It wasn't long after we moved to London that we started thinking about what we should do for our first wedding anniversary. The initial plan was to go to Euro Disneyland outside Paris. But then, I had the idea that we should visit the real thing — the castle on which Walt Disney based his design for Sleeping Beauty castle — Neuschwanstein. Plus, it had always been on Teriann's list of places she wanted to go because her parents had a big picture of it on their bedroom wall for years.
Neuschwanstein (new swan stone/building) was built by the 'mad' King Ludwig of Bavaria in the late 1800s. Because it's not actually that old, it is in relatively pristine condition and makes the castles and fantasies of Disneyland seem miniscule.
To get there, we had to fly to Munich, a proposition that was laden with problems. Our flight was delayed several hours, and then the train from the airport to the city center was delayed. By the time we got there, we only had two hours before we had to get a train to Füssen, the nearest town to the castle with a railway station. It didn't matter that much anyway, since it was pouring rain. I still managed to grab a bratwurst and a delicious wheat beer!
Oh, how I love Germany.
We popped in a few churches (the famous twin-domed Frauenkirche is pointless but the barrel-vaulted St. Michael's is quite beautiful) and hopped on a train. Two travel-weary hours later, we arrived in Füssen, a cozy little town with a surprisingly turquoise river and not much else.
We had dinner at the restaurant in our hotel (delicious, of course!) and the next morning, our anniversary, took an early morning bus to the little tourist town at the foot of the mountain: Hohenschwangau.
Hohenscwhangau is probably one of the most quaint, beautiful towns I've ever seen. I could probably sit for days in a cafe or beer garden, looking up at the castle on the hill.
Okay, I should explain that across the valley from Neuschwanstein, there's another castle, Hohenschwangau Castle. Hohenschwangau, however, is also the name of the little town that lies in the valley between the two castles. To do the tour, you start with Hohenschwangau Castle and then make the trek up the mountain to Neuschwanstein.
So we started with Hohenschwangau Castle, which is no slouch itself. This is where Ludwig (the guy who built Neuschwanstein) grew up and lived most of his life.
To give you some sense of distance, here's a pic of Neuschwanstein on the next mountain over.
Also in the valley between the castles, at the end of town, is Alpsee (Alpine lake). The tall mountains in the background are in Austria.
From there, a bus took us up the mountain to the most popular lookout point for Neuscwanstein: Mary's Bridge (most pictures you'll find of the castle are taken from the next mountain over, which is considerably more difficult to get to). We were giddy with anticipation, because you can't see the castle as you approach the bridge. You see people ahead of you walk onto the bridge, though, watching their expressions change in amazement. At last we turned the corner and saw...
Yes, the entire side was under scaffolding. I'll admit my initial feeling was something like disappointment, but these pangs were superficial: even partially covered, it is a magnificent and awe-inspiring sight.
Still, we felt compelled to take this picture.
The whole region is incredibly photogenic, and even walking to the castle I couldn't resist snapping pics.
The view of Hohenscwhangau below.
And then we could touch it!
And then we were at the entrance!
And then we were in the courtyard!
Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us take pictures inside (I did sneak one but it didn't turn out), so here's some I found online. Absolutely unbelievable...
And there was even a cave!
All in all, I must say that it exceeded my expectations. It is an incredible and unique creation, and one that stimulates the imagination as much as the eyes.
Still reeling, we hiked back down through Pollatt's gorge, which, even had there not been a magnificent castle above us, had some great scenery.
The gorge trail led us back to Hohenschwangau, where we had lunch (fantastic, need I even mention?). And just before we reluctantly got back on the bus (to get back to the train to get to Munich), Teriann took what I think is our best photo of the castle:
We ended up in Munich with, again, only a few hours to spare, so after a quick (and forgettable) jaunt through the City Museum, we settled down for dinner in probably the best-known beer hall in the world: the Hofbräuhaus. What a way to end a spectacular trip, and, more importantly, a spectacular year.
As always, here's the link to the facebook album.