Today, we departed from Munich via train to Fussen, which is home to the Neuschwanstein Castle in the beautiful region of Bavaria. We were blessed with a stunningly beautiful day to see the castle built by Ludwing II, King of Bavaria. In 1864, at the age of 18, he became King of Bavaria and ruled until his death in 1886, at the age of 41.
Ludwig was very eccentric. Some called him the “mad king.” Because of his eccentric nature, his gradual reclusiveness away from other people, and his extravagance, he was eventually declared insane. He was a patron of the composer Richard Wagner, with whom he shared a very intimate relationship (yes, raise some eyebrows).
The debts he caused the people of Bavaria and the unease he caused his family and his attendants didn’t affect us much today, as we first gazed upon the absolute splendor of the castle he built. Ludwig II was actually raised in Hohenschwangau Castle, but he had bigger dreams – and today we were able to see the beautiful Newschwanstein Castle he built up in the mountains, much higher elevated than Hohenschwangau Castle, which we could see from the window of Ludwig’s masterpiece. Before coming here, we also read that Neuschwanstein Castle serves as part of the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland in California.
To get to the Neuschwanstein castle, we took a tour today with Radius Tours, which we met at the Munich Main Train Station (which is only a few minutes walk from our hotel, the Courtyard Marriott). The best aspect of doing this with the tour group is that we got to skip the very long queue for the bus that takes people up to the castle. They told us that this time of year the castle has about 10,000 visitors per day. The tours are very organized by time and everything flowed very smoothly. Our German tour guide, Sabina, who addressed us in English, actually had a Florida connection. She once lived in Miami when she attended Florida International University. (There’s always a Florida connection!) Our fellow tourists in our group included people from Wisconsin and California, as well as Australia and Ireland, among others.
I should also mention how lovely the countryside of Bavaria was as we took the train each way. This is the region of the country where Pope Benedict XVI hails from; it is known for its great food and drinks; and our tour guide told us that “There may not be a more conservative area in the world than Bavaria,” both during the time of Ludwig II and today. I knew I’d feel right at home here.
When we arrived in Fussen by train, we took a 10-minute bus ride to the base of the mountain, where we caught another private bus about 5 minutes up the mountain. Before taking that second bus up for the group tour, we had about 45 minutes to get some lunch, which we did with some great Bavarian food (I had the breaded chicken with fries) with the castle within our view on such a beautiful day.
The walking tour inside the castle brought us through rooms with much detail and a particular artistic attention towards the legends and stories of the medieval era, while also acknowledging the centrality of Christ. The tour guide told us that Ludwig II didn’t make himself the center of attention in the castle – instead he wanted to honor God and those who came before him. There were several chapels of different sizes inside the castle. We climbed many steps inside the castle – on the way down I counted 205 steps down. It wasn’t too bad.
Once we took the bus back into the town, we walked by Hohenschwangau Castle and over to the lake. Then we grabbed a refreshing German beer at a bier garten and then walked back to meet our group before we took the bus ride back to the train station and the train back to Munich. We completed our day with dinner and a beer at another beer hall in the city center, as well as some gelato on the way back to the hotel. We depart from Munich in the morning, by train, to Salzburg, Austria. Today is the first of the three consecutive most scenic days of our travels.