Friday, October 9, 2009

Day 17 - The Magic Kingdom For a Tenth of the Price

Hi Team,

The perfect follow up of our tour of an infamous WWII sight was to go to the place "Where dreams come true".  No, we aren't talking about Disneyland people.  We're talking about King Ludwig II of Bavaria's Fairy Tale Castles right outside of Fussen, Germany.  These castles, specifically the Neuschwanstein Castle that Ludwig II had built for himself in the late 1800's were the inspiration for the Magic Kindgom Castles at some of the Disneyland Theme Parks.

So back then, when you won the national horseshoeing competition, or made it to your 50th birthday or something like that, you wouldn't respond to some journalist with a "I'm going to Disney World!!".  You'd say the much more poetic, "Ich werde bis zum Schloss Neuschwanstein!!". . . and then you'd have to wait half an hour for the picture from the camera box to take.

But before we can see the castles, we had to get there first.  Scott and I had left the Eagle's Nest and headed for Innsbruck, Austria, where we crashed for the night.  Innsbruck is a beautiful mountain town (we just drove through it so no pretty pictures. . sorry) that hosted both the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics.  We got up early in the morning and headed for our two hour drive to the Castles.  Now I know I was bagging on the Austrians last go round, but one thing both the Germans and Austrians have is this little thing called the Autobahn.  Scott and I have decided we like the Autobahn a lot.

Here's a shot of our speedometer.  Our little Ford C-Max may not be able accelerate more than me when I run a 40 yard dash, but once she gets moving, she can go.  As an added bonus, at these speeds, you can't even hear the body work shimmying off the cars due to all of the rattling.

Now don't freak out, that is in in km/hr and not MPH, but that still is 100 MPH.  This was not irresponsible driving either.  We were being left behind like we weren't even moving by a lot of cars.  This was not our cruising speed (Scott and I both just got up to this to say we did) but 130-140 km/hr is more than normal.

When we started our drive we only had 100 km or so to make it to the castles, so if we were going 130 km/hr we were a bit confused as to why the nav system had us down for 2 hrs.  Then we found out.  This was our view for about 90 minutes of the drive.  We went straight up two mountains.  No more 160 for the C-Max.  More like just 60.

At long last we reached our destination in the very southern most part of German on the western side of the country.  We had excellent weather for the day and were looking forward to seeing if these castles could live up to the hype, as the have apparently assumed the mantle of the Muhammad Ali of Fairy Tale Land.

The first thing we came to was this.  This is the Alpsee Lake.  As you can see it is quite a bit different than Sam Rayburn back home with the mountains, and the reflective surface, and the lack of drunk people tearing through on a jet ski.

There are two of these castles on this site.  This is the older one and it's called Hohenschwangau Castle.  This is the ugly sister of the two and it was built by Ludwig's Pop, Maximilllian II.  I realize everyone obviously knows what this name means, but just for giggles I'll give you the translation: Castle of the High Swan County.  See, isn't German fun.  You don't even have to put spaces into full sentences.  Makes typing much faster.

This castle is a bit smaller but I think I liked it more.  It felt more homey and a lot of the bedrooms look like what you'd want to have in your kid's room when they are small.  Unfortunately, the fine people in charge of this castle felt, in their infinite wisdom, that it was better to have all of us pay to go in but not be able to take out evidence that we were there.  So no pictures.  But fear not, dear readers, for I circumvented the rules for the next one.  See what I do for you guys?

After finishing the tour of the first smaller castle, we had to get to the second one, which is a 25 minute hike up a mountain.  We saw this view a lot over the last 24 hours.  The consensus was that mountains are pretty, but only from afar.

Finally we made it to where we were going.  This is Schloss Neuschwanstein, the apple of Bavaria's proverbial eye.  Ludwig II grew up in his Dad's castle, so in order to one up him, he built his own twice as big, much higher on the mountain range, half a mile away so everyone at the old castle could see it, and not yellow.

This is an ok view but the shots coming up are from even higher up the mountain (so more climbing/yodeling for us).

Here's the shot of the first castle from our highest perch, The Mary Bridge, which as I said, was above both castles.  As you can see, it was a rough life these Bavarian Kings had.  This castle is 600-700 years old actually but during the Napoleonic Wars, the French laid waste to it.  Maximillian saw this as his own personal "Flip this House" project and came out ahead several billion dollars after an investment of less than $1500 for supplies and an antique toilet basin he picked up at a garage sale.

Here's a shot of the Mary Bridge.  The next several shots are taken from the bridge.

And here's the Neuschwanstein Castle (which means New Swan Stone Place) in all it's glory.  We've had a bit of bad luck the last week with famous landmarks.  Most of them are under some type of maintenance and this one was no different.  This is the far away shot which keeps you from seeing it too much.  I can tell you that the scaffolding on the building was the only disappointment of the entire day.  No joke, perhaps the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen in my life.  Without question, a storybook castle on a storybook day.

Here's a shot of Scott and I on the Mary Bridge.  Here we can clearly see why I should actually use the undershirt as an undershirt and not the main upper body garment.  It's either a little cold or I'm very excited to be here.

This is the front entrance to the castle.  Looks just like the lego set I had as a kid.

Now as I said, we weren't allowed to take pictures, but I thought that was simply unacceptable, so I pulled out my iPhone and took a few shots.  I had to discreetly take them from my hip to avoid the guide seeing me, so I wasn't exactly aiming but merely pushing the button hoping something stuck.

This is the Throne Room of the castle.  It is done up in Byzantine style (Eastern Europe), and that is a picture of Christ and below him six patron saints of Europe.  There never was a throne put in because Ludwig II died at 41 in the 1880's.  Only one third of the rooms in the castle are completed because construction stopped after his death.  Whereas the other castle was homey, this one was designed strictly to impress.  Everything was intended to be done on a grand scale. . .and they succeeded.

This is the reading lamp in his bedroom.  Like I always say, why stop at one candle when you can have 163?  What's sad is this guy only lived here for 6 months before kicking the bucket.

Here's a shot of a painting in the castle.  Now picture this all over the walls of your room.  And I don't mean hanging pictures.  I mean actually painted onto your wall.  Most of the paintings were inspired by the famous German composer, Richard Wagner's. operas  Both castles had this stuff covering every room.

This is such and awesome place I had to show you a picture of the castle in it's pristine state, even though it's not mine.  This looks like it was built a long time ago, but remember that it just turned 120 or so not too long ago.  This is done in the Neo-Romantic style which was brought about to recall the heroic and idyllic days of the past.  At the end of the day, Scott and I both agreed that the castles had lived up to expectations and more.  Great day all around.

Before I let you go though, you're lucky enough to be reading the post containing Classic Kenny Moment #3.  So gather around kids, it's story time:

Scott's favorite time of year is Christmas.  And I don't mean he likes to watch Frosty on TV and drink a lot of eggnog.  I mean when he was 3 he essentially Mr. Miyagi'd all of us other kids to ensure that he had the lifetime title of Santa Claus when presents were handed out  It's what he does, and it's been like that ever since.

Well, when he travels, he likes to buy Christmas ornaments for the 4 or 5 Christmas trees he puts up in his house every year, and he found a perfect little one of the castle in the souvenir shop on site.  Now we are doing a lot of traveling and as you know most ornaments are not made of cast iron, so there was a considerable amount of concern as to whether the ornament he purchased would make the entire trip in one piece.

Being the great older brother that I am, and knowing how important these things are to Scott, I decided to test the tensile strength of said ornament.  The following conversation ensued:

Scott:  Hey look at this one.
Kenny:  Cool.  What's it made of?
Scott:  Wood.
Kenny:  Is it sturdy (Kenny grasps ornament with pointer and thumb and pushes fingers in opposite directions to test it's worthiness)?


German dude who runs souvenir stand:  Guttentag.  That will be 3 Euro's please.

How it is possible that after 20 some years living under the same roof that this guy and I have failed Brotherly Communication 101 is beyond me, but I've now learned the when he says the word "Wood" what he really means is "Communion Wafer".

Here's the shot of my new Christmas ornament after I completed my own artistic adjustments.  Hard to see, but this thing should be about twice as high as it is right now.