Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Adam and Kim's Visit Part 2: Neuschwanstein Castle

With Switzerland and France covered, Adam and Kim decided to add at least one more country to their European vacation. They wanted something reachable within a day from Zurich and, after some research,  decided to rent a car and head to Germany to see Neuschwanstein Castle. Neuschwanstein is the Bavarian palace that inspired Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle. Matt had to work, but I was happy to send Henry off to daycare and join them on the three hour road trip through Austria to Bavaria.

Top: Kim and her car
Bottom: Kim enjoying the German Autobahn at 145km/hr

From this backseat driver's perspective, it was an easy, scenic drive to Hohenschwangau. GPS led the way along the southern coast of Lake Constance, through long mountain tunnels and little Austrian towns past entire fields of solar panels (truly bizarre)... and McDonalds advertising 1€ cheeseburgers. So cheap! We definitely weren't in Switzerland anymore. 

Bavarian Alp Foothills
Hohenschwangau and Lake Alpsee
Hohenschwangau is a small town in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. In addition to our GPS, signs directed us to easily to the castle and the surrounding tourist shops and restaurants. We paid 5€ parking and made our way to pick up tickets for the castle tour. 

We had a little more than an hour before our scheduled tour, which we filled with photo ops at Lake Alpsee, souvenir shopping and lunch. This was, by far, the cheapest currywurst I've had since arriving in Europe. At 4€, it was at least 1/2 the price of the same meal in Zurich. And don't get me started on how excited I was for a Pepsi! This was my first since the move.

Lunch and Souvenirs in Hohenschwangau, Germany

We caught a bus (~2€ pp) that took us part way up the mountain. We detoured from the route to the castle for a stop at Queen Mary's Bridge and a breathtaking view of the castle. The bridge is high above a ravine and was packed with tourists.... We snapped a few photos before getting the hell out of there. 

View of Neuschwanstein Castle from Queen Mary's Bridge

Neuschwanstein Castle is absolutely gorgeous. It was commissioned by a king who died before its completion and it has never been fully furnished or lived in. It has existed solely as a tourist destination, with ticket fees supporting the cost to finish, partially furnish and operate the castle. Honestly, I didn't know most of this before touring the castle and was a bit disappointing to know that the rooms were never used and the furnishings are mostly examples of what could have been. Most impressive were the ornate murals and mosaics and an incredible amount of gorgeous marble. Taking photos of the interior was prohibited, which our tour guide reminded us at least a dozen times per room. So, instead you get more exterior shots!

View of Neuschwanstein Castle from Queen Mary's Bridge

Gatehouse of Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein's Gatehouse; photo credit: Adam
One last selfie before heading home; photo credit: Kim

After a 30 minute tour of the castle, we wandered the grounds, enjoyed some ice cream and then made our way home for one last night of Swiss beer and bacon flavored snacks at our flat in Zurich. We couldn't have asked for better guests and can't wait to see these two again, next time back in Ohio.

Thanks for the wonderful visit, Adam and Kim (and for letting me steal your photos)! See you in the Bus real soon!
Photo credit: Kim

Visiting Nueschwanstein from Zurich

Neuschwanstein is definitely worth the day trip from Zurich or a visit on a longer trip in Bavarian
Germany. Here's a bit more information about the logistics:

Travel from Zurich to Neuschwanstein Castle
We rented a car and drove just about three hours to Hohenschwangau, Germany. After spending a few touring the castle and wandering around town, we drove back, making it home in time for dinner (and, in our case, a thunderstorm!). The cost to rent a car for one day varies, but usually costs about $100-150 and we spent another 80 Chf/$90 in fuel.

Unfortunately there is no easy way to get to Hohenschwangau from Zurich on public transport, at least that I could find. It would have taken 6+ hours travel each way and cost substantially more for three of us.

Neuschwanstein Castle Tour
We took the advice of fellow expats and pre-purchased our tickets online, which we were glad of when we saw the ticket line. Tickets were 12€ each, or 24€ for passes to both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles and must be booked at least two days in advance.

You can take the easy hike up to the castle or pay a couple Euros for the bus. We took the bus, but next time I'd hike. It's a pretty climb with gorgeous views of the castle and lake.

Next time I'd skip the inside tour. It was moderately interesting, but short and our tour guide was... well, odd. His obnoxious, nasal monotone was nails on a chalk board, my friends. The impressive part of the visit was the castle exterior, no tour needed.

Sleachmour Travel Tip
Hohenschwangau is a totally dog friendly day trip. Lots of people brought their dogs, which were allowed in the town and on the castle grounds. Dogs were only prohibited from entering the castle. Which means on my next visit I can bring Matt AND Henry!

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