For many, many years I’ve been wanting to see the castle that was the inspiration for the Walt Disney symbol. I’ve heard a lot of things and seen beautiful pictures and therefore had enough time and material to plan a good trip. However, don’t ever make plans without calculating that the weather probably isn’t going to play along. Next time I plan to travel around Easter; stop me!! I remember how last year, we drove along the Great Ocean Road in Australia in fog and rain and then a week later I spent my most freezing night in a tent somewhere north of Canberra. But I was kidding about keeping me from traveling. Perhaps it doesn’t look as picture perfect without sunshine but that doesn’t mean that all the places we saw were less impressive or the people we met less important.
So, before we left Switzerland, the weather forecast for the area Füssen/ Schwangau, where the castles are located showed rain clouds for the next three days. Therefore, I knew that we probably wouldn’t see the castle in dry weather anyways and thought we might as well go there on the first day and make sure that there would be a tour available for us. On the way there, we even picked up a couple of Swiss female hitchhikers for a while, who wanted to go to Zagreb. I hope they reached their goal soon.
At Neuschwanstein you can only visit the inside of the castle with a guided tour and you have to purchase the tickets for an exact time at the visitor center at the base of the hill or you buy them beforehand over the internet, where you have to pay an extra order fee.
Even though it was raining and a normal work day for most people, we had to wait in line quite a while. Also, because of the rain, there were no buses running up to the castle and the Marienbrücke (from where you have an awesome view on the castle) was closed because it was dangerous when the grounds were slippery. That sucked but we couldn’t do anything about it.
Equipped with our tickets we climbed the steps to castle Hohenschwangau. That was the summer residency of the royal family for many years. Neuschwanstein, which lies a little higher about a 40min walk from Hochschwangau was more like the playground of King Ludwig II. It was being built during 17 years to his special dreamy wishes. He then only lived in it for about 6 months before he died and then the castle already became a museum. So, the story behind it isn’t as romantic as the outside. It really looks like a princess castle out of a Disney movie and is impressive as it towers in the middle of the mountains.
When we started our first tour at 3pm, we were above all glad to be out of the rain for a moment. But it was really worth it to see the insides. Both castles were filled with pomp and expensive things. Especially the bedroom of the king in both castles was very impressive. Not that I could live in such a kitsch room but it was exactly how you imagine the chambers of a real king out of ancient times. It was as if we had entered a parallel universe. After half an hour, the tour was over and then we had 1,5 hours before our tour in Neuschwanstein started. We walked down to the lake, of which I am sure would be very pretty in sunshine. There are a few cafés and a small luxury shopping outlet which was filled with all the Asian tourists.
Slowly, we started the hike up to Neuschwanstein. Since there were no buses, it was a real pilgrimage of people up and down the hill. We needed about 30min until we reached the square in front of the castle and were passed by a few horse carriages that were going despite the rain.
There is a picture platform from where you have a good view on the castle and an impressive glance down into the Pöllatschlucht. Our tour in Neuschwanstein started at 5pm and apparently it was one of the last ones and most people were on their way home already because we were only 6 people on the tour and really could have a close look at all the treasures. This tour only lasted about 20min, since like I said, the castle had never been finished and you only get to visit about five rooms. However, it’s unbelievable how many details there are in these rooms and it’s a pity that such a glamorous throne roomis only used for tourists that walk through it. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the castles. From the window of the top floor, I could make out the Marienbrücke through the fog. There were some people on it that had climbed over the fence just to get a good picture of the castle anyways. We then talked to our guide for about 5min and then also made our way to the exit. When we stepped outside, we couldn’t believe our eyes; it was snowing!!! Plus, the ground was already covered with about 2cm. That must have happened within the last 5min because when I looked out of the window it hadn’t been snowing yet. Now, the walk down was even colder since our clothes were a little wet from the rain before but at least everything looked truly romantic now 🙂
We were glad when we finally arrived at our hotel and then chose to have a short walk through the pretty snow and enjoy a good pizza for dinner at il castello in Nesselwang.
The next day, it was as if the weather wanted to play a trick on us, because we were awoken by sunrays. The snow was still there but the sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly. The weather forecast had been wrong! Well, better for us I thought, because now we could visit one of the gorges after all. Yet again, luck was not on our side. The Pöllatschlucht was closed due to danger of falling rocks and the Breitachklamm was closed because there might be too much water now. Well, again we needed an alternative program. We chose to walk around one of the lakes. The scenery at Hopfensee was incredible, since the mountain panorama was mirrored in the water. The whole tour took us about two hours and gifted us with a strong sunburn.
With red heads we continued into Füssen to enjoy an Apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce (and have I mentioned all the good Bavarian beer we could drink everywhere?). With new strength we had a closer look at the historic buildings in the city and then walked to the artificial Lechfall.
Since the day was still young but we had definitely had enough sun, we decided to go to the thermal baths despite the nice weather we had now. Its name is Königliche Kristall-Therme and it indeed was royal. From most windows of the thermal bath you had an amazing view on Neuschwanstein and now with the sunshine it looked even better anyways. There were several basins with saltwater in them and many different saunas. This was the best thermal bath I’ve ever been to next to the Säntispark. The Säntispark is right near my hometown in Abtwil, St.Gallen and has a wave pool, awesome slides and a really nice sauna area. But the Kristaltherme in Füssen was more luxurious for sure. There was a relax room filled with real gemstones and like I said, the view on the castles was awesome.
In the evening it then started to rain again and the next day there was more snow and rain, so there wasn’t really any reason to stick around. Luckily, it’s only two hours from St. Gallen. Perhaps I’ll be able to stop by in one of the gorges one day when we’re on our way to Munich and the weather is better.