Foul Weather at the Fairytale Castle
I consider myself to be a DIY traveler, organizing my own activities instead of joining group tours. When I discovered that the train conductors in Germany would be planning yet another strike during our time in Munich I had two options available for our day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle: skip it altogether or go with a group tour. Since I had really been looking forward to this part of our vacation I chose the latter, booking a trip with Mike’s Bike Tours.
Mike’s Bike Tours in Munich primarily organizes bike tours and rentals in and around the city. We booked their longer day tour to Neuschwanstein Castle which also incorporates a 2-hour bike ride around an alpine lake in the summer months with other options for non-active folks.
On our journey to the castle we experienced an entire day of cold and miserable weather. The sun refused to shine even for a little while and I feared that my much-anticipated trip would be ruined. But I was determined to make the best of it so we packed Stink’s rain coat and boots and made sure to dress warmly.
When we arrived in the tiny town of Schwangau we had the option of touring the Hohenschwangau Castle. Due to the crummy weather outside Brandon and I chose to just hang out at a local restaurant called Bistro Ikarus sipping on hot chocolate while Stink took a much-needed nap. A few passengers went on the Hohenschwangau Castle tour, some stayed at the restaurant with us and another group of brave souls chose to bike through the cold and rain.
While the bike tour group was gone I decided to take a little walk around the restaurant which is located near a cable car lift that takes you to the top of Tegelberg Mountain. The cable car wasn’t running due to the weather so all was quiet and peaceful. Because of the steep incline of the mountain there’s a roughly 32 degree difference (Fahrenheit) between the top and the bottom. It was pretty incredible to feel the cold rain on my face and at the same time see snowy trees just a few hundred yards up the mountain.
I picked my way through a cow pasture, listening to the jingling sound of the cowbells as they grazed, to get a foggy peek at Neuschwanstein Castle before heading back to warm up at the restaurant.
We had pre-ordered our food on the bus ride to Schwangau and when the bike riders returned our lunch was ready to be served. I enjoyed a delicious turkey club sandwich with Weissbier and Brandon shared a salad and spaghetti bolognese with Stink. For dessert we ordered an apple strudel that was so delicious we needed a second one.
After lunch we enjoyed a little magic show, courtesy of our tour guide Brad. Brad was a graduate of the German Academy of Magic before joining Mike’s Bike Tours and his magic skills were pretty amazing. Then it was time to visit the castle!
Oh, Neuschwanstein Castle, how I’ve longed to see you! I grew up walking by my grandfather’s painting of Neuschwanstein and spent my early adult years piecing together complicated jigsaw puzzles of the fairytale castle. Trips to Disney World reminded me that there was an actual castle in Bavaria that was the inspiration for this fantasy version.
Before our tour began I braved the crowds and my fear of heights to snap a few photos from Mary’s Bridge. The bridge wasn’t nearly as long or treacherous as I had imagined but it’s still very high up and I could feel the bouncing of the wooden boards as people walked back and forth. I only stayed a few minutes before putting my feet back on solid ground and taking a leisurely walk up to the castle.
Mike’s Bike Tours gave us a ton of information about King Ludwig II and Neuschwanstein Castle through a video on the bus ride there. The actual tours at the castle, however, are conducted by government officials with very scripted lines. The quick 30-minute tour of the castle takes you through a dozen rooms, only stopping in 4 or 5 of the larger ones for a bit of information about them. The interior is dark, especially inside the king’s bedroom, and photography is strictly prohibited. Stairs are abundant and I immediately regretted bringing along Stink’s heavy diaper bag instead of seeking out a locker to stow it in. Brandon had it worse, though, having to carry an even heavier 2-year old up all those stairs!
Once the tour is complete you’re free to explore the castle…in the gift shop. Seriously though, there’s no opportunity to linger in the castle rooms because in 5 minutes another 50 visitors will be herded into that same room. The gift shop and cafe are nice and spacious, though, and well worth a look around.
All in all I probably would visit the area again but not pay for a tour inside the castle. Its rugged location and beautiful architecture are what I love most about it and those are things I can experience for free.