Friday, August 24, 2012

Neuschwanstein for Newbies

"Look, there it is!" shouted hubby as we neared Neuschwanstein.

"Where?" I asked. I don't see anything except a big building covered in gauze.

"Well, that's it," he said, "they're probably rennovating or something."

"Hmmm," I said, unimpressed with this image rather than the one we often saw in magazines and on the internet.

The highly touted tourist attraction Neuschwanstein Castle in southwest Bavaria, Germany, was built for King Ludwig II in the late 1800's and attracts thousands of tourists each day. This year, we were among them.

Some Germans fail to see the appeal, particularly since this castle is far from old by European standards. So, what is the cause of all the hype?

Simple, I deduced. It's the idyllic setting and the exquisite scenery of the area. The fact that the Disney, Sleeping Beauty castle was modelled after it doesn't hurt either.

We arrived late in the day and stayed at a local Ferienwohnung (holiday residence). The trek up three flights of stairs with our luggage was worth it when we were greeted by this lovely loft. The furnishings, decor and architecture were exquisite. We even had a balcony with a view of the mountains.

Here's the gorgeous scenery when the sun set. Just to the left of the middle is the castle Neuschwanstein and on the right is Hohenschwangau castle, inhabited by Ludwig II's family when he was a child.

We were very fortunate that we received some good advice from one of the local residents. This helped save us from a ticket line which by 10 a.m. was several hundred metres and several hours long. It looked in part like this. Tickets must be purchased at the bottom of the hill and are not available once at the castle site.

The castle tours begin at 9 a.m. We had been told that it's best to go to the ticket booth immediately when it opens, 8 a.m., purchase the tickets for a designated time, then go for breakfast after. It was a fabulous suggestion. At 8 a.m. there was already a line but I only waited for about 20 minutes and selected an English tour for 10:55 a.m. The ticket sales person said we should give ourselves an hour to get to the castle. This gave us plenty of time to have breakfast and return for our tour. The cost per person was 11 Euros. We received a slight discount with a card from our previous night's accommodation. There are also combo tickets available for those who wish to tour both castles.

The methods of ascending and descending the hill included hiking (45 minutes), taking a bus for a cost of 1.80 Euros up and one Euro down, or going by horse and buggy.

We opted for the bus, rode up and then walked back down after the tour. I expect that later in the day, there would be long lineups for the buses as well. After the bus drop off, there was still a ten minute walk to get to the castle. Also, at the bus drop off, it's possible to go to the bridge, Marienbr├╝cke, where you can view Switzerland on one side and the castle on the other.

As we approached, the castle looked like this.

Photography is not allowed inside the building but pictures can be found on the internet. We received a tour of the first and third floor. The second is not complete. There were many stairs to climb and the tour lasted about half an hour. Memorable were the many murals on the walls. They were representations of Richard Wagner's operas. It is said that King Ludwig admired Wagner's works greatly and was a patron of his work. Chandeliers, golden arches and elaborate furnishings abounded. Most impressive was the phenomenal kitchen which we saw on our way out.

As with many tours, it ended in a gift shop. We determined that the shops along the pathway up and down the hill were less expensive than the castle shop.

Here's more of the magnificent scenery from the castle grounds.

It was a beautiful day and a memorable visit.

***Here's a good site for further information -                                              

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