Becca Jane St Clair

Personal Blog

European Road Trip – Day Two: Neuschwanstein and Setting Up Camp

[Finally blogging about our trip to Germany and Austria we took in September 2010!]

Today was THE day. I was finally going to see what we affectionately dubbed “my castle”. I blogged about this all the way back in December 2009 when we started planning our trip, though at that time we had been planning on staying in Germany and not Austria. In between December 2009 and going on our trip in September 2010, our plans changed A LOT…but the one constant was always going to be visiting Neuschwanstein.

Neuschwanstein has been the inspiration behind many artists, poets, writers, and….animators. Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World is partially based on Neuschwanstein. It’s no surprise…the castle is gorgeous. Even without going inside, I would have been completely satisfied with my visit having finally gotten the chance to gaze upon “my castle”.

I printed directions before we left the UK to get us from the hotel to the castle, and they seemed to work pretty well. At one point, we were driving on a tree-lined narrow road and I could catch glimpses of the castle through the trees. We pulled over and discovered a path through the bushes (obviously well-travelled by other visitors!) and I got my first in-person look at Neuschwanstein. It took my breath away and nearly had me in tears. We got back in the car, drove about 100 feet, and stopped again, this time to take a photo of the OTHER castle near Schwangau, Hohenschwangau. These two castles are within yodelling distance of each other. We did not tour Hohenschwangau that day, as my main focus was getting to Neuschwanstein, but we will go back and explore it on another trip. There’s so much to do right in that small area I could see us easily planning a week just staying right in that area.

We finally reached the castle grounds. You need to purchase your tickets before you get up to the castle at a special ticket booth (located next to one of the many souvenir shops!). This is also where you would purchase tickets for Hohenschwangau, as well as a combination ticket for both castles. After you have your ticket, you can opt to walk up the mountain, take a bus, or ride behind a horse-drawn carriage. As much fun as the carriage sounded, we opted for the bus ride up and the walk back down, figuring down would be lots easier than up! Tickets are for timed entries depending on what language you want the tour in (tours are offered in German, French, English, and then a multilingual tour where you walk around with a device similar to a mobile phone that translates into something like 30 languages), so you really need to watch how you get up to the castle and make sure there aren’t long queues! In fact, we nearly didn’t make it on time as the first bus to come down filled up with everyone ahead of us, leaving us standing about 5 people back from the front.

The bus drops off right near Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge), a very rickety wood and iron bridge that goes over the gorge giving you a perfect view of Neuschwanstein. Tim braved the bridge despite his dislike of heights to take a few photos for me. The bridge is still a decent uphill walk to the castle gates, so we had to get on our way quickly so we wouldn’t miss our booked slot.

Tours start from the courtyard. You can’t take large bags into the castle, so they offer lockers you can rent. Tim and I knew this ahead of time and left our knapsacks in the car, stuffing water bottles into the camera bag and my handbag. Each tour has a number attached to it and a barcode on your ticket. When your number is called, you have to go to the barrier, insert your ticket, and go in. When our tour was called, there was a mad (rude) dash to the barriers and I nearly got knocked over twice by people who seemed to think they had to be first.

Before I tell you about our visit, let’s talk about Neuschwanstein. The castle was built in the 19th century by a man who is better known as Mad Ludwig. It was intended to be his personal refuge, however he died while the castle was still being constructed. Ludwig wanted his castle to be a fairy tale castle and to pay tribute to Richard Wagner, and so all of the rooms are decorated to represent his musical works. Ludwig also had a slight obsession with swans, and there are multiple swans in every single room – carved into furniture, worked into the paintings, and even carved into the crown moulding. In fact, one of the first things you see when you walk in is a life-sized swan sculpture. Neuschwanstein means “new stone swan” in German.

Photography is not permitted inside the castle, but I did find a website with some interior photos.

The other people in our tour group continued to be rude. It’s really a shame, but some people just didn’t have the patience to wait their turn and were pushing and shoving at us. At one point, Tim and I even got separated by a crowd of people because they managed to push by me. It’s a castle, for crying out loud! It’s not going anywhere! Despite (or in spite of, take your pick) the rude tourists, we still had a great time. I was in awe. At one point we were looking out some windows at the scenery below, and I asked our tour guide if it was all right to take some photos looking out the (open) window. She gave me permission, so guess what happened? Yep. About a dozen people in our group all went over to the window and started taking photos and I had to wait until they were done before I could go take mine. Not that the guide wouldn’t have given the others permission, but it just really rubbed me the wrong way to have that happen when I was the one to ask about a picture!

At the end of the tour, you can take a self-guided tour of the kitchens on your way to the gift shop and cafe. The kitchen was amazing, and I couldn’t help but dream of the kinds of meals I’d cook if I had that large of an oven and hob at my fingertips! Once again, we ran into an issue when we tried to use the cafe. Tim and I didn’t know what was going on and there weren’t any signs, so we stood there by the counter waiting to place our order while one of the workers did something away from the counter (but saw us). Tim and I both assumed that since she saw us, she would come over to serve us as soon as she was done. Not so. Three ladies walked in behind us, got in front of us, and started calling for the woman’s attention. We thought we’d get served before these ladies because the woman had seen us waiting, but no. She goes and gets the food those ladies ordered, and then goes back to her other work, completely ignoring Tim and I. Not ones to hang around where we’re not wanted, we left and decided to grab food at the food and drink stands dotting the perimeter of the castle.

We started walking down the footpath taking photos and Tim was trying to find a spot to set up his camera for a self-timed shot. Ironically, a British couple heard Tim and I talking and asked us to take their photo in exchange for them taking ours. Worked out perfectly! We started hiking down the mountain and found a footpath to follow that went through the woods. It was dotted with benches, so we had someplace to stop and rest if we needed to.

By the time we got to the bottom, we decided it was time to head towards Austria. We had booked a few nights at Camping Hofer in Zell am Ziller, and we had about a two-and-a-half hour drive to get there. Since we’d be setting up camp, we wanted to make sure we arrived while it was still daylight, and the office at the campsite closed at 7PM. If we arrived later, we’d have been forced to find a B&B for the night. Arriving in daylight also gave us the chance to see what shops were available near the campsite. Fortunately, we passed a Billa supermarket on our way.

We arrived while it was still daylight. One of the very odd things about where we were was the complete lack of a sunset. I think it was because we were in a valley completely surrounded by mountains on all sides. The sun must have been behind a mountain. Tim and I just barely managed to get everything set up and Tim was blowing up the mattress as it started to get dark. I fished out a torch (US: flashlight) and managed to make us cups of tea and instead of going back out to Billa, we decided to eat whatever we happened to still have in the cooler that night. A review of the campsite will be made in a separate post.

We had an amazing day! Tim really spoiled me on this trip, and day three was to be another day of my choice – Swarovski’s Kristallwelten

And the photos…oh, you know you want to look!

If you click on the photo once, it will take you to that photos page. If you click on the photo again, you will be able to view it full size. I have no idea why WordPress made it so complicated!

1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. falnfenix February 12th, 2011 15:22

    i didn’t realize “your” castle was inspiration for the castle in Disney…nor did i realize “my” castle, the Alcázar in Segovia, was also inspiration for it.

    neat. 🙂

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