Today was a fairy tale… Ok, there were no princes, dragons or wizards. There were no knights, dwarfs or magic spells. But there was a castle… There were two castles, to be exact. We got there via bus, not nearly as cool as a carriage…which is what we would hav been in if we were in fact in a fairy tale…it might even have been a glass carriage, or one made out of a pumpkin, or maybe pulled by unicorns! Who wouldn’t want to ride in a glass pumpkin carriage pulled by unicorns?
But back on topic…we arrived at the King’s Castles via the #73 bus and skipped into the ticket line. To visit these castles you have to take their guided tours which are 35 minutes long for each castle and run at specific times for specific languages. We were there nice & early and able to snatch up prime tour times (10:20 & 12:20). We then made the “20 minute” hike up to the first castle, Hohenschwangau. We use “quotations” because the walk took us max 5 minutes and left us wandering around the gift shop for 20 minutes so we didn’t have to be out in the cold. This morning was definitely the coldest we have experienced thus far…there was even frost. Lucky we had our scarves & mittens!
Hohenschwangau Castle was built in the 19th century by King Maximillian II of Bavaria and was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II. The castle was built on the remains of a 12th century fortress. King Maximillian II discovered the ruins and loving the natural beauty of the location he acquired them. He built Hohenschwangau as his official summer and hunting residence.
From the outside, Hohenschwangau Castle looks quite grand (as long as you don’t do any comparisons with the next place we visit). The style is fortress-like with a low, thick design and the basic square shape. However there is a fairy tale feeling to the detailing, such as paintings on the exterior walls, the puzzle-piece shapes at the top and the fountain filled courtyard that runs around it.
We were not allowed to take photos within the castle…although Kristin did get this one before we were informed of this (although it’s rather boring and doesn’t do the castle interior justice at all). Below is also a picture taken out the window of the castle, as this is allowed. We agreed that we could handle having a view like that from our bedroom!
Without photos we will have to be descriptive… The German decorating style is very different from English & French. As opposed to tapestries or velvet wall coverings, the Germans preferred to paint the walls. Every surface is covered in brightly colored paint, whether it is pictures, designs or simply a normal one-colored wall. This castle also had all of it’s art work on the wall…not just hanging there but literally painted right onto the wall. Frames were then stuck on around them, or simply painted on as part of the painting. Hohenschwangau had small rooms with alcoves branching off for specific puropses, such as reading, washing or prayer. Most of the furniture was carved wood and every room features a large candelabra chandelier. These were dark metal and very gothic in style (lots of points & swoops…like a gothic cathedral). We really liked the feel of the castle…it was very cozy for such a large house and very bright & happy with all of the colors.
The walk down from Hohenschwangau was goregous. It took you down the wooded section of the hill and right past the large, shockingly blue Lake Alpse. We are sure this is a lovely place to visit in the summer, but we are most pleased we came in fall. The mix of red, green, orange & yellow was stunning, and the addition of light frost made it all the more magical…magical enough that we accepted the temperature with very few complaints.
Our toes were feeling pretty chilled by this point so we hopped onto the heated bus that takes you halfway up to Neuschwanstein…yes that was our next destination: Neuschwanstein Castle.
After his father’s death, Ludwig II moved into Hohenschwangau. Here he dreamed of fairy tales and the middle ages. He ordered the building of three new castles: one of which was Neuschwanstein. Ludwig had the castle built in a Medieval/Romanesque Revival. As a result the castle looks much older than it actually it…the castle was only built in the late 1800’s. It was intended to be a personal refuge for the eccentric and reclusive king who never married or produced any heirs. His life’s ambition were his castles. Ludwig paid for his castles with his own personal fortune and ended bankrupt very quickly. The people of Bavaria had him removed from the throne and all construction on the castles was stopped immediately. The castle was opened to the public shortly after his sudden & unexpected death. Today more than 1.3 million people visit the castle each year, up to 6000 a day in the summer!
We had to hike another 10 minutes from the bus stop to the castle entrance. The place sits high atop a big hill, but it’s not an imposing fortress. Instead it looks like the place dreams are made of…or perhaps the happiest place on earth? Neuschwanstein was actually Disney’s inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland! If you have ever seen Disney’s castle then you will be able to imagine Neuschwanstein…just leave out the pink & purple and imagine it made of shining white stones with a black/blue roof. The main building is long & skinny, creating a more palace like effect, but the shear height keeps it looking like a medieval fortress. Then there are the turrets; they are exactly like you would imagine if you were a four year old girl dreaming of being a princess.
The interior was similar to Hohenschwangau, except more. More paintings, more carvings, more wood & leather & expensive looking objects, more gold. The chandleirs doubled in size and were now made of bronze with colored glass stones. If you had to liken their shape to something, it would be a crown. One of the highlights was Ludwig’s bed chamber. The oak wood carvings were unimaginably detailed. The whole top of the the canopy bed was covered in a forest of gothic cathedrals & leafy tress. There was also a wedding chair to match. The only thing that wasn’t more was the number of rooms. Ludwig died before Neuschwanstein was done and approximately two-thirds of the rooms remain unfinished. The place was grand enough as it is, we can’t imagine seeing it if it had been fully-completed!
We had lunch in the castle as they had a cafeteria with surprisingly good prices. We warmed up on delicious bowls of beef goulash…as that is apparently Justine’s food of choice for this leg of the trip.
With our bellies full we began our decent, but it didn’t last long. Only 10 minutes from the castle we switched paths and headed back up, this time to Mary’s bridge. This bridge is a 100 year old steel structure built by Ludwig on the site of an existing wood bridge. Its purpose was to admire his castle, and that is what hoards of tourists still use it for today! Here are some snapshots, the first of the view of the bridge from the castle and then of the castle from the bridge!
The not-as-cool-as-a-unicorn-powered-carriage bus took us back to Füssen. Here we embarked on the Rick Steves walking tour of town. It wasn’t very long, but was a nice walk in the improved & now not too cold weather. It took us past a few churches & monasteries, through a nice graveyard and down to the riverbank of the Lech river. Füssen’s main industry used to be rafting (making rafts out of logs and taking them down the river to Augsburg to sell the logs & good that they had loaded onto the rafts) so this river played a important part in the towns history. The other industry that helped shape Füssen was lute-making…that has nothing to do with anything…it’s just a fun fact. We ended the tour at the High Castle. This used to be the summer home of the Bishop of Augsburg and has now been converted into an art museum. The interesting thing about it though is the exterior artwork. The flat walls are covered in crazy perspective paintings that make the windows look 3D.
The pictures below show the Lech river, the Church of the Holy Spirit & the High Castle.
We spent some time lounging at the hostel before dinner. It gave us an opportunity to catch up on blog posts…we don’t know how we get so behind! We went to a traditionally German place for supper. Justine had scoped it out during our city tour as a good place…and was she right! We each ordered the Jägerschnitzel & spätzel meal and a good Bavarian beer (Justine’s in Radler form) even though it cost slightly more than we usually spend. This is our last meal in Germany and we were going to get our favorites! The food ended up being well worth the money! We each received a large salad first, and then the hugest plate of schnitzel with mushroom creaminess & yummy little spätzels. It was so delicious that we ate every bite 🙂
Highlights of the Day:
– The views of Neuschwanstein Castle from Mary’s Bridge…breathtaking!
– The moment our supper arrived and we practically cheered at how large our schnitzel/spätzel feast was!
Love, Luck & Ludwig,