Fri/Sat - Sep 6/7
First a note. I'm putting two days in this post and we limited pictures as there is no FIOS here and jps uploads take a while.
Fri - Sep 6
Today will be busy so we're up at 6:20. The hotel breakfast is a feast and comes with the room unlike the Hilton in Munich. Then we left at 8 for the first castle of the day.
Hohenschwangau had existed since the 11th century and King Ludwig II's father, Maximilliam II, had bought it. Ludwig grew up here and later built Neuschwanstein after he became King at 18. Unfortunately by the time he occupied it he was 40 and only lived in it for 172 days and died shortly thereafter. He was found dead in a lake with his doctor after he was declared mentally unfit. That death to this day was considered suspicious.
Ludwig was a hermit, lived at night, never married, in fact ended an engagement after eight months, and dined alone not wanting to see anyone. He had an obsession with the French royalty, and even built another castle, Linderhof, a small imitation of Versailles.On the grounds of that castle, and because of his equal obsession with Richard Wagner, he also built a private grotto where he could watch performances of his operas by himself. More on that later.
Thus he was known as Mad King Ludwig. Enough history, you can Google more.
In comparison, and why you visit Hohenschwangau first, Neuschwanstein is over the top a jewel. It's what Cinderella's Castle is modeled after.
We arrived early enough for our 9:50 reservation so we had plenty of time to spend walking by the Alpensee lake, a tranquil place surrounded by mountains and a walking path around it, and then to visit the museum. The museum is a small building filled with history and artifacts from Ludwig and his family's life. We needed all the time available to see it.
A ten minute climb then got us to the castle where you wait, with a lot of other people, for your time and tour number to pop up on the TV monitor. They are very organized and automated in the tour business.
The tour took about 30 minutes. The interior was 'normal', other than the period paintings and furniture, and looked like a home one would live in. This is not to minimize its impressiveness, just that it felt like real people would live there.
Then we took a short walk downhill into the center where we got a bus that took you up to Marienbrucke, the bridge that spans a chasm and overlooks Neuschwanstein.
As much as Karen does not like heights, and this bridge is only about 8 or 10 feet wide with only a metal fence-like shield that rises to your chest leaving you with a sense of nothing between you and the castle a few hundred feet away, she ventured onto it and found it to be 'enjoyable' anyway. Besides, the view is incredible as you'll see in the pictures.
A short walk down then to the castle, again a short wait for the monitor to announce our time, and our tour started. All our tours were scheduled in English.
The interior of this castle is so over the top that had you seen it first you might have walked out on the Hohenschwangau tour. Room after room with impressive wood carvings, painted walls and ceilings, furniture, and all as though money was never an object, which it wasn't since he ended up pretty much in debt by the time he died. To really appreciate the interior I suggest you Google a bit and see it with your own eyes.
We had a brief cake break at the castle and then a horse drawn carriage ride down to the bottom where we had parked.
Next stop Oberammergau. There being no Passion play for us to see, ha, we walked through the town. It's also known for its fine wood carvers and there was certainly no end to shops selling the stuff. We were struck though by the honesty of them all when they had posted signs in various areas of the shop noting which were real wood and which not. The town is charming with painted building facades. About 90 minutes later we had seen all there was and left.
Next stop Linderhof castle, though not really a castle, more like a jewel of a two story music box, standing all white among the green grass and trees and with a fountain and water park directly in front of it that rose along the ground at least two hundred feet away and and upward about 50 feet high.
Ludwig had a thing for France, specifically French royalty and Louis IV, and counted some as his friends. He wanted to live in a fantasy world that Versailles brought to mind. So he copied many of the rooms not exactly as the originals but 'sort of as seen in versailles'. He didn't allow any pictures of himself in the castle because that would ruin the ability for him to think he was really living at Versailles. He also was a night person and in addition liked to eat in private. So, in his dining room, the dinner table was on a lift which enabled his servants to lower it to the kitchen for them to set the table for him and then lift it back up through the floor above for him to eat alone.
The rooms are outrageously Rococo and Baroque and his bedroom outdoes anything at Versailles.
He also was infatuated with Wagner. So much so that in a glen away from the castle he had built, under a hill, a grotto, which required a lot of steel and concrete. Entering it is like entering a cave, with high ceilings and an underground lake. It's also cold. So he had heaters installed to warm the air as well to heat the water. He had his own private box to then view the Wagner operas, for which he brought in orchestras and performers, just for himself! This was one truly dedicated madman.
By now it was 6pm so we decided to eat at the hotel on the Linderhof grounds.
Karen had pork tenderloins in a Chanterelle mushroom sauce with broccoli and mashed potatoes and Mike a filleted trout, roasted, with potatoes and root vegetables. Dinner was delicious. No dessert and there was a lot of food and it was starting to get late.
We left a bit after 7 and got back to Fussen a bit after 8. Beat a bit, with packing to do, but we were able to move some sights from later days which will free up time for Innsbruck other sites not on our original list
Sat - Sep 7
We slept a little later, 7am, had breakfast, loaded the car and went off to Austria and the Zugspite, the tallest mountain in Germany. We went to Austria because the gondola/tram up from there is faster, and cheaper, and more importantly quicker to get to than from the Germany side The views were stupendous. It was a beautiful clear day with no wind. We really didn't need our jackets but Karen wore her new down jacket just in case it was cold up there but she quickly was able to ditch it. We walked from the Austria terrace to the Germany terrace and watched the hikers ascend to the top of the peak. We spent about 2 hrs there enjoying the views.
Next stop was Garmisch Partenkirchen, a resort town of about 50,000 people but a very walkable old town center with more beautiful painted building facades. We stopped for lunch at an outdoor cafe and just enjoyed the beautiful day with great views of the town. We strolled around town, contemplated walking across town to the Philosopher's Way but it was a 30 min walk to get there plus a 90 min walk through the woods. We decided to skip it since we had our share of walking and climbing yesterday, which, by the way - we must have climbed over 1000 stairs before we were done for the day.
We headed to our destination for the next 2 nights - Mittenwald. It's another resort town, absolutely gorgeous with the Alps right at your doorstep. Our room is a large suite with a balcony that looks out on the Alps. This is another charming town full of shops, restaurants and beautifully painted facades. We walked the town for 2 hrs then stopped for dinner overlooking the pedestrian mall. At 7:30pm we called it a night so we could get back and spend some time updating the blog and washing out some clothes. So far, we've had 2 shower days. Today was a little cooler than yesterday, but still pretty warm in the sun. We are not complaining though since it's been gorgeous!