Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My trip to Europe - Day 4

Day 4 - Riding the Rails

On Day, Laritza and I headed over to the Hauptbahnhof fairly early to catch a 7:50 train to Fussen, so as to see the famed Neuschwanstein castle, the castle Walt Disney patterned Sleeping Beauty's castle after, and then subsequently the Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland. Our train ride included one transfer that was supposed to be, and turned out to be, quite simple. Just get out of the train with a bunch of other tourists and walk across the platform to the other train.

Upon arriving in Fussen around 10 am, we realized that the castles (there's Neuschwanstein and another called Hohenschwangau) were not in Fussen, but located at some distance from where the train had deposited us. A hotel clerk directed us to the Tourist Information building, and a girl there explained to us that it would take between 45 minutes and an hour to walk to Schwangau, the town closest to the castles where tickets are sold for tours. Or, if we preferred, there was a bus that traveled the approximately 5 km, but the next one wasn't leaving for another hour or so. Given that we didn't really feel like just sitting there for an hour, we opted to walk the 5 km over to the castles. And it really was 5 km, and of course it was quite warm.

Aquamarine River
A river we crossed on our way to Schwangau

Our first glimpse of Neuschwanstein
Our first glimpse of Neuscwhanstein. You may need to look closely, but its there in the distance.

We arrived at Schwangau about 45 minutes later and bought tickets for the English-speaking tour of Neuschwanstein, which would be starting in a couple hours.

Looking up at Hohenschwangau
Hohenschwangau castle watches over the town of Schwangau

Then we took a shuttle bus up to a drop-off point a little ways above the castle, near Marienbrucke which is a bridge over a deep gorge that gives a spectacular view of the castle. After taking our fill of spectacular shots, we started off down the road to the castle.

Neuschwanstein Castle from Marienbrucke
From Marienbrucke

Neuschwanstein Castle from Marienbrucke
More from Marienbrucke

About halfway through the 15 minute walk, we stopped on a bench and ate the lunch we'd bought the day before at the grocery store.

Hohenschwangau Castle and its surroundings
Looking down at Schwangau and Hohenschwangau

We killed the rest of the time milling around a touristy shop and just taking pictures of the outside of the castle.

German Countryside
Looking down at the countryside

Framed Towers
Front view of Neuschwanstein

Looking back at Marienbrucke from Neuschwanstein

Inside the castle, picture taking is not allowed, except for pictures taken looking out of the castle are the surrounding countryside. A few people on our tour were taking pictures of everything and only once did I see someone actually tell them not to. The castle is decorated with lots of art work based on the operas of Richard Wagner who was good friends with King Ludwig II who commissioned the castle (and several others in Germany). I thought the most impressive part was the throne room, which sadly never got a throne. The King only lived in this castle for about 17 days before he was declared insane by the government and found dead a few days later, under suspicious circumstances.

Schwangau and Hohenschwangau Castle
Another look down at Schwangau and Hohenschwangau Castle

After completing our tour, we didn't have tons of time remaining to catch our train back to Munich, so we returned to the shuttle drop-off point, rode back down to Schwangau and happened to arrive just as a bus back to Fussen was arriving. Looking at the bus schedule there, I can't actually imagine that we'd have had to wait an hour in the morning. Maybe the tourist information center had faulty bus tables or maybe the girl helping just misread them.

Neuschwanstein Castle
Looking back on the walk back to the shuttle

Neuschwanstein Castle
One last look up from Schwangau

After another sticky two-hour train ride back to Munich, we met up with Guilherme at the hotel and went out for dinner at (yet) another beer garden, this time one near a botanical garden, not far from the Hauptbahnhof. I was savvy enough at this point to actually order a steak with french fries, and managed to not eat sausage and sauerkraut for a 3 consecutive night.

German Countryside
This is the kind of scenery we enjoyed during our train ride.

German Tricolor
More German countryside.

After dinner, we walked over to the Marienplatz to look for some gelato and from there we headed back to the hotel and got ready to head out to the airport the next morning where we'd meet up with one of our department faculty, Jon Hurdle, to drive down to Austria.

Guilherme and Laritza
Guilherme and Laritza

Nighttime on the Plaza
Night time by the Fountain

More pictures from Day 4.

Coming tomorrow: Day 5 - Cruising on the autobahn

So far:
Days 1 & 2 - Exploring Munich
Day 3 - Mass Transit Extravaganza

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