We woke early on the sixth day with the final day of road tripping ahead of us. We planned on spending two nights in Munich so that I could take a little respite from the continuous driving. I think that 1000 km in 7 days of driving is more than enough for anyone, don’t you?
Our first stop of the day was to be Neuschwanstein Castle. Being one of the most famous German landmarks you will have undoubtedly seen images of it scattered around the internet. If you have been unlucky and missed these you will definitely have seen the castle that used this Bavarian monument as its primary inspiration. Disney’s Magical Kingdom and the castle in Sleeping Beauty. Once you have seen it in person you can understand why they found it so inspiring.
Our experience of “tourist” (ourselves not included) during this trip had been low to the point of non-existent. As it was low season and we were travelling through lots of small towns and villages it was very quiet and nearly completely filled with native Bavarians. Clearly the attraction of this nineteenth century gem is still enough to pull the crowds, even in a cold rainy March. As we stepped out of the car we saw two large coaches arrive and a horde of people shouting, screaming and pointing swarming up the hill. It may sound a little bit like a scene from Lord of the Rings… and you wouldn’t be far wrong.
Swiftly dodging the rabble of orcs… I mean tourists…. and the horse drawn carriage drivers, that wanted to rugby tackle us into the carriage for a ride, we made our slow ascent up the hill to the castle itself. If you wanted to go on a guided tour through the castle you had to buy a ticket at the ticket office at the bottom of the hill, and we saw quite a few people that clearly hadn’t noticed all the signs going up as they were grumbling coming back down in the opposite direction. I didn’t really fancy the guided tour as we would be cramped inside with around 20-30 other people and be rushed through everything, all for around €20 each. I much prefer enjoying the architecture and surroundings at my own pace with fresh air and minimal people.
When we travelled to Rome we visited the Vatican museum, as everyone had said it was a must see, and to be honest I wouldn’t do it again. All the rooms were really small and crammed full of people that were pushing you around to get to the painting or sculpture they wanted to see or photograph. To be fair though, it was on the last Sunday of the month where everyone gets free access. Maybe that is my fault for being a “bargain hunter”… or “cheapskate” as my fiancèe calls me. This was in January, which is one of the quietest times of the year, so I dread to think what it would be like in high season. This is what has put me off most tours or galleries when I am travelling, much better finding a coffee shop and watching the passersby in my opinion. The one exception was the excellent tour from I heart Reykjavik… read about it here.
The weather was a little overcast and foggy as we arrived at the base of the castle which was actually quite cool. The clouds and fog drifted around the castle almost creating a sort of magical feeling. Definitely something you can imagine in a Disney film. Unfortunately it was a little ruined by all the construction and scaffolding around the front of the entrance. That is the one drawback from going in low season. There will be less tourists and cheaper accommodation, but most of the major monuments will undertake their renovation at this time so it is ready for the hordes that will arrive in the summer. This was the same when we visited the Rathaus (Townhall) in Munich. I personally much prefer travelling in the low seasons, especially as it is usually a cooler temperature, but it is something you should consider when you are planning a trip if you are going specifically to get some uninterrupted photos of the famous landmarks.
When you reach the castle the path splits in two, one leading to the castle gate and the other to a bridge that overlooks the castle. As a huge crowd had just gone to the gate we chose the second option and made our way to the bridge. We timed it perfectly, as we arrived and there wasn’t a soul in sight. Walking out over the canyon on the small metal bridge (a true test of my fear of heights) we got the perfect view of the castle with the fog floating around it. Perfect for taking some panoramas and selfies… for my fiancèe anyway as I was clinging to the handrail for dear life. Until another horde of tourists arrived and charged out onto the bridge. Running, jumping and actually pushing our hands (with the camera in it) out of the way so they could get a spot. Needless to say I got off the bridge as soon as physically possible after this. My nerve had well and truly broken, the little metal bridge shaking in the wind and under the weight of the sudden tourist onslaught was just too much for me.
The only place left to go was into the actual castle, which was a little underwhelming to be honest. I know that the inside of the castle is available on a tour but I did expect a little more of the castle outside to be open to walk around. There was a small entryway, which led to the turnstiles for the tours and a small staircase to the left. Once you had walked up the stairs the courtyard was completely closed off and half covered with construction.. It was still lovely but maybe a little less than the perfection that is portrayed in all the pictures.
With the castle conquered it was time to head on to the final leg of our trip; Munich. Stay tuned for the final installment next time.
Ciao for now!