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  • 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.