How Ludwig II Changed My Life

My history in the boy’s love space is indeed a storied one. I started in the genre of two pretty boys kissing when I was way below the age limit to be ingesting said content. But boy’s love kept me going while in high school as it gave me something to do and something to use to help me interact with my peers. Additionally, it helped me work through some gender angst I was going through at the time.

I didn’t remain enthusiastic about anime and manga when I went off to college; hoping that I would live my aunt’s asserts that my anime and manga fandom would be a phase I leave behind as I matured. That backfired splendidly in my sophomore year when I rediscovered anime and had gasp a small disposable income that no one could judge me over. I bought manga, watched anime and reconnected with a part of my soul that left me in my transition from youth to youth who could legally go off to war. 

But I still felt intense ennui and a lack of purpose in my life. I was in my late teens and away at college, still feeling much of the angst I felt when I was a young teen at home. That was until I met a very interesting King who would change the course of my existence. 

It was a gift. 

The manga was a gift. I was out with a friend and the spine of the manga caught my eye. Ludwig II by You Higuri. It had two pretty boys on the cover, looked historical and I was intrigued. I picked up the volume only to find that it was the story of a young stable boy and his dangerous love affair with the then king, Ludwig II, who is said to be mad. There is a shocking amount of drama and emotion in this story of what should be pretty straightforward for a boy’s love series; showing that indeed yaoi and shonen ai started as a parody of shojo manga. I ate it up. I loved the drama, the references to historical Germany (something that many people close to me know is a bit of an obsession) and I fell in love with the enigmatic and eccentric Ludwig II. 

It wasn’t until I got to the end of the manga that I realized that the main character whose charm I fell for was based on a real person. There was a real King Ludwig II, with whom the mangaka fell in love with during a trip to Germany. The real Mad King was ruler of Bavaria, probably wasn’t gay for his stable boy but was known for fits of violence, mood swings and his odd tastes. He loved castles. He built two beautiful castles: Linderhof and Neuschaiwnstein. One is the model for Disney’s imagining of Cinderella’s Castle and the other was built on the instruction of “Versaille but make it German.” 

Ludwig II was a patron of the arts, namely Richard Wagner, whom he supported and loved. If not for Ludwig’s time and money, we would not have Wagner’s work. And Ludwig, in his delusion, loved pretending to be the great Swan Knight Wagner imagined. He even had a special grotto built in Linderhof to act as a operatic backdrop to watch actors in little swan boats perform Wagner’s work as Ludwig rode along in another little swan boat because one can never have too many swan boats. 

We don’t know what Ludwig II was sick with when it comes to his “madness”. We just know that he was unwell. And we know that after trying to sell Bavaria to make more castles, he was ousted from power and he drowned himself in Lake Stern, just behind Castle Neuschwanstein. 

Consider it serendipity, but like Higuri-sensei; I too fell in love with the King. Not just the fictional character crafted for the sake of voyeurism, but the complex man who clearly was a little too sick for this world but also gave us so much with so little credit. Many know of Wagner but few know of Ludwig. Think if we only knew Shakespeare but ignored Queen Elizabeth I.  I voraciously consumed information about Bavaria’s Mad King. I read books, researched, practiced my German: all of it to please My King. Ludwig became a strange obsession of mine that kept me going through a particularly challenging college semester. Before I knew it, I was in deep. So deep that a funny little mention by one of my philosophy professors struck me like a ton of bricks. He said that while he would be the professor in the summer abroad that he’d be visiting some castle in Bavaria. As if possessed, I asked if the castle was Ludwig’s; and imagine my shock when he said yes. He spent the spring semester mostly cajoling me into going to Austria. I balked most of the time. The cost, the fact that I never left the country like that except for a trip to Mexico as a child I barely remember, the cost, the fear, the anxiety, the cost were all things that kept me firmly in the States while my professor got to see a castle I had dreamed about. He spent the fall semester encouraging me to go to Austria but I was afraid to do so.

The following spring I decided to do it. I still don’t know what fully convinced me to do so. But I did it. I decided to go to Austria knowing that King Ludwig’s castles would be a mandatory tour for the summer program.

That summer, a month before my departure, my mom died.

I was convinced that was the end of my Austrian sojourn. Convinced that I’d never be able to make it to Austria. Burying mom would cost too much; that I would have to be there for my family; that I would be too fragile. My aunts and grandmother did not share my sentiment and in fact, encouraged me to go. And so I did.

I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see the signs in Bavaria for Castle Neuschwanstein. I can’t tell you how amazing it was to be able to use my meager German to get around and how amazing it was to see 

I was told by a small German woman that the castle would be a short walk up mountain but for my king I proceeded to take my fat and asthmatic carcass up mountain to see the facade that was in my dreams. I gazed upon My King. I gazed upon his creation: one of his two children. He made miniature castles too: his little children. I wandered the halls he wandered. Saw the lake that claimed his body. Saw his home and wept. 

I ate lunch outside of Neuchswanstein and then it was off to Linderhof. I saw his Grottoes where he had special performances, saw his gilded excess, and was attacked by one of his terrible swans. I knew more than one of the tour guides there and led my small group of mostly bored Americans as we wandered the palace of extravagance and decadence. 

I still have the swan I purchased while visiting My King’s home. I still have the photos I took while visiting My King’s homes. I still have the books, brochures, postcards and more I purchased while visiting My King’s homes. 

It’s not hyperbolic to say that meeting King Ludwig II changed the course of my life. Without him; his charisma, his story, his madness; his glory, I would have stayed in the States. I wouldn’t have gone to Austria. I wouldn’t have left the States. I would have stayed small and I would have abandoned anime, manga and yaoi. I would have cast aside those parts of me that are now so important. I would be an entirely different version of myself; one I can barely fathom even if I truly stretch the limits of my imagination. 

I’m a different person because of King Ludwig II. And I do believe because of him; I have been changed for the better.

Thoughts from Fredericksburg

I have long been convinced that my artistic ideal stands or falls with Germany. Only the Germany that we love and desire can help us achieve that ideal.- Richard Wagner.png

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of German culture. I spent 6 weeks overseas in Austria and some of my most beloved and most important trips in Europe were of the German persuasion. Seeing King Ludwig II’s castles, seeing and being accosted by German swans. Learning a nearly impossible language. Texas’ history as a diverse state has made it rather easy to find handsome little pockets of Deutschland all across this great state so here are some of my thoughts after a day trip to Fredericksburg with my historian friend, Amber.

  • So the hill country is gorgeous but I hate that I don’t get cell service out there.
  • Giant crosses are a great landmark.
  • Indian Motorcycles apparently still live outside of the city limits.
  • The drive to Fredericksburg is perfect. Just within a few hours of the city limits so it feels like a trip while being close enough to do a day trip with no concern.
  • Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had have been in cars.
  • Amber only keeps me around because I speak German.
  • Postcards are amazing!
    • Seriously, I love sending out postcards so I may start a mailing list or something.
  • German culture is spectacular and the German history of Texas could be its own blog post.
    • I didn’t think out of all the places in Europe I saw, that I’d miss Austria and Germany the most.
  • Parking in downtown Fredericksburg is like surviving The Hunger Games. At times, sacrifices must be made and at times, you must park nearly a mile away from your destination.
  • Walking on a nice day though, is pretty special.
  • I feel remarkably guilty playing Pokemon Go in front of other people. Like I’m not giving them enough attention.
    • I’m sorry. I just needed my streak bonus…I didn’t ignore Amber. I promise.
  • There’s something to be said about knowing your history so it’s always a little weird as a black person to visit destinations that glorify the men that wanted to keep my ancestors in chains.
  • Also, restored and recreated houses are great but when they feature terrifying narration that is triggered by movement: it’s terrifying.
    • Some of these houses also have mannequins, so you just walk in and see a shape of a person and freak the hell out. Or at least, I did. Twice.
  • Fluffy chickens are the best chickens.

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LOOK AT THEM!

  • German food makes me so happy. Any place I can get potato pancakes, mustard and applesauce are places I rather just stay forever.
  • There’s nothing like speaking German to someone who doesn’t expect me to know German.
    • It sort of makes me feel like Broomhilda from Django Unchained. A confusing but pleasant oddity that is a black woman who speaks a little German.
  • The Hill Country has a lot of wineries.
    • A lot.
  • Comfort bites are apparently Frankenstein’s monster-esque foods that are probably going to kill you and you don’t mind that so much.
  • Fun fact: you can walk along downtown Fredericksburg with a glass of wine or beer in hand.
  • There’s a lot of places that offer to sell you wine in Fredericksburg. The main street is full of wine tasting rooms and breweries.
    • Lots.
      • Amber and I went on 2 wine tours in the hill country and keeping the glasses so far is the best part of it.
  • The history of wine in Texas could also be its own blog post.
  • Bathroom cats are apparently a thing outside of Welcome to Night Vale.
  • My taste in wine is changing. I can now stomach red wine without getting a headache and a serious case of ennui.
  • Apparently there’s a wine bus tour that lets you tour all of the wineries and not have to worry about driving afterwards.
    • You know, if you’re looking for a gift for me or something.
  • I also love and hate words used to describe wine.
    • Amber and I had a glass of Orange Muscat at a winery and I said the finish was “medicinal” and Amber agreed. But think of how asinine it is to say something has a medicinal finish.

I could go on forever about the how much I love German culture and German food but I’ll end on one note. Germans have a proud culture and the history of that tragically has some not so rosy parts of it. It’s difficult at times to express a love of other cultures when their history is so tarnished. I love Japanese culture but with that means accepting when Japan and my homeland were at war. I love German culture but loving Bayern means knowing that their history is marked with immense darkness. But what I love about Fredericksburg, what I love about Texas and what I love about culture is that just for a moment; a brief fleeting moment filled with excess, wine, beer and potatoes: it’s just good to be German.  

But for Today, I am Prussian

-Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

I’ve never been coy about the part of me that is truly culturally a pluralist.  I in-spirit renounced my American heritage long before I took my first steps across the Atlantic and by the time I emerged onto Germanic soil, I was already at least in a cultural sense a French man, Japanese schoolgirl and English poet.

That was until, of course, I went to Bavaria. I experienced a land and culture so far unlike my own but with the same cultural feelings of strength, hard-work and enjoying what you have. I spent 5 weeks overseas, mostly in Germanic countries and I left with a love of German food and the slight and occasional German phrase.

Once I returned stateside, my desire for the German flavors I came to crave were mostly left to languish. I was from a part of Texas that was no more German than scotch and the even mention of “German food” conjured to them faint images of sauerkraut and bratwurst and men clad in lederhosen (which are an undeniable segment but not the only aspects of German cuisine.).

It wasn’t until I moved back to San Antonio and moreover the part of Texas that was at times intensely German that my love of German food was able to take form again but really only to the occasional trip to New Braunfels to have it in one or two special places once or twice a year. What I was missing was the cornerstone of what made German food so amazing: it’s accessibility. The food I was eating in Austria and in Germany were available anywhere, everywhere and at nearly any time of day. This is where I came to love the concept of a double starch often enjoying two different potato dishes alongside pasta and a slab of whatever-schnitzel (it was often chicken for me, but the cafeteria where most of my meals came from produced schnitzels I didn’t think were possible). The food was unpretentious and humble but delicious and satisfying.

The beauty of it was that it didn’t feel foreign.

So when I come to find out that I can fill my cravings for German food in a downtown, historical eatery I had to check it out. This led me to lunch at Schilo’s.

This place has apparently been around forever and is a place I walk by all the time, but I was always a little afraid to go in there, having been lied to time and time again with the promise of “authentic” German food. My cynicism led me to miss out on so many opportunities to visit this wonderful establishment.

Never have I been so wrong.

I sat down, and immediately enjoyed the prospect of seating myself. I ordered something simple, potato pancakes. Now, this is a dish I came to love overseas and finding it well-made here stateside has been an awful challenge if I can find them at all.

Now, when I see house-made root beer on a menu, regardless of whatever image-based soda detox I’m on, I’m ordering one. Or several. Schilo’s did not make me regret my choice to imbibe in the fizzy elixir.

My lunch arrived and the waitress asked me the very traditional question: “Would you like sour cream?” to which I said “yes.” far too emphatically and quickly. I waited patiently for the curdled milk product and continued to do something non-traditional. I smothered the potato love stack with Schilo’s house-made hot mustard (another German favorite and this one has an ingredient list that you can understand and maybe has 6 total ingredients. As mustard should.) the spice was wonderful. Then came applesauce, far more traditional for a meal like this which was absolutely spectacular. I wish it was socially acceptable to order “vats” of anything.

Each bite I felt like I was in Muchen again. Potato. Mustard. Sour cream. Applesauce! Potato. Mustard. Mustard. Potato. Sour cream. Potato. Potato. Applesauce.

It was fantastic. I ate with gusto. I ate with pleasure.

Schilo’s was a place that I had to stop myself from replying to questions in German.

Danke would be unknown there, as would Bitte. Prost would make no sense and Bier would be unheard of.  But in my heart, I was in Bavaria. I was Prussian. I was in a local biergarten enjoying lunch and doing German things in Germany or at least I was in my heart.

It’s been a few years since my global trek and I never thought I’d miss Germany and Austria more than Italy. I didn’t leave craving pasta, I craved potatoes.While I swooned over pasta frutti de mare, I desired schnapps and wienerschnitzel.

So for an afternoon I was Prussian until my need to return to work snapped me out of my pipe dream and I heartily thank Schilo’s for letting me for a day be back in Bayvern.

Danke.