“Bayern” (= in engl. “Bavaria” also known as “home of the Bayern Munich Football Club” for all the football aficionados).
If I go back in time, way way back, back to my 12 year old self who spent 2 weeks in that region during summer 1996 and was convinced his German language skills were top-notch before setting foot in this part of Germany, my first encounter with a local kid from the farm I was staying at went something like this:
“Hey Du, lat dän Bogen wäg!”,
to which I could only react with total bewilderment and probably one raised eyebrow before asking back:
“…hum, nochmal, was sagst Du?”
(engl. “hum, again, what d’you say?”)
The farm boy repeated his sentence five or six times, almost shouting it in the end, before giving up and walking away with that slightly frustrated expression on his face, probably thinking something along the lines of “those tourists, all the same”.
Operation “blending-in” had blatantly failed.
For a moment there, I wondered on what kind of planet I had landed. Or if the language I had learned really was German. But the wondering quickly stopped since my brother and the other high-German speaking kids in the vacation group also had no idea what was going on when the locals used their dialect.
(Ok, all good then. Moving on.)
The mother of that farm kid, a rough-around-the-edges kind of lady with a jovial attitude and a handshake that – if done on a bad-mood day – could have probably broken some adult fingers, once told the young bunch of kids I was sitting with at breakfast, munching away some of that homemade butter and what probably remains – to this day – the best scrambled eggs I have ever had, spreading nutella and jam on some Brötchen for the day’s excursion adventure near Lenggries, a tiny town near the Austrian border, that the country’s most magnificent castle was not too far away and clearly worth a trip.
Although most of what she said about that castle didn’t manage to enter the “pay attention to what she says”-area of my cerebrum (how can anyone expect that kind of stunt from a child near a pot of nutella?), the name “Neuschwanstein” was stored somewhere up there in my cortex.
(Magnificent Castle. Bayern. Not too far. Neuschwanstein. Got it. Back to nutella now before the other boys finish this pot.)
I managed to come back to this rather secluded part of Bavaria in 2010 and discovered the castle on that occasion. However, time was not in my favor back then and I found myself rushing through the whole ensemble. “I have to come again” is what I thought.
A sunny week-end in May and a 3 hour car ride from Zurich to Füssen finally provided me with the opportunity to right the wrongs and fill the gaps of what had been missed during the previous visit.
Although the castle of Neuschwanstein is undoubtedly the most famous one, it wouldn’t be what it is today if Ludwig II, King of Bavaria, hadn’t spent the summers of his childhood years at Hohenschwangau Castle, which is right below. And since every story has to have a beginning, visiting both castles in one morning was what had to be done.
Off we go.
Getting up early in order to beat the crowds of tourists proved to be a good strategy. Being able to buy tickets for both Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein without having to stand in a queue was a good way to start into the day. Joyful grin on my face.
If solo-tours through historic grounds are your thing, just be aware that for both castles, guided visits are the only way to pass the entrance gates and although these tours sadly prohibit any use of photographic and video material inside the premises (also the reason why this post does not contain any pictures of the interiors), the guides will more than make up for it by continuously throwing stories and anecdotes as the groups progress through the different rooms of the structures.
“See that splendid throne room without a throne? Well, there is a story to that.”
“About telephones and that elevator in the 19th century castle of Hohenschwangau ? Well, let me tell you.”
You get the picture.
The Bavarian lady who hosted my younger self was right: This region and the castles are clearly worth an excursion. And judging by the numbers of Asian tourists (i.e. my “friends from the Far-East”) we encountered that day, I am not the only one who thinks so.
Back to Helvetia now.