Day 5: Neuschwanstein: Where Natural and Manmade Beauty Meet

Today, we got an early start and got on a bus to Neuschwanstein Castle, about an hour and a half drive from Augsburg. As we neared the site of the castle, we entered rural Germany and the scenery exploded into brilliant greens fields and farmland. We began to see the Alps on the horizon appear through the clouds. As we got closer, they seemed to grow in front of us. The people who were taking naps missed out on a great view. Finally, Dr. Feick pointed out the Neuschwanstein castle which we could see at the foot of one of the mountains. The castle was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Soon after, another smaller castle came into view, which Dr. Feick explained was the castle of King Ludwig II’s father. As it turns out, Neuschwanstein was built in its current location because Ludwig fell in love with the area after spending time at his father’s castle. Another fact that I found fascinating was that building the castle drained the royal family’s fortune initially, however, the volume of tourism that it brings today actually makes Bavaria a lot of money. It’s funny how things turn out.

After getting the tickets, we began our ascent towards the castle, which was a hike. On the way up, we were passed by cars and by horse-pulled carriages. We occasionally found “exhaust” from the latter on the streets and we avoided stepping anywhere near it when passing. We met a couple from Wisconsin on the walk up and they were telling us about the flowers growing on the side of the road. It was surprising to see so many other Americans. After being in a real German city for four days, it was strange to be in a tourist place.

We finally made it up to the castle and continued up the hill to a bridge with a great view of the castle. The bridge crossed a deep ravine with a small waterfall under the bridge. The view of the castle was incredible, but what made it even more spectacular was the nature that surrounded the castle on all sides. On the low side of the castle, there was rolling farmlands and geometric fields. On the mountain side, there was a comforting and calming blanket of trees and in the distance, snow covered peaks. It was very clear why King Ludwig II chose that spot for his residence, because of all the natural beauty that surrounded the location.

We began our tour of the castle next, and each person was given a device that was a little bit larger than a Snickers bar that we held up to our ears to hear the tour guide. It was quite funny because it looked like all the people were talking on their telephones. The throne room was first, and the entire interior of the room was encased in gold. The paintings were of both biblical figures and medieval kings. We moved on to the bedroom and what struck me most was the intricate wood carvings above the bed. Also, the tour guide noted that Ludwig loved swans and from then on, I noticed about a billion swans on the walls and ceilings in the paintings.

Probably, my favorite part of the castle was the next room. The room was made into an artificial drip cave complete with stalagmites and stalactites. Walking into it felt like walking through a portal because of the stark contrast between the rooms of the castle and the cave.

It became apparent that King Ludwig was a little bit eccentric with his attempts to become a medieval king. One unfinished room was a bathing room so he could perform ritual baths like the kings of the middle ages.

The walk down the hill was much easier than the one up the hill and I grabbed an ice cream cone from a vendor, chocolate, and it was a great buy. After that, we rode a bus to Fussen, where we ate lunch. Afterwards, we had some time to buy *more* ice cream and look at the small shops that lined the streets. The ice cream vendor was a big joker, I never thought I would say this, but I almost had as much fun buying the ice cream as I did eating it.

After that, we took a bus to Weiskirche, a church that became a big pilgrimage location after a miracle happened there. It was different from the earlier churches and was more ornate on the inside and was all white and gold. It was in the Romanesque style rather than Gothic. There was also a donut shop right outside and we all stopped to get some airy, sugary goodness.

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