Slotted into a narrow gap in the mountains between Oberammergau and Oberau and, if possible, even more improbably pretty than Oberammergau, the tiny village of ETTAL is utterly dominated by its magnificent Benedictine abbey, Kloster Ettal.
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Kloster Ettal was rebuilt in its present, showily Baroque form between 1744 and 1753 by Joseph Schmuzer, who was required to replace the still-incomplete work of his fellow architect Enrico Zuccalli after the church was devastated by fire in 1744. Despite the overwhelmingly Baroque appearance of his work, bits of the old church were incorporated into the present structure – you pass through a fourteenth-century Gothic portal on your way into the church. The domed interior is quite breathtaking, with frescoes by the Tyroleans Johann Jakob Zeiller and Martin Knoller. After you’ve admired the church, you can stock up on carvings, candles, liqueurs and Ettaler beer in the abbey shop.
Tucked into a narrow valley some 11.5km west of Ettal, Ludwig II’s Schloss Linderhof was originally a hunting lodge belonging to Ludwig’s father Maximilian II. The palace was enlarged and re-clad between 1870 and 1878 by Georg Dollmann, who was later to design Schloss Herrenchiemsee. Unlike that palace, Linderhof was actually completed during Ludwig’s lifetime. It looks relatively modest from the outside, but the elaborate neo-Rococo interiors are anything but: the riot of gold leaf reaches a crescendo in the king’s staggeringly ornate bedroom, which is the largest room in the house.
The park surrounding the Schloss is delightful, and is particularly known for its fountains, which perform every half-hour from April to mid-October. There are several highly theatrical follies in the grounds, including the Maurische Kiosk (Moorish kiosk) and the spectacular Venus-Grotte, an artificial cave with a lake, fake stalactites and stalagmites, and a golden barge with cupid as a figurehead – all inspired by Wagner’s opera, Tannhäuser.