After a full day of beer drinking at Oktoberfest on Friday, we had opted to get out of Munich and do a little sightseeing on Saturday. This was both a good and bad idea. The good was that it prevented us from signing up for another day of beer drinking. The bad was that we had to get up early and navigate how to get to the little village we’d selected, all whilst suffering from a bout of cocktail fever.
Nevertheless, we boarded the correct train at the München Hauptbahnhof towards Fussen. We marveled at the hoards of people coming in that day for Oktoberfest.
The scene made us glad we weren’t on those trains coming into Munich. There wasn’t a seat to be had! Our train was busy, yet seats were available. We enjoyed the peaceful two hour ride through the Bavarian countryside.
We got off at Fussen and took a cab into the nearby village of Hohenschwanau. Towering above the town was the Schloss Hohenschwanau. This19th Century castle was built by Maximillian II of Bavaria. It is more famous nowadays for being the childhood home of King Ludwig II who built Neuschwanstein castle, the castle that Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle was modeled after.
Ludwig II built Neuschwanstein a stone’s leap away from his parent’s house, funded from his own fortune. He built the castle as a tribute to Richard Wagner, the composer. He wanted to make it feel like one of Wagner’s pieces had come to life in the castle, to make it a reality. That, and he fancied living in the Middle Ages. The castle helped bring these fantasies to life, creating a retreat which resembled Middle Age living, far outside the city of Munich.
Sadly, King Ludwig II never was able to live inside his castle. He was deposed of his throne due to mental incapacity and building stopped. Only about one-third of the rooms were finished. Shortly after, he died mysteriously in the shallow waters of a nearby lake. There is speculation about the medical prognosis due to the sudden and unexplained nature of his death. Some think that there was a conspiracy to take his crown. Only the shallow waters know, I suppose.
We were able to tour the castle because Olga had pre-arranged tickets. For those interested, I’d recommend her approach: buying tickets in advance. You can only tour the castle with a reservation on one of the official tours. When we arrived to pick up our reserved tickets, the wait was 4 1/2 hours to get a tour for those who had not.
The inside rooms that we saw were miraculous – amazing detail. Ludwig was very creative in weaving the stories of Wagner’s operas into the artwork, carvings, and castle floors.
Ludwig even thought to construct a man-made cave that lead from his bedroom to his dressing room, to mimic a scene of a cave in one of the operas. Olga mentioned this was the “original man cave” which drew a lot of chuckles from some of the guys on the tour.
After the tour, we took a lovely walk through the fall foliage and stood on Marienbrücke, Mary’s bridge, to take pictures. The bridge is a 15 minute walk from the castle. If you end up not being able to tour the castle, we would still recommend getting the vantage point from Mary’s bridge. It was pretty awesome.
We followed our experience by drinking some King Ludwig beer at the little restaurant Bräustübert, underneath the castles. As we’d hiked a mile on a steep uphill, had a tour, and made a stop at the bridge, all within lunch hour, we really were ready for some delicious German food. We all got some form of sausage or schnitzel which did the job of satiating our hungry bellies, along with the delicious beer.