At the end of Germany’s Romantic Road lies Neuschwanstein Castle- the Fairy Tale castle with sinister historical realities that looms above the small village of Hohenschwangau in close proximity to Füssen. I imagine that the Romantic Road would be an idyllic one; providing a beautiful journey through the Bavarian countryside and its scenes of tranquility. I imagine you arrive at the castle all doe eyed and positively skip up to admire its grandeur whilst radiating the sheer beauty of life itself under a backdrop of turrets and towers. I in fact imagine it to be the absolute opposite of the decidedly unromantic train from Munich that we descended upon that Saturday morning. We claimed the last two seats and spent the 3 hour journey sandwiched between backpacks, bikes and tourists a plenty. We waited an hour for a bus to deposit us at the foot of the castle and spent 30 minutes trekking up hill navigating not only hoards of people but mounds of horse excrement. If this was meant to be a Fairy Tale, I was more than ready to welcome in a happy ending.
First essential of Neuschwanstein- Pre. Book. Your. Ticket. After piling off the bus from the train station we went straight to the front of the line to collect our tickets from the ticket booth in Hohenschwangau. We looked pitifully at the hundreds of people in line who in turn looked pitifully back at us and our backpacks and the mountain climb ahead of us. There are pros and cons to all situations. Our pro was that the hotel we had chosen was literally (no, really) at the foot of the castle. The only one of its kind, in terms of proximity. The con was that in order to get to it, it was an uphill walk. A minor con, if ever there was one and made even less relevant by the fact I was sporting my super practical LBD. And let it be known there is nothing you can’t achieve in an LBD. The other con (in every sense) about the area in general is that you pay a lot for very little. Our hotel was a few (WiFi-less) rooms above a very poor/average restaurant and yet because of its location, they can get away with over charging/under performing. It’s a massive shame, but not a unique issue or by any means an easily solved one. However our priority was the castle, not the hotel and so for the purpose of this trip all was forgiven and we were soon trekking uphill (again) for the main event.
Our fleeting glimpses of Neuschwanstein had so far not disappointed and so when we finally rounded the corner to see it as a complete entity the magic of the place quickly resumed. It’s just as perfect as the pictures make it out to be. Only with a few more people around thinking the same thing. We soon embarked on our tour of the inside which operated with the expected German precision. It’s quite the operation and as each tour is so meticulously scheduled the experience did feel very scripted and robotic. However, what a place to explore…albeit with very careful supervision. The interior is elaborate to the point of being eccentric- a complete juxtaposition of the romantic and precise exterior vision. The story of Kind Ludwig II was a fascinating one and I left feeling in awe of not only his extensive copper kitchen utensils but the building and its history as a whole.
The vantage point/ photo opportunity everyone wants can be found on Marienbrucke- a clearly signposted bridge that’s about a further 10 minute walk from the castle. This is what we found when we arrived mid afternoon.
Persevere and that photo will be yours.
Deeming the castle “done” for the time being we decided to head back to hotel for a beer where Tom spent circa 20 minutes convincing me we were spectating a Hummingbird. Just as I was starting to doubt my knowledge of all that’s right in the world and begin to believe him the waiter soon confirmed we were in fact watching a “Hummingbird hawk-moth.” Almost as momentous and definitely worth taking 500 bad photos of, I think you’ll agree.
Bird watch complete we decided to call upon a taxi and head into Füssen for our last supper, as it were. Füssen is adorable; perfectly quaint and walkable with Bavarian charm a plenty. We descended upon Madame Plusch for a traditional dinner watching the world go by followed by drinks at UnFassBar. The German charm of the warm summer’s night was infectious and between the classical music pouring out of one of the many grand buildings and the one glass of Prosecco too many it made for the perfect last European evening.
However, the adventures weren’t quite over just yet. Determined to make the most of the hotel’s prime real estate we set our alarms for the ever unappealing 5am. Bleary eyed but camera bound we set off back to Marienbrucke where this time, this is what was awaiting us.
Happily ever after indeed.
And so, 23 days after our first journey it was soon time to make our last. Back to Munich we went for a brief stopover before the final flight to London and normality once again. With happy minds and hearts we bid farewell to Europe and the 2015 InterRailing adventure- who knows where our passports will take us next.
23 days, 11 cities, 1 incredible journey. It’s been a pleasure having you along for the ride.