Woke at 7am. It is cloudy and cool. The perfect day to see castles!!!
Yesterday afternoon, my DH made reservations to see the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles. We were told by our hotel clerk that all visits to the castle are done via tours, we would need to reserve a time slot for a tour and pick up the tickets an hour before. So, after a nice breakfast at our hotel (cereal, juices, coffee, cold-cuts, and rolls with the texture of soft and salty pretzels), we walked the 15 minutes into Fussen to catch the 9:05am bus to the castles.
These two castles are the main attractions in Fussen, the bus ride lasted only a few minutes since they are so close. At the ticket office where we picked up our tickets, there is a sign the says “Visiting these castle will be difficult for people with disabilities.” To be honest, visiting these castles can be difficult for anyone!
We went to the Hohenschwangau Castle first – this is King Ludwig’s first castle.
The walk up this hill to the pretty yellow castle was not bad since there were a number of flat switchbacks in route. These allowed us to catch our breath and take pictures of the valley as it unfolded before us. Still, it was a climb. Once we reached the top, it was not long until our tour group number appeared on the board, our tickets were scanned, and we entered the castle.
I could not take pictures in the castle but I must tell you – the paintings on the walls and woodwork are gorgeous! They depict scenes from medieval stories of kings, queens, knights, and ladies-in-waiting – just like you would see in a child’s book of fairly tales. I loved them!
After the Hohenschwangau Castle, we took a leisurely walk down the hill to the village. We could not have asked for better weather as we strolled down the shady pine walkway next to an emerald green lake called Swan Lake (yes, it really exists). Here are a couple of pictures:
Once in the village, it was time to take the bus up the mountain to see the Neuschwanstein Castle. This is King Ludwig’s second castle. He built it because he and the family needed more room. This castle is also known as the “Disney Castle” for it was this castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle. Unfortunately, most of it was covered in scaffolding to undergo a much needed face life. Yeah, I was bummed!
The Neuschwanstein Castle is on higher ground than the Hohenschwangau Castle. We could walk there (up a steep and long hill) or take a bus. We decided to save our legs and take the bus. We paid for a our bus tickets and took our place in the maze leading to the bus boarding area. We almost made it onto the next bus that arrived down from the castle. The bus was packed! We could see peoples’ butts pressed up against the doors and windows! We couldn’t squeeze in so we decided to wait at the start of the line for the next bus.
After a couple of minutes, we heard a commotion behind us. Two tourists had started a fight! Two guys were in a bear hug but soon arms were flying! The next thing I heard was the slam of the metal gates going down in the bus ticket office! The young (and petite) German ticket lady had run out to stop the fight! She did a pretty good job of separating the men. As she tried to explain to them the proper way to wait in line, they took a final lunge at each other before they settled down. My first thought was “where are the security guys – there were three of them at the main ticket office!” Frankly, after more than 80 days on the road, I am surprised that fights like this have not happen more frequently. Tempers flare when it is hot, when schedules need to be met, and when you are not really sure what you are supposed to be doing. This is the life of a tourist.
My DH and I were able to get on the next bus up the mountain and up we went! It was a long and winding rode. People crammed in the bus like sardines in a can. When we finally reached the top of the hill, the bus opened its doors and exhaled, everyone popped out into the coolness of the shade under the pine trees. Unfortunately, we weren’t at the castle yet. Looking at the sign, there was yet another hill to be climbed! So climb we did but by this time, we were going to be late for our tour!
Getting to the castle was not easy. First, we had to work our way through the horde of people at the visa point. Everyone and their uncle wanted to have their picture taken in front of the wide scenic view of the valley below. I was able to duck and weave through the crowd to squeeze off a couple of pictures myself but where did by DH go? Oh, there he was, a few dozen yards down the path with a look on his face that said “Are you coming? We’re going to be late!”
The walk to the castle took a while. Our reward for the effort was yet another walk up a hill to the entry of the Neuschwanstein castle. In all, the walk took at least another 20 minutes, just like the tourist guide said it would. However, we made it to the castle on time for our tour. I was able to take a few pictures of the valley and the exterior of the castle (trying to avoid the scaffolding as much as possible).
The tour of the Neuschwanstein Castle worked the same as the tour in the Hohenschwangau Castle, you wait for your tour number to appear on the board, you put your ticket in the reader, and you walk through the turnstile. However, today there was an angry Italian women yelling at the top of her lungs! Apparently, her ticket did not work in the turnstile and she was yelling at her husband who was safely behind the turnstile and walking to join the tour. Best I could tell, there was no one official for her to talk to about her faulty ticket. Her husband looked dumb-founded as he stood on the right-side of the rope as she shrieked on the wrong-side of the rope. Eventually she just slipped under the rope and joined her tour — no one stopped her from doing that either.
OK, I told you I loved the painting in the Hohenschwangau Castle – well, I loved the painting in the Neuschwanstein castle too! Same subject, same style, same artist – but more! This castle is much larger and has many more stairs to climb (guide book says 300 steps) but it was worth it! This is a magical place!
After the Neuschwanstein castle, we decided to walk down the hill and back to the Village since it was a beautiful day! The walk was steep. The walk was long – the maps they give you really don’t do the distances justice! We met people coming up the hill that wished they had taken the bus. They were breathing hard and resting on any rock they could find. We passed a fit young man on his bike and he was breathing heavy, sweating, and resting against a tree. Men, women, children, and dogs – whoever thought they would save 1.80 Euros on bus fare was having a hard time on this steep climb. They were blissfully unaware that it was only going to get worse. Our casual stroll down the hill took about 30 minutes and was hard on our knees.
Once we arrived back at the village, we had lunch – fried fish, sausages, a soft pretzel, and beer. We deserved it!
We caught the bus back to Fussen at 2:41pm with the intention of taking a boat ride on the Forggensee Lake. We have a visitor’s card and the boat ride will be free for us.
Whew – it was a long walk from the bus station to the boat landing at the southern tip of the Forggensee Lake! For such a small town, there are huge distances between one place and another!
We arrived at the boat landing just in time for launch. Our visitor’s card was gladly accepted and we were on the lake in a matter of minutes. Out on the lake, there was a nice cool breeze which made sitting on the open-air top of the boat really pleasant. Overall, we were out on the lake for about 50 glorious minutes. Here are some pictures:
After the boat ride, we made the long walk back to Fussen. We went directly to the Old Town center to look for a nice place for a drink before dinner. My DH wants me to state in this posting that it took me 30 minutes to find a café that served my favorite Campari Spritz. Once I found one, we planted ourselves there for next hour and a half! I enjoyed my cocktail. My DH read his financial feeds on his iPod. We were happy campers!
Around 7pm, my DH has a hankering for pizza. TripAdvisor suggested a restaurant close by to our café, so we went there. My DH ordered a Mushroom Pizza, I order Spaghetti with Meat Sauce. Both were hot and good. They filled us up for the long walk back to our hotel.
We were back at the hotel around 8:30pm and we were both dead tired! Since 9am, we have walked up hills, walked down hills, made our way to the lake and back, and searched for and found cafes and restaurants. Tonight, we will sleep like babies in a cradle of the Alps!
Quote of the day: “This map can’t be right — 20 minutes, really?” — Anna to DH on our walk to the Neuschwanstein castle.