Another early morning. Another Ibis Hotel croissant to get me through the day. Another nap on the bus. Luckily, I got the entire back row to myself today, so I could lay across all five seats. Unfortunately, I missed most of the scenery of the Alpine foothills on the drive to Neuschwanstein Castle. Let it just be recorded here that it took me foreverto be able to pronounce the name of this castle – even today I was mumbling the name whenever someone brought it up. “Oh yeah, New-shell-swanson-frankenstein Castle looks great from this view.”
We finally arrived in Hohenschwangau at the base of the hill where the castle is located. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking! Since we were early for our castle tour, we hiked up past the castle and to a bridge that overlooked Neuschwanstein. On our trek, we encountered several horse-drawn carriages that I wish I could have hopped into, but unfortunately could not. At our little pit-stop to the bridge, I started to look at the souvenirs that were on display. Once I looked back up, I could not see anyone from the group around me and I started to jog back up the path, believing they had already continued walking. I still could not see anyone ahead of me. Yes, I started to panic. No, I had no idea where I was. I went back down to the overlook where the shop was, and finally saw the entire group taking a photo (without me)! I was just happy to be reunited with everyone and not stranded in the Alps alone. We soon continued up the trail, together this time.
I am not really the outdoors-y type – I can admire nature and its beauty – but I will never voluntarily go hiking on a trail. My entire perspective, however, changed the moment I set foot on that bridge. From endless hues of green, to trickling waterfalls, and of course, the picturesque castle in front of us, I fell in love with the nature surrounding me. When I return to America, I will start making an effort to get out more and appreciate the world around me.
We were finally able to start our tour shortly after our excursion to the bridge. I was able to learn more about European history, considering I have never learned about King Ludwig II of Bavaria or of Schloss Neuschwanstein before. Ludwig II commissioned Neuschwanstein, by means of his own personal funds, above his own childhood home. It is no wonder that Ludwig II was considered the “Fairy Tale King,” as the castle heavily resembled that of something I would read from a storybook as a child, or something from a Disney movie. The interior was richly adorned with paintings and intricate details; sadly, we could not take pictures inside. The tour seemed short to me, but I was not complaining because my legs were killing me from the hike to the bridge still.
We stopped at the nearby town of Füssen for lunch, where I tried leberkäse with a fried egg on top, something I had never seen or heard of before. Although it seems trivial, I was happy when I saw a packet next to my dish and found out the word for “mustard” in German is the same as in Serbo-Croatian, senf. I enjoyed being able to pick up on certain words that I grew up saying but never knew they held Germanic roots.
Our next trip was to the Pilgrimage Church of Wies, or Wieskirche, which I had never heard of before, either. I was curious as to why it was a pilgrimage site, since I attended a Catholic high school and learned about most of the prominent pilgrimage sites in the world, but never of Wieskirche. I learned that tears were seen on the figure of the Scourged Savior, and many people go to pray before the statue of Jesus because of claims that it will miraculously cure diseases. After visiting the church, we made another quick pit-stop to a donut shop where I tried one of the best donuts I ever had. They reminded me of the krofnemy mother would make for me as a child. I quickly devoured mine.
Today was abundant with so much beauty and wonder; I loved being able to see the scenic and historic environment of Bavaria that is just impossible to find in the United States.
P.S. I won the city game with Nancy, France. It was a good day.