Having mentioned the castles in the first day of cycling post today I'm sharing more about them and pictures from our visit, although be warned there are quite a few photos. We toured both castles on a guided audio tour with about forty other people, each tour ran on the hour and lasted 35 minutes. They were informative and each dose of information was about the right length to hold your attention. I imagine the behaviours of the tour group would be quiet funny to observe though; each section of the audio guide was started by the tour guide accompanying us as we walked into the new area - it was like we were being zapped in every room.
Anyway first up was the Gothic Hohenschwangau castle (pronounced as it's spelt), which the guide book warned us was bright yellow. Well I'm not sure if it was the weather, or just that I've got a vivid imagination but it didn't appear that bright to me. This was the childhood home of King Ludwig II and was built by his father King Max II in the 1830s, although its origins date back to the 12th century as a medieval fortress. And it certainly looked like you expect a castle to look.
The mist further up the mountain added to the allure of this castle where King Ludwig II grew up with his brother having minimal contact with his parents and other children, and it's said that the romantic design had a lasting effect on him. The young king found solace in opera, theatre and literature and it was here at the age of 15 where he had his first impressionable meeting with Richard Wagner, whose works had a huge influence on him.
Despite the weather the views towards the Forggensee were amazing, sadly there wasn't much to see when you looked towards the Newschwanstein, and the telescope didn't get much use the day we visited!
After our tour of the castle we took some time to explore the castle gardens with its fountains of lions and swans and I was slightly more excited than I should have been when I spotted the circular hedges with yet another swan fountain.
On a dry day the gardens would have been the perfect spot to sit and have our packed lunch, and without doubt though on a better day it would have been much busier! Before we left we peeked down to the car park and the picturesque town of Schwangau some 200metres below.
As we had some time before our tour of the Neuschwanstein Castle we decided to leave Hohenschwangau via the alternative route and headed down this ramp.
We found ourselves in some woodland with the most enchanting view for our picnic. Yes we were sitting there in waterproofs, sitting on plastic bags and now wearing our cycling helmets to keep dry, but it was absolutely perfect. There was no one around, we had pretzels, cheese and some cherries and this view all to ourselves.
After lunch and a pause to enjoy our surroundings we headed back down towards Schwangau and up towards the castle of Neuschwanstein, which is the epitome of the fairy tale castle. But first we wandered through the pretty town and enjoyed the lake we'd watched while we ate at ground level.
It was a steep walk up to Neuschwanstein. We were booked on the last tour of the day and didn't want to miss it so as we realised just how far up the hill it was our pace quickened, a lot! We were quite out of puff when we reached the castle, but we were there with three minutes to spare and had a chance to sit down and catch our breath.
Our first view of Neuschwanstein, and it was big!
It's also perched on what the guidebook says is an "impossible ledge" and overlooks the lakes below with a backdrop of mountains and forests - we didn't get to see much of that, but it was definitely an imposing and beautiful sight. Neuschwanstein Castle was the inspiration for Disney's world famous Doppelgänger and it's an image that just shouts Bavaria - and you don't get more fairytale than this!
It's the castle that encouraged me to book our trip.
So it was a shame that our visit didn't take place on a nicer day, but it was a visit I wasn't going to miss because of the weather. Later on in our holiday we got another glimpse of the castles, but I'll save that for when we get to it. Both castles were fantastic and should definitely be on your list if you visit Bavaria.
Work on building King Ludwig's new castle - and his dream palace - started in 1869 and the initial work which took 17 years was aborted after his death in 1886, when only rooms on the ground, third and fourth floors had been completed. In the castle there are many tributes to Wagner's operas and to the medieval German poet Walter von der Vogelweide.
The masterpiece and final room of the tour is the Sangersaal or Minstrel's Gallery where concerts still take place every year in September. I wasn't able to take pictures inside either of the castles, but they are amazing. With both castles visited it was time to head back to our bikes parked by the Tourist Office in Schwangau and cycle the 3km or so back to our hotel.
Thankfully it was a relatively flat cycle back and we'd got through our first day of cycling ok - and we'd covered 45.4km (although I think about 5k of that was on foot around Schwangau) - and nothing ached too much. We were a bit damp from the weather and were (almost) ready to do it all again the next day, but first we needed another schnitzel and a dark beer in the hotel's restaurant and another early(ish) night being serenaded by the choral school next door to the hotel.
Next time I'll share more from Day 2 and our 39km cycle to a new hotel in Bad Bayersoien