Once upon a time…

FAMILY TIDES: Nymphenburg Palace is situated in Munich, where the Wittelsbach family clan spent most of their political time... PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets


… in the Kingdom of Bavaria, Ludwig II was born on the 25th of August, 1845 in Nymphenburg. He was a complicated, lonely prince who loved riding horses, but hated the idea of hunting animals just for the sake of killing them. Instead, he adorned his palaces with swans, peacocks (his favourite creature) and horses.

Neuschwanstein, the fairytale castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle and the most photographed castle in the world, took 17 years to be built and yet Ludwig II only spent six months of his life in it. He was found drowned in the lake near by at the age of 40, alongside his doctor who had pronounced him clinically insane six months before.

It is still a mystery who killed whom or whether it was a matter of suicide.

Surrounded by stone tables imported from Afghanistan, a collection of Chinese porcelain vases (but handcrafted by artists in Munich) and ivory chandeliers from India, Ludwig II had expensive taste and was obsessed with being as extravagant as Louis XIV, the sun king of France and his father’s godfather. Instead, Ludwig II became known as the moon king, awake only at night surrounded by candles. He also imported flowers constantly to his palaces, making sure every season was spring.

MAJESTIC: Inside, Nymphenburg Palace is incredibly breathtaking... a mix between the Sistine Chapel and the Palace of Versailles. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

It took his family over 20 years to pay off an estimated 40 million marks. Unlike most believe, Ludwig II did not use taxpayer’s money to pay off his obsession with fairytale kingdoms. He used as best he could, his personal wealth or asked his family members to contribute. Yet, he never invited any of them to visit him. He loved being alone. Even his dining room had a huge mirror in front of his seating place, so he could watch himself eat.



CINDERELLA CASTLE: Neuschwanstein inspired Walt Disney's castle and is the most photographed castle in the world. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

In order not to be disturbed, it included a trap door underneath, so that servants could place food or remove it as he wished. It is rumoured, being so handsome and over 6ft4, he found everyone else disgustingly ugly. Being extremely religious and Catholic, he also struggled with homosexual feelings. Especially when it came to his obsession with Richard Wagner, the German genius of operas and one of his few guests. Although he wrote love letters to his cousin Elizabeth, they were more a make-believe game, writing to each other as characters from Wagner’s operas.


Ludwig II expressed his anguish at being born 150 years too late and his dire need to escape to places like the Palace of Versailles, where monarchies still had influence over their people. Instead, he paved the way as the most modern king of his time. His palaces, apart from trap doors and revolving pieces, included electric candles and even a coffee grinder.

He lived most of his life at Linderhof Palace, originally intended as his hunting grounds. The rooms here were very similar to the ones set out at Neuschwanstein, which he never saw finished. Every room at Linderhof is adorned in gold-plated hand-encrafted wall-paper, where even paintings on the wall turn into 3-D masterpieces (such as a foot is sculpted out of the picture).


UNIQUE: Linderhof Palace was reserved as Ludwig II's hunting grounds, but he spent most of his life here, even creating a building in the garden similar to a mosque for his love for all cultures. PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

Ludwig II’s imagination got the better of him. He wanted and saw too much, yet was never satisfied. Every room in each palace is a reflection of his favourite Shakespeare play, Wagner opera or mythological legend; in search of his own muse. He died a mysterious death, which folklore claims his own family masterminded. His fairytale dreams drove him to insanity and despair, forever in search of the “happily ever after” his soul craved for…



A few weeks ago, a friend called me in tears. The guy she was seeing for the last four months had left her for his ex. She was devastated and hated herself. All the little signs had been there:

  • He was still friends with her on Facebook.
  • They constantly contacted each other via Skype.
  • He hid pics of them in his bed drawer.
  • He spoke of her in the present tense
  • He acted weird if they bumped into her.
  • He refused to remove pics of them together on Facebook, or refused to be tagged in pics with my friend or change their relationship status.
ex business

Is it truly over? PIC: online

The pain of seeing the one you’ve come to love and trust with someone from his past is much more hurtful than seeing him with a stranger. You feel utterly betrayed, for in all the time you were dating, his mind and heart were still attached to her. No matter how much time or effort you invested into the relationship, it was all in vain.

The problem is, most girls assume the guy they are with is in love or thinking about his ex constantly, even when he may not be. She may assume he’s comparing the kissing or sex. But male friends admit, they are rather comparing the memories and feelings they encountered than the physical.

Girls assume wrongly, because guys are not as expressive in their feelings and girls are afraid are coming across as clingy. Therefore, they begin a psychological dialogue with themselves of what means what through the little things he says or does.

Guys are expressive in subtle ways, such as he’ll call you her name by accident. He will speak of things they used to do or ask you about your past unexpectedly to ease his mind.

Some girls think by acting more sexy or constantly pleasuring him, he will forget his exes. BIG MISTAKE. A guy is a visual being and this includes his memory.

He may not admit it, but he may see her in everything. He may even use you subconsciously to forget her.

So, how do you cope with the past creeping up on the present?

The truth is, it’s utterly out of your control. You can’t change him or adjust his memories. What you can do is not let it affect you. Say confident. Stay supportive. And, communicate. The honest guy will eventually tell you where you and she stand. But, keep realistic. If he’s attached when you met, for example, are you just the other woman? And, what makes you so sure there won’t be “another woman” in the future?

Ironically, a guy’s exes contributed to who he is today. His vulnerability comes from being hurt. His vanity comes from being praised. His dress sense comes from years of influence.

For most girls, it is too much to be with someone in love with his past and they eventually walk away. But, most will wait until it’s spelt out to them: IT WAS OVER BEFORE IT BEGAN.

Research shows it takes twice as much time to get over someone as the time the couple went out. So, if they went out three years, expect a six-year recovery period. That, or be utterly sure of how it ended and whether it was a clean cut or not. Or, make the best of the time you have together. Don’t nag him, but ask him to be honest. If he can’t, it’s best to walk away with your dignity intact.

Don’t think it depends on who dumped whom.  If they get back together, it probably came from a mutual decision of best partner at a different time.

And, as hard as it is to admit, seeing him happy with her will allow you to move on and find someone who appreciates you for who you really are and what you have to offer, thanks to your own past and exes.

Iberia: Ser o no ser


We should have listened to all our friends who warned us about Iberia* Airlines while booking our tickets to Europe. My strangest experiences with airlines have normally been with Air Zimbabwe: “Our pilot is missing… His wife is having his baby. We hope. Now, to find a substitute.”

 We make our flight just in time. Our passports are missing the permanent residence stamps, ensuring the immigration officers can take out their 10pm frustrations on us.

 “Why don’t you have the stamp?” says the officer with the overdone eyebrows.

 “Because Home Affairs is always striking!” is my brother’s stern reply.

 “That’s not true! That’s not all we do in South Africa!” she snaps back.

 My brother and I pass through after apologising, but my mother and granny are held hostage in their wheelchairs on the other side for granny’s overstayed welcome. She has been living with us for over two years and her passport is as clean as a new one. Oops…

 “Your maKoko is an alien in the republic. An illegal one!” continues the eyebrows lady. It is hard to keep a straight face, as her two eyebrows are unevenly emotional. One looks at us surprised, while the other looks angry and ready to melt in 30 degrees.

 Out of breath and finally on the plane, we are greeted by friendly Spanish airhostesses.

 Ten minutes later, a Don Juan arrives, his black sideburns dripping with sweat. His gelled black curly locks are held perfectly in place.

 “I apologise! Sorry! Por favor!” he says in a thick Spanish accent to the passengers and crew.

 The captain greets us in Spanish and English. All seems fine at first. We drive about the airstrip for a lengthy thirty minutes. Then stop. The captain does not speak to us for another two hours. He mumbles something in Spanish. All the Spanish-speaking families and couples start to look restless and grab their bags in the compartments.

 “Oh my God!” says a bilingual lady from Wales, “We might not take off!”

 For another hour, all we hear is static from the cockpit. Finally, the captain translates what he said earlier into soft, broken English: “Well…Um… I suspect… Well… actually… I don’t… Hmmm… I don‘t know what to tell you!”

 We all look at each other confused. He continues, even softer, with two dreaded words: “Engine failure.”

 He mumbles again in Spanish. At 2:30 am, we are finally told to leave the plane. The families set to go from Madrid to Cuba start swearing in Spanish. The man with his arm wrapped in a torn plaster tells us in shock: “I have operation tomorrow.”

 My mother’s neighbour wonders about her little dogs below. The tranquilizers only work for twelve hours.

 We all fight to get off-board first in order to get the best hotel rooms. At the OR Tambo’s Intercontinental Hotel, we are told to let women and children pass through first. The old men twitch and fight with their wives:

“Just go! Go!” says a husband whose wife won’t let go of his arm.

 My brother and I somehow get separated from our family. We are mistaken for pushing in, our two over-sized trolleys budging people out of the way.

 “Hey! Hey!” scream a few people we ignore.

 Our trolleys continue to make way to our granny on the other side. She’s tired and disorientated as they shove her into the shuttle to take her to the hotel in Boksburg. We are too late. Granny and mom wave to us from the combi as we battle it out with angry Iberia passengers.

 One man in a coral jersey casually makes his way in front of us. His wife follows after. Soon we are blocked off from the other passengers and the queue increases next to us. We are punished like naughty school kids. I lose patience and tell the man he has no right to do such a thing. He gives a sly grin that pisses me off further and “accidentally” drops my bag to the floor. I shout at him. He ignores me. Somehow, at 3:30am, I lose all inhibitions and gently knock my trolley into him. I feel terrible and my brother and two others stop us before things get worse.

 “Calm down! Calm down!” a hotelier tells us.

 At last, two taxis arrive to fetch us, but the hotelier tries to scare us off from using either: “Those are public. You will use them at your own risk for R30.”

 At 4am, we couldn’t care less. My brother and I push forth to the front, to the ‘dangerous’ public transport.

 “Sorry for you!” we tell the man in the coral jersey. Everyone laughs. It is indeed a series of unfortunate events. The hotelier is quite right. The driver drives like mad to Birchwood in Boksburg. We, at last, wriggle into new bedsheets, unbeknown to the storm of complaints Iberia will face tomorrow… 

*Iberia is not necessarily a bad airline, just numerous friends have complained about weird experiences with them, including the 230 passengers on this particular flight.