Hohenschwangau Travel Blog› entry 18 of 126 › view all entries
Walter pumped twenty Euros worth of diesel into the BMW and we headed toward the Alps. Cross-country highways back in America steered primarily north-south or east-west but in Germany, except for the autobahns, they spiraled off in all directions from traffic circles in each and every town or village. The longest straight stretch seemed little more than a few kilometers. The two-lane blacktop roads had no shoulders for pulling off in an emergency or for wide evasive maneuvers but I saw neither.
It was a warm sunny day and the Bavarian countryside was spectacular as we passed mile after mile of green rolling hills, farmlands, and heavily wooded forests.
Neuschwanstein - King Leopold's castle - finally came into view on the side of gray, steep, and rugged hills. I had never really been a castle kind of guy but my Bavarian hosts insisted that I see this place and I'm glad they did. Neuschwanstein is a major tourist attraction and draws more than a million visitors each year - up to 6,000 a day in the summer months - and is the most photographed building in all of Germany.
We parked the BMW in the shade of a hill that held another castle - Hohenschwangau which was owned by the head of the Wittelsbach family - currently Franz, Duke of Bavaria. Wittelsbach is the former ruling family of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Walter locked the car and snapped a leash onto Chaweng. While horse-drawn carts hauled ten or more passengers up and down the narrow road toward Neuschwanstein, the three of us walked at a leisure pace. Of all the people that we passed on the trail, few spoke German. They were mostly tourists coming from all over the world. Walter let Chaweng run free as we made our way up the long hill. The dog explored the edge of woods and left his signature often.
We hiked past a small eatery, a gift shop, and a beer garden to finally reach a nice fenced-in park with fantastic views of both Neuschwanstein and the green valley far below. I was surprised at how high we had climbed. The sun glared from behind the castle, not really the best conditions for photographing the structure, but Neuschwanstein was a real treasure in any light. The castle was a finalist in the 2007 selection of 'The New Seven Wonders of the World'. It didn't make the top seven but duly advertises as the 8th World Wonder. Though it had appeared in many popular movies, I recognized the structure as being the model for Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland. We continued right up to the front door. Entry was only permitted with organized tour groups which were arranged back at the bottom of the hill. After lingering awhile and taking in the majestic beauty of the place, we made our way back down to the car.