Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 8 - Castles!

After breakfast, we got in the car and drove up to see the famous castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. Both were former residences of King Ludwig II. He grew up in Hohenschwangau and then built Neuschwanstein later as his fairy-tale palace. Unfortunately, he died before it was completed.

Hohenschwangau was cool to see because it was a more "intimate" castle; the royal family actually lived there and it was their hunting retreat when they were away from the Residenz in Munich. The walls were all painted with scenes from German folklore, particularly the legend of Lohengrin, the Swan Knight.

After seeing this castle and admiring the spectacular views, we hiked up a really steep mountain to get to Neuschwanstein. I'm really glad that I had been working out for about 6 weeks prior to this! It's a shame that the castle wasn't completed. Only 18 or so rooms are finished. You can look at the drawings that show what the plans for the rest of the castle were, and it definitely would have been awesome. Not that it isn't awesome as it is. The views from the windows are spectacular - you can see the village of Hohenschwangau, the other castle itself, the Alps, and a beautiful lake.

From Neuschwanstein, we hiked a little farther to the Marienbrücke, which is a bridge over the gorge behind the castle. We got to see more spectacular views, and then we hiked down into the gorge. Here we saw lots of waterfalls and beautiful trees.

Back in the car again, we made our way to another of Ludwig's personal palaces, Linderhof. To get there, we had to drive on a twisty road through the mountains. It was a little scary, but Sean performed admirably! This palace was supposed to be sort of a replica of Versailles. It was all very ornate inside... pretty gaudy, actually. The best part about visiting this palace were the incredible grounds. There are gardens, fountains, statues, etc. everywhere. There is also a "Venus Grotto" behind the palace, which is the largest man-made cave in Europe. Inside, Ludwig had a stage built for people to sing Wagner's operas while he rode around in a boat on the lake. Ludwig was a rather eccentric king!

After a long day of castle-ing, we headed back to Füssen for dinner. We had some tasty traditional German fare, I believe. After dinner, we took a little walk through some pretty gardens, and then it was an early bedtime since we were tuckered out!

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