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Just east of Füssen are the two “Royal Castles” of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. Maximilian II built Hohenschwangau atop a medieval ruin in 1836; his son, King Ludwig II, began the extravagantly romantic Neuschwanstein on an adjoining hilltop in the 1860s. These two royal castles combine fantasy and beautiful settings amid Alpine peaks and valleys and will probably be your most memorable stop along the Romantic Road.

Most fanciful of the two is multi-turreted Neuschwanstein, perched high on a crag and the ultimate fantasy creation of Ludwig, the strange, self-obsessed monarch who has become one of the legendary figures in Bavarian history. Neuschawanstein was one of many excesses that eventually threatened to bankrupt the kingdom, and in 1886, at age 41 and before his castle was completed, Ludwig was declared insane. Three days later, he was found drowned in Lake Starnberg on the outskirts of Munich, along with the physician who had declared him unfit. It has never been determined if Ludwig was murdered or committed suicide. He has been the subject of biographies, films, plays, and even a musical, and his dream castle has drawn millions of visitors to this part of Bavaria over the years.