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Published: December 26th 2014
I was looking forward to today, especially since I saw that we were supposed to get snow. What better way to see King Ludwig II's fairy tale castle in Bavaria during Christmas time??? I knew today would be magical. Sure enough, I woke up and threw open my curtains to see a smattering of snow. I figured the hills would have more snow, but I was later surprised at just how much more they got!
I took a quick shower and scurried to the train station to get there early enough that if they were running some scam or if there "weren't enough people" I could take the train myself; I learned my lesson from Prague. Fortunately, the office for Radius Tours was situated well and open right on time. I purchased my ticket and realized I had plenty of time to run back to my hotel to grab my kindle; a two hour train ride needed some way to pass the time and i have to reach my year end quote of 40 books. When I came back to the office, I was astounded by the amount of people there - there had to be at least 50 people
waiting for this tour. So we were split into three groups and I pushed my way through to the first group of 19 people: "single rider! single rider!" This Chinese woman and I later bonded and congratulated ourselves on our group leader, Keith - he always knew how to make sure we were at the front of the lines or getting seats on trains and buses - nothing sneaky, just no unnecessary dilly-dallying and he was so on top of it.
When we arrived in Fussen, I was amazed at the amount of people that got off the train - seriously hundreds of tourists. Keith smartly had us sit in the front car so we were among the first off, and he had us meet on the other side of the station right away, so we were also the first on the reserved bus, heading to the castle area. It was pretty amazing to come around the corner, in the heavy snowfall and see the outline of Schloss Neuschwanstein (pronounced: Noosh-van-shtine).
We got off the bus and congregated at a small cafe. Again Keith told us to use the toilet and get a snack right away before everyone
else figured out where to go, while he went and got our tickets. We met twenty minutes later and were able to make our own way to the top. Man, was it a hike! We had about 50 minutes to get up there, but it seriously took 40 and I was in the front of the pack. My ticket was group #470 with a tour time of 13:50. This meant that I had to be at the turnstile at that time and go in when my group was called. Very German efficient. I took quite a few photos on the way up, but mostly I wanted to make sure I got there in time. Schloss Neuschwanstein
I have a puzzle of a picture of this castle in the fall - it is my favorite puzzle and I can't believe I'm actually here now! I was quite disappointed that you were not allowed to take photos of the interior (though not surprised). We had a guide who german-efficiently took us room to room - it was a good set up. The tours started every 5 minutes with about 25-30 people per group. You spent about 5 minutes in each
spot, so it was a constant rotation. Of course, I had the typical American guy who was loud and thought he was hilarious and that the guide was a dope. I avoided him and his kid who kept ramming into me as much as possible….
King Ludwig II started construction of this fairy tale castle in 1869, which continued until his death in 1886. He used his own money, not public funds, to fulfill his dream. He was a benefactor of Richard Wagner the composer - they were close friends and Wagner composed an opera based on some of the themes from this castle and area. Just a few weeks after Ludwig's death (found drowned near Munich after being declared unfit for rule), Bavaria opened it to the public, so it has never served as a royal castle in an official capacity.
Not all of the castle was completed over the 17 years, but we were allowed to see all the finished rooms. They were by far the most impressive of any of the castles I've seen. So intricate and obviously based on stories. Two of the major stories incorporated are Tristan and Isolde, and the Holy Grail.
Ludwig had only one profile portrait done of himself; the rest of the building he wanted devoted to other stories and people. The servants chambers were also pretty spacious - with two sharing a room the size of my apartment with their own sides of the room and a dining area in the middle.
The Throne Room was absolutely magnificent! I could not take my eyes away. There was so much going on - it was grand and beautiful and humble at the same time. There were Italian marble steps leading up to a nonexistent throne (it had not been made by the time of his death). The floor was made up of hundreds of mosaics with an animal theme. Paintings depicted the 12 apostles and other religious themes. The chandelier was made to look like a giant crown with 96 candles and weighing 2,000 lbs. The ceiling above the chandelier was my favorite part - a very elaborate sun. In addition, there were unobtrusive side doors and a second floor balcony overlooking the court.
Tristan and Isolde was the running theme for his bedchamber, with various paintings and sculptures based on this story. He also had very
intricate woodwork throughout his chamber, including representations of various gothic cathedrals on his canopy - it was very cool to see and apparently took the workers four years to make. He had his own private chapel, reading chair, and privy. The castle had its own septic system, so the toilet flushed! The sink was beautiful - swans were his favorite (and part of the basis of the castle name); there was a swan fountain head and due to the pressure of a natural spring 150m up the mountain, when you turned it on cold, fresh water came out.
Beyond the bedchamber was another large room - I guess his personal reading area. It is interesting to note that on the way to this room you walked through a "cave" that supposed represented some Venus theme. It was very interesting. Branched off the cave was a solar - an outdoor area where the king could get some fresh air and read. Anyway, the other large room had the running theme of the Holy Grail. Huge paintings depicting the scenes and individual coats of arms for the main players, like Arthur, Guinevere and Percival. In addition, swans were a sub-theme in
Amazing old man hikes up with his walker
Seriously, must have been 90 years old and this is three quarters of the way up!
Another impressive room we saw was the "Singing Room" where people like Wagner could perform - there was a huge stage in front. The acoustics were very well done. The 96 tiles within the ceiling represented the astrological signs. Also, the Holy Grail theme continued in here, with small "portraits" of Arthur, Guinevere, Percival, etc.
So, maybe the dude did have a fanciful mind, but this is truly a great, and in a way an unselfish work. It is too bad he could not live to see his dream. Leaving Fantasy Land
I had noted during the tour while glancing out the window that people were standing on a bridge across the way with an obviously incredible view of the castle. I had thought I heard Mary's Bridge was closed, but maybe not? According to my map it was a 15 minute walk, meaning if I hurried I could see the view and still meet at our stop down the hill on time at 3:30. So, I hurried through the castle, saw the cafe had no line so grabbed a pretzel and coke, and made my long, long, long way out - it seemed
to take longer to get out than the tour itself! When I finally got out, I saw the bridge was indeed closed. There was a giant gate and people were climbing around the sides. I stood there munching on my pretzel watching, debating on whether I should do the same. I probably watched for two minutes and saw at least 6 people fall hard on the icy slope. Nah - it really looked dangerous and slow going, but i was super bummed. A woman started shouting at the same time "there is a reason it is closed people!" I always wondered how people always seemed to die in these national parks and I guess this explains a lot of it.
On the way down, I got some more good shots of the castle as the snow was letting up slightly. Slightly. And oh my gosh - there was an old man, probably around 90, who was slowly making his way up the hill with his walker and obviously his family with him. He was about three quarters of the way up and I was so touched by this. Amazing! I also got a good shot of the other castle,
where Ludwig had spent his childhood: Schloss Hohenschwangau. It was also a beautiful building - the bright yellow in the white landscape was popping. I was actually a little annoyed about the tour at this point - I would have loved to climb up to this castle too. Maybe not take a tour, but at least get a closer look. But I was pressed for time, so contented myself with photos from afar. I also saw a trail that took you to Mary's Bridge another way, but it was a 40 minute hike. I seriously recommend staying here for a night so you can see more and see things early before the crowds get here. (Though I also think Radius Tours did a good job and delivered what they said they would).
I was able to get on the bus, but my guide did not. I was a little worried as he had my train ticket, but he hadn't done me wrong so far… When we got to the station, another guide from our tour office said that my group (blue) should wait for the next train at 4:30 while her group would go on the 4:00 ride. When
Keith got to the station, he led us outside and said actually the first train was packed, but the next train would be less crowded, we would get seats, and it was an express train with fewer stops, meaning we would be back at the same time. He was right on all counts except it was still crowded. Seriously - so many tourists! There had to be at least 5,000 people there that I saw. Obviously, Bavaria is making money hand over fist on this attraction. And you know what - it was totally worth it! Happily Married Couple?
Oh, when I was on the bus, here is the conversation I heard between a middle-aged husband and wife:
Him: So you got to see it. What did you think?
Her: It was fine.
Him: Are you happy you saw it?
Her: Can you put this in my pocket?
Him: Sure. Are you happy you saw it?
Him: Are you happy you saw it?
Her: It was ok.
Him: You can plan the next vacation then.
I've determined I'm still single because I am not
high maintenance and guys like this crap…
Steps walked: 13,516 (5.70 miles)
Tot: 1.055s; Tpl: 0.054s; cc: 25; qc: 120; dbt: 0.073s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 2.1mb