Doin’ the New Swan Rock

On Saturday morning, I braved the slightly chilly breeze to get to the tour office by the (relatively) early 8.30am start for our tour of Neuschwanstein (which means something like new swan rock).

There were only five of us on our tour, a gay couple from North Carolina and two Japanese girls. This meant that were were able to go in a van rather than bus. The significance of this is that vans don’t have their speed limited on the autobahn which not only meant that we could hurtle through the German countryside at 160km/h, but that we had enough time to stop in the historical city of Rothenburg.

Rothenburg is a tiny little town which still has its original city wall intact. We had a little wander around, including a wander on the actual city wall and got a feel for the city. There were Catholic and Protestant churches, shops, cafes, parks and even a criminal museum containing instruments of torture.

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It was very lucky that we were under time pressure or I may have come home without any euros left, but with many more souvenirs than I could ever justify purchasing. We were allowed to enter one shop, Käthe Wohlfahrt, the biggest Christmas shop… in the world *say that like you’re Jeremy Clarkson for maximum effect*. It was incredible! Christmas trees, ornaments, nutcrackers, ornaments, stockings, ornaments, stuffed animals, ornaments… did I mention they had ornaments? I got some catalogues because the whole time I was in there enjoying myself, I was thinking how much my Grandma would have loved it even more!

Then, it was time to drive to Neuschwanstein. There is also a castle next door that no one really wants to see but I took its photo anyway and posed by a lake:

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We took a horse-drawn carriage up to the top to the castle entrance. I feel a little sorry for the horses. By the time we arrived, there was steam pouring off them!

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Neuschwanstein is exactly what would happen if my school friends and I got a hold of the finances of a small European kingdom and went berserk. It is the fantasy palace of King Ludwig II who wanted to create a castle that represented medieval kings of old, which is why it looks fantastic from the outside and why I took stacks of photos of it:

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Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside the castle but at least that meant I could enjoy it without my eye glued to my camera viewfinder. The first thing I recall was how beautiful the servants’ quarters were. They looked like they were furnished like some of the royal chambers in other castles I’d seen on this trip. King Ludwig II selected some of his favourite legends, like Tristan and Isolde, to decorate the walls of his rooms in grand style. In his chapel, he had the exploits of canonised monarchs painted amongst a celebration of other religions, which I found unusual. He even had his own secret rock grotto built. But, showing that he was still a contemporary monarch, he had installed electric bells so that his valet could be at his beck and call. It was a bit of a mishmash of styles and eras but presumably, it’s what the king wanted.

On the way out, we got to see the 19th century kitchen, which was very Downton Abbey right down to the beautiful copper jelly moulds.

The drive home was 4 hours so we broke our journey at a service station. In an attempt to get some German food, I selected currywurst which is just sausage, tomato sauce and curry powder, but it is a cultural phenomena, there is even a currywurst museum in Berlin.

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