Schwangau

by Colleen Morrow in


Monday was an early start as it was our day for two more of Ludwig II's castles - the one he spent his childhood summers in and the one he never saw completed.  Schloss Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwanstein, which are both located in the tiny village of Schwangau, nestled in the Alps.

Neuschwanstein is one of the busiest tourist stops in Germany. And that's because everyone knows it as Walt Disney's inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castles.  It's one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, as a result.  And so, it's pretty busy.  We booked our tour times for both castles well in advance so it was an early start on Monday so that we could make our 9:00am tour.  Sure, it doesn't sound like it would need to be an early day but you have to pick your tickets up at least an hour ahead of time (since there's about a 40 minute walk from the ticket office up to the castle) and we were about an hour's drive away.  The drive was smooth so we made it with plenty of time and soon were starting the walk up to Neuschwanstein.

You can only go into the castle with a tour, though you can wander around the grounds as much as you like without one.  The tour was a bit like being part of a herd of cattle.  It was a group audio tour so about 30 or 40 of us were given audio guides that were automatically started in each location as we were herded around the castle.  Neuschwanstein was nothing like Linderhof, the palace that Ludwig II had completed and lived in before his death.  Linderhof has been aptly described as a mini-Versailles and while Neuschwanstein did have a bit of that vibe in a few places, mostly, it felt more like a traditional Bavarian castle - with dark wood and heavy furniture. Building on it started in 1869 and still wasn't finished when Ludwig died in 1886.  He had spent so much money on the palace that he was heavily in debt when he died and it was opened for the public to see just months after his death.  It have never been completed.

The exterior of the castle was far more impressive.  Sadly, the famous Marienbrücke bridge is closed for renovation work so we weren't able to see the most famous view of the castle, which is the one from the bridge.  We did get pretty good views of the other three sides, though.

After we were done at Neuschwanstein, we headed into the Museum of the Bavarian Kings to learn more about the Wittelsbach family, which ruled Bavaria as Dukes, Electors and eventually Kings (when Napoleon elevated Bavaria to an independent kingdom.) Then, it was time for lunch, overlooking the lake and basking in some rare sunshine before heading to Hohenschwangau for our tour there.

Hohenschwangau is a fairly small castle.  It was built as a hunting lodge so only has apartments for the King, Queen and their children.  Ludwig's father, Maximilian II had rebuilt the castle before Ludwig was born so he grew up spending his summers at Hohenschwangau.  It's a pretty sweet summer home.  It's still owned by the royal family and they still use it from time to time.

After that, we headed back to our hotel, with a quick detour to a summer toboggan thing, very similar to the old ride up at Collingwood.  It was a nice little diversion and change of pace from all of our culture and walking.  Then it was on to dinner and a good sleep to be ready for the following day's hike!