A couple weeks ago, my sister and her friend Chelsea decided to visit us in Germany! It had been months since the last time I saw her and I was so excited. Over the years, we went from living with each other, to seeing each other only a couple times a year (she was in New York for school, I was in the UP), to seeing each other about once a week when we lived in Michigan (she would come over and do laundry). So when we moved to Germany last summer, it was definitely hard to say good bye. We had finally outgrown our sibling rivalry and become friends. That's why when she said she was coming to visit for a week, I was stoked!
The months leading up to her visit, we planned different places to go. She was up for just about anything and I knew that on her first trip to Deutschland, there was one iconic sight she needed to see: Neuschwanstein. It is probably one of the most famous castles in Germany and is found in movies ranging from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Monuments Men. It was even the inspiration behind Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland. Precariously perched on the side of a mountain overlooking a valley in the German Alps, it really is a sight to see.
The castle was built by (mad) King Ludwig II in the late 1800s in the Romanesque style. Unfortunately, he died of ''mysterious'' causes before it was completely finished. Nonetheless, there are still a number of rooms and halls that he lived in and were furnished.
We arrived at the small town of Schwangau at 10 in the morning. It wasn't early enough. We still had to wait about 45 minutes to buy tickets. Tours of the castle are only possible with a guide, therefore each ticket is assigned a time slot. Tours are offered regularly in English and German with ''audio guide'' tours being also offered for those who speak neither language (you get a headset). We had a couple of hours until our time slot, so we took the bus to the top to visit Marien Brücke (Mary's Bridge). It's a small bridge connecting two mountains, set high over a gorge with a rushing river below it. Kate and her friend are both slightly afraid of heights, something I learned this trip. They were less than thrilled to be on a bridge that high up. But the views were beautiful and the sound of the rushing river below was calming.
As the time for our tour grew closer, we headed towards the castle, taking some pictures along the way. Finally, it was time for our tour. We queued at the entrance, scanned our tickets, and headed in. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed inside the castle, so we can't show you any we took. But check out this link so that you have an idea of what the inside looks like.
The tour starts by climbing a wide spiral staircase to get to the (European) first floor (so the American second floor). Here, you go through the servants quarters which are furnished with traditional German wood furniture. From there, you climb another spiral staircase (this time the King's staircase which only he was allowed to use), to the third floor (the rooms on the second floor were never finished). Here, you can see the King's quarters including the dining room, his bedroom (with perhaps the most ornately carved bed you will ever see in your life!), his dressing room, a salon, his study, a small grotto fashioned to look like a cave (the first Man Cave, perhaps?), and the throne room. All of the rooms are richly decorated and many of them have fantastic views over Alpsee and the surrounding valley. It really is quite a sight to see.
The tour then continues up to the fourth floor where there is a large dancing hall and access to the upper level of the throne room. The scene painted behind the stage in the hall is reminiscent of something out of the Disney movie Bambi. Perhaps Walt took away more inspiration from Neuschwanstein than just Sleeping Beauty's castle. These are the last rooms of the tour, but before you exit, you climb back down a spiral staircase to the second floor. Here, there are bathrooms, a gift shop, a cafe, and a media room that shows 3D renderings of the castle plans, the origins of the castle, and some of Ludwig's other projects. There is no sound, but subtitles are in German and English.
After the tour, we walked back down to the town of Schwangau. We grabbed some lunch at one of the many restaurants available in the area. Appropriately, we all got some form of wurst followed by ice cream. Some quick shopping, and then we were on our way to our next stop: Eagle's Nest! Check back later this week to see lots of pictures from the top of a mountain!
Edit 17 June 2015: The lake was incorrectly identified as Königsee when in fact, it is Alpsee. Apologies for the mis-identification!
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