>“Alas, he is so handsome and wise, soulful and lovely, that I fear that his life must melt away in this vulgar world like a fleeting dream of the gods.”
“The King was not mad; he was just an eccentric living in a world of dreams. They might have treated him more gently, and thus perhaps spared him so terrible an end.”
Michael Jackson? No, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, from composer Richard Wagner and Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) of Austria, both close friends of his. But perhaps MJ was actually the King Ludwig of his day, pathologically shy, eccentric and flamboyant. Although the official line is that he took his own life (at age 40) in the waters of Lake Starnberg the day after he was deposed for being “mentally ill”, he was most likely murdered. He was also probably just gay, or so many think. A broken engagement to a perfectly good princess, among other things, seems to support that, but all evidence is of course circumstantial.
The cross marks the site where the King’s body was found, and the chapel is just up the hill from there. The surrounding area is all woodland, with trails for mountain bikers and joggers. We had seen this chapel from the other side of the lake (5 kilometers away), but had mistaken it for the Bismarckturm (another pile of rocks in the area.) Tourists still come to read the plaque on the chapel wall and photograph the cross, nearly 125 years after Ludwig’s death. Many more tour his castles in the Bavarian Alps. Will people be listening to Michael Jackson recordings in 125 years’ time? I have no idea.
>Years ago, walking through the hills along the Inn river, I came across a sign pointing to the “Judenbühel“. It was a half-grassy, half-wooded slope steeply uphill from the river, and aside from a flat hilltop with a playground on it, there was nothing else to help me figure out what the Judenbühel was, exactly. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I later learned that it was the site of the old Jewish cemetery, dating back to at least the early 16th century. By the 1860s some problems arose — the new river road made access to the cemetery difficult; in winter it was a steep icy climb to get up there. The lack of access also seemed to have made it easier for vandals to rip out the stones when nobody was around. In 1873 the Jewish community got a corner of the downtown Westfriedhof, the bodies were transferred over, the wall knocked down, and the field left to return to nature.
Today I went walking that way again, and found something new: archaeologists found the placement of the old wall, and the city put up metal plates around the perimeter, with stars of David cut out of the metal. A sign explaining the site includes all the parties involved in the project, including the man who got it going: Innsbruck’s Retired Bishop Reinhold Stecher. There was an official ceremony in July, with speeches made and music performed.(Video here) I’m sorry that I missed the cemerony, but happy to see that the old cemetery grounds finally got a little love from the community.