of us, so sometimes it’s a bit like herding cats. Actually no, imagine herding goldfish and you might have a better idea, but we all remember we love each other in the end.

Yesterday we had a day trip to Chiemsee, crossing the border back into Germany. This was the town in Deutschland which my great granddad moved to in his later years so my grandma wanted to have a brief trip down memory lane. Incidentally it’s also home to a pretty impressive palace built by eccentric King Ludwig so we had a chance to visit that as well.

I’m a history student so I’ve seen my fair share of castles and palaces and they all have their individual charms and unfortunate flaws. I’m also an avid watcher of Homes under the Hammer and Grand Designs which basically makes me a professional architect, project manager, builder and interior designer. So when I came to Herrenchiemsee, I was able to look at the building with my critical historian/design protege eye and had a few helpful notes.

The Positives

  • The fountains:
    • No Baroque palace is complete without a few stunning fountains and Ludwig II certainly didn’t disappoint. It also helped that just as we arrived at the palace, the fountains started up and were dazzling us all in the sunshine. If I had the money, space, plumbing, and the same disregard for reasonable water usage as the Bavarian King, I would also install a pair of monumental feature fountains demonstrating my greatness (and the one showing the peasants turning into frogs is just hilarious).
  • A few statement pieces to set you apart from the rest:
    • No Grand Designs property is complete without its three storey windows or a cinema room fully kitted out with Blu Ray and surround sound. Ludwig had his own 19th century versions of these.
    • If you’re going to call yourself the Moon King you just have to have a big blue sphere in your bedroom which you can use to reflect the candle glow and bathe your chamber in soft imitation moonlight.
    • A Tischlein-deck-dich, or ‘table that sets itself’ after the Grimms’ fairytale, which, spoiler alert, can be winched down to the kitchens on an 18th century French-designed lift, complete with sliding doors on the dining room floor so as not to leave an unsightly hole. The table is then laid by servants and lifted back up to the dining room. Absolute magic.
    • For a bit of artistic flair, show off those local craftsmen skills with a gorgeous flower arrangement made of paper thin porcelain roses and green silk leaves.
    • And don’t forget the bathtub so big you can swim lengths in it.
  • A simple colour scheme:
    • Always a great way to tie the rooms of a property together, and if you strip away the many, many layers of gold leaf detailing, a general theme of blue for your favourite colour and red for the King you most admire gives your palace a bit of consistency and is more imaginative than the bog standard magnolia.
  • Building a house is all about location, location, location:
    • And I t doesn’t really get more idyllic than an island in the middle of Bavaria’s biggest lake, nestled among the snow capped Alps.

The Negatives

  • Budget control:
    • Make sure you have enough money to finish more than twenty of the seventy rooms planned, and don’t spend seven years on one room which costs more than purchasing the entire island. Remember, everything in moderation.
  • This goes for the excessive use of gold as well:
    • As much as the seven year old in our company adamantly insisted that ‘you can never go wrong with gold’, let’s keep it classy and let’s keep it under control. Otherwise it just looks like you’re showing off.
  • Don’t copy someone else’s palace:
    • As much as you admire the 17th century absolutist French King Louis XIV, have a little imagination and design your own palace. There is already a Versailles and you will not be able to make a better one.
  • Get some friends:
    • There’s no point building, designing and decorating all of this if you’re going to be the only one to enjoy it. Stop serving dinner for you and your three imaginary friends, don’t have breakfast at 6pm, and don’t alienate everyone by spending all your kingdom’s money on 17th century imitation furniture and end up dethroned and drowning in a lake under questionable circumstances. Sharing is caring and all that jazz.
  • Live in your palace for more than 10 days:
    • Enough said.
The State Bedchamber, the one which took seven years and cost more than the entire island (© Wikimedia Commons)
Ludwig’s second bedroom with the moonlight simulator (© Bavarian Administration of Palaces, Gardens and Lakes)
The Copycat Hall of Mirrors, or Spiegelgalerie (© Guido Radig, Wikimedia Commons)

All in all, I’d give Herrenchiemsee a 5/10 on the historic palace/castle scale. The idea was grand but poorly executed and managed, and it lacked a certain imagination in my opinion. A little bit gaudy and a tad sycophantic towards a long dead French King, it’s only really the cool table and massive bath tub which pulled it back for me.

I feel for the bored, eccentric and kind of crazy King who had so many ideas, very little political power, and too much time on his hands. If I had the chance to build my dream fairytale castles, I would too.

Published by Amber | Rambling London Tours

Hello, my name is Amber. A few things about me. I am a born and bred Londoner so I absolutely adore my home city, but I love travel too, which means I'm always excited about exploring new places as well as taking other travellers (like you) around the places I love. I have been working in tourism on and off since 2014, both in the UK and briefly in Australia, and in 2020 I qualified as a professional Blue Badge Tour Guide for London and the South East of England. I love history, I have a History degree, and I think tourism is the perfect way to make sure I always keep learning, meeting new people, while also giving me a career where the world is my office! Hopefully I will have the pleasure of meeting you too.

7 thoughts on “Thoughts on… Palace design

  1. I visited HerrenChiemsee with my family in Summer of 1968 while based in Fielnbach in the Bavarian Alps for 3 weeks and doing a lot of travelling in Austria as well ! I remember that Ludwig wanted to recreate a bigger more splendid Versaille and bankrupted the country d oing this and the Palace remained unfinished …but after Disney hijacked Neuschwanstein( an earlier Ludwig creation) people tended to flock on pilgrimage to the more imposing hilltop castle instead ! But the whole Lakeland area of Bavaria with its other grand houses and medeival/ gothic feel is quite an area of beauty in itself ! The whole story of Ludwig II the romance with his cousin? Elisabeth his early death (was he murdered?) In the lakeelake etc is rather Grimms fairy tale ! …Heathers mum X

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