Sunday, August 20, 2017

Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, Germany

I finally made it to the fairy tale castles! 

A couple of weeks in advance, I booked us some tickets to see Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein.  It's a much longer process if you don't do this, and with little kids, I didn't want to have to wait around any longer than I had to.  So we parked the car nearby (plenty of parking if you get there early) and went to the ticket office to pick up our tickets.  They give you about an hour or so between the time you pick up your tickets and the time your tour starts (Hohenschwangau was first) so we walked around, took some pictures and then hiked up the hill to the first castle, which took about 10 minutes (the map says 20 minutes, but we do this kind of thing a lot.)

When you finally make it to the top, there's a pretty little courtyard.  Everyone is waiting around for the time on their ticket to be called, which happens in five minute increments.

What kind of trouble are they getting into?

Maximilian rebuilt this castle in 1836 when he had purchased the ruined castle after his grandfather had previously sold it back in 1820.

SO FUNNY!  Someone put a funny picture of King Ludwig II waving in the window!

I spy Neuschwanstein peeking over Hohenschwangau's shoulder!

The Swan Fountain is situated in the King's Garden.  The swan was the "mascot" of the Knights of Schwangau, who were the original builders of Hohenschwangau back in the 1200s.  (After all, that's what "schwan" means!)  Ludwig II also had a slight fascination with the swan knight Lohengrin since he was a child as there were painting depicting Lohengrin featured in Hohenschwangau.  Plus his buddy (read: guy he was obsessed with) Wagner wrote an opera about it.  You're familiar with this opera, because the tune "Here Comes the Bride" is featured in it.

You can catch a glimpse of the Alpsee from the King's Garden.  Hohenschwangau became the Bavarian royal family's summer home and "hunting lodge" (that's some lodge!) when Maximilian purchased it in the 1830s.

Dunno why.  Just liked this red glass door, framed in boulders. I believe this was a bath house?  Not certain on that.

The Gooseman Fountain with one of my silly geese.  Interestingly, the original designer of this fountain was none other than Nuremberg's most famous son, Albrecht Dürer!  There's actually a similar one IN Nuremberg.

The Lion Fountain was believed to have been modeled after the Alhambra in Granada (where Todd used to live).

We've made a 360 around the visitable part of the castle!

It looks very castley! (Is that a word? Well it is now!)  We all wondered which rooms were the ones with windows open!

As you wait for your time to be called, you can go check out the gift shop on site.  There's also a replication of what the kitchens would have looked like back in the day of Maximilian and Ludwig.

Finally our time was called and we walked up the stairs to Hohenschwangau's "front door."

There's a beautiful view from the front door!

And a lovely view of the foothills north of the castle.

Photography isn't allowed in either of the castles, unfortunately. I have to admit, I never understood that.  The only thing I can think of is that the tours move SO fast that people stopping to take pictures would slow everything down and they could only make half the money they are currently making.  So I stole pictures from the official website!  The Hall of Heros is where all of the big dances and banquets happened.  (This picture was taken at night, perhaps. It seemed much lighter when we were there). 

The Hohenstaufen Room was the dressing room for King Maximilian and his son, King Ludwig II.  That piano you see?  Wagner himself used to play it!

King Maximilian visited Turkey in 1833, and it clearly had a very big influence on him, as he designed the Queen's Bedroom with Turkish characteristics and colors.

The Tasso Room was the bedroom of Ludwig II.  Todd chuckled at this because he said there was absolutely NO WAY the extremely-tall-for-the-time Ludwig, at 6'4", would have ever fit in this bed!

One more view of Neuschwanstein from Hohenschwangau (money shot!)

Walking back down didn't take very long, and the clouds were parting a bit to provide a really nice picture of Hohenschwangau.

The area isn't very big, and obviously caters to tourists. We swung by one of the many restaurants in the area to grab some grub and of course... some bier!

We had some time to spare, so we enjoyed our leisurely lunch and then sauntered out to find there were paragliders coming down the mountain!  Can you imagine those views!?  We had planned on taking the horse and carriage ride up, but were unaware that if you want to do this, you probably should just skip lunch and head directly to the horse and carriage line (cash in hand!) because the line was very long, and there are only so many carriages. Instead, we opted for the less expensive (though still terrifying!) bus up the mountain to Neuschwanstein.

If the beautiful Neuschwanstein looks familiar to you, it should.  Walt Disney used it as a model for the famous Cinderella's Castle/Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Walt Disney parks around the world.  Natalie and I had a discussion about this because she has only ever been to Disneyland Paris, where the castle is known as Sleeping Beauty's Castle.  I grew up in Florida where it's known as Cinderella's Castle!

I'm fond of the Orlando version of Neuschwanstein, Jr. 

Cinderella's (or Sleeping Beauty's) Castle at the Disney theme parks is made out of concrete, plaster and fiberglass, but Neuschwanstein is made out of the real deal - light colored limestone.  Unfortunately the Gateway Building that you walk into was under renovation so I didn't take any pictures of the scaffolding!

Now THIS looks like a castle!  Interestingly, Neuschwanstein was not completed when Ludwig II mysteriously died and it remains exactly the same (minus the stuff for tourists) as it did when he died in 1886.

Here's the fam in the upper courtyard at Neuschwanstein.  There is a chapel above the kids heads, and the Knights House is on the right.

I half expected Rapunzel to let down here hair from the Rectangular Tower. 

Much like at Hohenschwangau, you wait for your tour number to be called and head through the turnstiles and into the Rectangular Tower.  The tour starts in the Lower Hall with it's scenes of Old Norse tales.  I apologize for the quality of any pictures from inside of Neuschwanstein. You are not allowed to take pictures inside, so I did my best to scour the internet for some halfway decent pics.

We (obviously) took the English speaking tour, and the first stop after you gather in the Lower Hall and pass the old servants quarters is the Throne Hall.  Now... I know a LOT of people who have been to Neuschwanstein and the general consensus among them is that it is FAR less impressive on the inside than it's sister down the road, Hohenschwangau.  Are ya kidding me?  Sure, you only get to see a handful of room here, but the beauty of these rooms is unmatched. 

The Throne Hall has a very Byzantine feel, and the tile floor is really incredible. Believe it or not, that is mosaic tile on the floor showing the earth's animals and plants.

The next room to visit is Ludwig II's bedroom. One story that he liked in particular was that of Tristan and Isolde, and this story is featured all over the walls and even in the carvings to some extent.

The Salon is one of the prettiest rooms in the castle. Everywhere you look, you can see examples of the Swan!

Having been to Linderhof Palace and seen crazy Ludwig's false Grotto, it totally didn't surprise me to see that he had ANOTHER fake Grotto INSIDE of the palace.  That dude is funny!  It even comes with fake stalactites!  Originally there was supposed to be a waterfall in here, but along with a lot of other things in the palace, it was never completed.

 The last and maybe most impressive room is the Singers' Hall.  It takes up space on the entire fourth level of the palace, and was never actually used for any concerts or banquets.  

Views from Neuschwanstein of Hohenschwangau and the Alpsee.

The famous Marienbrucke is the spot to take the iconic photo of Neuschwanstein.  It was named after Queen Marie of Prussia (Ludwig II's mother) and was built as a short cut for riders.

This is legitimately the most terrifying bridge I've ever been on.  It's got wood planks as footboards and there are large gaps in them.  Little feet could definitely get stuck.  There's a wait to get on the bridge and there is a castle worker there to monitor things, but she didn't really seem to care that it felt like the bridge was going to collapse at any minute.

Looking down from the Marienbrucke into the Pöllatschlucht (or the Pöllat gorge).  That's a serious drop and you know I don't like heights!

Oh but there's that VIEW!

Christmas card, maybe?

Yeah, I'm gonna post this from about every zoom and angle we took.

Crazy how it was just built on a big rock.  They say that the rough climate of the base of the Alps is doing damage to the limestone and that renovations will have to begin on this and continue for years to come.  They're also constantly shoring up the rock that holds up the castle to avoid any rockslides.

When you leave, there's a fantastic model of the castle to check out!  Oh no! Godzilla is going to stomp on Neuschwanstein!!!

This was the beginnings (and artist renditions of what it was going to look like) of a knights bath, that never got finished because Ludwig II died.  This was supposed to be modeled after the ritual baths that the Knights of the Holy Grail used.

When you finally leave the area, there's some really good views of Neuschwanstein!  I actually pulled the car over so we can take this ha ha.

The Catholic church of St. Coloman with Neuschwanstein in the distance.  The first chapel on this site was built between 1350 and 1400.

We finally made it to Munich for our last stop on the vacation, which was about a two hour drive from the castles.  We found a little Mediterranean restaurant near our hotel and this one wanted to bring her book to dinner!  I don't know why, but I like this picture of her!

Until next time, Neuschwanstein and Hohneschwangau!

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