Neuschwanstein Castle had been a longstanding feature on my bucket list, so I was delighted to finally tick it off. It was built in the 19th century by King Ludwig II of Bavaria – he was also sometimes known as or the “Fairytale King”. However, poor Ludwig died under suspicious circumstances before his castle was even completed.
After King Ludwig was declared mad, he was deposed and lived in isolation. One night in 1886, he never returned from a walk along the bank of Lake Starnberg with his psychiatrist. His body was then found in the lake itself, along with that of his psychiatrist’s. The official cause of death given was suicide by drowning – according to the authorities, his psychiatrist had supposedly tried to stop Ludwig, and Ludwig had killed him in the struggle before drowning himself. Many, however, speculate that it was actually a murder that took place that night, and attempts have been made to cover up two bullet holes allegedly found in the King’s back.
This interesting backstory aside, Ludwig’s castle itself is a must-see for everyone. It climbs skyward from the grey rock and alpine forest below, demanding to be marvelled at by all those who set eyes on it. Not surprisingly, it was also a finalist for the new Seven Wonders of the World – I don’t know how it never made the cut, to be honest!
We got the bus from where we were staying, in nearby Bavarian town of Füssen, to Hohenschwangau, the village Neuschwanstein Castle overlooks. The place was bustling with coach loads of tourists, even in March – many opting for a carriage ride to the castle, hauled by a pair of muscular draft horses.
Riley and I made our own way up there on foot, taking a right-hand path that led us off the main road to the castle. Though this track was steep, it led us to a bridge known as “Marienbrücke” that spans the valley behind Neuschwanstein, offering you that iconic castle view. In the summer months, this bridge is sometimes manned to monitor the number of people standing on the bridge. If you’ve ever walked across it and felt the bendy wooden planks yield and creak with just the weight of a single person, you’ll understand why.
The castle is open every day by guided tour only, and costs €13 to get in (tickets should be bought in advance due to high demand) – but if you’re under 18, it’s free. It’s important to note – unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures inside the castle. All the classic tourist snaps will have to all be taken from outside.
We bought some delicious Schneebälle (that’s snowballs to you and I) from a pastry shop in Füssen, to enjoy when we got to the castle. These are round balls of pastry dusted in sugar and other confection – from chocolate to marzipan – and in the past, were only served at occasions such as weddings. The only marriage taking place this time however, was between this strawberry snowball and my mouth…
If you’re looking for an even better view, away from the majority of the hustle and bustle of selfie sticks and camera flashes, you can continue over the bridge. This leads you on a narrow path up the mountainside to a little clearing – look for a white sign covered in colourful stickers which is next to the clearing, this marks it quite clearly. We went back up the following day to hike to the top of this hill and the clearing made a nice quiet stop for some snaps. If you’re lucky, your significant other will dangle off the edge of the cliff to really spruce up the travel album.
If you continue upwards, path is a bit narrow and you have to scramble in a few places but it’s a reasonably clear route so you’d be hard pushed to lose your way. Once you catch your breath at the summit though, just be prepared to have it taken away again when you take in the otherworldly alpine views!
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