Neuschwanstein – Day 5

Castle day! We awoke to decent weather and a forecasted high at nearly 60. Despite nearly a 50% chance of rain we had great weather to tour the castles.

Based on all the reviews and tour book recommendations, I had made reservations for both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles, but on this day, or simply due to the time of the year, there were no lines at the ticket office.

You are required to pick up your ticket at least one hour before your designated tour time.  Hohenschwangau is the first castle on the combo ticket then Neuschwanstein follows two hours later. We initially thought this was a huge amount of time, but it’s easily filled.

Along with the tickets there are maps showing the various routes to the castles and estimated walking times (very generous time estimates).

We choose the “long” way up to Hohenschwangau which meanders through the village toward the lake and up the hill to the castle. It’s uphill, but not strenuous. The alternative is a direct approach through the village up a series of steps. What we didn’t know is the step approach is one way only (up).

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We were in a group of about 40 or so people for the English tour. Very interesting castle, but somewhat difficult to hear the guide. The guidebooks say it’s a 35 minute tour but was actually closer to an hour.

After the tour it was back downhill for a quick bite to eat then uphill to Neuschwanstein. Certainly didn’t feel like we had time to kill. We chose to take the bus up then a short walk uphill to the Mary’s Bridge viewpoint. Awesome bridge spanning a scenic gorge, and the vantage point of likely all the publicity photos of the castle. Even better, this side of the castle isn’t covered in scaffolding!

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From the bridge it’s another 10 minutes or so downhill to the castle with fantastic viewpoints along the way.

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Many more people seem to tour this castle, must be crawling with tourists and tour groups during peak season. We joined an even bigger group for this tour, probably 60 people or so, but the guide was much louder so able to hear nearly everything. You only see a few rooms but they are extremely impressive.

After the guided tour it’s a maze through some gift shops and out through the castle kitchens, which are pretty cool. Outside the castle there was a beer hall/garden which would have been a nice place to enjoy a drink, but we had a 2 1/2 hour drive north to Rothenburg ob de Tauber. So, instead we opted for the steep forested path back to the village.

The drive north initially took us through Fussen, just a few minutes away from the castles then on to the autobahn. Fussen was our original base for several days before we changed our itinerary.  It would have been nice to spend more time in this area enjoying some of the hiking, but we wanted to see more of the diversity of Bavaria so north we went.

The impressions we had of the autobahn were of wide, multi-lane freeways. Drivers zipping along at incredible speeds. And while the later may be true, so far we’ve only experienced a typical two lane highway. And trucks. Lots and lots of trucks. Tons of trucks.

So far the driving hasn’t been stressful. The villages are very sleepy with most of the lights turned off. Biggest differences seems to be light placement and the signage mentioned in the  Munich post.

The autobahn is just like driving on our highways, but you do need to be very cognizant of passing and staying right so you don’t get mowed down by a Beemer or Audi zooming up behind you. Overall the drivers are much more courteous than US drivers as a whole. Left lane for passing then back to the right. Very civilized . . . and fast. Unfortunately, our rental car has horrible acceleration so passing and entrance ramps took more synchronization and planning.

We reached Rothenburg without incident with the exception of the GPS wanting to send us down a pedestrian walkway to reach our hotel. Basically, the hotel’s address is actually on a pedestrian only street so not sure if I’d classify that as a GPS error. Thankfully I had the hotel directions on the email confirmation which led us to the public parking lot next to the hotel.

We are staying at the Hotel Garni Hornburg right outside the city walls. Yes, walls. This is a medieval walled village and adorable. And to add more cuteness factor, our hotel is a converted mansion.

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After settling in we walked into town for dinner. Unfortunately the initial restaurants on our recommended list were closed! Nothing in the books mentioned closures on Tuesday’s and we couldn’t figure out why so many locations were dark.

We finally found a delicious German style restaurant, enjoyed a wonderful dinner of roast pork, mushroom gravy and spaetzle for me and sauerbraten for Linda (this was one of the few meals we didn’t split). Lots and lots of pork dishes here!

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And yes, it’s glistening due to all the cream and butter.

It’s been a full day, and looking forward to a good nights sleep and exploring the Rothenburg sites tomorrow. Also staying put in the same hotel is welcome!

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