Now, I've been to guided tours inside the palace many times (it is the only way you are allowed to go in, never just wandering around on your own) and could guide a group through the state rooms myself. But I've not been to most of the servants' quarters before, nor to the kitchen, the cellars or the attic. I had been looking forward to this tour very much, and was not disappointed!
Our first stop was the kitchen in the basement. It must have looked quite different back then, with a lot more in the rooms that are nearly empty now:
Imagine the working conditions down here, with nearly no windows for air and daylight, keeping the fire going at all times, people rushing in and out, providing meals for the court and its numerous servants non-stop!
We went upstairs to the only servants' room I had seen before, because it is usually briefly shown during the standard guided tour. Our guide, who was very good and very knowledgeable, showed us the heating system, a maze of tiny corridors behind the state rooms. Often, the space behind the stoves was so confined that only the smallest and slightest of servants (i. e. children) could manage the task. No servant had to be seen or heard from the main rooms by the noble ladies and gentlemen there; it was all done through the back, from the other side of the wall.
The room below was where those higher ranking servants would wait until the bell above the cupboard would ring, calling them to their master or mistress. There was no window in this room - no air, no daylight, just a few smelly tallow candles (wax was too expensive and reserved for the state rooms).
The wallpaper here shows that this was no ordinary room. It was the king's dressing room, the walls being lined with wardrobes and the wooden scales in one corner.
The higher-ranking servants slept close to their masters, so that they would be quickly available at all times. Their bedrooms were hidden behind the state rooms, on a low floor built just below the ceiling of the main rooms. Again, no windows gave access to air and daylight - the only windows there went to the main corridors and of course were never to be opened while any lady or gentleman would walk past below.
Some of those upstairs rooms still hold equipment put there for air raids during WWII. The picture below shows a wall chart explaining what to do in case of fire, which was the main concern for this historical building:
Our group had reached the attic by now, and the perspective from the windows up here was very different from how I had seen the palace and its grounds before:
The fountain on the wall is supposed to be Bacchus. He can pee water... or wine. This was the king's idea of fun, offering his guests cups of "Bachhus pee" or having unsuspecting visitors splashed (I hope with water only!) when walking past the fountain.
It was very cold in the cellar, even on a hot day like this, and I think we were all happy to be up and out in the sun again. The tour had lasted 1 1/2 hours but seemed mere minutes - it was fascinating and interesting, and I could have taken loads more pictures, had it not been for our group being "in the way" and difficult lighting conditions most of the time.
Definitely something to do again!