Any guesses about the weather today? Clouds, rain, clouds, rain, and a couple of hours of sun to end the day. Despite the weather, I spent the day touring the two castles everyone who thinks of Bavaria knows: Schloss Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwanstein. Neuschwanstein is obviously the more famous, and you’ll no doubt recognize the picture of Mad King Ludwig’s prize castle high on a hill. But it was actually Hohenschwangau that I enjoyed more.
Hohenschwangau was actually Ludwig’s father, King Maximilian II’s palace, and includes many depictions of swans (schwangau means “place with many swans”). The brilliant yellow color of the exterior stands out from the surrounding green landscape and forest. From its terrace, you can gaze out on Neuschwanstein on a hilltop across the small valley, which is exactly what Ludwig did from a telescope in his bedroom while his masterpiece was being built. The tour guide here was excellent and I felt like I learned a lot about the history of Bavaria in a short time (the tour was only 35 minutes).
Like Schloss Herrenchiemsee, which I visited last week, Neuschwanstein was never finished. Just 6 weeks after Ludwig’s death at age 40 in 1886 (he and his psychiatrist both drowned while out for a walk), the castle was opened to the public.
If you’re touring both castles, your only choice is to tour Hohenschwangau first. When you make a reservation online, you pick your preferred time and date and they send you an email with times that may or may not match what you requested. I was lucky and got a 9:55AM tour time at Hohenschwangau and an 11:55AM tour at Neuschwanstein. The walk between the two involves a downhill hike from Hohenschwangau followed by a strenuous uphill hike which you can make on foot, by bus, or by horse-drawn carriage. I chose to burn some calories and walked up.
I had just enough time once I reached the castle to go beyond it to Marienbrücke, the bridge behind the castle. It seems everyone had the same idea. The castle tour was interesting, but felt more commercial than Hohenschwangau.
I really wanted to visit the church of St. Coloman near the castles, and was told the church was “usually” open for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I guess today wasn’t a typical day because it was closed. A peek in the window told me I was missing out, but I made do with a picture of the pretty setting.
I got back in time to grab a small piece of cake at my hotel’s afternoon reception and relax for a bit before heading out for dinner. The sun came out for a while as I was enjoying my pork Cordon bleu and gelato.