Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Germany stands as a jewel in the Bavarian Alps. The fairy-tale home and folly of Ludwig II, the Mad King of Bavaria.
Whether or not the king was truly insane is debatable, but Neuschwanstein is certainly unlike any other castle in the world (with one notable exception; Walt Disney used the castle as inspiration and template for Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland - true story!).
Neuschwanstein literally translates as New Swan Stone and it towers over Ludwig II's childhood summer home of Schloss Hohenschwangau (High Swan County Palace).
The small sections of the interior that were finsihed before the king died are mostly themed around the operas of Wagner, Ludwig's idol and muse. The dramatic landscapes around the Alpsee and nearby mountains further lend epic atmosphere to the setting.
After one tours the castle interior there is a chance to explore the surrounding area and there are plenty of hiking, mountaineering, and cycling trails nearby.
A short hike up a well-signed trail leads to Marienbrücke (Marie's Bridge - named for Ludwig II's mother).
From the bridge tourists jostle for the postcard view of the castle looking out over the fields below.
Eventually Ludwig was deposed by his government; his increasingly reclusive ways and extravagant construction budgets forcing them to act in the best interests of the country.
He died under mysterious circumstances not long after, drowned in shallow water along with his personal doctor. Was he assassinated, did he commit suicide, was he as mad as they say?
No-one knows and it's unlikely we'll ever find out, but he leaves behind some enduring symbols of opera, drama, romanticism and personal vision in projects like Neuschwanstein.
It's probably the most famous castle in the world and an icon of Bavaria and Germany.