“I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren’t pretty, or smart, or young. They’re still princesses.” – The Little Princess
I like castles. I really, really like castles. I like to wander around their outsides, imagining what life was like centuries ago in the time of princesses and princes. And, while I know the answer is that the reality of life “once upon a time” was pretty crappy, it does not at all stop my daydreams of being royalty. While it is entirely unacceptable for a woman of nearly thirty to have somehow convinced her husband to bemusedly play along in her princess fantasies before we learn that all girls are princesses we learned that “all women are princesses. It is our right,” so I, truthfully, do not feel so bad or ashamed that my dream bed still features a canopy. Tonight, in fact, my prince charming went out in the cold and dark to buy me almond milk so that he could come home and make me chai. The night before he tucked me in with the array of stuffed animals I convinced our Maldavian housekeeper to bestow on me each night during our trip earlier this month. I admit I am a spoiled, adult princess.
Ever since learning about Neuschwanstein it has featured in my daydreams as my royal residence. If it was fit for Cinderella, then it is suitable for me. Thus, when I realized how close to Nuremberg Neuschwanstein is located our small weekend roadtrip to see Nuremberg’s Christmas market turned into a Bavarian wonderland, Christmas market, and castle adventure extraordinaire. I am not ashamed to admit that as the date drew near for our adventure I began to look forward much more to finally seeing Ludwig’s folly than the initial impetus for the trip.
“We are getting up at 6 a.m. so we can be the very first ones there,” I announced the night after our Franconia village tour of Bamberg and Rothenburg ob de Tauber. Unfortunately, that would also be the night the flu germs the Frenchman had been harboring decided to come out and glue our eyes shut. Groggily getting ready with only an hour or so of sleep in us, I had to convince myself that princesses do, in fact, still have to brush their hair.
“Try to sleep,” the Frenchman urged as we made the approximately 1.5 hour drive from Munich towards Neuschwanstein, but I refused, keeping my eyes glued to the darkness and then the early morning light while wondering where the mountains were. Finally, we spotted them, rising suddenly out of the completely flat plain. Right at the point where the two meet, sat the white, fairytale castle. “It’s a lot smaller than I imagined,” I noted, somewhat disappointed.
Everyone and everything had warned me of the disappointment in what more than a few sources had called Germany’s most disappointing tourist attraction. But haters be damned! Once I got over the initial shock and quickly recalculated the size of my make believe live-in staff and livery we had an amazing time, getting lost in the enchanted magic of the fairytale and forgetting for a moment our running noses and sleepy heads.
In an attempt to stave off any letdown I had prebooked tickets online to tour only Neuschwanstein’s mother castle, Hohenschwangau. I call it the mother castle because it is the castle in which Ludwig’s family, the kings and queens of of the Kingdom of Bavaria, actually lived, unlike Neuschwanstein, which Ludwig built (but did not finish) as an opera set for his heartthrob, composer Richard Wagner. From his bedroom in Hohenschwangau Ludwig peered from his telescope at the hilltop palace, unfortunately downing before it could be completed.
The beauty in Neuschwanstein lies in its exterior, in the magnificent, iconic views from the bridge above it. Before we had even set out I had warned the Frenchman that I was not hiking up to or down from the castle and that we would be riding in style via horse-drawn carriage. In the end, we took the bus up to the bridge since it turns out the horses stop at the castle itself, but some big-bootied horses named Mara and Hanse did take us back to our car, prince and princess-style. Had we been feeling better we would have hiked up the trail from the bridge a bit further to the lookout point over both castles.
Our visit to Neuschwanstein was truly magical and almost everything I had envisioned in countless daydreams. Unfortunately for the Frenchman it only served to increase my conviction that I am a real-life princess, or at least the princess of our 55m2 apartment, “because it’s magic. Magic has to be believed. It’s the only way it’s real.” – A Little Princess
Read part 1 of our five-day Bavarian roadtrip here.
Read part 2 of our five-day Bavarian roadtrip here.