Today we thought we would head towards the alps and find Schloss Neuschwanstein, another castle of King Ludwig II built in the 19th century, and along the way, drive the lower part of the Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse). With Helga all programmed, we made our way out and very soon we were on multilaned roads out of Munich. We were starting to require some fuel and thought, no problem, there will be somewhere on the way out. Nope. Surely there will be somewhere along the autobahn….. Nope. We were coming to the end of the autobahn at Landsberg and decided not to tempt fate and too the first exit we could find and decided to exit the autobahn.
Thankfully there was a petrol station (along with Lidl etc) as you entered the town. Landsberg was a very pretty little town on the river, which was flowing fairly swiftly following the rain over the weekend. It was also of ‘entry point’ for the Romantischestrasse. The road flowed through rolling hills and as we approached the Alps, the road started to go through winding mountain valleys, with small villages dotted along the river. The rain had started to come back in by this time, with the mountains becoming increasing shrouded in the mist. The coming out of the mist we caught our first glimpse of Schloss Neuschwanstein, jutting out of mountainside and the mist. From a long way off, it seemed small, but as we got closer, you could appreciate the size and the position of this castle. We made a pass by the town of Hohenschwangau, which lies between Schloss Neuschwanstein, designed and built by Ludwig II, and Schloss Hohenschwangau, which was where Ludwig II grew up (ie. It was mum and dad’s castle) . The town was littered with tourists and the parking was being charged at €7, so we decided that since the rain appeared to be lifting and the camp ground we were planning to stay at was only a few kilometres from Hohenschwangau, we would go andset up the van and ride the bikes back over after lunch. Excellent plan. We checked in (even though electricity was run by a separate guy to the campground - he came, unlocked the box, took a meter reading and gave us a docket…) The camp site was fantastic, right on the lake in Brunnen
. Picture perfect spot to have lunch. After finishing lunch, we loaded up and set off across the farmland to Hohenschwangau. The place was still overrun by tourists, and when we got our tickets, it was a timed tour ticket, so you have to be at the castle at a specific time for the tour. We got to the ticket office before 3pm, but the next English tour of Hohenschwangau was at 4pm and of Neuschwanstein was at 4.30pm. To cut a long story short, there is a 45 minute walk between the 2 castles and Neuschwanstein was the real reason we had come, so that was the tour. We parked the bikes and made our way up the hill, past groups of people coming down mutterring about the silly people who walk UP the hill to the castle (there was a bus or a horse drawn cart, but we felt like a walk). Made it to the top in good time and had a quiet cup of coffee and cake (it was still a cool misty sort of day) and wandered around the courtyard of the castle. Apparently Ludwig II planned this castle himself with the help of a stage designer rather than an architect and wanted the castle to be a romantic medieval castle. It was started in 1869, but was still unfinished at the time of Ludwig’s death in 1886. The rain started again as we made our way inside the castle for the tour. Inside, the castle was everything you would expect a romantic medieval castle to be. Long window lined corridors, the most magnificent throne room with giant mosaic floor and chandelier shaped like a crown, the rooms were all painted with scenes from Germanic mythology in Richard Wagner operas (Ludwig had a bit of a thing for Wagner)
. The ceilings were painted with medieval motifs, and they were all different from room to room. The bedroom had a bed with a canopy carved with various gothic spires from around Europe, and to top it all off, there was also a room, in the castle, made into a cave grotto (it was at this point that Rach said “He was off his face wasn’t he??? Answer of course being YEEEESSSSS…….but he was so lovable. ) In his office, Ludwig had a phone (the latest modern convenience) installed, however there were only 2 lines, one to Mummy and Daddy’s castle and the other to the Post Office in the Hohenschwangau (Rach was cacking herself at this, imagining Ludwig sitting by the phone ringing the post office going “This is the King, any mail for me yet” “Not yet your majesty” Hang up. Ring up 2 minutes later, “Any mail for me yet” “Not yet your majesty” “But I’m the king! There has to be a letter for me!…or a postcard? Go and check again, I‘ll call back in 2 minutes“… and on and on it would go….). The final Wagner inspired masterpiece was the Minstrel’s Hall, a large hall with purpose built stage, covered in painting of scenes from the opera Tannhauser. Apparently Ludwig only spent 170 days in the palace and didn’t like having visitors, hence the throne room was never used, the Minstrels Hall was never used. Off his face…..
The final part of the tour was through the castles kitchen, it was huge and surprisingly modern. We had a great time. After the tour, we found a little audiovisual display of the life of Ludwig II, who spent all the family fortune and was about to have the bank repossess everything when he was certified insane and taken away only to be found drowned the next day (with his doctor….weird…and nobody talks about it). After his death, the castle was opened to the public 6 weeks after his death and has been a tourist attraction ever since (including the inspiration for Disneyland’s castle).
We made our way through an exhibition of drawings and photos of the building of the castle, fascinating to see how it was put together. I was delighted by the men’s loo, with the best view I’ve ever had from a stand and point. After leaving the castle, we walked up the hill to the Marionbrucke, a bridge built across the gorge behind the castle so Ludwig could marvel at his own magnificence. The view of the castle, perched on the mountain top, with the views across to the lakes in the background is truly something to behold. (R: absolutely breathtaking - it is hard to imagine how magnificent this castle is - the pictures are amazing, but actually standing, looking over it listening to the water run over the gorge and take in the size and spectacle - add it to my list of ’very most favourite places in all of Europe’)
The rain was holding off to just a mizzle as we made our way back down the mountainside to the village. We could see Mummy and Daddy’s castle over on the other hilltop, and as we got lower and closer to the village, it sort of loomed up higher above us, with clouds hanging over like a sheet on the line. Once in the village, we decided to have a couple of Konig Ludwig Dunkels (which Kat teased us about later saying it was a ‘tourist beer’) and spotted a Pork Knuckle on the menu, so had to sample it. Unfortunately, it was what you might expect from a touristy spot. No crackle and not falling off the bone. About a 3 out of 10. Oh well.
It had started to rain again as we left to get our bikes. So funny riding our bikes across the farmlands and watching Neuschwanstein slowly disappear back into the mist and hear the sounds of cow bells tinkling away in the paddocks. What a fantastic day. Ludwig may have been off his face, but he left some fantastic castles, and what more can one ask of madness?
After days of rain, we awoke this morning to sunshine. We got ourselves organised to leave Munchen and push on and really hoped the weather would hold as Hans Bubi is beginning to smell a bit, well damp and musty.