The Neuschwanstein castle sits atop a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. It is a very picturesque setting and certainly Cinderella material. No wonder, Disney chose the castle as the basis for its castle in Disneyland. The castle was built by King Ludwig in honor of Richard Wagner, a German composer. Unique thing about this castle, well a couple of unique facts, are that the castle never saw its construction finish and it was built out of the king’s personal funds and extensive personal borrowing. The entry fee included an audio guide which was very informative and well structured. As you enter any part of the castle, you look out for a numbered sign and punch that number onto the device and you hear the corresponding commentary. I can’t write much about the castle itself as my memory serves short on all the details. As you enter the complex, you are received by massive stone archways. Unlike palaces that we would visit on the rest of trip, the decor and artwork was on a relatively less grander scale. The castle was meant to support a reclusive lifestyle. However the only reclusive nature of this castle is its settings outside. Outside the castle, the village was specked with colorful homes, restaurants and coffee shops. These villages almost look from out of a fairy tale or a disney movie with ultra-clean sidewalks, colorful plants, stone sidewalks and the bristling greens. Certainly charming.
The drive from Stuttgart to Neuschwanstein was easy enough. In fact, throughout most of the trip, driving was a breeze except getting into and out of a couple of major cities due to traffic. Frankfurt traffic must be a madhouse for daily commuters from what I saw. The difference among drivers as I saw in my brief span of time there is that if you have a turning signal on, the other drivers WILL make way for you unlike the busy streets of some of the big cities in US – I am talking about Philadelphia and New Jersey streets. Here, that attitude I see is that one needs to get ahead first, so those merging are treated as second class citizens.
The drive otherwise from Stuttgart was pretty. I had heard about the pretty English countryside, but in my travels across the UK (mostly by train), I hadn’t seen as perfectly manicured farmlands as what I saw across Europe. It was tempting to get off the road and take that breath of the outside air so many times. The extent of farmlands is another thing in these parts. No wonder many countries in Europe are considered self-sufficient than in other parts of the world. I am plainly wonder-struck at the dominance of the country landscapes across most of our 2000+ km drive.
The great thing about driving in the EU, I should say and not Europe as this is what our trip touched, is that the roads were just fantastic. I did not see a pothole across all of these 2000+ kilometers. I did stick to the major expressways, but that in of itself is an amazing fact. Where I live in the US, potholes are plenty and maintenance is always behind. The last winter saw some of the heaviest snow in history and six months after there are way too many potholes still gaping at the unwary driver than acceptable. Just drive across I95 from Philadelphia through to Delaware and you will see what I mean and forget about the local roads. The number of service areas were much lesser on a per kilometer basis. However, there was no dearth of gas stations along the way.
Neuschwanstein castle took about a couple of hours totally. After the drive from Stuttgart, we had some homemade lunch which was just great. It is so boring to eat at a restaurant on a drive knowing you will get okay food at great prices and not the other way around!
While on this vacation, I got to realize how much walking I would be doing. My new smart phone came in handy with its built-in walking/exercise app. It logged excess of 10,000 steps eight of the days on the trip with me reaching nearly 20,000 steps on four. A mile is about 2000-2500 steps depending on your girth. No wonder, on this fabulous trip of Europe I lost about 2 pounds while eating delicious pastries.