Splitting up the content so you can view the bullet points vs. The War & Peace style approach!
The Little Scoop: [THE BULLET POINTS]
Eat & Drink:
Beer & Brats of course!
We stayed at this lovely AirBnb – exquisite views and walkable to downtown Füssen and a < 10 minute drive to the Castle in Schwangau.
Overlook the gorgeous Austrian Alps, visit Lake Hopfensee, and of course, visit Neuschwanstein Castle! Arrive VERY EARLY to beat the crowds for tickets.
THE BIG SCOOP: [THE WHOLE STORY]
After a tremendous first visit to Zermatt, we decided that while our passionately German family was in town, they should be here for my first trip to their beautiful Fatherland. They have hosted me for many a raucous Oktoberfest party, but it would be my first time visiting Germany. We decided to take a mini road trip through gorgeous Bavaria, and do a condensed version of the Romantic Road. Which of course included a trip to Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s castle, most famously seen at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. Can you believe how much Disney we have soaked up already? You won’t believe it, but there’s more coming!
On a Friday afternoon, we took a very simple one hour flight direct from Geneva to Munich via EasyJet (alongside a very fun bachelor party) and my very enthusiastic husband took the wheel to drive on the Autobahn for the first time. The views were pretty special.
We took a ~2 hour drive down the main highway until we arrived in beautiful Füssen overlooking the Austrian Alps. The Airbnb was very modern and well appointed – a bit expensive on-season but a good choice for off, and allowed us to quickly walk into the charming town for dinner.
At our first bar we ran into three people all from the Pennsylvania area! We then proceeded to another great stop, the Hotel Hirsch bar for another round of beers and brats.
I’d like to tell you that we were early to bed and woke up fresh as daisies, but that would be a lie.
But wake up early we did anyway as our patron Saint Rick Steves told us the vital importance of being early to Neuschwainstein Castle before the crowds pour in for tickets. In order to visit, you must have a ticket (cost is €13 per person) and a tour time assigned for the language of your choice.
You are able to hike up, take a bus, or even take a horse and carriage, naturally! The hike took us about 40 minutes and was uphill but do-able and promised great views on top.
The castle’s first stones were laid in the 1860s by King Ludwig II who wanted to build a Romanesque revival personal retreat with his own funds. It was meant to be a call back to his imagined style of the grand Middle Ages (which means he must have had very misinformed tutors because the Middle Ages in the Bavarian region in particular were anything but grand.)
Sadly, the castle was never finished because the Prince mysteriously drowned in a lake in Berg in 1866 – there is speculation about whether or not it was accidental or a murder.
I had prepared myself for the inside to be a “castle” and not a “palace” (only recently I learned that the difference between the two is that a castle is a defensible fortress, and a palace is just a royal residence) so I had low expectations of the inside. You are unable to take photos during the relatively short tour sadly, but there are stellar highlights of Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine art amongst many swans! Neuschwanstein means “New Swan” and King Ludwig dedicated much of the pieces to elements of operatic composer Richard Wagner’s work, which included his character the Swan Knight. The endless gold decadence amongst grottos and chapels was opulent and impressive, and a shame the King only spent 11 total nights there.
One of the real highlights was the short walk to Queen Mary’s Bridge (named for King Ludwig’s mother) which showcases a breathtaking view of the Castle.
We had a gorgeous day for our visit and enjoyed the spring – we’ve heard that the summer through Oktoberfest (with it’s relatively short distance from Munich) is tourist madness, but that the winter, particularly on a snowy day, is really magical too.