The story is indeed fantastic: Neuschwanstein castle was built by Bavarian king Ludgwig II. The king was fascinated (if not madly obsessed) with Richard Wagner’s work, especially an opera telling the story of knight Lohengrin accompanied by a swan on his mission to rescue princess Elsa.
According to medieval German legends, Lohengrin was a knight of the Holy Grail. He sets out to protect a princess, whose kingdom could otherwise fall prey to neighbouring rulers after her father died without leaving a male heir. The knight travels on a boat pulled by a swan – at the end of the journey the swan proves to be a young man under a spell and is turned back into a human. Lohengrin is able to defend the kingdom with help of mystical powers which last as long as the princess does not know his name or provenance. One day princess Elsa asks the forbidden question and Lohengrin has to leave, never to return again.
The symbolic swan can be seen in many places in the caste: as an ornament of chandeliers, tableware, furniture. The story of Lohengrin was depicted on the walls of the drawing room in the castle, and murals from the story of Parsival (his father) and the Holy Grail adorn walls in the Singers’ Hall.
Schloss Neuschwanstein was inspired by the castle of Wartburg near Eisenach and served in turn as a model for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle.
The story of Ludwig II himself is even more interesting but would take at least a couple of hours to tell.