We All Have Our Issues

Trip Start Aug 20, 2012
Trip End Sep 24, 2012

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Tuesday, September 18, 2012

After breakfast at Hotel Uhland, it was off to the town of Fussen, a two-hour train ride away south-west of Munich. We dropped off our luggage at our hotel, conveniently a mere block from the train station, then headed back to catch a short bus to visit the region's star attraction: The castles of "Mad" King Ludwig. The most famous of these is Neuschwanstein, which is likely what most of us picture when we hear the words "fairytale castle" (also thanks to Walt Disney, who used the castle as inspiration for his Cinderella castle). We would also be visiting Hohenschwangau, which is where Ludwig II spent his childhood years.

Upon arriving we picked up our reserved tickets and got some lunch while waiting for our entry time at Hohenschwangau. What else but more sausage? This makes me pretty happy, but Sukh's getting pretty tired of all the wurst. Sukh had some standard pork bratwurst, while I had some weisswurst and a pretzel - yay! Then we made our way up to the yellow castle on the hill. Hohenschwangau was built by Ludwig's father King Maximilian II on the site of a ruined castle from the 1200's. It was the family's summer hunting retreat. Both castle visits come with a tour guide and the tour of Hohenschwangau was actually in some ways more interesting than that of Neuschwanstein, as it gave additional insight into Ludwig's tragic life. Ludwig and his younger brother had almost no contact with their parents, being raised and schooled by nannies. Ludwig's younger brother was declared insane in his early 20's (what we now know is schizophrenia). Ludwig assumed the throne at only 18 and had little real political power, since Bavaria was at the mercy of either Prussia or Austria at that time. All in all, not really setting the stage for success.

While Hohenschwangau's decor wasn't changed extensively by Ludwig, you start to get an idea of just how eccentric he was. In his bedroom, he had the ceiling painted to resemble the night sky (normal), then had 300 completely clear crystals inserted to be used as the stars (extravagant, but still kind of normal). Each night his servants had to go into the space above the ceiling and light individual oil lanterns for each star so that they would shine (now we've reached eccentric).

After touring Hohenschwangau, we walked back to the town, stopping for photos at the Alpsee lake. The area is really gorgeous, with clear blue water, trees and mountains, and the quaint traditional villages. Next, we caught the shuttle bus up the hill on the opposite side and were dropped off just above Neuschwanstein. From here we walked over to Mary's Bridge, which is directly across from the castle and offered fantastic views. The exterior of the castle is really beautiful and lives up to the hype, in my opinion. Next, we toured the castle interior and got a feel for just how "mad" the king was. He was obsessed with Wagner's operas and each room was painted with scenes from different operas. The castle is almost one big opera set, having first been designed by a set-designer, and only after, an architect. Ludwig never married and was almost hermit-like. I read that while living at Linderhof, another of his castles, the staff would prepare dinner and set the table, and then it would be lifted up through the ceiling to his dining room above. He would eat alone and not see any of the staff. He also had a huge theater where he would watch Wagner operas performed for only him.

While Neuschwanstein was still being built, he had already begun plans for a new, more extravagant castle. I'm amazed just to what extent he lived in a fantasy world; I suppose many people do this in various ways, but when you have the financial means, you can really build your fantasy and retreat to it. In the end Neuschwanstein was never completed and Ludwig only lived there for 172 days. Bankrupt and still spending, he was declared insane and unfit to rule, and taken away from his beloved castle. Only two days later he was found dead in a lake; while ruled an accidental drowning, murder or suicide were more likely, but no one knows the truth. I just think he was such a sad, sad figure who met a mysterious and awful end.

With all of that said, I think maybe some of Ludwig's craziness may have rubbed off on me. I'm thinking of establishing an organization called the PAA: Pretzel Addicts Anonymous. Seriously, I think I have a problem. I had three today! And I probably could have had more. For the record, these were the smaller ones, not the gigantic one I had yesterday. But they're just so good! To be clear, this organization is for addictions to traditional German pretzels, not those awful soft ones they sell at food stands back home, or the crunchy bite-sized ones. These pretzels are chewy and crusty on the outside and just soft enough on the inside, and sprinkled with coarse salt. Even better with some good mustard. *Drool*....If you want to become a member, contact me for details.

After the castles we checked in at our hotel; our room is definitely the nicest one of the trip so far. Guess you get more bang for your buck in small German towns! We had dinner at the hotel's Bavarian restaurant. Sukh had the schnitzel (which was just ok) and I had the "kaesespaetzle". This is the same egg noodle/dumplings I described yesterday that we had as a side dish, but is a meal in itself with the addition of melted cheese and fried onions. It's basically German macaroni and cheese, and it's incredibly rich and delicious. At this rate, the food in Germany is looking to be more dangerous than Italy (and that's saying something)!
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