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Published: December 20th 2007
The train that brought us here. All that snow and it was bang on time! Shame on you, British Rail.
There are some things in life that aren't quite all they're cracked up to be like Cinderella's Castle at Disneyland or the Big Goose Pagoda in Xi'an. But to make up for those disappointments, every so often a real gem of an attraction that comes along and makes it all seem worth the effort again. Neuschwannstein, the famous fairy-tale castle perched deep in the Bavanarian landscape was my destination today and I hadn't been expecting much given all the hype about it.
My sister and I left a cold Munich for the 11.00 train to Fussen, the small town that is the gateway to Neuschwannstein Castle. It took just over 2 hours to reach the town and as the train sped along, the scenery outside changed from cold and frosty to blanketed deep in crisp white snow. It was a perfect Christmas card image made all the prettier by the oldy-worldy town of Fussen itself.
We had a mild spot of bother on the train when it transpired that we had bought the wrong type of ticket and ours was merely a day saver type ticket instead of a weekend one. An easy mistake to make as there used
A typical German winter's view.
to be such a ticket but I guess my sister hasn't travelled much on group tickets in a while! The ticket was at least valid for today but we'd have to buy another one tomorrow which would cost more than the non-day saver would have done. Ah well.
My father and his wife, Franziska, rolled into the train station just minutes after we arrived and we all hopped in their brand spanking new Opel Combo car. A few circuits of the town's one-way system later and we arrived at the very lovely 2-bed apartment we had rented for the weekend. Outside it was even colder than Munich so we wrapped up extra warm and headed straight out to see the famous castle as the weather was beautifully sunny and the skies clear - perfect for the long walk ahead. We parked on the edge of town, nipped in to the ticket office for our entry tickets to the castle (9 Euros each, which I thought was very reasonable) and marvelled at all the tourists queuing to take a horse-dran carriage up to the castle.
Given the fantastic conditions, we decided to walk up to the castle instead and
White on White
First glimpse of the castle - cool!
soon found ourselves weaving along a lovely tree- and snow-lined path with a gentle uphill climb. Our breath caught on the chilly air and it was just wonderful to be spending time with some of my favourite people in such amazing surroundings. Catching our first proper glimpses of Neuschwannstein, it was hard not to be impressed. Surrounded by white snow-clad branches, the castle loomed majestically above us.
It took about 40 minutes to make it to the top of the path where we realised we had over an hour to kill before our guided tour began. We made our way through a field thick with powder-dry snow to a viewing point where we could peer out through the tree branches to the icy lakes in the valley below. It was a very enchanting scene. I can totally see why King Ludwig the Second chose this location for his fantasy palace.
When the time came for our tour, it transpired some other tourists had missed theirs which would have been in English and they joined our German-speaking group instead. I was fascinated to hear what the guide had to say as she steered us through the lavishly decorated rooms
It looks like it's perched in the middle of nowhere but of course all the tourist trappings are just around the corner!
high up in the castle turrets but alas the non-German speakers must have been bored and started talking amongst themselves, making it difficult for anyone to hear. I lost my rag with them a bit at one point and thankfully they shut up after that!
We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside the rooms which was a shame as they were absolutely magnificent. I don't think I've ever seen anything so ornate and decadent. Naturally, I sneaked a few photos with the flash switched off but they are a bit blurry. Still, better than nothing at all although avoiding the watchful eye of the tour guide was an adventure in itself! My favourite elements inside the castle had to be the King's own bed, which featured wood carvings so fine that it took a number of carpenters over 10 years to complete! The castle is also themed with swans - hence the name (the Schwann bit of Neuschwannstein means swan in English). There were swan shaped taps, swan shaped door handles, swan shaped chandeliers and figurines and so on. Man, this guy had some serious wealth! I was surprised to learn that the castle is relatively new, having
Gotta love all this snow :-)
been finished in 1886 and apparently King Ludwig only ever spent a total of 176 days there before he drowned himself in a nearby lake in a successful suicide bid. They don't call him the mad king for nothing!
It was an enjoyable tour, even if it would have been nice to walk around at our leisure to see things in more detail but you couldn't help but be blown away by the sheer scale of the exterior or the grandness of the interior. I've always wanted to come and see this castle and I am so pleased I have done. It would have been even better if only Glynn had been with me. I found myself countless times turning to point somethig out to him, only to remember that I'd left him tucked away in England :-(
By the time we left the castle grounds, it was pitch black outside and the temperature had dropped to -14 degrees Centigrade! The four of us then meandered through the town trying to suss out a good place to eat. We fancied some traditional Bavarian fayre although they aren't big on vegetarian cuisine around these parts, so I settled for
This castle-spotting malarkey is dead easy!
an uninspiring but tasty plate of vegetables while my father, sister and Franziska tucked into some hearty dishes of meat and fish. It was a lovely way to spend the evening and the several beers I managed to sample along the way certainly helped stave off the cold on the way back to the apartment.
Franziska, who had been working long shifts all week, sloped off to bed early leaving me, my father and my sister chatting until the small hours of the morning. As perfect a day as I could have wished for - if only Glynn had been here to enjoy it too.
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