The next day we woke up early, keen to get on the road again.
Cosy in our fairy tale chocolate box of a bedroom, Prince Charming wrestled with the coffee machine and brought a cup of the resulting sludge to Sleeping Beauty… or should that be The Beast?
Either way, it had the desired effect.
We dressed in a hurry, raced out through the breakfast room pocketing a few pastries on the way, and sped off into the Bavarian countryside.
Tearing through the mists, surrounded by trees and awesome (in every sense of the word) landscapes.
We arrived at Neuschwanstein in the rain. We joined the hoards of wet, soggy tourists standing in line for tickets.
Despite opening 5 minutes before we arrived, the queue took almost an hour and when we got to the front all but 3 of the tickets for the day had sold out.
The very friendly ticket officer explained that tour groups buy up the tickets and it’s very rare for them to have any left over at all. It’s a silly system and one you should be aware of if you plan to visit.
Try and stay in a hotel close to the castle and ask them to get the tickets for you – so you won’t have to queue or miss out! Once you’ve got your hands on tickets, hot foot it over to the bus stand. Buy a bus ticket to the highest point, it’s well worth it for this view…
…oh, and this one’s pretty good too!
If heights aren’t your thing, take a deep breath and do it anyway.
You have to walk along a bridge suspended between the cliffs, high above the roaring icy blue river below.
It’s enough to make even the toughest of knees tremble!
Once you’ve taken it all in, there’s a short and scenic stroll through the clouds, down to the castle itself.
From here you can see the childhood home of King Ludwig II.
Though it does pale in comparison to the one he built as an adult.
King Ludwig II was a shy retiring sort of man. Obsessed with theatre and most especially the opera.
He loved romantic tales, tragedies, old stories of great kings, and was blessed with the most fabulous (though extravagant tastes).
He built the castle largely as a tribute to one of his heroes, Wagner. In classic fan-girl style, he wrote to Wagner outlining his plans…
“It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin of Hohenschwangau near the Pöllat Gorge in the authentic style of the old German knights’ castles, and I must confess to you that I am looking forward very much to living there one day (in 3 years); there will be several cosy, habitable guest rooms with a splendid view of the noble Säuling, the mountains of Tyrol and far across the plain; you know the revered guest I would like to accommodate there; the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable, a worthy temple for the divine friend who has brought salvation and true blessing to the world. It will also remind you of “Tannhäuser” (Singers’ Hall with a view of the castle in the background), “Lohengrin'” (castle courtyard, open corridor, path to the chapel); this castle will be in every way more beautiful and habitable than Hohenschwangau further down, which is desecrated every year by the prose of my mother; they will take revenge, the desecrated gods, and come to live with Us on the lofty heights, breathing the air of heaven.”
Never the traditionalist, Ludwig hired a set designer to draw up plans for the castle, and it is truly beautiful.
Each room more opulent and richly detailed than the last.
But, as with all sets, the illusion is only skin deep.
Behind the glamour of the royal rooms, the castle is rather modern and very plain. There’s a central heating system, plumbing, bells for calling servants, winches for lifting ready laid tables up into the dining room. The spaces inhabited by staff are sparse and rather dull.
You don’t get to visit any of them, sadly. The tour (you can’t wander around alone, you have to wait for a tour) only touches on the glamorous side of the castle. If you want to see more and if you plan on visiting, there’s a BBC doc you have to watch first. It’ll really bring the place to life and explain it so much better than any tour guide – though ours was lovely and did let us all take a few snaps inside.
We dined (not quite in the style of Kind Ludwig) on goulash and pretzels, in the castle looking out over the forrest below.
Before making our way down into the valley again.
If we thought the place was busy at breakfast time, it was nothing compared to lunch time. Disney Land has nothing on these crowds.
If you plan on visiting, which you should, go early or not at all.
On your way out, drive by St. Coloman. It’s beautiful and you can buy local veggies beside the road!
With one final glance at the fairytale castle, we drove on to Fussen.