Saturday, June 30, 2012

Post Fairyland Castle

I was already sick by the time we left the snow-capped Alps of Ludwig's realm. The winter had come on rather quickly, even though it was only early October, and an icy air blew through Munich like a giant's terrible breath. Temperamental snows dusted the city like flour, although they dissipated before turning to ice. It was the brute, unabashed cold that hit me like a stone. I found myself with the sniffles, then a sinus infection, and then rivers of mucus that clogged my throat. Yes, I was deteriorating in the midst of Bavaria.

There is something about the state of being ill that causes one to feel lonesome, rather acutely. I scampered back from the train to my hostel and while it wasn't literally far, I might as well been dragging through the mud, feeling awfully sorry for myself. I even forgot about Simon, our mutual promise to spend Germany together before heading back to opposite ends of the world. Luckily, Simon hadn't forgotten about me. He followed me back to my room and as he watched me shuddering uncontrollably, he ran out again. So I finally got rid of him after all.

At length, he returned with a cup of hot tea and lemon, and asked how I was doing. I could only raise my eyelids pitifully. He proceeded to give me a massage, and then some small plastic packets that generate heat after we rubbed them for a few minutes. (Ingenious contraptions, those Taiwanese). Then he tucked me in and related that he felt worried and uneasy leaving like this, but his flight back to Asia was already booked. He did seem genuinely concerned, and those long-lashed, liquid eyes blinked at me guiltily.

I was profoundly touched. He had no obligation to me; I was a fellow traveler, transient and forgettable. He would never see me again. Yet, there was something transcendent in the human to human interaction, a sharing of thoughts, experiencing a wondrous event in the same time, that inevitably binds us. That sense of connection, that we affect each other, that we are real and we lived in that moment together is powerful. Even though we have become no more than a memory to one another, it is impossible not to care and not to feel that my life is somehow better because it was touched by kindness.

So Simon departed and I was left to my coughing fits. But I smiled every time my toes touched on the warmers that he gave me, which thawed out my frozen feet and kindled something in more guarded areas of the heart.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Neuschwanstein was a disappointment at first. Romanesque style, with byzantine accents, it was the most romantic castle I had ever seen, whitewashed limestone, glistening turrents with cobalt roofs that matched the somber azure skies, perched in an isolated cliff in the midst of the Alps. Unfortunately, there were rows of iron scaffolding on the castle, a caged, bridled beauty unable to manifest its glory.

Nonetheless, as Simon and I walked inside, we entered the utopia of a shy, reclusive king. He commissioned Neuschwanstein to be the builted in the style of German knights' castles, and financed his idyllic venture from his own personal fortune and some heavy borrowing. Ludwig II's portraits indicate a delicate, fine-boned visage with earnest eyes, eyes that dream and roam the official affairs of state with the yearnings of fantasy and imagination. Inside was a Hall of Singers, a green and ethereal fairy land in homage of Lohengrin, Richard Wagnor's opera of Swan Knight. I remember the vibrancy of the light and opalescent colors of damsels in distresses and magical animals, King George slaying the dragon and the twelve-toned robes of Jesus' disciples. Here was a man who was an artist, a poet, and musician, who possessed such a passionate nature who was bound by birth and law to be a politician.

Something told me that he didn't quite fit into his life and his pre-determined calling, the struggle that he endured to remain authentic to his most intrinisic sensibilities. Perhaps that was basis of his friendship with Wagnor, an appreciation for those intangible things that stir heart and imbue the senses with an indescribable, almost unbearable duty. Thanks to his faithfulness to his own heart, we walked into the reality of this whimsical monarch, the visions he kept in proximity and perhaps more alive to him than the procedures of constitutional government.

I too, did not fit into my previous life. That was why I had come, to see how others carve a sanctuary of authenticity within the worlds they inhabit, within the vulnerable spaces of the mind that the world never ceases to intrude. To maintain the self, the sacredness of the self, the divinity of the self, as you truly are.

Ludwig was never considered a great king, but I sense an immeasurable peace, a joy that pervades that castle, even though the operas and fairy tales do not necessarily have happy endings. He was a boy who materialized his dream, even though it was never finished. Perhaps it was not about ending, or the happiness within the end, or even if there is a true, finite ending. Perhaps it is about the journey, the honesty of the journey, whether it is about self-discovery or staying true to a revelation of the self, who we truly are and what is life-giving to us. Perhaps it is our ultimate truth. Perhaps it is no more than a fleeting moment.