. As it turns out, walking (while steep) was actually faster than taking a ride, we passed one group of Japanese tourists who thought Max was definitely photoworthy. Almost to the top of the hill, the horses stop to unload their riders and turn around. In the short wait before the family arrived, James found a German hat for Max which if it is possible made him even more popular. This time while the rest of the family went inside the castle, James and I made the extra hike to the Marianbrüke, or Mary's Bridge which sits behind the castle and offers a spectacular view of the castle and the rest of the valley. It was well worth the extra walk and is the location for the traditional picture of the castle. When we made it back on the road we set our sights on Oberammergau, a medieval town that is famous for its folk art and the Passion Play it hosts once every ten years. As the story goes, the town suffered huge losses to the plague and as part of a deal with God to end the deaths the town pledged to perform the Passion Play forever. Participation is limited to those who were born in the town or have lived there for at least 20 years, unfortunately we missed it by only a year. Our hotel balcony overlooked a downtown square with a great view of the traditional painted walls and was a great place to spend the night.
It was about 2 hours through the German Alps before we reached the base of the mountain that is home to Schloss Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwanstein. The first was originally a fort from the Middle Ages but rebuilt by King Maximilian II in 1832, while the second was built by his son, King Ludwig II in 1869-1886. Both have spectacular views of the Bavarian Alps on two sides, and the German town of Füssen below. While Della and her family went inside to tour the extravagant interiors of the castles, James, Max and I stayed outside and explored the gardens. It was a beautiful day, perfect for a little hiking (the castles are both on top of hills) or if you prefer you could take a horse-drawn carriage or a bus almost to the top of the hill and walk the rest of the way. In between the two castles we enjoyed a cold König Ludwig Bier at one of the restaurants, which was a welcome break in the shade on a sunny day. After our rest, James loaded up Max in the Bjorn and we set out for the hike to Neuschwanstein while the rest of the group waited for their carriage