A Fairy Tale Day
Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
110Trip End Nov 22, 2005
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A Fairy Tale Day
The big attraction near Fussen is Schloss Neuschwanstein, possibly the world's best-known castle. What do you mean you have never heard of it? I expected much more of you. Well if you saw it, you would recognise it, as it is the castle that Walt Disney based his castle in Disneyland and in the Disney Movies on. That's right- the Sleeping Beauty castle.
King Ludwig of Bavaria created Neuschwanstein in 1869 when he wanted a medieval castle that recreated the world of Germanic mythology immortalised in the operatic works of Richard Wagner. (It was widely believed that he had a big crush on Herr Wagner. After visiting the castle I think there is doubt he had the hots for Wagner.) Getting to the castle involves a steep thirty minute walk up a hill upon which the castle sits
Each room in the castle is magnificently decorated (Ludwig used a stage designer rather than an architect in the creation) and many rooms are themed according to Wagner's operas. There is a room full of swans, a replica cave, a medieval room all of which correspond to a different opera. The rooms look fabulous and a lot of work was put into them. For example Ludwig's bed has a wooden canopy with carved figures. It took fourteen skilled woodcarvers four and a half years to make this canopy. That gives you a sense of the efforts that went into the castle. The unfortunate thing is that Ludwig only spent 170 days in the castle and it was never properly finished. He died in mysterious circumstances shortly after he moved in and work on the castle was ceased. Still he remained a popular King as he used all his own money for all his castles (he has several throughout Bavaria) and more importantly due to the enormity of his projects he employed a lot of people.
The forest surrounding the castle has many walks and we spent a couple of hours exploring these. For the first time in nearly a week the sun was out (I guess those clouds finally made it through immigration and left Germany) and it was a very pleasant day
After lunch Lizzie did the same thing to us again. Obviously she loves the autobahn as she took us back to it, resulting in more backtracking and a lot of swearing from me. What should have been a nice leisurely drive through picturesque Bavaria turned into a long and frustrating afternoon as we backtracked over half of Germany. If you traced our route on a map it would have looked like spaghetti. Lucky we weren't in the Amazing Race as we would have been well behind. Especially with Lizzie's detours. Eventually just after six pm we made our destination for the night- Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
This medieval town would be close to the most beautiful little place either of us had ever been to
Rothenburg was a rich town due to its position on European trade routes and had prospered for centuries. Then in 1631 the Catholics came to the Protestant town as part of the 30-year war and started fighting. Due to the city walls, Rothenburg was heavily protected and doing well in the battle. However they had just 4000 people fighting against 40,000 Catholic troops so it took a lot out of them. To combat the enemy they were going through a lot of gunpowder. After three days they had almost run out so a young man decided to go to the gunpowder reserves high up in the tower and get some more. He went into the reserve but it was dark so he lit his torch.
Rothenburg only had two casualties in the war- the bright spark that lit the bright spark and someone who was standing too close to the resultant explosion
Towards the end of the second world war the Nazis knew the end were coming and began to flee. One of their leaders fled to Rothenburg to hide. (I can't remember his name so lets call him Bad Guy) The Americans found this out and prepared to bomb the city to kill him. However a high-ranking dude in the US Army (Good Guy) heard about this and rang the commander in charge of the bombing and told him not to proceed. The reason - Good Guy's mother was one of the tourists who had come to Rothenburg in its resurgence and loved it. She brought home souvenirs and photos for her son and told him all about the city. As his mother liked it so much Good Guy didn't want it bombed and thus made the phone call that saved Rothenburg from destruction. Fascinating stuff really.
I learnt all of this (plus more) on a night tour we did of the city, led by an entertaining man dressed up as a nightwatchman. This guy had a good gig. There were about 150 people on this walking tour who all paid four Euros each. On top of this many bought books and DVD's from him so he was raking in the cash. He runs two tours a night, every night of the week so he would be earning a small fortune. I think the money he makes was the most impressive fact that I learnt tonight.