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When we first started planning our trip, Leslie and I each made a list of the places we definitely wanted to see. High on Leslie’s list of priorities was Neuschwanstein Castle, a 19th-century Romanesque Revival castle overlooking the tiny German village of Hohenschwangau.
Two Tickets to Hohenschwangau, Please
Getting to Neuschwanstein was quite the adventure. You can’t get a train all the way to Hohenschwangau, so the plan was to take the train from Salzburg to Füssen, a town just across the German border from Austria, then hop on the bus that would take us to Hohenschwangau. But when we got to the train station, we discovered that the train we had booked tickets for had been cancelled. The refugee crisis in Europe was in full swing, and train travel across the border had been suspended that morning. We had to take a bus to the first train station across the border (and have our passports checked by German border patrol agents), take a train from there to Füssen, and then take another bus to Hohenschwangau. It was a wild and crazy ride to say the least.
Leslie: At least it was a fun adventure rather than one that left us feeling stressed and out of our depth.
And the view along the way was absolutely spectacular. I am definitely a fan of the Bavarian region.
Welcome to Hohenschwangau
The bus from Füssen to Hohenschwangau takes just 10 minutes, but it only runs every hour–and the schedule doesn’t line up with train arrival times, which would be the smart thing to do. But perhaps they do it that way so you’ll go explore Füssen a bit before you head on down the road. Local economy and all that. The line of people waiting for the bus included two girls from Canada, like me. They were from B.C. and didn’t think Alberta (my homeland) is very pretty, though, so clearly they were insane. 😉
We had a designated time slot for picking up our tickets to the castle and, thanks to the train adventure and the unanticipated hour-long wait for the bus, we just barely made it in time. But we did make it, and then we hurried over to the depot for the shuttle bus that would take us up the hill to Neuschwanstein. I had originally planned on taking the €6 carriage ride to the top (see: my obsession with love of horses), but the ticket lady said it would take an hour and we didn’t have time. I found out later that she was wrong, though, so booooo.
Leslie: For how out of the way this castle is, I wasn’t fully expecting the large number of people in line for tickets or for the bus that took us up the hill to the castle. The official website says “In the summer around 6,000 visitors a day stream through rooms that were intended for a single inhabitant.” So I guess I should have realized it would be busy and crowded and that we would have to wait around in long lines for our tour time.
First View of Neuschwanstein Castle
From the bus drop off toward the top of the hill, we still had to walk a little ways up to the castle. We didn’t mind, though, as it gave us a fantastic first glimpse of Neuschwanstein through the trees, and it was great to stretch our legs after so many cramped and crowded seats on public transportation. It also gave us a great view of the surrounding mountains and valleys, like these:
Tickets to the castle designate a specific tour time, so we waited in the courtyard until our turn to go in. It gave us plenty of time to enjoy the view, and the exterior of the castle itself. We couldn’t get any pictures of the whole castle because unfortunately, Marienbrucke (Queen Mary’s Bridge, pictured above), where people stand to get said shots, was closed for repairs. But Neuschwanstein is gorgeous from any angle, so it was no biggie. I mean, look at this place! Walt Disney used Neuschwanstein as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle, which is funny considering I don’t think they look very much alike at all. And don’t tell Aurora, but I like Neuschwanstein better…
We weren’t allowed to take pictures during the guided tour, so we will forever and always have to remember Neuschwanstein with just the pictures we were able to take in the courtyard (and the ones we can see on Wikipedia. Shhhh.) The castle is like a fairy tale, both inside and out, with lots of incredible detail and new things to discover. It rivaled Pena Palace for making us feel like we were suddenly living in a fantasy world.
Leslie: I loved that there was plenty to see and get pictures of outside while waiting. The tour was great and informational; it was just fast paced enough that I wasn’t bored and only in a few rooms did I wish we had more time to hang around and look longer. You already know I love seeing the period furniture staged in the rooms, so that was a huge plus to me. The grotto was unique, and I liked that we got to walk through the kitchen at the end with all of the different tools and things on display.
During our tour, we learned that the castle was commissioned by the enigmatic Ludwig II, who ruled over the Kingdom of Bavaria from 1864-1886. He was fascinated by the arts, especially the work of Richard Wagner. Most of the interior decorations at Neuschwanstein were based on Wagner’s operas, including Tristan and Isolde and Lancelot and Guinevere. Ludwig paid for Neuschwanstein (and his five other castles) with his own private fortune instead of taxing the people.
I felt a strange sense of connection with this King Ludwig II, and I did some reading about him when I got home because I was so fascinated by him. Ludwig never wanted to be king, but he was well loved by the Bavarian people after he ascended to the throne at age 18. He was painfully shy and hated public functions, so his castles were designed to be a refuge from the real world—hence the fairy tale atmosphere. His own family and ministers forced him to resign by having him declared insane, and the very next day, he died under very suspicious circumstances. It wasn’t until a modern analysis of his autopsy that it was discovered he may have had a schizotypal personality disorder and Pick’s disease, a type of neurodegenerative disease that causes dementia and loss of language.
The only place on the tour where we were allowed to take pictures is the balcony on the west side of the castle. As a result, it was crowded with lots of other visitors, all trying to get their selfies with lake Alpsee in the background. And I don’t blame them. The view was amazing. Leslie and I patiently waited our turn, snapped some pictures of each other, and enjoyed the incredible scenery. Ludwig, buddy, you certainly know how to build a castle.
Leslie: I wish we could have spent more time on that balcony. Can you imagine that view in your life every day? Visiting Neuschwanstein was a lifelong dream of mine, and it didn’t disappoint! I’m glad it gets so many visitors, because everything from the rugged hill it sits atop, to the surrounding mountains, lakes, and Castle of Hohenschwangau, to the outer architecture, to the ornate rooms… even the “modern” conveniences they talk about on the tour like having running water, central heating, and electric bells and telephones to summon servants… all of it was stunning.
- Neuschwanstein Castle
- Official Site
It is highly recommended that you buy your tickets in advance.
- Price: Adults €13
- (5 / 5)Our Rating
Neuschwanstein isn’t the only castle that calls Hohenschwangau home. There’s also Schloss Hohenschwangau (go figure), built by Ludwig II’s father, King Maximilian II. We didn’t have time for a tour of this one, but we took a few minutes to admire it as we walked down the hill to our hotel. It looked very pretty all lit up for the night.
And you know what else looked very pretty all lit up for the night? You guessed it. Neuschwanstein.
Leslie: It was so cool to have a view of the castle from our hotel room window so we could enjoy it lit up at night. This whole place was a 5-star stop for me!
Sweet dreams, Neuschwanstein. You’ll be in our dreams forever.
Read more about my trip with Leslie here.
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