Exploring the Lake
Around the 64km (40-mile) shoreline, you can see no fewer than six castles, including the Schloss Berg, where Ludwig II was sent after he was certified as insane in 1886. Across the lake from Berg, the unofficial capital of the lake, stands the castle of Possenhofen, the home of Ludwig's favorite cousin, Sisi. It was in this lake that the king drowned under mysterious circumstances -- local legend asserts that he was trying to swim to Possenhofen to ask his cousin's help in making an escape from Schloss Berg, since he was under house arrest. Many historians suggest he was murdered. A cross on the water marks the spot where his body was found. A Votivkapelle (memorial chapel) dedicated to Ludwig is on the shore above the cross. It is reached by walking up the hill from the village of Berg, into the Hofgarten, and along the wall of Schloss Berg (no connection with the hotel of the same name), which lies 5km (3 miles) southeast of Starnberg (the Schloss is not open to the public).
What, exactly, happened to King Ludwig the day his body and that of his doctor (attending physician Doctor Gudden) were found floating on the waters of Starnberger See may never be known. It is believed that relevant documents could shed some light on Ludwig's fate, but they are held privately in the Archives of the Bavarian State and by the Wittelsbach family, who have never made them public. Because Ludwig had practically bankrupted the Bavarian treasury and was a disgrace and a "menace to the throne," Prince Luitpold, who took over from the king as regent, may have wanted the insane former king removed from the picture so that he could have all the power and glory of the kingdom.
Lying on the eastern shore of Lake Starnberg, the small town of Berg is 4km (2 1/2 miles) south of the larger town of Starnberg. Schloss Berg, Wittelsbacher Strasse 27-29 in Berg, has been owned by the ruling house of Wittelsbach since 1669. Its fame stems from the fact that it was the final residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. All the Gothic details added to the castle by King Ludwig in the mid-19th century have been removed, the Schloss returned to its appearance as it would have looked in the 17th and 18th centuries. The castle is still privately owned and not open to the public, and a gatehouse blocks a view of its facade. From the lake, summer foliage blocks the view, though it can be seen from the lake in winter. Although you can't go inside, you can wander through the former grounds of the castle, which have been turned into a public park.
The town of Possenhofen lies on the western shore of the lake. This was the summer retreat for Ludwig's favorite cousin, the Empress Elisabeth, nicknamed "Sisi." She was married to Franz Joseph I, the emperor of Austria and the king of Hungary. Sisi spent about 20 summers at this retreat, sending affectionate notes by boatmen across the lake to her cousin, Ludwig. Schloss Possenhofen still stands at Karl-Theodor-Strasse 14 in Possenhofen. Though once owned by royalty, such as Duke Max of Bavaria in 1834, the castle had become derelict by 1920, having been used for everything from a military hospital to a motorcycle repair workshop. In the early 1980s, it was converted into privately owned condos. Although the castle is not open to the public, a wooded park surrounding the Schloss can be visited anytime.
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