In case you are interested, here is a bit of history on Ludwig II as we eventually visited all 3 of his incredible castles and it might help to have a bit of background knowledge. Ludwig II was known as “mad” king Ludwig. He was betrothed at one point, but broke it off after many postponements. Ludwig II was a great admirer of Louis XIV and XV who reigned in France almost 200 years previously; he liked the idea of being an absolute monarch (and not being answerable to a parliament) and dedicated many of his elaborate rooms to them.
He had Neuschwanstein built as what he thought a medieval castle should be, but it was far from reality. Neuschwanstein was originally designed by a set designer and secondly by an architect. Only Linderhof castle was actually completed, as he died before the other castles were finished. Since he had so many outstanding debts to the state, the castles were not continued after his death. Towards the end of his life, Ludwig II became a recluse and started living at night and sleeping during the day. Ludwig II was declared unfit to rule several days before he and his doctor were found drowned in lake; no one is sure how exactly they died. Six weeks after his death, the castles were opened to the public for viewing to begin paying off his debts – that's Austrian practicality for you!
Our first tour was of Hohenschwangau, which stands for “high land of the swans”. This castle was where Ludwig II grew up and planned his castle of Neuschwanstein. We arrived in the courtyard and wandered through some of the gardens before heading through the gates. There were several other groups of tourists waiting for their number to appear on the screens. When it did appear, you scanned your ticket and walked through the turnstile into the waiting room. We were lucky enough to only have about 8 people on our tour which made perusing the rooms much easier.
Unfortunately, you can only visit the castles on a rushed 35 minute tour and you aren’t allowed to take any photos. We got a good introduction into Ludwig II’s life and enjoyed going through the various rooms. There were many gifts given to the previous king, which were on display. A particularly neat one was a contraption that could dispense 6 different liqueurs. It had 6 different spouts and was done in a gold dragon motif. There was also a really neat billiard table and a reading chair with a book rest built in. I guess books were heavier in those days…
After the tour we wandered around the rest of the gardens and admired the fountain in the courtyard. We could look over the edge into the parking lot below, counting 25 tour buses and our tiny van in the midst of them. Luckily the fog had cleared and we were able to get a great view of Neuschwanstein, scaffolding included! We didn’t have a ton of time before our next tour so we set off on the road up to the next castle.
For any Amazing Race followers, they were here a few seasons ago and half of them went to the wrong castle (Hohenschwangau). They then had to go on the tour looking for their clue before realizing they went to the wrong one and running off up the hill to the correct one (and consequently ended up a great deal behind the leaders!). We did not have to charge to the top and instead enjoyed the walk among the fall colours with horse-drawn carts passing us every few minutes.
When we reached the top we had a great view of Neuschwanstein. We were glad that they had decided to scaffold the other side since this one was much more impressive and we would have been disappointed to miss it. We headed in to the courtyard which was filled with people waiting for their tour time. I can’t imagine what the crowds would be like in the summer! This time our tour was full with about 60 people. Neuschwanstein is the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s logo and is much better known, and more impressive, than Hohenschwangau.
The tour led us through some unbelievable rooms which were incredibly ornate. We went through the king’s apartments which were some of the only rooms to be finished. His bedroom was done in wood and the incredible amount of detail took 14 carvers 4 years to complete. He also had a huge reading chair with a book stand in the rooms where he enjoyed reading. The throne room had over 2 million mosaic tiles in the floor creating amazing patterns and scenes. The room was incredible, but lacked the throne itself since it was never completed. We also went in to the Singer’s hall that he had built in order to listen (alone) to his favourite Richard Wagner operas. Ludwig II was a huge fan and patron of Wagner and used many sets from his operas as inspiration for rooms in his castles. The hall was incredible and they now use it on occasion for concerts.
After the tour was over we headed downstairs past the unfinished level and stopped off to watch a film on the designing stages of the castle and which elements were meant to be built, but were left unfinished. We also got to see the kitchen which was amazing. The stove was huge along with enormous fireplaces for cooking various meats. There was a beautiful display of copper pots and cookware all set out. We were disappointed to find out that there wasn’t a postcard of the kitchen available at the giftshop!
After the tour, we were hungry so we stopped off at a little stand which was selling huge, soft pretzels and as a souvenir you could get a cup of coffee in a Neuschwanstein mug , which was then yours to keep. Anoop was quite keen so he enjoyed his coffee while I enjoyed my pretzel.
Feeling somewhat satisfied we headed up towards Mary’s bridge which had amazing views of the castle. On our way up we heard music and as we crested the hill we were greeted with a man in traditional garb playing a really neat instrument. We stopped to listen for awhile before continuing on our way. The views from the bridge were impressive and with all the fall colours, we could see why fall and winter shots featured on so many postcards. From the bridge we continued down the path past the waterfall which was really pretty and then back to the parking lot. We felt that walking out over the bridge and down below by the waterfall really gave us perspective on what a gorgeous setting the castle had built in.
We then drove back to Reutte and seeing as it was still nice out decided to stop by the medieval ruins of Ehrenberg which were only a few minutes from our campsite. We hiked up a really steep hill to get to the top and wandered our way through the ruins.
It was interesting to see them and our guidebook was helpful with which rooms were used for what. It had been attacked several times and you could see the other fortresses they had built around it on other hills to protect the area. We then wandered back down the hill and headed to camp. We were so thankful for the amazing weather since we knew the forecast for the next day was rain.
October 9, 2012
We woke up to a wet day and decided to take a day off from touring and catch up on a few things in camp. We had paid for internet access the night before and had until 6 pm to use it. We figured it would be a good time to catch up on the blog and emails. We puttered away on things in the morning until the weather cleared up after lunch. We walked in to town to look into getting a sim card for the phone, but decided not to get one since it was fairly pricey for such a short amount of time. We stopped by a few shops and found a nice fleece blanket to curl up under in the van since the weather had started cooling off. We also stopped by a bakery to get some apple strudel. Unfortunately they were out, but the lady recommended two different apple desserts. We enjoyed one with tea when we got back to camp and the other for dessert; both were delicious!
We woke up to a beautiful sunny day which was a wonderful sight after such a wet drive the day before. We set off across the non-existent border into Bavaria, Germany to see the castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. Our guidebook had mentioned a "Bavaria castles pass" which included Neuschwanstein and several others which we would be visiting in the next few weeks. The pass was valid for two weeks and we could visit as many of them as we liked. We figured that for 40 euros, it was a bargain since we only had to see 2 castles to make it worth our while. We arrived in the town of Füssen to fog. Both castles were almost completely covered in fog and we hoped that by the time we had toured the first castle, the fog would lift.