Germany trip #3: Castles!!

We got up pretty early for a trip to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau -- two castles at the same location.  Both are so booked up and difficult to get into that you have to show up way early for your booked tour, and you're out of luck if you're late.  So we took a shuttle bus most of the way up the mountain, and walked from there.  Amazing, gorgeous views, just incredible.  It was either raining or hot, and I had to schlep my dang sweatshirt all day and only wore it a little bit (this was a theme throughout the trip -- mostly I was hot from the much higher humidity, and usually sorry I'd brought the sweatshirt). 

View of the town, Hohenschwangau, and the lake.

Walking up to the castle

The gatehouse

Just hanging out at the fancy castle

There is a waterfall into a gorge, but the bridge
is being repaired right now.

We hung around for a bit, waiting for our turn, and talked with a nice Dutch fellow who has a book of places to go and stamps each one when he visits them.  Really fun.  Masks were required for the tours, and we had left ours in the bus, so we paid 4 euros each for them (a good deal for the kiosk people!).  

Here we need some background on the Bavarian royals.  They liked building castles, but Ludwig II, often known as 'Mad' King Ludwig, really went all out on the castles.  He was a Victorian, mind you, born in 1845, and died at 41 in 1886, but he was raised on tales of knightly deeds and while he hated crowds and politics, he loved architecture and ideals of noble kingship.  He was eccentric -- though not insane -- and lonely, and also gay, and very devoutly religious.  He wanted to turn Bavaria into a land that would be a center of art, architecture, music, and culture.  He admired the last kings of France, and so he built an imitation of Versailles and called himself the Moon King, living in the shadow of the Sun King.  Neuschwanstein was his ode to knightly ideals, and prominently featured the story of Lohengrin (he was an admirer and strong supporter of Wagner).  Ludwig identified himself with Lohengrin and also with Percival.  He spent all his family money on his projects (which did bring lots of work and money to the impoverished countryside, which made him popular with the locals), and borrowed much more, but he wouldn't stop; he planned more lavish palaces in other styles -- Byzantine and Chinese and who knows what.  His uncle, afraid he would bankrupt everything, had him declared insane, and within a few days Ludwig was dead under mysterious circumstances, along with his doctor.  They were found in the lake, although not drowned.  OK, now back to our story...

Ludwig II of Bavaria

I had no idea what Neuschwanstein was like inside.  Every wall/ceiling/arch that can be painted is painted , with decorations or scenes from Lohengrin and so on.  I recognized a painting of a lady reading, which is on a book cover about education, above the door of Ludwig's own bedroom.  He put a grotto in nearby, it being Siegfried's?  Or somebody's grotto, just down the hall in the middle of a palace.  Not to mention private chapels, an incredible throne room that never got a throne, and a theoretical two-story knights' bath that never got built.  The whole thing is like Wagner and William Morris got really drunk and decided to build the best castle ever.  Poor Ludwig only got to live there for about six months, I don't think all at once.  (We couldn't take photos inside, so these are other photos.)

Lady reading a story

The Singers' Hall.  Every wall is painted like this.

Hiking back to the bus stop was grueling, being both sunny and uphill (the bus drops you off a little above the castle)..  We had lunch at a restaurant -- leberkäse and cold potato salad, with cherry stuff at the end.  Hardly anybody liked the leberkäse and it was at about this point that we realized they were going to feed us two meat-heavy meals per day.  They wanted us to get traditional Bavarian food, but it was kind of as if you wanted to give a guest traditional American food and gave them pot roast or a Thanksgiving dinner twice a day.  No actual Germans eat like that, and it was too much!  The breakfasts were stellar, though.

Only the first of many lakes, each more beautiful than the last

After lunch we had an hour to kill while half of the group toured Hohenschwangau.  We decided to wander around the village and started up a random road, but as we passed a hotel we saw that there was a gate and several police.  The hotel fellow explained that there was a meeting of prime ministers (!!) there and we should come back later.  He suggested we look at the lake, and we happily did that.  The lake is gorgeous, and has a trail around it that must be a wonderful day hike.  We only went a little way, and got back to the restaurant in time for the Hohenschwangau tour.  Hohenschwangau is a very steep climb, up a hill and a zillion stairs, and then once you're in there are more stairs.  The whole place is clearly a forerunner to Neuschwanstein -- Ludwig grew up there and his father had had it rebuilt from ruins as a fairy-tale retreat for his family.  Each room has a different story illustrated on the walls, or Germanic history, or 'women's life in the Middle Ages.'  The whole place is built with secret tunnels behind the walls for servants to make up the fires in the ceramic stoves, so that dirt never comes into the rooms -- and 'the walls have ears.'  It must have been a great place for two little boys to run around in!

View from Hohenschwangau

A courtyard

All the rooms have stories on the walls!  I like this home dec idea

We went back to the hotel and rested before dinner, but also decided to walk up to the grocery store, less than a mile away.  We found it and got some Ritter Sports and Lindors we'd never tried before -- there are way more flavors in Germany!  

Then we had a very long dinner -- tomato mozzarella appetizer, chicken(?) in mushroom sauce with spätzle and peas, and chocolate mousse with a slightly alcoholic berry sauce on top.  Luckily I had hardly any berry sauce and could easily dig in to the mousse.  Then we went to bed pretty early, because we had to be packed, ready to go, and out of our rooms by 6:15.


  1. Thank you for sharing this - sounds amazing but quite an ordeal to get in there with the crowds. Sorry about the heavy food. I would also have a tough time with that.

    1. I'd have to say that we were very fortunate, on the whole. Because tourism is only just barely starting up again, the crowds were not as large as they used to be, or probably will be in future.

    2. Why am I anonymous? This is Lory. My commenting is messed up everywhere lately. Anyway, yes, you were no doubt fortunate in that way! I look forward to more posts about places I probably will never get to see....

    3. Goodness knows. Sometimes it won't let me publish as myself, and this is MY BLOG!

  2. I visited Neuschwanstein over 30 yrs ago, and other than a couple of photos have no recollection of what I saw there. It was coming to the end of my summer tour through Europe and I was feeling castled out by that stage! So thanks for bringing a few hazy memories into clearer focus :-)

    1. There are so dang many castles. I'm not surprised they blur together!


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