• Ankitha Prakash

The fairy-tale castle: The Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau, Germany, 2016

I personally love to hike and if it is on my birthday, that makes it even more special! Yes, I was turning 25 and I wanted something very memorable for that number. Suddenly, I remembered vaguely reading a blog somewhere on the internet that said about this castle being the inspiration for the design of Disney’s Castle or something that way. And then I search for it and there I go!!!

“The Neuschwanstein Castle”, the inspiration behind the design of The Disney’s Cindrella Castle, is one of the most visited castles in Germany and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Located in Bavaria, near the town of Füssen, and was built by the “Fairytale King”, King Ludwig II. I am a diehard fan of all the Disney Princesses characters (no matter what) and I would love to see such a beautiful castle creation which I thought was just imaginable, until I saw this! The very thought of Cindrella reminds me of my childhood, where every night before I sleep, I would read her story and feel that luck would favor you anyway if you stay positive in life. And getting such a fairytale feel on my birthday, was something very interesting to do plus THE HIKE! That is when I started planning for the trip. My birthday month is July, the busiest time for the castle tours hence I reserved my tickets 3 months in advance as I did not want to risk missing it, which would upset me of course!

Another important part of the planning is to know, how to get there:

A day trip from Munich (Germany) is what I preferred but you could either do it by staying at Füssen or Hohenschwangau (located below the castle) provided you book your stay in advance. Especially Hohenschwangau offers a rustic countryside side feel which is different from other German cities and you would love to spend some time at the schwangau village. I missed that part as I booked the whole itinerary before, but I suggest you do that as it is a beautiful place indeed! I travelled until Munich using a FlixBus service from Bologna (Italy). Like I always told, I prefer FlixBus anytime! Now let me split the journey in points so that it makes it even clearer:

  • The very first step is to take the Deutsche Bahn train ride from Munich hauptbahnhof (Munich Central Station) to a town named Füssen.

You can purchase a Bayern ticket (regional ticket needs ID proof) at the ticket counter in Munich station in about 26 euros round trip. The trains leave every hour throughout the day. This journey is about 2.5h and rated as the one of the most scenic train rides as the train travels from the countryside of the Bavarian Alps!

  • After reaching Füssen, hop on the bus from Füssen to Hohenschwangau (village below the castle) which stands just outside the train station. Bus number 73 or 78 goes there and it is a 10 minutes journey.

Also, if you have purchased Bayern ticket, remember that this ride is free. You must show the ticket to your bus driver and you’re good. Once you reach Hohenschwangau, the bus drivers usually announce “Neuschwanstein Castle”, so there is no way you would miss getting down.

  • After reaching the village Hohenschwangau and have collected your tickets, the next step is to reach the hilltop where the castle is. You can do it in 3 ways:

1. Hike On foot – 40 to 60 minutes.

2. By bus – about 25 minutes in bus plus a hike of 15 minutes (around 3 euros round trip)

3. Using the horse carriage (if you opt for royalty) – 20 minutes on carriage plus 15 minutes of hike (uphill 7 euros and downhill 3.5 euros)

Its obvious that I opted for the first option, The Hike!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Even if you have reserved the tickets in advance, remember to collect them from the ticket counter which is in the village of Hohenschwangau, below the castle (at the foot of the hill).

The Castles:

The castle tour tickets include a guide, one guide for a group of around 10 members and give you all the major information involved with the castles. I took the combined tickets for both the castle tours. First comes The Hohenschwangau Castle tour as is located at the foot of the hill, below The Neuschwanstein Castle.

The Hohenschwangau Castle:

This castle was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II (who built The Neuschwanstein Castle) of Bavaria and was built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria. The word schwan means swan and hence Neuschwanstein Castle literally means “New Swan Castle”. And therefore, he was also called as the “swan king”.

It is believed that King Ludwig II would stare at the construction of The Neuschwanstein Castle form this widow of The Hohenschwangau Castle.

The reason to build The New Swan Castle was to withdraw from public life after losing his power in the Austro-Prussian war. It is believed that he built the castle as the centerpiece for an imagined kingdom-one which he was the true king. He also wanted to reside all alone in this huge creation.

The Bavarian Alps

Before you can go ahead with any of the three options (as mentioned before) to reach The Neuschwanstein Castle, do not miss this scenic view of the Bavarian Alps just a few hundred meters ahead of The Hohenschwangau Castle.

The Hike:

The walk up to the castle takes between 40-60 minutes. It is quite steep and requires a moderate level of stiffness. It is all covered with trees from both the sides as you can see in the pictures. The hike did not feel tough at all and you will get excited until you reach the entrance as you see the castle getting nearer and in a magnified way. Finally, when you reach you will realize how huge it is and why it took 22 years to finish constructing it!

Also, if you want to get the iconic click of the castle, you need to get to the Marienbrücke bridge (Queen Mary’s Bridge). I missed it as it was closed due to some renovations!

View of The Marienbrücke bridge (Queen Mary’s Bridge) from The Neuschwanstein Castle

The Neuschwanstein Castle:

Upon reaching the castle, you are supposed to follow a line to get inside the castle. The tour guide will explain you all the elements present at the castle including the telephone used during those times (most interesting thing I could still remember).

Statue of The King Ludwig II at the castle

The King Ludwig II of Bavaria is also called as “The Mad King” as he spent all his royal revenues (although not state funds as is commonly thought) on this project, borrowed extensively, and defied all attempts by his ministers to restrain him. This extravagance was used against him to declare him insane. He bankrupted the state of Bavaria by building this fairytale castle, which was still under construction at the time of his mysterious death at age 41.

Now that I saw it, I could totally understand why the Disney’s design was inspired by this castle’s design. Such a castle design is highly imaginary, but someone even ended up constructing it so beautifully, that too on the hilltop, is something mind boggling! No surprise that it costed the king Ludwig II all his royal revenues. I would love to learn its construction plan sometime!

Now that you have an idea about how to get there, what to do and what to see, get ready to unveil your fairytale fantasies! Do not forget to share your stories with me!