When we were planning this trip, we realised that it was going to be the perfect chance to tick a place off our “to go” list. Staying in Kempten meant we wouldn’t have too far to drive and so last night, I crossed my fingers that we’d wake up to another fine morning.
As soon as I opened the curtains, I was thankful I’d rubbed that lion by the Residenz the other day! The forecast was good and those clouds were going to burn off once the sun rose.
Fortified by a decent breakfast, we set off to the South East. Can you guess where we’re headed yet?
The roads were thankfully quiet and we marvelled at the colours of this wonderful landscape as we left the motorway.
Those of you who know us well won’t be surprised to learn that we were the second people to arrive this morning. To hear that ours was one of the two cars in the car park and we were there well before anything opened!
Having parked the car, we looked up and gasped. There it was…Neuschwanstein, all wrapped in plastic.
Before we could do anything else, we had to go and buy our tickets, once again braving the various road building equipment to get there.
Getting here early was a Good Thing, because the tickets are timed and we were able to plan our day perfectly. The chap in the office recommended we visit the “other castle”, the one few have heard of, first. From there, we’d take the shuttle bus to Neuschwanstein and pick up the 1155 tour there. OK. Seemed like a plan.
We took a steady walk up to Hohenschwangau, then, enjoying the sunshine and feeling pleased we had our day sorted.
We had plenty of time before our timed entry, so sat and chatted on the ‘phone to Karin for a while. Her advice about not sitting in the front seats of the horse drawn carriage wasn’t needed because, sadly, the horses weren’t working today.
Unfortunately, it’s not allowed to take photographs inside the castles, so to get an impression of the breathtaking wall paintings and other treasures inside, you’ll need to follow this link. We were a group of around twenty of so with an English speaking guide and enjoyed the explanations of the decor. In one room, we recognised the legend of Lohengrin on the walls, spotting a swan here and there before learning that the swan was the motif adopted by Maximilian and his son Ludwig, who built these castles.
Having recognised that, of course, we saw swans everywhere (and of course, recognised “schwan” in all the placenames, too)
We caught another view of Hohenschwangau later, on our way up to Neuschwanstein. Isn’t this just the most beautiful countryside? We hadn’t walked all the way up here, but had caught the bus half way. How thankful we were later, that we had done that, for there were many more steps to climb!
Of course, this was the “main event”, we thought. We made our way to the entrance and remarked how much more solid it looks once one is up there at the gate.
This “fragile” failrytale castle appears to be nothing of the sort when close up, but a strongly built structure in several different materials.
Sitting in the yard waiting for our tour time, we watched hundreds of people arriving – a tour was leaving every five minutes and we couldn’t imagine how this place would feel in high season.
No photographs inside once again – because this would slow the tours down, we were told. Hmm. Ours lasted not much more than half an hour and though we saw all there is to see inside the castle, we felt we had been rushed through. This castle is mostly unfinished, so there are just a handful of rooms to see. These are lavishly decorated and again, the wall paintings are beautiful. The swan continues to be the principal motif here too, on door handles and carved into wooden furniture, though in a large group of about 60 people, there wasn’t really time to linger.
We learned that Ludwig II had built this castle in homage to his hero, Richard Wagner. The wall paintings referenced many of Wagner’s works and there was just one likeness of Ludwig himself in the place – though there were several representations of the composer.
Having seen what there was to see, we made our way out (through the gift shop, of course) and walked down the path back to the village.
This being Germany, half way down was a very nice restaurant offering lunch and snacks. We resisted the temptation to stop here and carried on to the bottom, fearing that once we stopped, we might find it hard to get started again! On the way down we congratulated ourselves on our decision to catch the bus up as we passed so many people puffing and blowing on the long, long upward walk.
But having reached the bottom of the hill and walked to the lake, this table seemed like the perfect place to take a breather. With such a view of the lake and the mountains, what more could we ask for?
The village was getting pretty busy now but we weren’t quite done. We’d seen advertisements for the Museum der bayerischen Könige and having seen the two castles and learned a little about the people concerned, we wanted to know more. This seemed the perfect place to do exactly that.
Newly opened just about a year ago, this was a model of its kind. We ran the gauntlet of a couple of groups of ladies with talkative guides and made our way through the very clearly laid out exhibits. We learned lots – about Maximilian and his two sons, Otto and Ludwig, then plenty about Ludwig’s life and mysterious death. We loved reading about Luitpold, whose work to restore Bavaria following Ludwig’s extravagance was so admirable and of Rupprecht, his grandson, who valiantly continued his his work in the face of adversity. We thought fondly of another Rupprecht we knew; a member of Karin and Jürgen’s family, who proudly explained to us the origin of his name. Having learned a little about the Crown Prince after whom he was named, we could quite understand that pride.
Having read such touching family history, so clearly told, I very much appreciated the note on the wall which said “Nehmen Sie ein Platz” (take a seat) and spend five minutes listening to Wagner’s Lohengrin. The blue robes in the picture were laid out in front of me and I marvelled at the exquisite goldwork border, the ermine edge and the faded blue velvet.
You might have guessed that, as we drove away, we were talking about our favourite parts of the day. The museum was undoubtedly up there. The two castles were amazing and did not disappoint, though having negotiated the buying of tickets, travelling between the two, walking up steep hills and countless stairs here and there (more than 160 up and then 160 down in Neuschwanstein alone), we realise that the time actually spent in each castle was very short indeed!
However, since the Marienbrücke was closed today, the facade of the castle was wrapped in plastic and there were no horse drawn carriage tours, perhaps we’ll have to come back?