Gone tourist in the Extreme
I'm lucky enough to have visited this part of Germany since the early sixties. One of the real pleasures was visiting the village of Schwangau and the castles of Hohnschwangau & Neuschwanstein. What a change has taken place over the years. This year was my first trip back to this village since 1985 and what a rip-off; I didn’t recognise the place. Car parks and gift shops dominate the whole area. Everything costs a fortune including taking a horse and cart the 2km mountain road to Neuschwanstein. If you do this be prepared to be jammed in like a sardine. The grumpy old horse master at the bottom will not let you sit anywhere in the carriage other then where he wants you to sit and will keep you waiting for ever for the carriage to fill before he lets it go. Coaches by the hundred unload tourists (mainly from the Far East) who rush around like the demented because they haven't time to cram everything on their itintary into the time they have.
The castle tours are organised via a time clock and you need to be at the gate as soon as your time allocation clicks over. If you miss it be prepared to come back next day as you wont have a hope in hell of getting on another tour. Tour’s run around every ten minutes and are governed by a listening devise you hold to your ear. You get about 2 minutes in each castle room and by the time you're through you feel like you've run a marathon.
The queue’s at the top for Neuschwanstein are so long the authorities have rigged up a form of metal railings similar to those at airports that you shuffle continually forward praying that you don’t get caught short for the loo before you get through the gates. Only to queue a second time. I can only sum this whole experience up as necessary purgatory. Why necessary? Well when you do get to see inside these two beautiful castles, you’ll see it was well worth the wait.
Unique Suggestions: If you are in the area of Fussen you have to visit these castles. They truly are something special in beauty and history.
Tip... Book a day or two ahead. Get on the very first tour in the morning. Eat before you go.
Forget the Grumpy horse master.
Walk up to Neuschwanstein via the forest road giving yourself an hour from the bottom.
Walk back down the tarmac road and buy a Bratwurst & roll from the little Imbis kitchen a few hundred metres down the hill. Yummy!
Return to sanity as soon as possible
Fun Alternatives: There is no alternative to visiting these castles. As I said they are something special.
But do not miss Fussen castle and monestary at the top of the town. Not so grand or splendid as those two at Schwangau but well worth a visit especially if you are into renaissance art. The gides in the kiosk are helpfull, friendly and have time to talk to you about the paintings and the castle. The view is lovely from the tower over the old town. A whole different experince.
Shop Around at Neuschwanstein
Not really a trap, and probably quite common in touristy areas. Most of the shops in the town of Hohenschwangau sell similar things and can be differnt prices.
Unique Suggestions: If you find something you'd like to buy, take note of the shop, then check around the other stores. There are quite a few shops along the street, and most have similar wares, but prices vary. I bought a set of digestif cups at the gift shop in Neuschwanstein castle for about 6 euros. When we were browsing at the bottom of the hill, I found the exact same cups for 9euros!
My mother told me, you'd better shop around!
- Castles and Palaces