Ludwigsburg Palace (Schloss Ludwigsburg in German) is my favorite castle tour in Germany!
The 90 minute tour gives you insights into what life in a palace was really like, and how royalty behaved behind closed doors. Even my German husband enjoyed the tour and he’s not a fan of them in general.
The palace was built in 1707 and was the residential palace of the Dukes and Kings of Württemberg. It is one of Europe’s most impressive Baroque buildings. It’s renowned for its artistic achievements, many of which are displayed on the ceilings of the palace. This makes me believe that frescos are the most dangerous cultural attraction in Europe:
There’s no doubt that Schloss Ludwigsburg is impressive, but lots of castles are impressive: Heidelberg Castle, Hohenzollern Castle, the diminutive (by castle standards) Licthenstein Castle, Burghausen, the longest castle in Europe, and the Munich Residenz, to name a few. It’s the glimpse into the secret lives of the royals and servants who lived here that I found fascinating. Can you imagine being surrounded by opulence, yet having to dine in a windowless unheated room as the servants did?
The bedroom below may look like a rather lavish, but typical royal bedroom until our guide takes us through the secret panel hiding the secret stairway to Duke Eberhard Ludwig’s mistress’ bedroom and the servant’s stairway.
I’m not sure why Duke Eberhard Ludwig felt the need for secrecy though. His wife lived in the much more modest Old Palace in Stuttgart, over 20km away from Ludwigsburg. Not far from Stuttgart’s only castle ruins. Wilhelmine von Grävenitz may have only been a mistress, but she was very powerful. Duke Eberhard Ludwig was so love sick that he essentially let her rule over the state of Württemberg for 20 years. As a result, he was the subject of gossip and ridicule for years.
Then we have poor Elisabeth Friederike von Brandenburg-Bayreuth. She was unfortunately married to Duke Carl Eugen. It wasn’t likely that she used the secret staircase to her husband’s bedroom, since he was so busy carrying on the same amorous life he lead before his marriage. All while under the same roof as his wife! One can only imagine how often the secret staircase to his bedroom was used – and not by his wife!
After a few years of her husband’s extra-marital affairs, humiliation and political failings, Elisabeth Friederike von Brandenburg-Bayreuth had enough and left Ludwigsburg for good, leaving Duke Carl Eugen without an heir.
The one thing that Duke Carl Eugen had going for him was that he knew how to throw a good party. He was in fact famous for his court festivities, operas and theater performances at Schloss Ludwigsburg. Performances are still held there today. The palace is also home to the world’s largest pumpkin festival each year.
Ludwigsburg Palace’s walls may not talk, but by the end of the 90 minute tour, I could have sworn they were whispering secrets in my ear, warning me living in a castle is not always a fairytale.
See the Schloss Ludwigsburg homepage for more info.