After 2 days in Rothenburg we packed up our things yet again and headed south on the Autobahn to the next stop on our trip – Neuschwanstein Castle. Deep in the heart of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle is easily one of the most recognizable castles in Europe, if not the world. Built in the mid-late 19th century for King Ludwig II, this beautiful castle looks like it was plucked straight from the pages of a fairytale. In fact, it actually served as inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle. The interior of the castle was only partially completed before Ludwig’s death, but the exterior and picture-perfect backdrop are more than enough to wow.
As we drove through Schwangau and into the village of Hohenschwangau (home to both Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Hohenschwangau), it did not appear that the weather was going to cooperate with us that Thursday afternoon. The rain and grey skies above had us (mainly me) feeling a bit anxious about our visit to the castle, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
It was just after noon as we pulled into one of the parking lots and the streets of Hohenschwangau were already overflowing with tourists. Luckily we had booked tickets in advance (which I highly recommend) so our line to pick up and pay for our tickets was quick and painless. Armed with rain coats (and unfortunately not the best choice of footwear for me), Mike and I decided we would make the trek up to the castle on foot, rather than waiting in line and paying for one of the other transportation options of bus or horse-drawn carriage. Neither of these options went directly to the entrance of the castle, so there would have been some walking involved regardless of our choice.
The walk up to the entrance of the castle took around 20 minutes at a relatively brisk pace. The path was nicely paved but it still had a bit of an incline, so it wasn’t exactly a leisurely stroll – not a bad thing for me considering all the schnitzel I had been consuming. This was also the same path that the horses used, so we had to do a bit of navigating around obstacles they had left behind, if you know what I mean. That being said, the forest around the path was beautiful and I’d definitely go for the climb again if I was able. Mike’s parents opted to buy a one-way ticket to take the bus up and then walked with us on the way down.
Once we arrived at the base of the castle we still had more climbing to do to get to the best viewpoint – Marienbrücke (Mary’s bridge). It took at least another 15 minutes of brisk walking to make it to the bridge, but at least we were able to enjoy beautiful views of the countryside along the way.
Once we had finally made it to Marienbrücke I wasn’t sure I wanted to go any farther. This narrow little bridge was suspended high above the forest and was packed with tourists – walking along the vibrating planks and peering over the side to the deep ravines below is not for the faint of heart.
The quest for the perfect photo pulled me forward and we squeezed our way across the bridge to find the crowds parted on the other side. The rain had let up soon after we started our climb and just as we found the perfect vantage point the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, throwing its warm light on the green fields below.
We lingered on the bridge, taking photos and enjoying the stunning views for a little while longer. It was nearing our tour time so eventually we made our way back down to the castle entrance. All tours are guided so we had to wait for our tour time to be called before entering the castle. Most of the castle remains unfinished and is not open to visitors, so our tour was relatively short and we weren’t allowed to take photos inside. At the end of the tour we were able to go out onto the balcony and steal a few more glimpses of that beautiful countryside below.
The views from above are what make this Bavarian village special; if we hadn’t had the time to tour the castle I wouldn’t have been all that disappointed. Luck was definitely on our side in terms of the weather, but all you can do is plan ahead, leave room for a bit of flexibility, and hope for the best. If you’re visiting Germany, a trip into Bavaria to see Neuschwanstein Castle is a must.