Germany: The Romantic Neuschwanstein Castle
Travel Date : 9th June 2013
Location : Hohenschwanga (village) , nearest town Füssen, Bavaria State
Getting To Hohenschwanga
Took Regional Bahn or Regional Express from Munich Central Station to Füssen Station // Took Bus 73 or 78 from bus stop behind Füssen Station to Hohenschwanga, where Neuschwanstein Castle is located.
Neuschwanstein Castle (pronounced ‘noy-shwan-stine’ ) was easily our No. 1 to-visit place in Germany when we were planning our itinerary for our weekend trips since it is one of the top visited place of the country, given its beauty and popularity.
Wanting to make full use of our weekend, we planned to visit Munich city on Saturday, stay a night there before departing by train early Sunday morning. Despite planning for the time we would take to get to the Munich Bahnhof (Main Train Station) in time, we barely made it for the train as its platform was further than we had expected! We were almost the last to board and running like mad. The wait at the nearest S-Bahn Station to our hotel also took longer than we had expected (it seems longer waits for trains for Sundays).
The train ride was a long 2-hour journey but towards the end, when the Alps rose from the horizon and the air started to turn cold, excitement among the passengers began to fill the air! We kept taking pictures from the window at the gorgeous view.
Arriving at Füssen Station at around 11am, we took our time to alight from it, since we knew this was the terminal station and there was no rush before the train moved off.
As the crowd dispersed, we dished out our camera and started taking photos. Dar got very excited too and requested to go down to an unused railway track, which we agreed after seeing that it was safe to do so. He was so enjoying himself that he even sat down on one of the sleeper tracks (the wooden planks across the metal rails) with smiles on his face! The surrounding temperature was surprisingly cold with a slight breeze so we stopped at a bench to layer our clothing before going for the bus. Germany’s weather is quite unpredictable. After yesterday’s sunny weather, it’s back to gloomy cold again.
We then deposit our small luggage in a locker at the station, before heading to the bus stop situated just behind it. The small Füssen town was very quiet on a Sunday Morning. Not many shops were opened. We were lucky that the bus arrived soon after and using our Bayern-Ticket for the ride, we arrived at Hohenschwangau 15 minutes later, where the Neuschwanstein Castle is located.
Upon alighting, we quickly headed up slope towards the ticket hall, where we were expecting a crowd. Indeed, queues were snaking in front of the counters but fortunately for us, I noticed a much shorter queue which serves BOTH reservations and on-the-spot tickets (the sign was a little unclear so many might have thought that the queue was ONLY for reservations).
As a result, we got our tickets just 5 minutes into the queue (otherwise it would have taken at least 15 minutes). We made sure we chose the next available English guided tour (the interior of the castle can only be viewed with a guide). The guide would begin at 1.10pm, nearly two hours’ time. This would have given us ample time to explore the surroundings before we entered the castle.
We took a walk around the area and got ourselves some souvenirs, before planning to explore the area more (later on, we realised they are cheaper in the castle souvenir’s shop). Disappointingly, there wasn’t much to see, except admiring the horse carriages going up and coming downhill. Also, although the Hohenschwangau Castle was situated nearby uphill, we gave it a miss since we might not have time to go up there and come back to Neuschwanstein Castle.
Our plan was to take a bus up to Neuschwanstein Castle and take a horse carriage down, since the bus would bring us to Marienbrücke (Marie’s Bridge), where we could overlook the castle and capture its beauty from far.
As we passed by the queue for the bus uphill, we realised it was very crowded and decided to buy the bus tickets and join in the queue, in case the waiting time gets even longer with the growing crowd. It was still quite early for our tour then. Single-trip tickets uphill were 1.80 Euro each and children under 6 are free (note: most admissions and rides for Dar’s age are free in Germany).
When the first bus arrived, the crowd at the front quickly rushed onto the bus and the vehicle was cramped right to the doors. Fortunately for the next bus, our crowd was a lot more orderly (mainly because the driver only opened the front door instead of both doors like that earlier bus). Furthermore, we were already near the front of the queue so we managed to find seats for all three of us. 🙂
The bus ride uphill took only 10 minutes and after alighting, we started walking up a slope towards the Marienbrücke. There was already quite a crowd there but everybody was moving orderly.
The view of Neuschwanstein Castle from the bridge was simply magnificent and we could finally witness for ourselves why it was so well-known for its beauty. Like many others, we were mesmerised by the picturesque view and just couldn’t get enough of looking at the castle.
The bridge was quite narrow and we were all standing at the sides taking photographs. With the strong wind and the extreme height, it felt a bit scary looking down. It was built very solid however since it did not shake no matter how many people were standing and moving across. Everybody was considerate in moving slowly across each other and didn’t block each other from taking the precious photographs. Some even got each other’s help in taking group photographs in that narrow space.
A Japanese girl asked us to help take a group photo of her friend and her. In return, we asked for her help too. She tried two times and didn’t quite get the angle because we were too near. On her own initiative, she tried the third time by stepping on a protrusion on the other side, dangerously leaned back far out over the opposite hand rail to take our beautiful picture! We were really touched by her ‘professionalism’.
Look at the pictures below for an idea of how high it was!
Satisfied, we then began our journey downhill towards the castle itself, ready to be awed by its magnificence from within.
The walk downhill was a gradual one with more breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. Dar had great fun running down the slopes while holding on to my hands. While making sure he didn’t make a ruckus, we were glad to see him so full of energy and having so much fun outdoors after his low-spirited bout over the past few days back at Burghausen.
After a casual walk of 15 minutes, we arrived at the castle but as there was still more than 30 minutes to go before our tour’s start time (1.5 hours passed by quickly since we got our tickets though!), we settled down at a sheltered rest area and had our simple lunch there (consisting of sausages and bread which we had brought along). There was a nearby small stall selling drinks, snacks and hotdog bread too but they were quite expensive.
When the time for the guided tour was nearing, we started to make our way into the castle courtyard via its main entrance, where we could see the current Tour Numbers being flashed on the digital screens. When it was our turn, we walked through the gantry by scanning our tickets and queued up in front of a small entrance to the interior of the castle.
Once inside, we were informed that photo-taking was not allowed throughout the tour. We were disappointed to hear that but followed the prohibition obediently nevertheless. I believed this restriction was to encourage the visitors to pay attention to the tour guide’s explanations of the histories of the rooms and to appreciate the majestic decor of the castle. If otherwise, we might be too busy snapping photos. Also, since tours are spaced just 5 minutes apart, they wouldn’t want visitors to spend too much time taking photos and delay their intended schedule.
As we started our tour, we were bedazzled by its furnishings and drawings in each of the rooms. We could quickly see the large amount of time and effort the builders and artists had to put in to create this castle. Unfortunately after King Ludwig II’s mysterious death, the construction wasn’t fully completed so Neuschwanstein Castle remained an unfinished castle till today (maybe that’s also what makes it even more alluring). The tour guide was good and we learnt a lot about what we were seeing in that little time. Everybody was going ‘wow’ at the extravagant and elegant furnishing. Vivid colours filled every room.
At the end of our tour, we became so interested in its history and background that we bought a book on the castle (in English) so that we could read more about them. Furthermore, there were also colourful photos of the rooms which we had visited so we could keep as memento (probably another reason photography wasn’t allowed there).
We left the group and proceeded to another part of the castle to have a good look at the scenery below. The village where we came from with the Hohenschwangau Castle looked very tiny now. After discussion, we decide to visit the lake over there.
We then left the castle and went downhill towards the horse carriage waiting area. Unfortunately, we followed the wrong queue and ended up needing to join the correct one again. The horse-carriage was more like a motor vehicle pulled by two horses.
[ CAT ] : To add on to our bad luck, rain started to pour all of a sudden and we quickly put on our raincoats, moving into the nearby small shed as the rain got heavier. We were the next in line but probably the rain was too heavy for the vehicle to move uphill fast so we waited for a long time (around 15-20mins) for the next horse-carriage to come up. We then encountered a bad experience with a tour-guide who jumped our queue which I elaborated on another post.
Putting the unpleasantness aside, we boarded the next carriage and paid our fares directly to the coachman. It was our first time riding a horse carriage so we took the front seats beside the coachman. This way, we could have a good view as we rode downhill. Six-eight more people could sit behind us in facing positions. The coachman covered both me and Dar with his jacket to prevent us from getting wet. We still got a little wet though as the heavy rain splattered in from the front.
The horses looked tired, almost knocking heads with each other while walking down and as time went by, we felt really bad ‘using’ them this way just to get our first experience. It must be quite difficult for them to walk down the slippery slope. Fortunately, the coachman and another driver made a switch of horses midway so that those poor horses could take a rest. The new horses which replaced them were full of energy and our ride was much smoother afterwards.
With the rain still pouring, we had to cancel our original plan of visiting the nearby lake, and queued up at the bus stop for the bus back to Füssen Train Station. There was a long queue but fortunately the buses arrived promptly and we had a dry and comfortable ride back.
Munich Central Station
Back to the Munich Central Station after taking the train for about 2 hours, we decided to settle our dinner in MacDonald’s. Their curry sauce tasted quite different but still nice and they do not have ‘Lemon tea’ which was what we usually ordered. We had to order coke instead and gave Dar plain water to drink.
After dinner, Dar wanted to visit the ICE train. The model we bought was of an older version and we found one resting at one of the platforms. There was a newer one beside it.
We then took two more trains before we arrived back at Burghausen that night (Vin going back to work on Monday). Due to the bad weather, we had another stroke of bad luck again! The train ride which usually takes 1 hour and 40 mins took us 2.5 hours! It was around 11 plus in the night when we finally reached. We then walked back to our hotel in the dead quiet night in the rain. Thank goodness that the raincoat jacket I bought for Dar upon reaching Germany saved him many times today!
Despite the long distance travelled, we were glad to have made the trip to visit our dream castle — definitely worth the trip! (minus that bad weather experience )
[ History ]