[This account was initially posted on 11/2/14 as “The Trip to Neuschwanstein” but WordPress doesn’t seem to have anticipated the length of certain German words. “Neuschwanstein” wouldn’t fit on a single line and had the final “n” indecorously chopped and dropped to the next line. This has happened to three of my German title words.]]

How could we have spent two months in Bavaria and not visited the gem in the Bavarian crown, Neuschwanstein castle? Such an absurdity had nearly become a reality until yesterday, when we took a two-hour train ride south to the town of Fussen where Ludwig II built what I consider the world’s most beautiful castle. Apparently so did Walt Disney; he used it as the model for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland.

So too, do about 350,000 tourists each year who plunk down about $30 apiece to see it. At least 2,000 of them chose the same day we did to do the deed. The crowd was perfectly understandable. The weather was gorgeous – a sunny, crisp fall day. The castle was well worth the admission price and I’ll give you my observations later on, but first, a bit of color regarding the train ride to-and-fro.

The German railway corporation, Deutsche Bahn or DB for short, has been renovating the line between Munich and Fussen for some time. To get passengers around the construction area, they use busses. Thus we found ourselves riding a bus out of Munich to a little town where we transferred to a train. All the seats on the train we boarded were filled so we wound up standing for a full hour, as did a few other passengers in our railcar.

Determined not to find ourselves seatless on the ride home, Mary and I agreed that we would make a concerted effort to board the train as early as possible to secure seats. It quickly became clear as we waited on the platform with several hundred other people that we were not the only ones with such a plan. Like racers in the starting blocks, the crowd readied themselves as the train pulled into the station. Once the train doors opened the elbows flew. Our concern at the Fussen station, however, proved to be unwarranted. There were more than enough seats on the train.

Many of our fellow passengers must have endured standing rides into Fussen also it seems, because when it came time to transfer from the train to busses, no one was content to stroll. The crowd exited the train and walked briskly toward the bus loading area. Soon the brisk walk became a hurried walk. Then a few of the leaders broke into a run. Then most of the crown began running. Mary sprinted out ahead of me and took the stairs to the left. I was caught behind some slow runners on the stairs to the right with no way around them unless I wanted to leap over the hand rail. I considered doing just that.

Again, the panic proved unjustified. There was ample room on the busses.

After about a twenty-minute ride on the busses, we were deposited in a darkened (it was now after dark) parking lot that we presumed was in the vicinity of a train station. The trouble was, we were given no instructions as to where the train station was; there were no signs to guide us. A passageway under a bridge was the only exit from the parking lot that showed promise so a stream of passengers took off in that direction. We followed them, not having any better ideas. Again, the leaders, some Chinese girls, started running. They entered a subterranean passage with several exits. They went to the far one and disappeared up it. They soon came running back – a dead end. Mary and I now found ourselves near the lead and we turned up a nearer portal. Success! A train awaited us at the top. We hopped aboard the first car as did those around us and hurriedly claimed our seats for the final leg of the ride home to Munich. Relief at last!

My thoughts on the ride home were: 1) How could the vaunted Deutsche Bahn so haphazardly organize a substitute ride for construction that has been going on all of 2014? They gave no instructions to the passengers. There were no signs posted as to where to find the train. How very un-German of them! 2) How thin the veneer of civility is in people when the chips are down. When resources (seats in this case) are limited – watch out! I’m not pointing any fingers – we were running with the pack and it certainly wasn’t the other guy’s acquisition of a seat I was worried about – it was my seat. The lesson to be learned here is that when the situation boils down to “me or him,” me wins.

Mary on Mary’s Bridge

Now, about the castles.

The best view of Neuschwanstein is from a nearby bridge called Mary’s Bridge. I asked Mary to provide that all-important personal face in my photo of the castle. To do so she had to stand on the bridge with about two hundred other people. The bridge spans a deep gorge and at first she refused to walk onto the bridge – Mary is afraid of heights. I finally persuaded her to do so but I think it is apparent in this photo that she wasn’t entirely comfortable doing so.

In this photo, taken on the path up to Mary’s Bridge, Mary looks more in her element.

Ludwig’s family, the royal family of Bavaria, had several castles. Two are to be found in close proximity outside of Fussen at the base of the Alps: Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. Neuschwanstein is by far the more impressive castle on the outside but it’s interior is only about 20% completed. Ludwig was deposed and died before the interior decorating was done. Still, the part that was finished is resplendent. Hohenschwangau is nothing special on the outside but I loved the interior. The murals which decorate most interior walls remind me Andrew Wyeth’s work illustrating classic tales. No photos are allowed in the castles so I have none. Hohenschwangau’s rooms are also quite cozy for a castle. Each of the corner rooms has a wonderful alcove in a tower. I could live in a place like that.