Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle is the childhood dream I never had. As a child I couldn’t get enough of castles and knights and dragons and wizards. Every time I saw a picture of a castle in England or France I wanted to visit. But for some reason I was never overly attracted to Neuschwanstein castle. Perhaps it was too fairytale-esque. Or maybe I just didn’t believe that it really could look like the pictures. I don’t really know, but having visited, allow me to tell all the children out there who like castles that this is definitely worth seeing. I still want to see a castle or two in the middle of a Scottish loch, but visiting Neuschwanstein should be one of your dreams.
Given that the castle was conceived and built in the late 1800’s and served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s castle, it certainly can be criticized as being a fairytale castle. Unlike a “real” castle, it was never under siege or captured with the help of traitors, never saw the torture of political prisoners, or the return of it’s lord from a hunting expedition–in fact it was never even finished. It had running water, a telephone (of sorts), an excessively ornate canopy, and was turned into a museum within weeks of crazy king Ludwig’s death. So it is undoubtedly a fairytale castle. Unfortunately for the purist in me, Ludwig’s vision of a beautiful location and romantic architecture are spot on. Le Mont Saint-Michel and Chenonceau are the only “castles” I’ve seen that compare, and they are even less castle-y. I guess when it comes right down to it nostalgia is always better than the real thing.
The tour of the interior was the only part of the trip that disappointed. Because only 15 of the 200 interior rooms were finished it was short. There were several attractions however: the ornate canopy, a fake cave, a secret lavatory, a swan humidifier, and a crown chandelier. Of course Rachel liked the huge oven in the kitchen, and I decided that I wouldn’t mind sleeping in the servants quarters with the handmade furniture. Nevertheless, the interior just can’t compare with, say, the recently visited Schönbrunn (which is a palace not a castle, but still).
If that’s not enough to satisfy the medievalist in you, then you should know that there is another, older, castle less than a mile away (as the crow flies). We didn’t have time to tour Hohenschwangau castle (probably spent too long in the gift shop trying to justify purchasing everything there), but it’s nice to know that it’s there. Some friends that we met there stayed in a hotel at the top of the hill, so they had plenty of time to see everything. I don’t know how much it cost, but it might be worth it next time.
The problem with most of the pictures that you see everywhere is that they are taken from the mountains instead of facing the mountains. I love mountains, and those on the back side (or perhaps it’s the front) of Neuschwanstein are gorgeous, at least if they are covered in snow. There is a bridge (Marienbrücke) between 2 nearby mountains that makes me think of Rivendell. Unfortunately, like so many large places, photos simply cannot convey how pretty the mountains are.
As I mentioned, the mountains were covered in snow. What I didn’t mention is that it was snowing the whole time we were there. Big, fat, wet flakes. The kind that make you wish you weren’t pushing a stroller through them. Especially when you get to the top of the steep hill and they tell you that you can’t take strollers on the tour anyway! I think the snowfall made the castle prettier, and it also gave us an opportunity to prove that we’re hard core: we made it up in 30 minutes whereas the guide says that it’s a 40 minute walk, or 45 with a stroller. That’s right we made it up the hill faster, while hauling an infant on my front and a toddler on Rachel’s back, walking, or in the stroller. All the while getting snowed on, taking pictures, and moving to make way for the snow plow and horse carts.
Do not mess with clan Andrus.
On our way back to Munich, the train we were on stopped and made everyone get out and transfer to another train (after waiting half an hour). We overheard some people talking who may have understood the announcement and it might have been due to a fire somewhere. But while we were waiting Avery didn’t whine about how cold she was like another little girl who was also waiting. Instead she played hard-to-get with some Malaysian teens. We raise them hard core from the beginning.