After 14 months living here, I have had the pleasure of hosting a couple contingents of visitors in this city, so by now I pretty much have the perfect weekend in Munich down pat (stay tuned for a post devoted to exactly that ;)).
You would be hard-pressed to find a list of things to do in Munich that does not contain Schloss Neuschwanstein. Even though it isn’t actually in Munich (it is a good 2 hour plus journey away by train and bus), Munich is probably the closest you will ever get to it short of setting up camp in Füssen. And everyone (I mean EVERYONE) should see Schloss Neuschwanstein at least once.
The bridge was closed
So let me be upfront with you. The photo you see above - the photo of Schloss Neuschwanstein dusted in snow like a scrumptious sugar-covered Bavarian Käsekuchen - that photo nearly didn’t happen. As a result of said snow, which had fallen heavily on the day of our visit, the Marienbrücke (the bridge where one procures the much-celebrated Neuschwanstein hero shot) was closed.
When I asked the lady at the ticket booth how to get to the Marienbrücke she wove tales of grave peril, and Australian tourists much sturdier of heart than I who had ventured forth and never returned (well, not really, but she did say the bridge was closed due to snow and it would be very dangerous to ignore the warning).
I was enormously dejected, and I can’t imagine how dejected my cousin Kyle must have been. He is a real photographer (not a pretend one like me) and I mean, for a photographer to come to Neuschwanstein and be told the Marienbrücke is closed is kind of like a gay man travelling to Sydney and being told that Mardi Gras is cancelled.
The ticket lady may have doubted our courage in the face of danger, but in doing so she grossly underestimated the strength of my resolve to maintain an interesting and culturally diverse Instagram feed. Kyle and I simply glanced at each other. We didn’t even need to exchange any words. It was decided: we were going to ignore the bridge ban.
The treacherous journey
And so we bid farewell to the family that would remain behind in the safety of the Schloss Neuschwanstein gift store, knowing we might never see them again. It was a brief and emotional farewell. But the thought of the glory we would receive when that hero shot appeared on our Instagram feeds reminded us that our quest was a noble one, and we continued.
I won’t lie, the journey was not one for the faint of heart. First, we needed to climb around the huge sign warning less courageous travellers that the bridge was closed. As if our task wasn’t arduous enough, we also needed to cast off the sensible suggestions of German-speaking passers by, who told us that maybe we should take notice of the warning and not climb over the fence.
Once we made it onto the forbidden trail we had to dodge the Japanese tourists who thought it was a good idea to skid along the compacted ice. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that a) they couldn’t read German (or the translation in both English and Mandarin) and therefore didn’t understand that things were a little dange and b) they were vision-impaired, and therefore couldn’t see that they were skidding along the edge of a 100 meter high crag.
The bit where I nearly plunged to my death
About ten minutes later we reached the bridge. Any notion of us being uniquely brave of heart quickly dissipated when we saw the hordes of other people on the bridge. Apparently the castle staff had misjudged just how trifling a matter personal safety really is to the Instagram generation.
And I mean, can you blame us? Just look at those views! For a second I was so mesmerised I forgot I have a fear of heights. Then my foot slipped down what turned out to be a gap between two of the bridge beams where the snow had worn away, exposing a clear view of the valley floor 90 meters below. Then I really really really remembered that I’m scared of heights, and - after taking some quick snaps - pleaded to Kyle that he get me the hell off that bridge.
Great pix though, hey?
Getting to Schloss Neuschwanstein
From Munich, you need to catch a train to Füssen. Unless you can catch a Regional Express train you will likely need to change trains halfway.
From Füssen, you need to catch a bus to the castle. Just follow the tourists, and look for the bus that says “Castle” on it. It’s pretty fool-proof.
All up, the journey takes about 2.5 hours each way. Believe me when I say it is worth it. (And besides, there are much worse places to be stuck for 2.5 hours than the amazingly comfortable, safe, clean and efficient German public transport system)
Seeing the Schloss
If you want to see inside the castle, the only way is by guided tour. And you should do it. The castle, and the crazy Bavarian king who ordered its construction, are both fascinating. Oh, and the interior itself is also quite sumptuous and beautiful. (You aren’t allowed to take photos inside, which is why there are none here).
You can book tickets to the tours online up until two days before, and then you can collect them at the ticket office when you arrive. I would recommend this option, as you avoid the queues. Tours are available in both German and English.
Whether you want to go inside or not, you will still need to get to the top of the hill in order to reach the castle. You have two options: you can either walk, or take the horse and carriage. Naturally, you will want to take the horse and carriage.
To do so, you will need to walk a little bit up the hill from the ticket office and join that big fat line on the side of the road. To be safe, I would factor at least an hour from joining the line to reaching the top. The ride itself only takes 10 minutes, but the carriages are small and there are always lots of people waiting for them.
It will cost you 6€ per person to get up the hill, and 3€ per person to come down (clever, clever Germans).
Getting the hero shot (preferably on days when the bridge isn’t closed)
OK, so the Marienbrücke is probably a bit more than a vantage point for your hero shot. It is somewhat of a wonder in itself, being a 90 meter high bridge with expansive views of the surrounding countryside, plus the castle, PLUS a waterfall (really, I don’t think a bridge could get any more picturesque).
From the base of the Schloss, you will see signs directing you towards the bridge. It is about a ten minute walk. On your way, also keep an eye out for Schloss Hoheschwangau, which is the castle where King Ludwig II (the crazy Bavarian king referred to previously) grew up and dreamed of a castle on the top of this crag.
And on a normal day you don’t have to scale the fence.
NEXT blog: This isn’t the last you have heard of Schloss Neuschwanstein from me. At the moment I am completely captivated by all things King Ludwig II, so for my next post I will be bringing you some crazy facts about this crazy King. Prepare yourself, that’s all I can say ;)
So what do you think? Was I crazy to ignore the bridge ban? Would you have steered clear, or YOLOd all over that shit?