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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Thursday, May 5, 2011

It's castle day!  We had a great breakfast and our host let us take the leftover meat, cheese, and bread to make sandwiches for lunch.  She also had a couple bikes delivered to the house so we are going to bike today insead of dealing with the buses.  As Susanne puts it, tour bus drivers are "mean nasty people who all try to kill you." Ok then. The castles are about 5 kilometers out of town, and it was a surprisingly easy ride.  The ground was pretty level the entire way, we were a little worried after our Tuscan bike adventure.  I couldn't figure out why Jacki was going so slow, than after we got there we realized that my bike was definetly a lot nicer than hers.There are two big castles here, the first is Hohenschwangau and the famous one is Neuschwanstein.  They were both owned by the "mad king" Ludwig II.  He grew up in Hohenschwangau, than when he was in his early 20's he started building Neuschwanstein as a perfect medievel castle.  He died due to mysterious circumstances when he was 40 and only about a third of the inside of the castle was completed, but the entire outside was completely done.We got our tickets then took a shuttle bus up to Neuschwanstein.  It was crammed full of grumpy old people, but the walk would have been murder.  At the top you can walk to a bridge over a deep ravine with a river and a couple waterfalls towards the bottom away from the castle to have an amazing view of it with the countryside and lakes in the background.  They say that Neuschwanstein was what they used to design Cinderella's castle at Disney.  It is perched on a lone rock off the side of huge mountains.  The castle is painted mostly white with tall spires and towers.  Once you see it, you understand why they call it the fairytale castle.  The bridge was packed with people taking pictures, and luckily we were the only people that noticed that the bridge actually goes to the other side of the ravine.  On that side we found a sort of path up the side of the mountain.  It was steep and sometimes you had to climb with your hands, but it wrapped around to the front of the mountain overlooking the castle from the side and we were completely by ourselves.  It was awesome.  They only allow you to go in the castle with a tour, which isn't too bad since you get to hear about the castle in English.  The inside was almost as impressive as the outside.  Everything they took us to see was brightly painted and extremely fancy.  The floor in the throne room was a mosaic with over 2 million little tiles.  They said the woodwork in the King's bedroom took 14 woodworkers 4 years to carve.  The house follows the theme from a playwright of the time named Richard Wagner, and the King really took it litteraly.  Between a couple of rooms there was a cave that was a "grotto" from one of his plays.  It also had secret doors to a balcony on the side of the castle.  Overall, Neuschwanstein was absolutely amazing.  The castle itself was amazing, but so was the views from it, with lakes, rivers, mountains, and the flat countryside where you could see a bunch of small villages.  We couldn't have picked a better day.  It was sunny and warm, but not hot.
I forgot to finish writing the rest of this one...I'll finish it later. 
Sorry, sometimes I write these when I don't have internet and upload them later.
After Neuschwanstein we took the bus back down and toured the other castle nearby.  It was the castle that Ludwig II grew up in, and was in great shape having been completely refurbished about a hundred years or so ago.  It had electricity and an elevator.  The outside was painted yellow.  We had to take a tour of this one just like the other, and our tour was full of families with young kids so there was a lot of crying and pushing and loud kids.  This castle wasn't half as cool as Neuschwanstein and the tour seemed to take forever.  Once the tour was done we found a spot on the grass near the base of the castle for the small lunch that we had taken from our breakfast.   During lunch we watched the dozens upon dozens of paragliders that were circling the mountains.  They seemed to float for hours seeming scarily close to one another.  I had never seen anything like it.  Looked like fun though.  We fell asleep there on the grass for about 10 minutes so we could regain some energy for the rest of the day.
Since we had the bikes and it was a beautiful day and we were in an amazing part of the world we decided to try and take advantage of it.  There is a big lake that stems out from Fussen that is about 10-kilometers long and has a trail that follows around it.  The entire trail is 32 kilometers long and we decided to give it a shot.  We switched bikes so that Jacki could have the good one and went out from the castles into the fields. The wide open areas were blooming with yellow wildflowers as far as you could see.  The bike trail would then go between small towns with small white and wood houses to wide open farms with cow pastures where each cow had a bell that would ding with every step. We'd ring our bike bells as them in return. I think they liked that.
There were some difficult hills on the way up the lake, but nothing to complain about, especially compared to what we encountered in Italy.  It was a long way, but the scenery was amazing.  For most of the time if you turned around you could still see the castle perched on the mountain.  After an hour and a half or so we reached to peak of the lake which has a small outdoor food stand.  From the tables you could see the entire length of the lake.  We stopped to catch our breath and got a Radler and a bratwurst.  There was a tractor cutting the long grass next to the stand and I had to explain to Jacki what hay was.  
It was kind of hard to get going again, but we hopped back on the bikes and took of for the second half of the ride.  This way ended up being a lot easier.  We finally got to go downhill for a while and the path stayed close to the lake instead of winding and zig-zagging like the path did on the other side of the lake.  
Eventually we made it back.  We headed back into town a little later in the night but walked since we were so sore from riding, getting back on the bikes wasn't an option.  It was an amazing day though.  We were outside all day.  It was great to get our muscles working a little bit too, besides walking a lot we haven't gotten to do too much exercise.  Plus the great outdoors of Bavaria is just amazing.  
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Kris on

So scenic! Bikes, picnic, castles.... you both look tan and happy. Perfect European travel day.

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