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Neuschwanstein Castle: the fairytale castle!
Schloss Neuschwanstein (Fussen, Germany)
Member Name: Wickedinrock
Schloss Neuschwanstein (Fussen, Germany)
Date: 14/01/11, updated on 14/01/11 (100 review reads)
Advantages: Great day out, beautiful exterior, well organised tour and ticketing systems, stunning views
Disadvantages: Our guide, the interior of the castle
= History of the castle =
The Neuschwanstein castle is the Disney castle; the one that Walt Disney based his Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland around and used the design of for his Disney films logo. However, the majority of people would recognise the castle from its use in the filming of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The castle was commissioned by "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria who wanted to create a retreat based around the work of his favourite composer and friend, Richard Wagner.
The King died shortly before the castle was complete under suspicious circumstances and only lived in the castle for 172 days in total. It was opened to the public almost immediately afterwards, despite King Ludwig's desire to keep the public out of the castle. It has since become one of Europe's most popular attractions with over 1.3 million visitors a year.
= Getting to Füssen =
We were staying in Munich where many of the castles' visitors travel from. Trains run from Munich to Füssen hourly and the journey takes just over two hours which we didn't realise at the time or we would have headed to the station earlier in the day! We paid 31 Euros for a two person return ticket to Füssen which seemed reasonable. The train journey was really enjoyable and in the December snow the scenery was beautiful. We took the opportunity to take lots of pictures along the way, even spotting a few cross country skiers trying to travel in several feet of snow! I couldn't believe that trains were still operating with so much snow around - it was obvious we weren't in England anymore!
When we arrived at Füssen station we popped into the Tourist Information office who were very helpful and told us which bus to get to Hohenschwangau (the nearest village to the castles). This journey took less than 10 minutes and the driver shouted out that this was the stop for the King's castles which was really helpful as the whole bus disembarked there! Hohenschwangau was a small village which was obviously geared up for tourists. In fact the only shops or buildings that I saw were hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, cafes and ticket offices!
= Tickets =
Tickets had to be purchased from one of the booths in the village. Individuals can not enter the castles without being part of a tour so we had to buy the tour tickets which were 9 Euros per person or 17 Euro for the "Königsticket" which allows entry to both the Neuschwanstein and nearby Hohenschwangau castles. However, if you don't want to actually go into the castle you can walk right up to it free of charge. They also have free entry for children under 18 years old which I thought was excellent. The man who sold us the tickets explained the system to us and that there were tickets available for a tour starting in 15 minutes and then one starting in an hour. Even though we thought there might be a chance of getting there we decided on the one starting in an hour so that we could walk up to the castle and take in the scenery. If you miss the tour you are booked on you have to buy a new ticket - they will not make allowances for any late-comers.
The castle is open daily as follows:
April - September: 9 am - 6 pm
October - March: 10 am - 4 pm
=== Getting to the castle ===
My partner and I chose to walk up to the castle as we were assured it would take 25-30 minutes and this would take us up to the top in good time for our tour. It was a steep winding road which was hard work, especially as it was covered in snow and very icy in parts. Everytime a horse and carriage trotted past us full of smug people we realised we had made a mistake in walking and I did keep whining to Alex that I wanted to walk back down and get a ride! He didn't let me, however, and made me carry on, even carrying my handbag as I was sure that was why I was struggling! I was really surprised that the horse and carriages could get up the hill in such snowy conditions - they are obviously well trained! We finally got to a point where it looked like we had arrived, however I was quickly assured that this was actually the Hohenschwangau castle and we were only half way to the Neuschwanstein castle! I managed to get Alex to let me take a break under the false pretence that I wanted to take photos of the scenery and especially the Hohenschwangau, which actually turned out to be very nice. After struggling up the steep hill for another 10 minutes we arrived at a few stalls selling castle memorabilia and a Bratwurst seller! Hallelujah! We took the opportunity to take tonnes of photos from here as we could make out the huge Neuschwanstein castle looming above us and the shots were quite amazing. I was getting so excited by this point - I think I half expected the cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to be there in full costume singing! Another 5 minutes walk and we were finally at the castle...and a toilet! Phew!
The toilets at the top weren't great but better than I would have expected from public toilets at the top of a hill! As I walked in, two American women shouted after me "It's open? We didn't realise!". Apparently they had been walking around trying to find someone to let them in to the toilets as they thought they were locked. Clearly they hadn't tried the door! There were 5 small toilet cubicles, all of which were quite dirty, mainly because of all the snow that had been trodden in. The floor was soaking and covered in mud but the toilets themselves were fine and there was a decent supply of toilet paper which can never be taken for granted in public toilets! I had heard beforehand that I might have to pay for the toilet but they were definitely free of charge!
=== The castle ===
When we reached the castle we still had 25 minutes until out tour started. It was freezing cold and we had no wish to be outside but nowhere else to go! In my wellies, big coat, scarf, hat and gloves I was okay, but Alex in his silly trainers and lack of gloves was freezing and wet and getting rather miserable! We spent about 5 minutes taking pictures of each other in front of the castle until a nice Chinese couple offered to take our photo together ïS The castle was absolutely stunning and I felt like I was part of a fairytale! Even though the castle is up a huge hill high up in the Bavarian mountains, I half expected it to sit magically on the top of its own mountain with lots of mist hovering around the bottom. So it wasn't quite like that but it really was something special and one of the most beautiful locations I have ever witnessed. When we had exhausted every angle with the camera we made our way into the castle grounds to hang out in the souvenir shop and wait for the tour to start!
So the display board finally told us it was time for tour 289 and Alex and I ran over to the gate to try and get towards the front of the queue. Unfortunately his ticket wouldn't swipe to allow him in so we had to wait for someone to let us in and then had to run through the catch up with the gang! We made our way through some corridors until we finally entered a room that looked like it was part of the actual castle and we were greeted by our tour guide Tom. Tom was German and spoke with a very strong accent, to the point that you couldn't tell what he was saying unless you were very close to him and really thought about it. He obviously knew all the information about the castle but I felt like he didn't put much effort into the tour and that he probably said the same thing every hour. He wasn't particularly receptive to questions either and I felt that we were rushed around the castle.
=== Inside the castle ===
For the grandest of castles the interior was oddly disappointing. I actually couldn't believe what I was seeing! I honestly felt like someone had taken a bunch of old paintings and put them in brand new, obnoxiously coloured rooms. It just didn't seem fitting with the wonderful exterior or anything I've seen in a castle before.
The tour starts on the second floor of the castle in the red corridor which is covered in red tiles. This leads to a staircase which takes the tour into the Entrance Hall decorated with huge oil paintings on the wall. From there we entered the most spectacular room in the castle, 'the Throne Room' which ironically is missing the throne! It is the most grand of all of the rooms with the most expensive item being the huge chandelier suspended from the ceiling weighing 900kg, created to resemble the Byzantine Crown. The area where the throne should sit is up a flight of 5 white stairs which are made of marble and the platform is surrounded with paintings of the 12 Apostles. There is also a mosaic on the floor which took years to create. I couldn't believe how new everything looked considering it was built in 1864. I almost felt like it had been decorated 10 years ago but designed to look like it was from the 19th century.
The dining room is another elaborately decorated room which didn't stand out much in my opinion and we were ushered through this room very quickly. The next room we visited was the King's bedroom which is decorated in a gothic style with lots of wood carvings and oil paintings. The paintings in the bedroom depict the story of Tristan and Isolde; a story he grew to love through Richard Wagner's operatic interpretation.
The next room and one of the rooms which made the biggest impression on me was the Living Room which was decorated with hundreds of swans. King Ludwig dedicated the room to the legend of the Swan Knight Lohengrin; another opera by Wagner. The room includes a big porcelain swan and lots of swan designs both in paintings and carvings all around the room. Next came the strangest part of the whole castle and something I didn't expect. Joining the Living Room to the King's Study was the indoor Grotto designed by a landscape architect Dirrigl. The grotto has an artificial waterfall and artificial illumination from above to light up the area effectively. It would have looked more appropriate in an aquarium or even outside! It certainly did add something to the tour though! It let straight through to the Study, another gothic style room which references the history of the Wartburg Castle through paintings on the walls.
We were then led up to the fourth floor to see the Singers' Hall which takes up the entire floor. It's a very impressive room which was built for the King to host big banquets and musical performances, which sadly King Ludwig did not live to see. It is a huge room, again with lots of paintings and expensive looking gold and wooden carvings and had stunning views of the country and mountains. It was in this room that Tom ended the guided tour and showed us the way to the exit. We followed a couple of staircases down to the ground floor where we found the servant's quarters which were still quite elaborate. The kitchen, like the rest of the rooms, was very well preserved and looked very modern as it had been fitted in the last few years! Straight down the corridor and we were in a well stocked souvenir shop and then straight out into the cold!
Sadly no photographs can be taken once on the tour so I haven't been able to include any here except a sneaky one of the servant's quarters.
= Leaving Neuschwanstein =
So when our tour ended Alex and I decided to pelt it down the hill as fast as possible to try and beat the crowds from our tour to the bus queue. It was quite amusing running down an icy hill but we made it down in less than 10 minutes and managed to jump on a bus back to Füssen just before it set off, even though we had to stand up.
This is where our day took a turn for the more difficult... after waiting at the train station for half an hour, a man from Tourist Information came to the platform to inform us there would be no more trains to Munich departing from Füssen. There had been a lot of snow fall and this had disrupted the tracks in the area with the nearest open train station now an hour away. The man told us to get on one of the two coaches parked outside the station and that they would take us to this station, although most people on the coach didn't seem to have understood this and thought they would be taking us back to Munich. Anyway, everything turned out fine and we were taken to the station no problem where we were met by a train to take us to Munich Hauptbahnhof (main station) and we were only 20 minutes later than we should have been!
= After thoughts =
Annoyingly we missed out something that I have since learned is a key part in visiting the Neuschwanstein Castle. Even though we had a great time taking pictures outside the castle, Marienbrücke (Mary's Bridge) apparently offers the best views of the Neuschwanstein Castle and is the location that all the famous shots of the castle are taken from. It is approximately 25 minutes walk from the castle so definitely worth knowing beforehand rather than getting there and realising you don't have enough time! The bridge crosses a large gorge, with steep cliffs on both sides. Tourists can cross the bridge and take pictures of the castle with themselves in the background.
I would absolutely love to go back to visit Neuschwanstein in summer as I've heard it's completely different, although summer is the peak season for tourists. All in all, despite the disappointing interior, Neuschwanstein was a fantastic day out and I'm so happy to be able to say that I've been! Well worth a visit if you're in Germany - a real highlight of the country.
(Ignore the picture, it's terrible and it doesn't look like that! I'll ask Dooyoo if they can upload one of mine instead!)
Summary: One of the most famous castles in the world!