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The Bavarian Kings’ Castles, Germany

03 Jul
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Hohenschwangau Castle, Germany

It is a good advise never to visit the same place twice. Especially when you want to do it after 25 years following a period when the tourism exploded like never before. I visited the castles from Southern part of Bavaria when I lived in Germany. It was before the fall of the Berlin Wall in a time when even the tourists looked like travelers. At that time you could drive all the way up to the castles, park, buy a ticket at the entrance and go inside for a relatively long visit. But nowadays the village at the base of the castles changed so much, with large parking places that barely could accommodate the number of cars and buses. Walking out of your parking place you see a huge line in the village and realize after a while that is a hour long wait to buy entrance tickets from a new ticket office, the only place in town that sells them. No more tickets at the castles’ entrance. In line everybody speaks anything but German with a consistent share of Americans coming only to the major European visiting spots and a huge share of Chinese, speaking loudly, who look to be all over. We bought a combination ticket for the two castles and started to walk to Hochenscwangau, the closest one in a drizzle that we hope will stop soon. In the morning when we woke up, the Alps around Obsteig where like wrapped in cotton candy. What we thought first that it was mist proved to be very low clouds. And many of them. It rained all night, a rain that started yesterday right after we finished the hike and it followed us on and off till after we had breakfast in Fernpass and we crossed the border in Germany at Fussen.
Hochenschwangau was the first castle of the Kings of Bavaria. It started as a small tower sometimes in the 14th century and passed through many hands, each one adding a style characteristic. In the end it came to be the residence of Ludvig the First, King of Bavaria who lived here with his family and about 50 servants for a long time. It is still owned by the same family of Bavarian Dukes who collects the entry fees but maintains the castle. The castle is interesting but for sure does not have the most inspired style of decoration inside, however its exterior, the entrance and the gardens are exquisite and ask for some exploring.

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Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle is a completely different story. Located at about 30 minutes walk from Hochenscwangau is a remarkable romantic construction representing maybe the most iconic image of a castle in the world. Buses and carriages can bring you up to the castle but the wait, especially on rain, is probably around 1 hour so I decided to walk up the access road. The rain that we hoped to taper off actually became more intense, a very German rain that make its cities sometimes dour and boring. The road was full of walkers, many Chinese who were talking loud that I thought I am heading not to the castle but to Chonquing. Both castles can be visited only on guided tours that start every 5 minutes the entire day and the timing is extremely precise.
Ludvig II of Bavaria, the grandson of Ludvig I, a young romantic king wanted to build a several castles in the style of the medieval times about which he read a lot. Inspired by the German legends and being a friend of Richard Wagner he started the building of the castle in 1868 using the vast amount of money from his grandfather. He was able to build a large part of the project till 1886 when he was deposed by the Parliament because he overdrew the accounts of the state. In order to remove him from the throne the Parliament declared him insane and somehow he was found drown in a lake three days latter together with his shrink doctor. What happens remained a mystery, because a legend is built easier on mysteries than on dour facts. The palace was opened as a museum several months after his death and is owned by the land of Bavaria.
The rain did not stop so we left the castle walking quickly downhill and drove till a village named Lahn in Austria where we had a great dinner, driving further to Innsbruck in even more rain.

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