Tuesday, September 10, 2013
ANOTHER "BEST TRAVEL DAY EVER"! 9/9/2013
Hello from beautiful Fussen! What a stunningly beautiful area this is, we had a very busy (and exhausting!) day today, and I'm now relaxing in our lovely hotel room with my poor tired feet propped up. I think we must have walked miles today--uphill! Then there were the stairs--100's of them. Those castles aren't built on one level!
We started our morning with a great breakfast at our hotel, which was included with our room price. We already had our reservations for our castle tours, and had to pick up our tickets at 8:50 sharp. Our plan was to take a bus to the ticket office, then walk up to the first castle. We walked to the bus stop, and it all seemed a little confusing...we couldn't quite figure out the schedules, as there was no English translation. We were running short on time, so we went to Plan B--and hopped in a taxi. He zipped along those pretty country roads, and in less than 10 minutes we were at the ticket center. We presented our confirmation, picked up our tour tickets for both castles, and set off to wander around the tiny village at the base of the castle. There are a few gift shops (of course!) a couple of guest houses and restaurants, and a museum. All of the buildings were very pretty, painted in traditional Bavarian style. As you can see, it was a little wet this morning, but as the day progressed, the weather improved. By late afternoon, we had blue skies!
Here are a few buildings in the village below the castle:
This is the equipment building, housing snow plows, etc. I LOVE the hardware on the doors:
There were two options to get up to the first castle. We could either walk up, or take the horse and buggy. We walked! It was a steep walk up a winding path--but oh, it was worth every step!
Here are the horse and buggies, all lined up and ready to go:
Our first good view of the Hohenschwangau castle on the hill.
A little about Hohenschwangau Castle:
The castle was originally built on the remains of a fortress from the 12th century. It was used by successive families of knights until the 16th century, when it changed hands several times, eventually falling into ruins in the late 1700's. The castle was completely reconstructed in the early to mid 1800's, and was occupied by King Maximillian II and King Ludwig II After the death of King Maximillian and Ludwig II , Marie (Maximillian's wife) lived there until her death. The castle was open to the public in 1912.
After we reached the top of the hill, we walked into the front courtyard of the palace. This was the view looking towards Neuschwanstein Castle, which was the second castle we visited today.
There were several gardens and fountains on the castle grounds, and they are still beautifully maintained.
A pretty swan fountain:
Here's part of the main courtyard and entrance to the castle:
The entrance to the castle--quite a door!
This is the small "waiting room" where we waited for our tour to start: This was also the place where we were told to put our cameras away--no photos allowed inside the castle, darn it. But in an odd way, it was almost a relief--the palace was so beautiful and amazing that I would have had a very hard time deciding what photos to take, and would have had to stay overnight!
We had a very nice young local gal for a tour guide. Her English was excellent, and she was very knowledgeable about everything in the castle. We saw most of the royal residence part of the castle-many, many beautiful and interesting rooms filled with priceless paintings and original furniture. I was very impressed by how well preserved the interior of the castle is, especially the wall paintings. Every room has scenes painted directly on the walls, and they are still beautiful and vibrant today. The original furnishings looked like they were used just yesterday instead of 200 years ago!
All too soon our tour was over, and we walked out a tunneled exit and back down to the small village below, where we took a bus to Neuschwanstein Castle .
Exit from the castle grounds:
We had to wait in quite a line for the bus, there were lots of other visitors in line, too! Finally we boarded the 2nd bus, and it was so crowded we had to stand. It was a very pretty drive up a narrow, steep and winding one lane road to Neuschwanstein, which is perched on the side of a mountain! The driver let us off at the bottom of the hill--another steep climb to reach the entrance of the castle!
Neuschwanstein Castle has a very interesting history. It was built by King Ludwig II, beginning in 1868. His father King Maximillian II, lived in Hohenschwangau Castle, as did Ludwig II as a child. King Ludwig II intended Neuschwanstein to be a tribute to his favorite composer, Richard Wagner. The castle was never completed, and "Mad King" Ludwig was dethroned in 1886, after living in his completed royal quarters for only 120 days! He died under mysterious circumstance shortly after he was dethroned. The unfinished castle was opened to the public just two weeks after his death. The unfinished portions of the castle remain just as they were at his death.
Here's the front of Neuschwanstein Castle--pretty impressive!
The entrance gate:
David at the entrance:
The entrance leads directly into the main courtyard--oh, my! It almost looks like the Disney castle--but it's a REAL castle!
Closeup of painting on the front--and yes, this is all original:
Our tour started just past the courtyard, and we visited all of the rooms that were completed before King Ludwig's death. Again, no photos were allowed. It was even more impressive than Hohenschwangau, as the finishes were just extraordinary. In King Ludwig's sleeping quarters, 14 master wood carvers worked for 4 years just to complete the very extensive and intricate carved wood furniture and decorations in this one room! The walls and ceilings in each room were beautifully painted. In the throne room alone, the mosaic floor contains over 2 millions hand cut pieces of stone, depicting animals of the world. It is beautiful beyond my ability to describe--once again I have run out of superlatives!
After our tour, we walked back to take some pictures from the upper courtyard area. The views in every direction from the courtyard were just unbelievable
This is looking back towards Hohenschwangau Castle in the distance:
Zoomed in shot--gives a great perspective on the size of Hohenschwangau Castle.
This is a view of The Mariebruch, or "Mary's Bridge", as seen from the courtyard. After our tour we walked down to the path to Mary's Bridge, and then hiked through the woods and up the steep (of course!) and winding path to the bridge.
The path down from the castle, on the way to the trail through the woods to Mary's Bridge.
This is the spectacular view from Mary's Bridge! It's the back side of the castle, which faces the mountain.
And here we are, feeling lucky and very happy to have seen such beautiful castles:
After our time at Neuschwanstein, we walked back down the hill to find a bus back to town. We waited for 20 minutes or so, and decided we were going with Plan B again! There was a taxi right there, so we just hopped in, and were dropped off right in front of our hotel. After a quick freshen up, we went right down to the hotel restaurant--we were starving! We each had a bowl of goulash soup again, and it was just as good as last night. David reminded me that I need to learn to make goulash soup!
We walked over to the train station and bought our ticket for tomorrow, and then cruised up and down the length of main street in old town--just to make sure there was nothing we'd missed yesterday!
It was now near 5 pm, and we both felt the need for a rest, so we relaxed in our room for a couple of hours, loading pictures, writing our blog and packing up a bit.
We had a late dinner tonight, wandering a couple of side streets near our hotel in search of a nice "local" restaurant. We found a lovely small place, and chose to eat inside for a change--it's a little chilly here today! We had a nice leisurely dinner, including a glass of red wine. It was a bit difficult to order, as translation was a challenge--but we were very happy with our meals.
Tiny little restaurant:
"Mixed grill" of Bavarian specialties, served with sauerkraut and potatoes--yummy!
Sausage and sauerkraut--good stuff!
We strolled back to our hotel about 9 pm, and were surprised at how empty the streets were! This little town really "rolls up the sidewalls" early. We enjoyed the quiet, empty streets, though.
We're now snuggled in for the night, I've soaked my weary legs in a nice hot bath, and we're ready for our next adventure!
Salzburg, here we come!