Here’s Part 2 of our weekend trip through the Alps. This section includes Füssen and Neuschwanstein. You can find Part 1 here!
Füssen and Neuschwanstein (aka Cinderella’s Castle)
We arrived in Füssen on Saturday night, having only spent a few hours in Liechtenstein. Füssen is the closest, decent sized city to Neuschwanstein. It’s quite touristy because of its proximity to Cinderella’s Castle, but I still enjoyed its quaintness. In fact, the manager of our hostel told us about a really cool music bar right on the Lech River, so we spent our evening there, and headed out to the castle in the morning.
It did not disappoint. We got there early enough to get a great parking spot and bought tickets for our English walking tour a few hours later. They offer tours in a multitude of languages, but English is by far the most popular, which probably explains why we heard more English here at Neuschwanstein than we have our entire time in Germany. Americans, Brits, and Aussies galore!
We had the option to take a horse-drawn carriage to the top, which would have admittedly been one of the most fairy tale things we could ever do, but we decided to go ahead and hike instead. In hindsight, we’re happy we did this because we felt terrible for the horses, having to lug these heavy carriages around all day (and let me tell you, they cram as many people in there as they can – I saw one that had at least 10 people).
Anyway, Neuschwanstein is every bit as beautiful as the pictures make it out to be. It’s massive and impeccably built, with amazing attention to detail in the most unsuspecting places. One awesome thing about the grounds is that you can hike to Marionsbrücke (Marion’s Bridge), which is a metal bridge built over a chasm a distance away from the castle so you can really just get the full, unobstructed view. If you walk over the bridge, there are actually some hiking paths you can continue on that take you to a higher point, with different angles of the castle.
The actual tour inside of the castle was a bit disappointing, but I was sort of expecting that. The rooms themselves were decorated beautifuly, but since there is a new tour every 10 or 15 mintues, you feel as though you’re being herded through the castle, with little more than a minute to gawk.
The history of Neuschwanstein is actually really interesting, so here’s a relatively quick synopsis: the castle was commissioned to be built in 1869 by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as an homage to Richard Wagner, a German opera composer. Ludwig was enamored with many of Wagner’s pieces, and many of the rooms in the castle are decorated as scenes from the compositions. The main opera Ludwig loved, Lohengrin, was where his love for swans came from (Ludwig is often referred to as the Swan King). In fact, the name Neuschwanstein means New Swan Stone in English. There is even one room in the castle in which there are over 100 depictions of swans between the woodwork, paintings, and sculptures.
King Ludwig only lived in the castle for less than a year before he was forcibly removed from power due to questions about his sanity. Ludwig borrowed immense amounts of money and spent all royal revenues (although no state funds) on building this castle, and this was ultimately used against him to declare him insane. His diagnosis was never medically verified, and to this day his deposition is a controversial topic. On top of this, Ludwig and the psychiatric doctor who was assigned to him, were both found dead in Lake Starnberg (the location of the psychiatric hospital) in waist-high water just one day after Ludwig was kicked out of power. It was said that Ludwig drowned, although no water was found in his lungs at the autopsy, and the doctor had unexplained injuries to his head and shoulders.
The construction of the castle was never completed, as it was ongoing while Ludwig was still living there. It has been open to the public since 1886.