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"Mad" King Ludwig's Castle

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Tour guides love to refer to Bavaria's Ludwig II as "Mad" King Ludwig for building his three extravagant castles in the foothills of the Alps, here in the deep south of Germany. Every tourist seems to have his ultimate fairy-tale castle, Neuschwanstein, on their list.

Ludwig was a romantic king with artsy friends like the composer Richard Wagner. Ludwig, whose dream castle comes with rooms inspired by Wagner's operas, ruled in an age of Bismarck and "Realpolitik." Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, before he even finished Neuschwanstein, Ludwig was found dead, face-down, in a lake just south of Munich.

This hardy group of travelers started our Mad King Ludwig sightseeing with a group selfie from Mary's Bridge, overlooking his castle.

Mary's Bridge -- quite an engineering accomplishment in its day (1866) -- provides a commanding view of the castle (from where this photo was taken) and the idyllic Bavarian countryside.

After touring a couple of Romantic 19th-century castles, it's time for a more thrilling 21st-century travel experience: the luge ride. Across the Alps, you can find various ski lifts jiggered to give travelers a few summertime thrills (and generate a little extra income). The luge ride is always a hit with our groups.