Known as the castle that inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein was the highlight for many of the students on this study abroad.
Known as the fairy-tale king, Ludwig II of Bavaria was a dreamer. Inspired by the music of Richard Wagner and his childhood hero Lohengrin, the swan king, Ludwig created Neuschwanstein. The interior was decorated with swan motifs, also the king’s heraldic animal; there are over 15o images of swans in just his bedroom. Many rooms also had themes or featured characters from Wagner’s operas. The entire castle itself is a bit of a paradox. Built in the late 1800s, it featured one of the first telephones in Bavaria and had central heating. It was designed, however, to seem as if built centuries ago or from a fantasy world.
To get there from Munich, we took a two-hour train from the main station to the city of Füssen, then a short ten-minute bus ride to get to the ticket office.
Right across from Neuschwanstein is Hohenschwangau Castle, a much older building which dates back to the 12th century. This was where Ludwig II grew up and part of why he wanted to build his new creation in this area. Like Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau is also a museum.
To get to Neuschwanstein, visitors must climb a steep hill, which in the winter can be icy, or take a horse and carriage up. Being students, we walked and discovered how out-of-shape many of us are. There is a viewpoint along the hike which in my opinion provides the best viewpoint of the castle, besides those taken from the Marienbrücke. The latter is a bridge you can walk to where you can see the full castle; in winter, however, the path is often closed.
At almost the top of the hill, there is a viewing point where you can see the valley below and the mountains above. This is also a good place to wait before the tour starts as it can get crowded in the main courtyard.
When it was time for our tour, we went inside the courtyard, scanned our tickets, and joined a queue for the English language tour. There are about 30 people in a tour and no pictures are allowed once you are inside the castle.
Because Ludwig II was never able to complete his project, most of the castle is empty. Therefore, the tour is pretty short, covering just a few main rooms such as Ludwig’s throne room and his bedroom. Everything is fit for a king, with rooms featuring mosaic floors, extravagant woodwork, and golden chandeliers. However, I must say I was a little disappointed in the guide we received as a lot of relevant information I’ve heard on previous tours was left unsaid.
Personally, I find Schloss Neuschwanstein to be a bit of a tourist trap. While the rooms are certainly pretty, there is not that much to see and it is a long way to go for such a short tour. However, the building does have a fascinating history and if you go to both castles you can learn quite a bit about Bavarian royalty in the 1800s.