We got up early and headed to Neuschwanstein – which is one of the most visited attractions in Europe, yet none of our friends in Germany have been there. Since we were visiting in the summer the tourist buses were out in full force and the line for tickets was several hours long. We couldn’t book tickets ahead of time because up until the last minute we weren’t sure which day we would get to visit (or if at all).. so we had to settle for seeing the castle from the outside. I’m so glad we did though. The castle with the mountains behind it is such an iconic picture of Germany and it is even more impressive in person. As far as castles in Germany go, it is actually pretty new (completed in the late 1800’s). Built to look like King Ludwig II’s vision of a medieval knight’s castle, it was to be a place to get away from the public life he lived in Munich. Had it been completed, the palace would have had more than 200 rooms, but in the end only 15 rooms were finished. Building this castle (along with Linderhof Palace and Herrenchiemsee) caused him to personally rack up a huge debt of around 14 million marks – Neuschwanstein alone cost 6.2 million marks. He kept requesting more and more money (despite foreign banks threatening to seize his property) and eventually was deposed by the Bavarian government. On June 9, 1886 he was incapacitated and was forcibly taken from Neuschwanstein during the night. On June 13th he and the psychiatrist who certified him as insane died under mysterious circumstances in the shallow water of Lake Starnberg near Berg Castle. Murder or suicide I wonder? Not even six weeks after the king’s death the castle was opened up to paying visitors. After seeing the castle from the courtyard we headed up to the Marienbrücke, stopping to look down on Ludwig II’s childhood home, Schloss Hohenschwangau. There is a beautiful view of Neuschwanstein from the bridge – it is definitely worth the hike!
When we finished up at the castle we headed to Linderhof which is a short drive away. We made a pit stop at a restaurant next to Lechfall in Fuessen. I remember this meal as being especially delicious. I really regret not going inside of Linderhof – unlike Neuschwanstein all rooms are complete and it was much less crowded. It is much smaller than Versailles, but you can tell it was the inspiration (there is even a hall of mirrors). The dining room is famous for its disappearing dumb-waiter called “Tischlein deck dich”. This table was installed so that Ludwig could dine alone here, but it was always set for at least four persons because the king used to talk to imaginary people like Louis XV or Marie Antoinette. By this point on the trip I knew that Ludwig II had the nickname “mad King Ludwig” – remember the swans that he leaves at any lake he regularly visits and the out of control construction projects? – now we can add another eccentricity to the list. Though I’m sad we missed out on the ornate interior of the castle, I am still glad we went because the formal gardens are beautiful. Even though we had a bit of rain, we really enjoyed the grounds. We ended the day at a restaurant in Steingaden for dinner with Siegfried and the kids where Mathias had a Bavarian specialty – Sour Lung Soup – for dinner (yes, you read that right). It came out in the form of a greyish colored soup that didn’t look or smell appetizing to me at all, but Mathias finished off the entire serving! Looking up the recipe online.. “Finely sliced veal offal—such as lung, heart, and sweetbreads—is placed in a bowl and smothered in a sauce made of vinegar, sour cream, and parsley with bread dumplings.” I’m sorry to say I didn’t get a picture of it – but I’ve googled it and added a picture that is similar (I just remember the sauce looking more grey and thicker…yuck).