I once got so lost in Taiwan that I ended up wandering the streets for hours in the middle of the night ugly-crying my eyes out begging everyone I saw to speak English. I got kicked out of three cabs that night. On that same trip I ate lunch at a restaurant lit with the glow from urinals being used as lamps, had toilets for seats, and served poop-shaped chocolate ice cream.
Clearly my life is a fairy tale, so it’s no surprise I have a fascination with all things magical. Talking animals, creepy old witches living in cottages in the woods, enchanted forests, and of course castles, the one thing in this list that actually exists (that we know of – dun dun dun!). I live in the United States of America, a most un-magical place, so it’s not every day that I get to explore a real-life medieval castle. However, I was lucky enough in 2014 to visit two, one of them being the queen mother of all fairytale castles.
Last year I visited the famous Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and the even more famous (now bear with me because I told you stock is limited here in the US) Hogwarts. Sure, I said the United States is a most un-magical place, BUT if you’re looking for magic, Orlando, Florida is where it’s at.
Once upon a time there lived an unshowered writer eating Red Vines out of the bag… ahem… I mean, a beautiful princess eating fancy shit like crepes and macarons. Wait – scratch that – she wasn’t eating macarons because of her nut allergy. Nevertheless, she dreamt of faraway kingdoms, of majestic castles on hilltops, of enchanted forests, and of a day when there weren’t dishes piled in the sink covered in crusted cheese and pasta sauce. So at last, she packed up her dirndl, hired a cat-sitter, and made off for the most charming land of Bavaria.
She has since returned with good tidings and many lessons learned. Please heed the fair maiden’s advice or a spell will be cast on all your houses. And not the good, really-long-nap kind where a sexy prince with a man-bun kisses you awake but the kind that drastically slows down your internet connection speed. Oh the horror!
DO VISIT NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE.
- Located in the kingdom of Bavaria in southern Germany just 1.5 hours from Munich. Thine ales art never far away!
- Commissioned by King Ludwig II, AKA the King of Bavaria, AKA the Swan King, AKA the Fairy Tale King, AKA Sweet ‘Stache
- Completed quite recently, 1882, but constructed in the style of ye olde German knight’s castles of the Middle Ages
- Inspired by Ludwig’s love of fairy tales and by the operas of composer pal Richard Wagner (Vog-ner), on whom I think he had a little crush…
- Built as a personal refuge for the reclusive Ludwig but opened to the public just six weeks after his death… damn, that’s cold!
- Featured state-of-the-art technology: battery powered bells, telephone lines, hot running water, and flushing toilets, just like the ones that good-for-nothing Cinderella used to clean I’m sure…
- Survived both World Wars due to its secluded location but in 1944 served as a storehouse for French artifacts stolen by the Nazis
- In 2002 a meteorite fell to Earth at the German-Austrian border and was named Neuschwanstein after the nearby castle. Didn’t see that one coming did you?
DON’T LISTEN TO THE NAYSAYERS.
There will be many an old, ugly troll who will tell you Neuschwanstein Castle is an overrated tourist trap. Who. Freaking. Cares! Yes there are tourists here but rightfully so – this place is gorgeous! The tour isn’t exactly the stuff minstrels write songs about but it only costs 12 Euros and if you have done any amount of research you know that already. But alas, I’m not quite sure what it is these haters were expecting. Fairy godmothers with mouse-driven pumpkin carriages? Dishes that wash themselves? A sassy, french-speaking candelabra? A team of dwarven miners actually excited to be going to work? The most far-fetched of them all, am I right? Up top!
DO RESERVE YOUR TICKETS AHEAD OF TIME.
There are two ways to purchase tour tickets: at the ticket center in Hohenschwangau, the village below the castle, or online. (What is this “online” thou dost speak of?) Tours sell out every day so if you show up at the ticket center on the day you wish to tour, you might be waiting a dreadfully long while. I reserved mine a week in advance and still didn’t get the time I requested. This does not a happy princess make.
DON’T ASSUME YOUR REQUESTED RESERVATION TIME IS YOUR ACTUAL TOUR TIME.
First of all, I love being called ‘Madam’. So we busted our asses to get there early; seriously, it was quite a morning in which I stole someone’s sandwich and then someone stole our rental car. Once at will call, “Oh, what’s that you say? Our tour isn’t until 4:45? Oh no, no, no kind sir.” I explained that we reserved 1:00 tickets and that I received a confirmation email which I, of course, was unable to show her. Someone overheard and was able to fit us into the “completely full” 1:15 tour so all crises averted. That evening, I opened my confirmation attachment to find the following message at the bottom of my “confirmation”:
There are so many reasons this message was overlooked. I know I should have read everything thoroughly but I also imagine that this happens every single day in the land of Much-Too-Subtle-Ville.
DO TAKE THE BUS TO THE CASTLE.
To get to the castle from the ticket center you have three transportation options: a shuttle bus, a horse-drawn carriage, or your own feet. The bus costs a measly 2€ and the line is fast-moving. A horse-drawn carriage will cost you 6€ a person and it’s just not as romantic as it sounds. This is not the plush gold and velvet situation of yore pulled by noble steeds; this is an onion pulled by a chatty donkey that you will share with other kid-toting families. You will weave in and out of crowds of college students and Japanese businessmen stopping to take photos with their iPads every twelve steps, not to mention you are downwind from a horse’s ass. I can’t tell you how fast your own two feet will take you but the trip up the mountain averages between 30 minutes to an hour.
DON’T LOOK DOWN.
The bus takes the path along the mountain’s edge and it’s a long way down. Especially when you’re trapped in a fast-moving steel cage with 100 other people. Says the girl who wrote this.
DO BRING HEADPHONES FOR YOUR TOUR.
Why, what big ears you have! All the better to hear the tour information through this archaic listening device, my dear! We were given some very outdated technology for our tour which consisted of a small listening box you had to hold to your ear the entire time. Luckily I had the headphones to my iPod with me and was able to plug in for the rest of the tour, leaving my hands free to fake-conduct an orchestra. Ashley – 1, 19th Century technology – 0.
DON’T EXPECT TO BE BLOWN AWAY BY THE TOUR.
Neuschwanstein is so enormous with such a fascinating history but because the castle was mostly unfinished at the time of Ludwig’s mysterious death, the tour only covers about five rooms. But how awesome the rest of this place must be! So empty and cavernous. I would just run around in circles all day, open arms, screaming shit like, “Do you wanna build a snowwmannn?” Well, there would at least be cartwheels and roller-blading.
At any rate, the information given on the tour is fairly minimal. I was hoping to learn more information (Are there any secret passageways? How’d he die? How’d he die? HOW’D HE DIE?!) that I hadn’t previously read prior to my trip. So if you really want to learn about the castle’s history and King Ludwig, do your research beforehand and spend the short tour taking in the detail of this man’s obsession with Wagner… and swans. So many swans.
DO HIT UP THE MARIENBRÜCKE FOR THE PHOTO OP OF YOUR LIFE.
THIS is the main reason I wanted to visit Neuschwanstein. To see a castle as massive and stunning as this in such a beautiful natural environment is surreal. Forests and mountains and waterfalls and lakes and trails of bread crumbs and a wolf dressed like an old woman! I’ve gone too far.
DON’T STOP AT THE BEGINNING OF THE BRIDGE AND START SNAPPING PHOTOS.
Everyone does this but I’m telling you, THERE IS NO ONE ON THE OTHER SIDE. Hundreds of tourists are on this bridge to take photos and they are all stopped at the bridge’s entrance – the far side of the bridge is totally empty. Do you wanna take a selllfieeee?
And so ends our tale… So happy was the princess after her return that she decided to share her wisdom with all the lands. Since then, she has continued scooping out the cat litter box and looking everywhere for her mittens that were on her hands the whole time. And so she lived happily ever after.
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