Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Our journey begins at the island town of Lindau on Lake Constance. We then head west past a series of dramatic castles before arriving at the spa town of Baden Baden. From there it is east past the city of Ulm and then southwards to Fusen and on into the Bavarian Alps and a series of fantasy castles. At Oberammergau we head east to Lake Chiemsee before heading further east into the Alps and on to Berchtesgaden and a dramatic house on top of a mountain. Running roughly along the middle of Lake Constance is the border between Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In Germany the lake is called the Bodensee and on this island is the ancient Bavarian town of Lindau. It was only joined to the mainland in 1853 when the causeway was built, which enabled trains and carriages to get to the island. This was followed by a new harbour and Bavaria's only lighthouse. In its history the town has belonged to both Austria and France, and it was only in 1955 that it was finally returned to Germany by the French. Every year, since 1951, there is a Nobel Laureate scientific meeting in Landau where prize winners interact with young researchers from all over the world. It was only in the middle of the 19th century that Germany, as we know it today, came into being under the guiding hand of Otto Von Bismark. He unified a series of independent federal states into one country. This was also a period which saw German Romanticism become a dominant movement and one of its most visual symbols are all the castles, rebuilt in a romantic medieval style. This is Sigmaringen Castle, once home to the princes of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. It has its roots back in the 11th century though what we see today dates from the 19th century. It was built to impress and became a meeting point for the rich and powerful nobility of Europe. The deep sided valleys with rocky crags gave castle builders an excellent vantage point to site a fortress, and later in the 19th century rebuild them in a romantic style that looked back to earlier times. Perched on this crag is Werenwag Castle. There has been a castle on this site since the 12th century, but what we see today dates from the 1830's when the Princes of Furstenberg inherited Werenwag and began remodelling it into this amazing construction. One can only imagine how hard it must have been for the men who had to build it on this high crag over the valley. Since then the castle has suffered a fire in the 1890's and even an earthquake in 1911 when a staircase tower and some of the battlements suffered cracks and falling masonry. On the other side of the valley is Wildenstein Castle. Begun in the 12th century what we see today still includes some parts of the original. A narrow bridge joins the stables and ancillary buildings to the main castle on its rocky crag. Castles come in all sorts of styles and sizes in this part of Germany and many are perched on rocky outcrops with wonderful views. However, this small castle cannot compare to another 20 miles to the north, which is one of the great castles of Europe, and one that can be seen from miles around. Sitting on top of this near 3,000ft mountain is Hohenzollern castle. It was built by Frederick William IV, king of Prussia starting in 1850, and it took seventeen years to complete. This is another good example of a German romantic movement castle, built on an enormous scale. The style incorporates the idealised vision of what a medieval knight's castle should look like, though it is doubtful it ever really looked like this fairy-tale version. It was also designed to impress and enhance the reputation of the Prussian Royal Family, who could trace their roots back to the first castle on the site in the 11th century. In 1423 Hohenzollern was besieged for a year and totally destroyed. Only written records tell of its existence. Thirty years later it was rebuilt and then over the next three centuries was occupied by various different countries including the Austrians and later the French. By the end of the 18th century the castle was falling into ruins. Only the chapel of St Michael remained usable and was incorporated into the third incarnation we see today. After the castle was rebuilt it was not regularly occupied but rather used as a show place. It is still privately owned by two lines of the Hohenzollern family. Today the castle has over 300,000 visitors a year, making it one of the most popular in Germany. On a smaller scale but no less impressive is Lichtenstein Castle above the town of Honau. This romantic neo-gothic castle was built in the 1840's for Duke Wilhelm of Urach, count of Wurttemberg. The design was inspired by a popular historical novel, Lichtenstein, published in 1826. Just as at Hohenzollern this is the third castle on the site with the first two destroyed in fairly quick succession during the 14th century. After that it fell into disrepair until it came into the hands of Duke Wilhelm. Some of the lower rooms are carved out of the rock which supports the building. The tall tower was added fifty years later at the end of the 19th century. And the fairy-tale castle still belongs to the Dukes of Urach and is a very popular place to visit. Twelve miles away is the town of Tubingen, one of the five classical university towns in Germany, the other four being Marburg, Gottingen, Freiburg and Heidelberg. The old castle is now part of the University and the 25,000 students account for nearly a third of the town's population. Amongst the eminent students who no doubt walked through these ancient streets was the astronomer Johannes Kepler at the end of the 16th century, and in the 20th century, Joseph Ratzinger now Pope Benedict XVI. To the west and on the edge of the Black Forest is the spa town of Baden Baden. The German word Baden translates as 'to bath or to bathe'. In early days the town was simply known as Baden, and the double name only officially came into use in 1931 and was shortened from Baden in Baden, as the town is in the state of Baden Wurttemberg. It was way back in the Roman times that the healing power of water was first recognised. It is thought that the emperor Hadrian founded the town and certainly Emperor Caracalla came here to ease his arthritic aches. After the collapse of the Roman empire the town declined and fell into partial ruin for several centuries. It was only at the end of the 18th century that Baden was rediscovered as a spa town. And in the early 19th century the resort attracted the rich and famous including the composers Berlioz and Brahms and the writer Dostoyevsky, who wrote 'The Gambler' whilst gambling himself in the casino. European royalty came to stay in the luxury hotels, including Queen Victoria, Napoleon III and the German Emperor Wilhelm I. High on a hill overlooking Bad Urach is the old castle of Hohenurach, which was used as a prison during the middle ages. Over the centuries it was feared and hated by the local people, so that when the prison shut down in the 18th century they climbed the hill and destroyed it. The old centre of Bad Urach is full of half-timbered houses. The same cannot be said of the city of Ulm, thirty miles to the east. A devastating air raid in 1944 destroyed much of the city, but the glorious church was left barely damaged. Even the houses around the square in front of the church, where the market is, were wrecked. The church is large enough to be a cathedral, but as Ulm is not a seat of a bishop it is known as a Minster. However, it is the tallest church in the world at just under 170 metres. From the top it is possible to look south on a clear day and see the Alps over seventy miles away. Building began in the mid14th century, and was held up several times with work halted altogether in the 16th. It was only in 1813 that work began again and the church was finally completed in 1890. Ten miles to the east is Roggenberg Abbey, which was founded back in the 10th century, though what we see today dates from the mid18th century. In 1802 the monastery was closed down during a period of secularisation and the abbot stripped of his office. In 1986 in a move that comes full circle the abbey buildings and church have been returned to a new set of monks who are re-establishing the abbey as a thriving community after a gap of nearly 200 years. Our journey now heads south through the Bavarian landscape towards the foothills of the Alps, the great mountain range that acts as the border with Austria and Switzerland. And lying close to the border on the north side of the River Lech is the old town of Fussen. It was the Romans who founded the town here as it was on a main road through the mountains to Italy, and they needed a base for soldiers in order to guard the route. The town's landmark is the castle, which overlooks the town and is one of the area's best preserved late Gothic buildings. The town itself is full of medieval houses and the centre remains remarkably untouched. Fussen has become a popular place to stay when exploring the beautiful mountain landscape, as well as two remarkable castles. The first is Hohenschwangau built on the remains of an earlier castle in 1833 by King Maximillian II of Bavaria and his wife Marie of Prussian. The queen particularly enjoyed walking in the mountains, and often took her two sons Otto and Ludwig with her. When Ludwig inherited the throne in 1864 he began planning and building one of the most remarkable fantasy castles in the world less than a mile away from his childhood home on the site of another old castle. This is Neuschwanstein Castle designed as a personal refuge for King Ludwig, who gradually became more and more reclusive. He had become obsessed with Richard Wagner's operas, and in a way the castle was to be an interpretation of his most famous works -- Tannhauser and Lohengrin. Wagner's music made a lasting impression on the young king and this is part of a letter he wrote to Wagner in 1868 about his new picturesque castle. 'It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin of Hohenschwangau near the Pollat Gorge in the authentic style of the old German knight's castle, and I must confess to you that I am looking forward very much to living there one day. You know the revered guest I would like to accommodate there; the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable, a worthy temple for the divine friend who has brought salvation and true blessings to the world.' The cost of the castle was immense and would run to over a hundred million pounds today. At various times over 300 workmen would be employed and often working at night by the light of oil lamps. All the funding came from the king's purse and the money he borrowed. Costs inevitably escalated and by the end the castle had cost twice the original budget. One of the reasons for siting the castle here may well have been the view he got from the bridge his mother had built to span the gorge. She loved walking in this landscape, and it must have had a powerful effect on young Ludwig. Sadly he only spent a 172 days in his fantasy castle. Because Ludwig was finally declared mentally unstable and died aged only 41 in 1886. He was later to be known, perhaps unkindly, as Mad King Ludwig'. But he left behind one of the most remarkable fairy-tale castles ever built, and the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland. As a child Ludwig had enjoyed hunting trips with his father and in a valley not far from his home he inherited his father's hunting lodge. With his obsession for grandiose building projects he eventually tore it down and built the Linderhof Palace, but this time in a more classical French style, which looked back to his idol Louis XIV, the Sun King of France. He intended Linderhof, named after the surrounding linden trees, to be like the Royal Palace of Versailles but this was never realised, as he later obtained an island on a large lake where his grand plan to match the size of Versailles could be carried out. Later on in our journey we will see the result. Linderhof may be the smallest of Ludwig's palaces but it is still an impressive site. The formal gardens surrounding the house certainly have the feel of the French style of the time. To the north the sloping ground enabled a cascade to be built, where the flowing water could fall over thirty marble steps and then drop into the Neptune fountain at the bottom. At the top is the music pavilion On the west and east sides are formal colourful parterres, with statues, fountains and covered walkways. On the south side a golden fountain could rise up around seventy feet and stands at the foot of a three stepped terraced garden leading up to a golden topped temple. In the park, inspired by the English landscape movement, he had garden buildings put up including a Moorish Kiosk, which he bought in 1876. Needless to say his extravagance knew no bounds and eventually led to his downfall. Right at the other end of the valley is one of the most important monasteries in the Alpine region, and built on the primary trade route between northern Italy and the city of Augsburg in Germany -- Ettal Abbey. The Benedictine abbey was first founded back in the 14th century, but what we see today is from the mid -18th century and built in the Baroque style. This followed a disastrous fire in 1744 when the abbey church and many of the other buildings were destroyed This was the beginning of the golden age of Ettal and in this period the 'Knights' Academy' was established, which developed into a highly successful school. But all this came to an end with the secularisation of church property in 1803. And it was not until 1898 that the buildings were bought back by a wealthy Catholic supporter and given to a group of Benedictine monks from a nearby monastery. A mile away to the north is Oberammargau, a town which is known the world over for its Passion Play, performed since 1634. It began because of a vow the local inhabitants made that if God spared them from the plague they would stage the Passion every ten years. They were spared and since then the play is performed in the years ending in '0'. The 2010 play involved around 2,000 people, and lasted for seven hours with performances given between May and October Sixty miles to the east on the edge of the Bavarian Alps is Chiemsee, a freshwater lake. It is sometimes referred to as the Bavarian Sea, and is a very popular place for sailing and all the other water sports. Those looking for a gentler means of travel might take a trip on the old paddle steamers, which offer a more sedate way of seeing the lake. The lake has a number of islands and the second largest is Frauenchiemsee. The paddle steamers drop off both visitors, as well as those residents who do not have their own boats to get to and from the island. The island itself is car free and has a local population of around 300 people. Visitors in their thousands come to see the Benedictine Convent, which was founded back in 782. To help raise funds for the convent the nuns make a local drink called Cloister Liquor, as well as an excellent marzipan. The largest island on the lake is Herrenchiemsee and hidden in the woods is King Ludwig's unfinished tribute to the palace of Versailles in France. Unfortunately Ludwig only spent a few days here a year before he died. However the cost of what he did build probably equates to about 70 million pounds today. Only the central section was constructed, as all building was halted a year after Ludwig's death. The section of garden which was completed copies the style of Versailles with fountains and parterres, as well as a long central allee, or avenue, which runs right across the island for well over a mile. And as the palace is on an island and only accessible by a small ferry it has remained in the shadow of Ludwig's best known castle -- Neuschwanstein. But this island palace is well worth the trip for anyone interested in the architecture of the German Romantic movement. For our last destination we head east into the Bavarian Alps and Berchtesgaden, a place forever associated with the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler. His house near Berchtesgaden has been destroyed, but one mountain top house given to him as a present does survive -- the Eagles Nest. It survives because it was given to him as a present in 1939, but he rarely visited it and this lack of a close association saved it from demolition after the war. It was built by Martin Bormann on top of 6,000ft ridge, and reached by a four mile private road carved into the mountainside, which goes through five tunnels. The cost today of just the road has been estimated at over 100 million pounds.