Monday, July 8, 2013

Fun and Fancy Free in Fussen

[Note from Kate: As will soon be obvious, this is a guest post from Liz.  Also, I should fess up that I titled this post, so you can't blame Liz for it]

Greetings, friendly readers of No Cleaping Over!  Liz here, guest-blogging for Kate and Paul about our adventures in Füssen, a small town just below the mountains that border Germany and Austria.

We arrived in Füssen in the early afternoon, on a train from Munich packed with eager day-trippers and other tourists (boo).  Füssen is a popular destination for visitors of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles.  "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria grew up in Hohenschwangau, "High Swan Castle," which was a royal summer residence and still owned by the family.  King Ludwig II was fascinated by the romantic and idealized legends of German knights.  When he grew up, he decided to build a castle that epitomized his boyhood dreams.  Hence Neuschwanstein, the "New Swan Stone," which is pretty much in the backyard of Hohennschwangau.

King Ludwig II died fairly young, before Neuschwanstein was finished and when only some of the rooms were completed.  Immediately after his death, the castle was sold to Bavaria to cover the king's debts.  It seems fitting to me that a castle designed to represent idealism was never actually used, and could have also been called The Money Pitt.

The area immediately around the King's Castles is quite touristy and feels a little like Disneyland.  The scenery, though, was stunning.
Fields and villages! 
Mountains and trees and a lake!
Friendly faces!
We had reservations to tour both castles, starting with Hohenschwangau.
Sadly, no photos allowed inside.  We saw a number of rich furnishings and artworks, many of which our tour guide described with a surprisingly biting manner.  ("This chest is made out of lapis lazuli and enamel.  But that wasn't fancy enough for the family, so they had it embossed in GOLD.")  Everything was beautiful, but the tour was only 30 minutes long, and we were left wanting more actual information about the castle.  The rooms were also surprisingly dark and small (to me, at least).  With almost all the walls covered with murals, it felt more oppressive than comfortable.  The views from the windows, though, were gorgeous.  And...I claimed Hohenschwangau!  Even with 4 squares, this places me absolutely nowhere near the lead in Kate and Paul's game of Carcassone
On to Neuschwanstein.  Recognize it?
Again, no photos allowed inside.  But the finished interior rooms were pretty similar to Hohenschwangau, except even fancier.  King Ludwig II was quite friendly with the composer Richard Wagner, and many of the wall paintings were inspired by his operas.  Imagine if some eccentric rich person today (Mark Zuckerberg?) decided to build their own mansion based on the movies of James Cameron, calling it "New Avatar," and you pretty much get the idea behind Neuschwanstein.  There was one particularly memorable room that was essentially an indoor cave.  I wish we had a picture of that to share.

Leaving Neuschwanstein, we proceeded to Marienbrucke, a bridge spanning a waterfall on the Pollat River.
Kate was very brave to stand on it.  The bridge was built during King Ludwig's time, was swarming with tourists, and didn't look particularly sturdy.  I think it really made Paul question European safety and construction standards.
Next came my favorite part of the day:  walking back to Hohenschwangau through the Pollat Gorge, with the river tumbling headlong over and around rocks.
Someone had built a "waterslide," but we didn't try it.
We all had a friend of ours in our thoughts:
[Note from Kate - the picture doesn't really do it justice, but that is a seriously big slug - a good 4 inches in length.  I'm not great at bug identification, but my best guess is that it's a Spanish slug.]

And finally, we shouldn't leave the King's Castles without a few photos of the paragliders we saw soaring over the Castle, which definitely gave me a reason to come back someday.

Next post:  hiking!!!

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