In my travels I have taken on many roles. Some days I am an adventurer. Some days an organizer. Some days free in child-like wonder. Sometimes a tourist. Other times a traveller. Occasionally a driver, chaperone, educator or student. And often, a tour guide.
On this trip, I wore the tour guide hat. I had the privilege of sharing many of my favourite places with many of my favourite people. The quintessential Bavarian experience has to include the castles. So we drove towards the mountains, lakes and fields found in southern Bavaria, to visit the little town of Hohenschwangau – home to the famous castles of King Ludwig II. Schloss Neuschwanstein – the castle that inspired Walt Disney – is one of the most famous in the world. King Ludwig II, who built this castle to overlook his childhood home, Schloss Hohenschwangau (the yellow castle pictured below), was decreed to be ‘mad’ was deposed from the throne, just as his masterpiece neared completion. A few days later was mysteriously found dead, along side is psychiatrist, in a nearby lake (despite being an excellent swimmer). Six weeks later the castle opened for tourists, and has been generating money every since. It’s a beautiful castle, complete with indoor plumbing (impressive for the 19th century) and a concert hall (for his “friend” Wagner). However, much of the interior remains empty and unfinished. I have had the fortune to visit the castle a few times (I have written about it here and here). And so this time around, I chose NOT to take the tour. While the rest of the family enjoyed castle tours, Ray decided to hike from castle, across the valley to the top of Tegelberg, and I, wandered along the lake, and found a nice tree to curl up under with a book. I picked up a pretty excellent piece of Black Forest Cake, and braved the crowds to step foot on Marienbrücke (which was closed at last visit) for the quintessential castle view.
Nearby Hohenschwangau was a mountain peak, known as Tegelberg. This is where I got to be a bit of an adventurer. Time to experience something new! While Ray had spent hours hiking from town to town along the cliff side trails, we took the car to the base of the mountain, and the cable car to the top, where we were able to meet up with him for the views and a drink. While Ray earned his views, we cheated and bought our way to the top. When we went to buy our tickets the employee at the ticket box asked me if I wanted a one way ticket, or round trip. This seemed like an unusual question – why would I want it one way? Do people commonly hike down the mountain? And then I got to the top and realized that people tend to JUMP OFF the mountain. Sure enough, line-ups of paragliders and hangliders, waiting in queue, for their chance to take in the best view in the valley.
Once back down the mountain (by cable car – no jumping for me), we were able to enjoy the sommerrodelbahn – or the summer luge. These sleds-of-sort run down metal tracks, built into the mountain side. While I opted to be photographer of the group, Ray, Josh, Vanessa and Dad all enjoyed a few rides – a popular past time with tourists and locals alike coming from near and far. What is not shown in the photo – the 35 degree weather. What I wish was not shown in the photo – Ray’s bucket hat.
While I had a pretty full itinerary, I have learned over the years to plan time for nothing. Or as nothing as I am capable of. The time in Bavaria marked the halfway mark of the trip, and I wanted to ensure I set aside a day that that could be anything we wanted. There was only one thing on my wish list – to go for a swim in one of the Tirol’s beautiful green alpine lakes. The rest of the family was up for the adventure, and so the six of us crammed into our Grand Picasso, and headed across the Austrian border to Plansee. Mom and Dad enjoyed a boat cruise among the alps, Ray read a book, Vanessa took a nap, Josh wandered, we all played a few rounds of Heads Up, and I got to go for my swim. Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was worth it. Seriously – the colour of the water alone still makes my heart sing.
On the drive home we stopped off at Lechfall, just back across the German border, outside the town of Füssen.
We spent 3 nights in the south of Bavaria in a 3 bedroom barn loft in the small town of Hopferau. This town was all farms, barns, and cows, and very little of anything else. Which made it the perfect, authentic, Bavarian experience (well – almost perfect. We did not have the Air Conditioning that the listing promised. So is was mostly awesome, but a little bit not awesome because where there are farms, there are many flies – or so I learned). We had views of the Alps from the balcony, and nothing but neighbour cows and church bells to keep us company. It was a nice break from the tourist haunts of Füssen and Hohenschwangau.
It also was the perfect place for an evening walk. The last night we were there Ray and I went out for a stroll. My favourite parts of our travels is when we are far enough off the beaten path to feel like we are experiencing life, opposed to observing it. Sure enough, as we wandered down the road, various farm cats came out of their yards and barns and started following Ray. I’m pretty sure they read his t-shirt, which said “the entire cat population is my best friend” (it made the perfect picture!) We looped up to the top of the hill to see the train cut through the fields, and the sunset over the valley. And when we turned, with the sun setting behind him, we could see the silhouette of a little fox, looking back our way. The entire evening was a little slice of Bavarian perfection.