As we’ve mentioned in our previous Romantic Road blog post, Neuschwanstein Castle has been on our bucket list since our school days! So, it’s safe to say this visit was very, very exciting. The kind of exciting where you let out little screams in complete anticipation! We knew Neuschwanstein is a big tourist attraction in Germany, number one in fact, particularly in the summer, and so decided our best bet of seeing the castle without hordes of people was to go during the low season. What an excellent idea that turned out to be. Nothing can really prepare you for the beauty of this castle in the snow; we think this is probably Neuschwanstein at its best.
So, the first thing to note is that arriving at the castle as early as possible is key. We rocked up at 9.00am exactly, just as the ticket office was opening (you can only buy tickets from here, at the foot of both castles). This also seemed to coincide with the appearance of two large tour buses packed with Japanese tourists. We started to run, fast, as did the groups getting off the bus, it was kind of surreal but we kept going anyway and managed to beat the forming surge to the front of the queue *punches air*. We should say that when we were coming down from the castle at around 2.30pm, the queue for the ticket office was crazy, and so you really want to get there as early as possible. We can only imagine the crowds in summer! When you reach the ticket office, there are timed tours dependent on language. If you’re looking to visit both Schloss Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, the tour guide suggested leaving two hours between the start of each tour. This is mainly due to the walk between the two castles (we’ll get to that bit). As we needed to be in Munich for late afternoon, we opted for just the Neuschwanstein tour at 10.50am.
Now, the walk up to Neuschwanstein is around 30 – 40 minutes, dependent on your fitness. There is a horse and cart that run up and down (not massive fans of this form of transport) and to be honest, we were walking faster than the poor horses, so it wouldn’t save you much time anyway. We believe there’s also a bus that runs in the summer months. The walk is a winding road up the hill to the top. It’s a pretty enough walk, passing a few waterfalls and streams running down the mountain. Once at the top, you’re rewarded with panoramic views. The early morning mist was just clearing when we reached the top, it was so perfect it made you feel a bit tearful!
Ready for a bit of history? Here’s a quick run-down of the magical castle, which inspired Disney’s famous citadel (yep, it really is a disney castle!) Neuschwanstein was planned and commissioned by King Ludwig II, a deemed mentally unstable King with an obsession with Wagner and returning to the more traditional medieval times. Building began on the castle in 1869 but was never finished. King Ludwig II was declared insane and taken from Neuschwanstein in 1886. The next day, he and his doctor were found drowned after taking an evening walk. The actual tour of the castle, therefore, isn’t particularly long, around 30 minutes, as only a third of the rooms were actually completed. In fact, the King only lived in the castle for 170 days! The tour was made particularly interesting by our tour guide, who seemed to only speak in a strange sing-song voice, slipping between a German, Irish and strangely Australian accent. Maybe he’d spent too much time amongst Ludwig’s possessions! One of the most interesting rooms on the tour was the King’s bedroom. Perhaps not helping the mentally unstable claims, Ludwig only slept during the day and so had a night sky built into the top of his bed!
After the tour, we were desperate to go in search of that million dollar shot of the castle. To get this, you take a 10 minute walk (well, 10 minutes in warmer months) to Marienbrücke (Mary’s bridge). When we arrived we found the path to the bridge closed but had heard the day before that people were jumping round the fence to go anyway. So, after our tour, and filled with confidence having met another group of rule breakers, we jumped the fence and headed off. What ensued was the slippiest, snowiest, sweatiest and most painful walk of our lives. Turns out the path was closed for good reasons, it was essentially an ice rink! It took us 30 minutes to slowly slip our way there, taking out a few Japanese ladies in heels (what, just what) along the way. But, wow, it was so worth it. The view from the bridge is almost so perfect, it seems unreal, especially taking in the snow capped mountains. We stayed here for a good half an hour, just drinking in the views and mentally preparing for the long walk back. Just meters from returning from the bridge, I (Claire) took my biggest fall, sliding like a turtle on its back down the path. It was painful, really painful…but worth it.
The path also allowed us to take in another mind boggling picture-perfect scene of Schloss Hohenschwangau against the misty frozen lake. This part of Bavaria is simply stunning! We are so pleased we visited and it was worth every bruise and bump! A must on your bucket list if you’re in this part of the world.