The penultimate day of the trip did not begin the same as most of the other days. Instead of a hotel breakfast, we went to the small village of Baindlkirch for a Bavarian breakfast consisting of Weißwürste with sweet mustard and pretzels. The place was right next to a farm field, and the surrounding village was very small, but the food was most excellent. The German students taught us how to eat the Weißwürste and insisted that we do it as they showed us, which was the traditional Bavarian way to eat them. It was a unique cultural experience, although I certainly would not want to have the same food for breakfast very often, since it was quite heavy. Interestingly, I noticed a lot of CSU political signs and almost no signs for the Green party in the small towns along the way. This makes sense given the general division of liberals and conservatives into urban and rural areas, respectively.
After our Bavarian breakfast, we headed further south to the Wieskirche. It is an unassuming building from the outside, but inside, the decorations and artwork are stunning. It is an example of the rococo style of art. The ornate decorations led me to wonder why this was built in such a rural area. I am surprised that such a community could afford it, but they did somehow, and now it stands as a beautiful work of art as well as a church. Once we finished up there, we headed to the main stop of the day, Neuschwanstein, and we had a lunch of sandwiches and apples upon arriving.
Before touring the castle itself, we had a little bit of time to spend at the lake next to the parking lot. Despite the fog shrouding the highest peaks of the Alps, the views of Hohenschwangau Castle and the surrounding hills and mountains were very beautiful. After doing some walking around the lake, it was time to make the trek up to Neuschwanstein itself. The walk up was strenuous, but we were greeted with a nice view of the surrounding countryside at the top. After admiring the view, we headed into the castle itself for our tour. Although a lot of the castle was left unfinished due to King Ludwig II’s death, I still found the tour to be very short and generally unsatisfactory. The tour guide was knowledgeable, but there simply was not much to see inside. The only really cool things on the tour were the woodwork on the top of the king’s bed, which was ornately carved to mimic a Gothic cathedral, and the room decorated to look like a grotto . The castle also quickly showed itself to be a touristy location. There were large groups everywhere, and the exit funneled through two gift shops, which I found annoying. After the disappointing tour, we continued to walk uphill to get a better view of the castle from afar. We hiked up to a bridge across a ravine, and from there one could see the whole castle and the surrounding countryside behind it. The view was breathtaking, and from that angle, it struck me that it must have been to extremely difficult to construct the castle, since it is embedded into a cliff and surrounded by mountainous terrain. It is not surprising that King Ludwig quickly exhausted his family’s fortune building such castles.
Once we had taken enough pictures of the view, it was time to head back down to the bus and move on to Füssen, a town in the area. We did not have much time there, but there was not much to see anyway. A bunch of us got ice cream and walked around the pedestrian zone. One interesting thing I saw in a shop’s display window was a watch made by Junkers. I know Junkers as a company that produced planes for the German Luftwaffe in World War Two, such as the JU-87 Stuka, so it was interesting to see that the company is still around, albeit in a completely different industry. Seeing the watch made me wonder how Junkers transformed itself from producing warplanes to making watches, or if they have maybe always been in the watch business without me knowing about it.
We left Füssen after a short time and began the long drive back to Augsburg. Before reaching the hotel, we were forced to give an abrupt goodbye to Sonja, Marius, and some of the German students, since they got off the bus at a different place. It is hard to believe that their parts in the trip are over. They have been very helpful and enthusiastic throughout the whole trip, and I appreciate all of the work they put into making this trip a success. Once back at the hotel, a couple of us went out to Pamukkale Kebap for what was possibly the final Döner of the trip. After we finished our delicious meal, we headed back to the hotel and sorted out the details concerning our free day itinerary. I am heading to Munich to meet my host family from my last trip to Germany. It will be exciting to see them again and cap off this amazing trip in Munich.