January 24, 2014

A Tale of Two Castles

Just after Christmas, I was very excited to have my friend Becky and her husband visit us for a weekend.  We've been friends for many years now, first meeting at one of our previous duty stations. Though we were separated for a few months, Becky and her hubs also received orders for Germany!!!

Cool, isn't it?

We're not living in the same area, but we are only about 3 hours apart. So weekend visits aren't hard to arrange. This particular weekend was one of many to come, I'm sure!

Our main plan was to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. On my Germany bucket list is the desire to photograph this castle in each and every season. Winter snow was first!

In regards to visiting the castle, I have one suggestion that you should definitely take… reserve your tickets online in advance. We didn't do this, and we were very lucky to have arrived early. An hour after our arrival, the ticket booths were a maze of people, the lines stretching on endlessly. For a few euros, you can reserve your spot and cut the line out of the equation.

Do it, peeps!!!

As it was, we left in the wee hours of the morning, armed with our cameras and a few snacks. The drive was gorgeous. I resisted the urge to snap a thousand pictures through the window, but I couldn't stop myself from taking just a few…

Top: Beautiful Bavarian countryside
Bottom: Our first glimpse of the Bavarian Alps

When I could resist the scenery no longer, I forced the Hubs to pull over in a frozen field so I could  jump out and snap pictures to my hearts' content!!

I could only stand in the cold so long without my gloves, so after a few minutes (ok, 15 minutes), we were on the road again. Before we knew it, the castle was in view!!

Again, we had to pull over and take pictures. How could I resist, really? This castle actually inspired Walt Disney's version at the Orlando theme park. I totally understand this! Neuschwanstein is beautiful.

Of course, this isn't the only castle in the area. In fact, Hohenschwangua is right next door, and you can purchase a combo ticket to see both castles in the same day. Which we did.

Hohenschwagua Castle

Though I found the exterior of Neuschwanstein to be prettier, I actually enjoyed the tour of Hohenschwagua better. The guides were well informed at each castle, however… both tours felt rushed, with little time to look around or ask too many questions.

No pictures are allowed inside either castle, but there are plenty of books in the gift shop if you desire them. The best part of our day was actually the hike we took after our tours. There are many paths around the village, some of which lead to other villages (those paths are quite the hike, though!).

Of course, we chose the hike which would offer the best views (and therefore pictures) of Neuschwanstein. During the winter, this path is closed from the public, but many people simply hop the fence and continue at their own risk anyway.

We were some of those people.

I was surprised by how many chose this path, it was extremely crowded. The path was also well covered with ice and snow. More than one person came down on their butt. Eventually, the path led to a bridge…

The bridge is narrow, and also coated with the winter weather. But as you can see, that didn't stop anyone! Beyond the bridge, the path continues up the mountain. I climbed quite a ways in, and I can't wait to try again in better conditions. There may be another post coming this spring, and I'll let you know how far the path really goes. As it was, I only hiked about another 20 minutes in.

The views from this hike were fantastic:

Top: View of Hohenswangua
Bottom: View of Neuschwanstein

Of course, by the time we made the trek back down the mountain, we were all cold and hungry. On the way down, we decided to take one of the offered horse and buggy rides. These are a few Euros each. Totally worth it after all the hiking we'd done that day! You can also take the horse and buggies to the castles on your way up, but the queues are extremely long. I suggest getting in line several hours before the start of your tour if you expect to make it on time.

At the bottom, there were plenty of restaurants for us to choose from. After a hearty meal, we were on our way back home, content with the adventure.

This is a must-see on almost everyone's list here. I'm happy to have been at least once, though I fully expect to see these castles many times as we have visitors over the next few years.

Have you visited Neuschwanstein or Hohenswagua, or both? What did you think of them? Feel free to comment below!

Until next time peeps, happy travels! I'll be back soon with more travel tales.

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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