Schloss Neuschwanstein is rumoured to be the inspiration behind DisneyWorld and certainly is the castle you would recognise from Sleeping Beauty and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, with Walt Disney having visited early on in his life and having been overwhelmed by its majesty. You can certainly see why.
Having made an early start yesterday to dodge the anticipated crowds at the Eagles Nest we decided to do the same here and set the alarm for 6.30 to be away just after 7 and arrive not long before 8. We arrived at Hohenschwangau at the foot of the castle on time, and the car park was blissfully empty and the streets were quiet. You can see Schloss Neuschwanstein on the approach to the village and also from the village and can see instantly why it is such a popular tourist destination – it is a stunningly beautiful castle set upon the hill blinding in its whiteness. There is also a second castle on the hills opposite, which by itself would warrant a mention even if it is easily surpassed by the main attraction. Schloss Neuschwanstein was built by King Ludwig II (the mad King apparently) starting from 1869 and Schloss Hohenschwangau was built by his father also in the 19th Century (and was King Ludwig II’s childhood residence).
Apparently it is a 40 minute walk up to the castle which was tempting for us but given that there was a regular bus service and we hadn’t had any breakfast we decided to do that instead. Unfortunately, one of our arch nemesis signs met us – “hund verboten” (“dogs not allowed”), which we are seeing far too often not only in Germany but in many of the other places we have stayed, and so back to plan A and up the hill we went. We had heard that the queues for the tickets into the Schloss get busy very early, and unless you have pre-booked mean that the earliest internal tour you can get isn’t until mid-afternoon despite being there at 9am. That said, we had also heard that dogs are “verboten” inside anyway so had decided that for us the trip would only include the outside anyway.
The walk up to the Schloss didn’t actually take that long at all, certainly wasn’t 40 minutes and wasn’t that steep. It was relatively easy actually and we had the chance to let Juno off the lead a couple of times as well. I think the walk was made easier by an amusing Italian male couple who were having the stormiest of arguments right ahead of us half the way up at one point one of them threw down their maps and bags at the foot of the other and stormed off back down the hill followed by his contrite partner. Still, we overtook them so England 1 Italy 0. They later arrived at the top and tried to charm Juno but she was having none of it…. England 2 Italy 0.
As we approached the castle we could immediately see how beautiful it is. There is plenty to see as you walk around it, and certainly many opportunities for good photos irrespective of not being able to go inside. We hear that the tours inside are very good although a lot of the castle is off limits.
The classic photos you generally see of the castle are taken from a bridge higher up the mountain called Marienbruke but unfortunately for us the bridge was closed and has been for over a year (safety maintenance). We later found out that it opened the very next day – typical! Still, we decided to head on up in that direction to see if we could get some similar vantage point and managed to get a couple of extra shots en-route. We also passed several score of Japanese tourists who it would appear also like to hit their popular spots early doors. I don’t think they were particular impressed with our dog who having eaten lots of grass in the preceding days then ran around their legs with grass hanging out of her bum having unsuccessfully managed to clear herself. No wonder bloody dogs aren’t allowed on the buses or in the castles! Mortified.
We walked back down to the village feeling rather smug when we could see the massive crowds growing. We got there just before 8am and got back to the village at 10.30am, which was by now pretty manic. We’d managed to get to great parking at the foot of the second castle, but now there was nowhere to park unless others left.
Back into Knigel for some breakfast and then we hit the road to Fussen, a lovely Bavarian town which marks the official end (or start) of the Romantic Road (South). On the way there we found a beautiful church in the middle of nowhere which was called “Church in the Meadow” (ta da!) which offered as good opportunity for some nice photos plus for Juno to have a good run. No signs of “hund verboten” here and she didn’t get struck down by lightening so I presume HE was OK with it as well.
We found a nice motorhome stellplatz about a mile out of town and parked up for the day for €3, wandered into the town for a look around and a bite to eat. At this stage we have realised that Juno simply isn’t well enough trained for lead walking (we never take her on a lead because she is so good off it) so spent the mile into the village taking two steps forwards and one step back. We’d learnt from puppy school training that when they pull taught on a lead you need to show them that this is the wrong feeling and make them step backwards with you. Needless to say a 20 minute walk took us 40 minutes, and still not sure if Juno is actually learning anything or just thinks that the pair of us are a little odd.
We had a great lunch at Gasthof Krone which was set up for tourists and replicated a feast type atmosphere, beer jugs, bibs and all. They let Juno inside and overall were very friendly. The Bavaria meal size is enormous, Michelle had an onion flower with salad that she ate for 30 minutes and it looked like she hadn’t touched it. We had to pay in cash, which we are starting to notice in Germany is not that unusual.
On the way back to the Knigel we stopped at a supermarket for fresh supplies of currywurst flavoured crisps, and having had quite a long day retreated back to the Stellplatz for a chilled out evening (and the largest BBQ steak).
Whilst we were hiking up to Schloss Neuschwanstein the Knaus dealer had called to say our spare part had arrived so tomorrow we are heading there for an exciting day of Knigel repairs.