There are a few experiences money just can’t buy – watching the sun set behind Mt Fuji on a day when her peak is clear from cloud, finally being able to see priceless works of art in the flesh such as the Sistine Chapel to truly appreciate the skill, picnicking in Southern French garden sunshine with the resident cat miaowing at you or actually visiting all of the Monopoly Board London Streets in a day.
And then there are day trips that are tourist essentials where you expect chaos, and find yourself pleasantly floating in crystal clear Alpine waters wishing you never had to go back to the stresses of real life.
We were pre-warned that Neuschwenstein Castle is a Bavarian tourist trap, and almost never isn’t swarming with creatures that stop mid-stride, talk at the top of their voices and have more souvenir shops per square foot than Charing Cross, but lured in by the history and story of mad Kind Ludwig II, I wanted to go anyway.
King Ludwig’s story is one of a broken family, inherited mental health problems, architectural genius, an obsession for swans (Neuschwenstein is dotted with swan artwork – one of his rooms has over 150), a vivid imagination, almost pathological shyness and from 1875 on he lived at night and slept during the day, staying as often as possible in the mountains until he was certified as insane and he passed away in suspicious circumstances.
“I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others.”
On our visit, leaving behind the crowds in the busy parking lot (there are a couple of family castles that can also be visited) we walked up the hill towards Neuschwenstein. Leaving Mr Kiwi to enjoy the fresh mountain air, I took in the guided tour through the unique rooms created solely for Ludwig’s use – even the servants had separate hallways running alongside. From an ornately carved bedroom to a man made cave and private theatre room, the castle that inspire Walt Disney’s cartoon glory was curious to say the least.
Perching the building on a cliff side, when King Ludwig did emerge into the light of day (only when duty or Mozart called) the vista over the Fussen village and valley is breathtaking. And worth every minute of the steep walk (it’s also bus-able) up the hillside.
Emerging from the castle and expecting to see my husband waiting for me, at this point I not only realised I had lost my Mr Kiwi, but accidentally woke my cousin in New Zealand (it was 3am their time on a Tuesday) attempting to call him via the wifi connection. Apologising profusely and vowing to send her flowers when we got back to our hotel, after 20 minutes of him not picking up and deciding it was a lost cause, our tour guide and I began to make our way back down towards
Grilling our tour guide as we made our way downwards – he met his beautiful German bride in Thailand who lured him across from Chicago – we turned one of the many corners to discover my love quite happily enmeshed in a stein of the finest Bavarian lager. We laughed to realise that he didn’t know about the cafe I thought we had agreed to meet at, so hadn’t moved from his chair…
Glad to have not actually have lost him, we wove through the tourist crowds (donning our London commuting demeanour to dodge the selfie sticks) towards cool relief.
We hadn’t quite counted on our trip to Neuschwenstein Castle being the
hottest day of our trip to Munich, the needle hovering around 31°C (88°F)
or the equivalent walk up 62 flights of stairs (the 40 minute walk up to
the castle) but it made taking a dip in the cool, crystal clear,
glorious lake waters afterwards of one of my favourite moments of our
Yep, this was our pool for the afternoon. Inhabited only by swans, dragonflies, a few mall fishes darting about and one polka-dot clad Kiwi blogger (note the fashion stylin’), everyone along the shoreline was stripping off and diving in (even down to undies for those less organised – I had put it into our spreadsheet…)
Spot the little fish? This is half an eye-sight test, half concentration span test.
Oh, and their letterboxes are pretty epic to boot.
Just one more moment to revel in the peace of a mountain-fed lake.
– Pack swimwear
– You don’t need to go on an organised trip, just pre-book the castle tour online, and buy a Bayern train day pass on the day you travel. At the time of writing it’s €27 + €5 go each for up to 5 adults. Rock off the train and onto the busses that wait outside the station.
– Don’t pick the 10 am train from Munich or returning at 5pm to Munich. It’s PACKED.
– Enjoy. I’d love to revisit in winter too, to see the peaks shrouded in snow.