We followed the path down through the forest, walked round a bend, and saw this – our first view of Neuschwanstein.
Helen had arranged our trip down the Romantische Strasse (Romantic Road) to Füssen, and a business contact of hers organised a day out in the Bavarian Alps. His son, Michael, was our guide, and met us at our hotel in the charming town of Füssen.
Michael took us to Schwangau, a village at the bottom of the mountains which rose sharply out of the lush green farmland. We took the cable car, arriving at the top to find the national hang-gliding competition.Daredevils (or in my mind, mad people) throwing themselves off the edge of the Bavarian Alps, gliding down over lakes and green fields in the sunlight.
Michael enjoyed practising his English on us as we hiked through the Bavarian Alps and we taught him some kiwi slang. It was mid-June, but there was still snow on the track. The sun though was bright and warm; summer had definitely arrived. We ended our hike in a dell, thick with grass and flowers, surrounded by snow-covered peaks, where an old hunting lodge had opened for the summer. We ordered a drink, and Michael pointed out the mountains he had climbed with his father while we waited for the rest of his family to arrive.
His father, Helen’s business contact, arrived in style. Clad in lederhosen and vest, holding a huge walking staff, and with his dog at his side, he strode across the glade to meet us. Fortunately he didn’t have a pipe, a jaunty hat with a feather, or a singing Julie Andrews, as he was no cliché but an interesting and sophisticated man who showed us great hospitality. We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting outside with Michael and his family, drinking Weissen (wheat) beer and eating delicious potato cakes with apple sauce.
As the sun started to set, it was time to leave. It was then we saw Neuschwanstein for the first time. Mad King Ludwig’s castle was inspired, one of several European castles said to be the inspiration for Disney’s castle. It seems that in today’s world, the castles are famous for this; fantasy being more important than history. But how different and awe-inspiring it is that this castle was built as a home, a private refuge. Even then though, history was more romantic, and King LudwigII built Neuschwanstein in the style of 12th and 13th century medieval knight’s castle.
From the same path there was also a view of Hohenschwangau.Less dramatic, its setting appealed to me more, the building itself more approachable, more romantic.
After drinking up these extraordinary views, we continued to descend past the castles, back to the carpark … and the 20th century.