“Someday my prince will come,” sings Snow White. Well, there was no Snow White or Sleeping Beauty or even a prince in this historical tale of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. A castle he built to “hide in” and as homage to the composer Richard Wagner, apparently inspired Walt Disney to model Sleeping Beauty Castle after it.
However, the Romanesque Revival Neuschwanstein Castle is probably not as well-known as that imaginary theme park castle. The reclusive king (the most well-known king of Bavaria, and still much-loved) started building it in 1869 but ultimately only 15 rooms and halls were actually finished.
The king was actually deposed on the pretext of his alleged insanity, and supposedly committed suicide in 1886 (he was a good swimmer, but apparently drowned). He had only slept 11 nights in his masterpiece that actually sits on a rock and not the mountain proper.
A tour of the rooms is well worth it. The detailing (a lot of which is dedicated to scenes from Wagner’s compositions) and the finishing are just astounding.
It has also incorporated a lot of new technology for that period – telephone lines (you must check out the gigantic phone in one of the rooms), a battery-powered bell-system, central heating, running warm water and automatic flush toilets, among others.
The views from the palace of the area are astounding. To get the whole view of the castle, take a trek up to the bridge nearby. Unfortunately, the practice of love-locks seems to have made its presence here.
At the valley where the tour buses are parked is also another castle, the neo-Gothic yellow-coloured Hohenschwangau where Ludwig grew up in. If you have the time, do pay a visit but our Avalon Waterways group could only do one or the other.
Included in our tour was Oberammergau, the little town famous for its Passion Of The Christ play that is staged every 10 years, and has been performed since 1634. The next staging, in which basically half the whole town will take part, is from May to October 2020.
Other reasons to visit? The town is famous for its woodcarving and lüftlmalerei or frescoes, of traditional Bavarian themes, fairy tales and religious scenes; they are found on many homes and buildings. We had less than an hour in town, and I went crazy feasting my eyes on the numerous frescoes and clicking away on the camera.
So it was a relief when I could let my fingers rest, and stop for some ice cream. All the tourists seemed to have the same idea. Too many flavours to choose from but my mango delight was … delightful!
For our ground tour, our base was actually Munich (Munchen to the Bavarians), the capital of Bavaria. It’s a city that’s easy to get around and full of biergarten. It’s Oktoberfest central, after all and it would be remiss if you did not try the local beer. There are six big labels but according to our guide only two are still locally owned. I took his advice and opted for a nice smooth Augustiner, the most popular one. Of course, I had it with sauerkraut and wieners.
When in Munchen, it would be amiss not to visit the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel in the heart of the city of Marienplatz. At 11am (also noon and 5pm in summer), it chimes a tune and two stories from the 16th century are enacted. Get there earlier to secure a good spot and don’t move because it only lasts about 15 minutes.
This is a good spot to wander around because the Stachus, a pedestrian zone and shopping area, is just on the left. There is also the Viktualienmart with its stalls offering all kinds of produce and, yes, beer gardens. Check out the giant maypole here.
Nearby is Peterkirche which, if you are so inclined as I was, you can walk up 19 floors of winding stairs to get some of the best views of Munich. All that sweat and knee and chest pain was worth it!
If you’re still hung up on castles, do visit the enormous Schloss Nymphenburg with its equally enchanting gardens.
Now I shall take my leave as my carriage awaits!