Monday, 27 October 2014

Walt Disney, Ludwig II and Neuschwanstein Castle

13 º C

While in Munich, we took a day trip to see Schloss Neuschwanstein (German for New-Swan-Stone Castle) to visit our childhood's memories in concrete form. The "new" part comes from the fact that it was built on top of the old Swanstone castle ruin.

I normally expect what I imagine and what I see in reality would be different. I simply didn't expect the difference could be so vast.

Disney Studio Blue Sky logo
One of the many Disney logo. This one is most associated with the studio 

What I imagined the New Swanstone Castle is, of course, came from the many postcard type photos in travel books. In addition to those traditional sources of tourism images, we were also bombarded with the derived images of Neuschwansteine Castle from Disney logo, and Sleeping Beauty Castle you see in Disney movies and Disneylands. These images burnt into our brains when we were children.

Yes, the Sleeping Castle, and many fairy tale castles in Disney weren't just fantasy. They actually existed in real life from the the so-called fairy tale Neuschwanstein Castle built by the "mad"and reclusive King Ludwig II of Bavaria.

Sleeping Beauty Castle, Disneyland Park, California
Sleeping Beauty Castle that is the icon of Disneyland, and located in the very heart
of Disneyland in California and Hong Kong

There's simply no other buildings that primed me with more preconceived ideas of what it's going to look like in real life than New Swanstone Castle because of the sheer amount of bombardment of its images before my visit to this castle.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
The typical travel or postcard photo of this castle
Source: wikipedia

There're basically 2 aspects that the preconceived images had distorted the real image.

The first is the immense size of Neuswschanstein castle. Nothing from my memory could prepare me for its colossal dimension. Sure, I knew it was going to be bigger than the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland. I also have visited a number of real historic castles before. Many of these were actual castles that built to defend invaders.

This Neuschwanstein Castle was actually not built for this purpose in mind, but simply as a realisation of Ludwig's childhood fantasy (now you know why people thought he was mad). So one - or at least me - would imagine a castle built out of childhood fantasy would be smaller than real castles that built to fend off legions of armies.

Mind you, the tall wall I saw wasn't even the rampart, but a building sitting on the rampart. Still, it made me feel small, not close to it.

Shrouded in mist, enhancing its fairy tale quality

As it turned out, it was bigger than any castle I have visited. At least in height. It isn't so much a castle that was inspired by romantic childhood fantasy, but an towering edifice that inspires awe. Perhaps that was the idea. Children always see things bigger than they really are. So in order for an adult to experience the same childhood awe in the the eyes of adults, it has to be scaled up the height of a working fortress.

The second distortion was the actual shape of the building ! It didn't look like what I remembered. This is because we always looked at the aerial or helicopter view of the castle. We couldn't see the castle from afar. The castle only emerged out of the forest when we were pretty much at the foot of the castle. We could only see bits and pieces of it.

Being shrouded in mist also made it looking much more different from the picture perfect blue sky that we see in travel guide books or Disney promotional materials, just like the 2 photos above.

The castle slowly emerged out of the forest like a giant playing peekaboo with us.

It was only at the end of the tour that I was convinced we were inside the New Swanstone Castle when I saw the model of it. This small model, looking like it was viewed from a great distant, is what I was familiar with. I should have come straight here to look at the model, and then went straight home.

Model of Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
This is the angle we're most familiar with, the angle where the above photo was taken.
But we could never able to view from this angle in our tour. We got to see the back of this castle

Model of Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
This is the only side of the castle that we got to see.
We didn't have access to the semi circular section.

What I haven't the slightest preconception about this castle was its very charming Byzantium interior, which was inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Unfortunately, no photography were allowed.

Finally, it isn't just Walt Disney who had been inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle, the Far Far Away Castle in Universal Studios Singapore looks like a chip off the old block of the said castle. I suspect that the King Ludwig II had built the mother of all fairy tale castles that will inspire many.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Munich Grand Segway tour (English)

The following content of this page is a identical copy of this official page. This page will remain in my blog for future reference for my diary on this Segway tour just in case of the possibility that this page may change its URL or going to be removed in the future in their site (as is happening so often on the internet). I'm sure they don't mind. After all, I'm giving them free publicity.

Munich Grand Segway tour (English)
Tour Description

Our Grand City Segway Tour is the perfect tour for both those new to the city and Munich veterans.

For the beginners, this tour will offer you a fantastic orientation and give you an opportunity to see virtually all of the sites you’ve read about as well as hidden ones off the beaten path. Through the various sights and stops we’ll make Munich’s history from humble beginnings to contemporary force come alive.

For the veterans, we’re positive you’ll learn new facts and stories about Munich that you’ve never heard. And we’re sure you’ll both agree that riding a Segway - and being part of an intimate tour - is the best way to see the city. Come join us for an unforgettable time!

In about 4 hours on our Day City Segway Tour we’ll show you all the main sights of Munich, stopping every few hundred meters to soak them in, hear fascinating anecdotes, take pictures, and discuss Munich’s history. Your knowledgeable native English-speaking guide will also explain present-day facts and lifestyle facets about Munich while being available to answer your questions. You’ll have a great time as you glide by the sights and everyone - and we mean everyone - stops to take a look at us!

Tour Highlights


Home of Munich’s first museum and impressive Ancient Greek architecture, Königsplatz is a showcase of Ludwig I’s endeavors to transform Munich into the Athens on the Isar.


Grandiose in scale, it’s home to Bavaria’s parliament and now also a school for the gifted.


Time stands still in Munich’s gem of a farmers’ market.

Englischer Garten

One of Europe’s largest municipal parks, this park and its beer gardens have become a Munich icon.
Jewish Museum

This striking yet harmonious museum is much more than a story of the Holocaust.
The Pinakotheken
From the pre-renaissance to postmodern, these world class museums in the "museum quarter" have something for every taste.
Deutsches Museum

Germany’s first and largest technical museum, its hands-on exhibits are fun and exciting for the whole family.

Built in 1896 to celebrate twenty-five years of peace after German Unification.


Bizarre, tolerated, and not-to-be-missed are the surfers riding the waves in the Englischer Garten.

Munich's prestigious university was also the site of the White Rose resistance movement, when students defied National Socialism. For distributing pamphlets they were sentenced to death.

Bavarian Chancellory

The Staatskanzlei, or Bavarian Chancellory, is a harmonious mix of original and post-WWII architecture and sits nestled at the edge of the former royal gardens.


This majestic courtyard behind the former royal palace is meticulously kept, a great spot for pictures, and site of some of Munich's best street performers.


Home of the longest ruling dynasty, the Wittelsbach family, we explore numerous courtyards of this extravagant royal palace turned museum at the end of Germany’s most expensive shopping street.


Beneath the illustrious Feldhernhalle and magnificent Theatinerkirche lies part of Munich’s darker past: Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch ended here.

Each of our tours begins with a 30-minute orientation session in the plaza and park next to our office. We will practice on the Segways so that everyone feels comfortable and ready to go out and conquer Munich. The Segway is appropriate for virtually anyone aged 15 and older, provided they possess a motor vehicle license. Minors under the age of 18 must either be accompanied by an adult or have an adult complete our insurance paperwork in advance of the tour. Unfortunately, anyone under the age of 15 and pregnant women will not be permitted to participate. Again, you must be at least 15 years of age to participate. IDs will be checked for those looking underage.

For insurance policy stipulations, we are required to take a EUR 200,- damage deposit per party to cover damages to the Segway. This deposit will be taken by credit card (Visa, MC, or Amex) or cash at the time of the tour and refunded afterwards provided no damage to the Segway has been sustained.

Additionally, City Segway Tours has a strict policy against alcohol consumption and Segway operation. Alcohol is forbidden on all Segway tours and any client suspected of drinking before or during a Segway tour will immediately forfeit their tour and no refund will be given.

Please also wear flat, comfortable footwear. Flip-flop sandals and high-heeled shoes are not safe while riding Segways.

Lastly, participants must weigh between 100 lbs (45 kgs) and 255 lbs (117kgs) to use the machine properly.

Michael Jackson Shrine in Munich

A Michael Jackson Shrine stands in a park in front of the 5☆ Bayerischer Hof Hotel. The location of the shrine was said to be that because Michael Jackson had stayed in this hotel a few times while he was in Munich.

Bayerischer Hof Hotel, Munich, Germnay
Bayerischer Hof Hotel
A casual observer (as supposed to MJ hardcore fan) like me would immediately asking, "Is this the hotel where Michael Jacket dangled a small Blanket on a balcony with a towel over Blanket's head?"

The answer is no. The confusion is understandable because both of these hotels are in Germany. The one he held Blanket (or more formally Prince Michael II) in the balcony was in the hotel in Berlin. As you can see there's no balcony in this hotel. Well, there's balcony on level 1 or 2nd floor (depends on the country you live in) of this hotel, which is far lower than the Berlin hotel.

Michael Jackson Shrine, Munich, Germnay Michael Jackson Shrine, Munich, Germnay

My tour guide told me that the shrine is now looked after by an housewife, who's obviously quite a fan of MJ. She appears in these photos as she tends to the shrine quite attentively. Judging from the offerings of flowers, notes and other things, he has lots of fans in Munich. Who would have expected that?

Michael Jackson Shrine at the statue of Orlando di Lasso, Munich, Germnay Michael Jackson Shrine, Munich, Germnay

There're a few statues on this small park, the choice of the pedestal of the statue that was converted into MJ Shrine was probably more by design than by accident. This statue belongs to musician Orlando di Lasso (also Roland de Lattre) and was one of the most influential musician in the late Renaissance Europe.

It is said that a proper place for a MJ shrine or memorial will be built as soon as there's enough funds. This is where he stays, for now, next to the place where he stayed where he was alive.

Hitler's Ministry of War Office in Munich

Bavarian National Museum, Munich, Germany
Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (Bavarian National Museum)

Opposite the charming Bavarian National Museum is Prinzregentenstraße 28 (or 28 Prince Regent St). It looks just like a normal government office building today, and the signboards identify it as


No, "WIRTSCHAFT" isn't  stood for "Witchcraft".

This building now houses "Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Media, Energy and Technology", and "Bavarian Chamber of Regulation ". Although I have no idea what the latter department does.

28 Prinzregentenstrasse, Hitler's Ministry of War building, Munich, Germany 28 Prinzregentenstrasse, Hitler's Ministry of War building, Munich, Germany 

But if you look closely at the details of the building, you'll quickly discover Nazi's associations.

28 Prinzregentenstrasse, Hitler's Ministry of War building, Munich, Germany 
28 Prinzregentenstrasse, Hitler's Ministry of War building, Munich, Germany
Left photo:   The lunette (arch window over a door) has daggers while door is decorated with stylised swastika motif.
Above photo: Square windows are crowned by Stahlhelms (German soldiers' helmets).

28 Prinzregentenstrasse, Hitler's Ministry of War building, Munich, Germany
The pair of eagles above the main entrance is also
the symbol of the Third Reich

This was in fact the Ministry of War building under Hitler's rule (ok, the darn post title gives the game away).

The stahlhelms (German for "steel helmet") weren't just worn by Nazi's soldiers, but German soldiers before the rise of Hitler. In fact, they were also worn by soldiers in other countries. They were just steel helmets that weren't associated with any country before the Third Reich, just as the majority of soldiers around the world today use the same style of steel helmets. Because of Third Reich's notoriety, all shapes that associated with it, like Hitler's moustache or swastika are forever being shunned afterward. The stahlhelm faced the same fate. Hitler had created many taboos in fashion, architecture, symbolism, etc for a some time to come.

Of course, swastika predated Hitler for thousands of years in the Indian subcontinent that associated with Buddhism, and Hitler adopted it for their own use. In fact, the Nazis adopted different Asian spiritual beliefs and symbolism into their regime.

Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda
Joseph Goebbels wearing a swastika armband.
Photo credit: German Federal Archives
Swastikas on a wall of a Buddhist temple in Taiwan

Closer look should reveal that the 2 swastikas are not identical, but reverse image of one another - one symbolises good luck or well-being, and the other hatred and evil - like the good and evil twins in movies, or Yin and Yang in Taoism. I hesitate to use the terms left-handed and right-handed swastikas to describe them. I don't want to reinforce the negative stereotype of the lefties.

How about the idea of the Christian (or Latin) Cross and its upside-down counterpart? The Third Reich certainly didn't see their swastika as the opposite or reverse mirror image of the Buddhist swastika with its negative connotation, nevertheless they adopted the "evil" reverse image of good without such intention! Interesting, isn't it?

Giant Walking Man & Large Red Sphere in Munich

Pinakothek der Moderne Muenchen (Munich Gallery of Modern Art), Germany
Pinakothek der Moderne Muenchen (Munich Gallery of Modern Art).
One of the destination that of would like to visit inside.

Next to the Gallery of the Modern Art is Türkentor (Turk's Gate). This gatehouse is named after Türkenstraße (Turk Street), which in turns named after the history of Turk's prisoners in Munich during the time of Ottomen Empire.

Today, this gatehouse - now known as Turkentor Gallery - houses only one thing: the Large Red Sphere. For those who don't get modern art, like our Segway tour guide, who was enthusiastically showing us this abstract absurdity, objectionable object of art. One giant marble ball inside a gallery and nothing else. What gives? I sympathise the sentiment.

Large Red Sphere by Walter de Maria, Munich, Germany
Walter de Maria's Large Red Sphere - a 25 ton, 2.6 m in diametre, highly polished red granite.
The Californian artist said that he had been working on this idea for 40 years.

For 40 years, he finally came up with a naught, a zero. Maybe they should put some police tapes around the columns and with signs that say, "Nothing to see here".

Speaking of artist, i.e. a frustrated one, the young soldier Adolf Hitler was once had a bunk in this former barracks, and stayed there after served in WW1. Except for this gatehouse, most of the barracks (and much of Munich) were bombed out during WW2. Most of the old buildings in Munich are therefore recreations.

Walking Man Sculpture, Munich, Germany
Walking Man, 17m tall, is walking away from the Munich RE building

While the giant white man is walking, one can easily mistaken him for bowling from a certain angle. Where's the bowling ball? Well, didn't you see it? It's in the Turkentor Gallery. The Large Red Sphere is 2.6m in diametre while this giant is 17m. A typical diametre of a bowling ball is 22cm, and a "typical" man is 1.7m. So in terms of ratio, the Large Red Sphere is just slightly larger than a bowling ball with the scale ratio of 1:10. What we need now is drilling 3 finger holes into the Large Red Sphere to complete the Bowling Man sculpture.

While the giant sculpture grabs all the attention, don't forget to take a look at this beautiful landscape garden behind the lobby. The guide believes that it's designed according to fengshui principle. I'm no expert in this area, but I can see the similarity.

Landscaped garden in the lobby of Munich RE building, Munich, Germany
Landscaped garden in the lobby of Munich RE building