Climb Every Castle

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July 10th 2009
Published: June 22nd 2017
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Today began like the rest, with the breakfast of champions. We got up early so we could catch a tour to Neuschwanstein Castle with a lighthearted tour provided by Mike's Bike Tours.

The day began with a two hour bus ride. On the way, we learned "the inside scoop" about the circumstances surrounding the odd life and mysterious death of Bavaria's King Ludwig II. More on that later. Once we arrived, we did not expect the degree of effort it would take on our parts to get inside. We met our tour guide, Brad, who led us on a bike tour around Swan Lake which offered great views of the castle we had come to see as well as its predecessor, Castle Hohenschwangau. It rained a bit, but it wasn't too bothersome. The 5 mile bike ride was exhilarating and enjoyable. Even the non-bike-riders in the crowd conformed, and a guy named Mike volunteered to herd in the sheep from behind.

After that it was time for a well-earned lunch. (We would do a lot more earning before the day was done.) Barb finally got to enjoy a piping hot Applestrudel and was much impressed. After lunch, 3 of us
braved the Alpine Luge. For a whopping E1.40, we got whisked up to the top of a curvy aluminum chute that snaked down Tagelberg Mountain. It felt like the old flying turns at Riverview. Brad then entertained us with card tricks. Really good card tricks!

Next, it was back on the bus and off to the hard part of the day. To get to Neuschwanstein Castle, we had to hike up a path through a gorge and next to a waterfall. It entailed a 782 foot vertical ascent. This was really something. We made it in time for our 4:25pm tour of the castle. We were assigned group 501. German engineering was obvious here, including the specially-trained Robo-guide. We never got her name, but don't think she would have told us if we asked. Inside the castle, you guessed it… more stairs. Booh! The tour took only 25 minutes, largely because the majority of the originally planned castle was never built. As Brad told us, the castle was designed by King Ludwig II, whose parents were not very nice to him, or to his brother Otto. Otto went crazy. Ludwig faced a number of social struggles. In his young life, he designed Castle Neuschwanstein, which was a very strange place. He never lived to see the building completed due to a mysterious death. He lived there for 172 days before his untimely death in 1886. Within six weeks, the state government began offering tours to the public for a small charge. Though only part of Ludwig's design was completed, it was very impressive. The castle was an inspiration for that which became Disney's centerpiece for Disneyland (and later, Disney World).

On the way out, the ladies stopped at the restroom (WC), and were surprised to see electric hand dryers from World Dryer in Berkely, Illinois. It's a small world after all!

The hike down, which assistant guide Mika called a “shortcut” initially brought smiles. Then we realized it was much like the luge but without wheels. The day was clearly designed to work out all muscle groups.

After a two hour ride back to Munich, featuring the movie Spaceballs and a bottle of Maxlrainer Pilsner each, we were ready for another stab at the Hofbrau experience. This time, the weather was nice enough for us to sit outside and among a very lively crowd. Some rowdy Americans were shouting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!,” some Asians were standing up singing a drinking song, some Germans were celebrating a bachelor party, and there was a drum corp performance up on the balcony.

Looking at the food menu, and tired of all the baloney, three of us opted for Bavarian meatloaf. We had always wondered where all the pigs were kept in Bavaria as schwein seems to be the centerpiece of every menu. When our food arrived, we discovered that Bavarian meatloaf was in fact, a loaf of Spam. Barb adds, a big, fat, loaf of Spam. It was also really something. The potato salad, Hofbrau Dunkel, and rolls partially made up for the additional ounces of baloney.

One of the bachelors, a guy named Marko, was forced by his friends to sell roses. They put dark makeup on his face and attempted to embarrass him by making noises and singing songs. Rich bought one of Marko's roses for Barb.

Our waitress was amusing. We were doing our best to use a bit of German when asking for the bill, and her response was, “You guys paying all together?” It was funny. Later, when she brought the bill, she read it back to us in German and then quipped, “I was trying to practice my English.”

Tomorrow will be a day of leisure and transit. We are going to sleep in a bit later than usual and then wander around as we so desire, before regrouping and catching a train to Vienna.

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