Before my first Europe trip, whenever I used to think of Europe the first image that would always come to my mind was of a beautiful medieval castle – with high turrets and flags and surrounded by high Alps, waterfalls and a picturesque lake in the background. I guess that’s why I decided to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle and my first travel entry in this blog is also on it.
My first introduction to this castle was via a postcard that my friend Priya sent to me when she visited it. Since that day, that postcard has been on the bulletin board at my desk and seen at every possible free second in the day. So when we (my sister and I) finally decided to visit Munich we had to had to visit this Castle (since we could never pronounce the name and are still not sure if we pronounce it correctly), we call it the “Cinderella Castle” (rightly so as it is also the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s design of the castle in Disneyland, Florida).
This castle additionally intrigued us because of the strange history attached to it. It was built by the “mad king” – King Ludwig II of Bavaria and the theme is “stories and characters from the opera of Richard Wagner”. The King had ambitious plans for this and spent a fortune on the construction, but sadly he died “under mysterious circumstances” before it could be completed. This Castle is still incomplete and many rooms closed for public.
Unfortunately, the day we decided to visit this place was also the day that museums, etc were closed in Munich and as a result everyone in and around Munich (and the entire train) had decided to visit it. We had to change trains in between and on reaching Fussen took a bus (there were stops in between and also a Mumbai like traffic jam but we just followed the crowds). The ticket station is near the bus stop else you just need to move your neck slightly and look for a long queue.There are 2 castles here, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. Visiting the Castle grounds for both is free but there is a ticket for a visit inside. So we decided to see Hohenschwangau (where the King lived as a kid) from outside and Neuschwanstein from inside. And I think we didn’t miss much.
It took us 3 hours in a long queue to get this ticket and that too for a slot 2.5 hours later (I don’t know why I ever complained about queues in India). But once we got it the 2 victorious Indians were all set to hike up the hill (there are buses and horse driven carts available but on a budget trip, we decided to walk).
We first reached and saw the Hohenschwangau Castle, which is a short and easy 10 minute walk. It’s pretty and has some really nice views of the surrounding hills and the lake. But the best part of this Castle is that it provides the most breathtaking view of the Neuschwanstein Castle – atop the hill, half hidden in the morning mist and adding just the right amount of mystery to the place, which has so many stories attached to the King who built it and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death.
We then started our long 30 – 45 minute hike (based on your fitness levels) up the hill for the Neuschawanstein Castle. All along the way there were beautiful forests full of coniferous trees, which gives you an illusion of walking in a fairy tale time of long long ago. And when you finally start nearing the top there are beautiful views of the Alps and the surrounding countryside.
The Castle is beautiful and majestic on the outside and on our tour inside we saw most of the complete rooms where walls are painted with stories from those in Wagner’s operas. There are some interesting designs , carving and paintings inside the castle (unfortunately photography is not allowed). My most memorable item was a swan which was near the King’s bed. With this the King could get fresh alpine water straight from the Alps through the swan’s beak everyday. Some luxury I must say.
There is also a gift shop inside and you can buy postcards for friends and family members.
On the other side of the Castle, there is a bridge which provides the complete view of the castle and the entire neighbourhood. But we were too tired by then, shivering in the cold and had a long trip back to Munich; hence didn’t go there.
Overall – A must visit location in case you are around Munich. The logistics may seem tiring at first but it’s so well planned and organised that you don’t mind all the change in transportation.
Tips for Budget Trip –
* Check out the Bavarian ticket which allows upto 5 people to travel for a price of a single ticket.
* Book the Castle entry tickets online in advance. There is an extra cost for this but believe me its worth it.
* Walk as much as possible. There are beautiful views and you can save quite a few Euros (the charges of everything here are very high as it’s a highly visited tourist destination).