Trip Taken: 2005
Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The birthday cake castle. The fairy tale castle. Whatever moniker Neuschwanstein has gathered over the years, it is still one of the most iconic German structure there is. It is still one of the top attractions in Germany, even if it is in the southern reaches of Bavaria. It is the last stop on the Romantischestrasse (‘Romantic Road’), which consists of little towns along the Bavarian Baden-Württemberg border. It could also be considered the first stop depending on which direction you are coming from.
Getting to Füssen from Stuttgart is a journey in itself. Of course the very first stop would be Augsburg by way of the Regional Express train. Then we take another regional train to get to German-Austrian border to reach Füssen. The journey took a total of about two hours to get there.
Füssen is actually quite a small town from what I remember. There is a small center that contains residence buildings, stores, a church, and the town hall. Walking from the train station to the town center you would think no one lived there due to sparse number of people there. I wondered where all the tourists were. Then I heard the roar of a bus. And then another. Almost everyone else was getting here by tour bus. We were the only fools walking. Neuschwanstein is actually a mile or two away from the city center of Füssen, so not too bad. My travel companions didn’t want to pay the extra euros to take the city bus to the base of the castle so we walked through fields and wooded areas. We passed a nice looking barn house with a cow wearing a sizable bell. We also passed a sign that had some Japanese writing on it. Guess they’re really trying to market it to Japanese tourists.
The parking lot where the buses parked contained a lot of gift shops and some restaurants. It was an uphill climb from here on out. It is a short hike but a hike nonetheless. There was a horse and buggy available for rent for those trying to re-create a romantic setting. Neuschwanstein is actually next to another castle called Schloss Hohenschwangau. This was Ludwig II’s childhood home. Ludwig II was the one who commissioned Neuschwanstein for his friend and muse, the composer Richard Wagner. There was a combination pass for both castles so we took the opportunity to do so.
Schloss Hohenschwangau is actually much bigger than Schloss Neuschwanstein as the latter was never fully completed from my understanding. Ludwig died before seeing its completion. Hohenschwangau is nicely maintained and its yellow exterior is quite a spetacle to be seen. There is no photography allowed in both of the castles so my memories of it are quite spotty. When comparing Hohenschwangau to Neuschwanstein, the former is more like the other castles in Germany. Stately parlor rooms and sensibly decorated bedrooms are the norm here. However, Neuschwanstein is more extravagant than Hohenschwangau. It is much like the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England in its fantasy and exuberance. There is a grotto in the middle of the castle between two bedrooms and a beautiful ballroom at the end. The guided tour seemed a little short and I wondered if there is more to the castle. Even though I couldn’t take any pictures of the inside, I got some great shots of the view to the towns below us.
At the end of the guided tour, we took a hike through the hills to get the Marienbrücke. It’s a bridge with a stunning side view of the castle. It is probably the most photographed view of Neuschwanstein as it is, in my opinion, the best view of the castle short of hiring a helicopter.
Visiting Neuschwanstein is something I believe every person who visits Germany should do. It has the most relevance to public fantasy about what a castle is. I think a lot of that has to do with Disneyland’s castle. As a starting point to the Romantische Strasse, it is as good a point as the other end city of Würzburg.