So, we spend our second night in Fussen last night so that we could head out to the Konigssehlossers (royal castles) today. There are two just outside the town of Fussen, the Schloss Hohenschwangau and the Schloss Newschwanstein. Both of which were residences of Ludwig II – the Newchwanstein was the fairy tale castle that ol’ Luddy commissioned as inspired by the operas of Wagner. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…
We got up and had breakfast here at the gastof this morning for 8am – it was pretty standard fare; cold cuts, cheeses, fresh rolls, spreads, and hard-boiled eggs. It was delicious, but I can see this getting old fast since there’s not a lot of variety in the German continental breakfast. A little before 9 we wandered into the Marketplaz here in Fussen to wait for the tourist info centre to open, then grabbed some info/maps on the town and headed out to the castles. We got to the small town at the foot of the hills which they are built on just before 9.30 at the place was already looking pretty busy. The only way you can visit either castle is via guided tour since they are still privately owned by the Duke of Bavaria. We got our tickets to see both castles, then hoofed it up to the Hohenschwangau.
The Hohenschwangau was the summer residence of the royal family of Bavaria since it was re-built after Napoleon destroyed it in the early 19th century. It took some walking (and more switch backs!) to get up there, but the view was worth it. On one side you got the flat farm valleys of the surrounding towns and on the other there are two lakes and the small town that relies on the tourist trade for survival. We wandered around the Hohenschwangau’s gardens waiting for our tour to start, then got to see the rooms of the king and queen. It’s a pretty small palace, but it was never used for formal receptions, but rater was used as a retreat palace.
From the Hohenschwangau, we headed into the town for a quick lunch. Dad wasn’t all to keen on trying the red deer goulash, so we settled for the restaurant of one of the hotels where he had moo-cow goulash and I had a spinach strudel. After our quick bite, we found the horse carriages that take people up to the Neuschwastein for 6 Euros a piece up, but 3 Euros down. We were in the front of the carriage, so I got to see just how hard a job the horses had it carting people up that hill repeatedly. And let’s not get confused – it was a hard f-ing trail to blaze. You’re more than welcome to walk up, and a lot of people do, but it was a very steep and hard road to take. So, though I felt bad, I’m glad it was the horses hoofing it and not me. (To be fair, we did walk down, and my calves are still jelly-like!)
From where the horses dropped us off, it was still a 10-15 minute walk up to Neuschwastein. We arrived a little early and got some pictures while milling around the court yard. But this time (almost 1) it was crawling with tourists all over the place. Our tour group was made up predominately by an English coach-tour full of really old people. To make matters worse, the tour starts on the second floor of the Neuschwastein, which is 68 spiral-stair case steps above the court yard (and yes, I counted) and the tour is spread out over 3 floors, so there was another 90 steps. It took a long time to get everyone in place because the median age of the group was around 60. Dad took that tour years ago, and he remembers it being quite rushed. Well, it still is. Apparently, Dad always recommends you wear your running shoes for the Neuschwastein tour. There were several rooms where we hadn’t even left before the next group was coming in behind us. Needless to say, there was a lot of noise and a lot of invasion of my personal bubble and I don’t do well with either. I wasn’t really digging the tour, so I jetted shortly after it ended.
The castle itself is unfinished – Ludwig died before it was completed. In actuality, only the second and half of the third floor is finished, and Ludwig inhabited it for 6 months before he died. After that, it was only a livable castle for another year and a half. The décor was inspired by Richard Wagner’s operas and the general motif is the 11/12th centuries gothic-style. All very ornate and over the top. On the way down from the theater (situated on the third floor under slopped roofs for the sake of acoustics) I counted 203 steps – and we exited via the servant’s entrance.
After we left, Dad decided he was going to take the trail that goes around the back of the Neuschwastein to the bridge the over looks it and the gorge for some pictures. I was so tired and stressed out by that point that I took a pass and instead perused the tourist stalls that lined the walk-up to the castle, picked up some post cards and a giant pretzel, then headed to the restaurant/inn at the place where the horses let us off to wait of Dad.
From there, we headed down the hill (on foot!) for the village to return to Fussen. We browsed through the tourist shops, but then headed for the car. When we got back to town it was only 3 so we wanted to see some of Fussen’s attractions as well. Unfortunately, I was really tired, and the main historical building (the fortress) is closed on Mondays, so we cut our losses and headed back to the Gastof. We chilled for a couple of hours, then headed back to the marketplaz for some dinner.
Tomorrow we head out for… a town that’s name I can’t pronounce yet, so I’d better get some rest!