After 38 years, I finally made it
Today’s castle-going journey is being split in to two separate blogs because I have too many photos, and suspect WordPress will collapse on me, which happens when I push it, which means Castle Nueschwanstien in one and Hohenschwangau (Hohen is Castle) in another.
A clear shot from the paved road up, where you can walk, or have a horse-drawn carriage (like Cinderella, actually, but without the slippers).
The shout-out to my 79 mom is important because it was she who gifted me a calendar of castles when I was twelve. On the cover was Schloss (Castle) Nueschwanstien, which seared itself in my mind as the end-all-be-all of castles, and places to visit. For years, I promised myself that when I “arrived”, I’d go. Little did I know it would take me decades to arrive! In truth, it wasn’t that I couldn’t have gone before. It was just a tad out of the way when I’d go to Berlin, Hamburg or Hannover for business and later, with Rog and the girls, heading to southern Germany never made the top five on our list. Today, we realized that we were a lot closer than we realized, which made our visit that much more…how shall I say, impactful (embarrassing would be another word). We shouldn’t have waited.
Fun fact: this castle is conventionally known as “The Cinderella Castle,” because Walt Disney famously said he modeled the castle the animated movie on Nueschwanstien.
Cinderella lives, just like Elvis
We were north about 90 minutes, the drive was fast, per usual, the traffic nil, despite us learning it was the weekend of a fair in the nearest town of Fussen. As a side note, we later learned the family history of the three castles I mentioned, and it was sort of “I’m going to out-do-you” mentality, regardless of the fact the parties were related. That made it all the more interesting.
An incredibly beautiful journey to the region, the town just outside Fussen and a pic of the mountains as we head to our destination.
The closest major town is Munich, but it’s not too far from Lichtenstein and Switzerland. On the Autobahn, time is always cut in half, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Arrival and parking was a breeze. Straight off the freeway about five minutes, in town, parking nearest the castle is to the right, with a sign identifying it was full, so we turned left, took a ticket and parked, front row. Tip: make sure you have 7 Euro in coins with you because they don’t take credit cards for parking and this can’t be purchased on line (we didn’t know this).
Tickets and prices
A short walk of five minutes to the one and only ticket counter, and another $28 Euro for two adults, as kids are free (at least 13 and under). Because we arrived at 2, our choices were limited for tours; either the Nueschwanstien or the Hohenschwangau Castle, but we couldn’t do both. We asked the ticket agent for his insight, and he balked. My husband, ever the man, leaned in, and asked, “if it were you, and it was your money, what would you do?” At this, the agent glanced around and told us the skinny.
“Take the Hohenschwangau,” he answered in a low voice. “The Nueschwanstien tour has 60 people for a 20-minute tour, and it’s so crowded you will hate it. The Hohenschwangau is limited to 20 people and a 35-minute tour, and it’s much better preserved.”
That was it. The translators are available in multiple languages, the most important being Mandarin from the number of visitors predominantly from China.
The view from the lot is top right and below, while the upper left is the building adjacent from the ticket office (which wasn’t nearly as pretty).
The journey up
Our time was in fact, very limited, because we were told the walk up to the world-famous castle of my dreams, Nueschwanstien, would take 30 minutes, unless we were going to take the horse-drawn carriage. None of that for us. Then we’d take some pictures around the external premises and inside courtyards, because it is open and free to the public. Only the tours charge a fee. We’d then have to go down, and walk back up the other hillside to Hohenschwangau.
Fortunately, the only sun on the way up is right at the base of the hill, the rest of the rather steep road is paved and in the shade. One shortcut on dirt stairs is available, and we watched an American couple and friend hand carry their stroller (with two kids) up the stairs—hundreds of feet. We were impressed.
By foot or carriage, the scenery is stunning
Sitting on the top step was a man drinking his bottle. He was in good spirits, inviting us to sit by him, but we thanked him and continued; stopping was not an option. I was going to reach that darn calendar destination!
Halfway up is a rest station, consisting of two restaurants and an ice cream station. Sweating profusely, we continued up, reaching the top in another 10 minutes. Once at the castle, you can turn left or right. Left will take you up and around an side of the castle that’s being restored; the west-facing side towards the valley and lake beyond. Then you read the massive entry doors, walk in (again, all of this is free). You can take pictures in the courtyard, or continue up another set of stairs which takes you to the “real” main square. This area reminds me of Robin Hood, where the King walks out on the deck to great the crowds, but without the king.
The first thing you see from the base of the castle.
Back down the stairs you go, and those taking the tour look to the electronic sign identifying the next group. Through the turnstiles you go. The rest of us walk down, then back around the other side of the castle. It does have an overhanging, metal grate with invisible decking for pictures to the east, overlooking the rushing river below. It was freaky and awesome at the same time, and I thought I was going to get crushed by the onslaught of foreigners with selfie sticks, all battling for the corner spot. And I thought us Americans were bad!
The main castle entrance
The “bottom” entry courtyard, which requires one to walk left, and up the stone stairway to the courtyard
The main courtyard on one side….
And turning around is this opposite facing…all the views are to the valley
What I liked most
The castle is all I imagined it to be and more. In both this castle and Hohenschwangau, the artifacts are original, not replicas. If you’ve not been to lots of castles (we’ve visited 15 or so thus far), it might surprise you to learn that most everything inside is a replica, because the value is high, as is the risk of damage or theft. It’s just fun seeing all the gifts from other royalty and such, knowing they are the real deal.
Coming down from the castle…
Nothing that can be changed. It was disappointing to hear from the staff that it’s overcrowded, the tours so big and fast—but even this I have to defend a bit. We learned more from the staff that tourists had taken too many liberties with the original items—from silverware to lamps, coats of arms, porcelain etc., and event destroying items on the wall. For that reason, about 90% of Nueschwanstien is closed off. What a bummer, but it proves the sad saying true: the actions of the few destroy it for the many. GRRR
Absolutely. It’s a feat of mankind for a person to have a vision for a castle perched on a hillside as well as the fortitude and engineers to design and construct the structure.