Tuesday July 5, 2016 – Village of Hohenschwangau, Germany – MoTab European Tour Journal
Today is now officially my new favorite day on tour so far!!! [Okay, I admit every day has been my new favorite day]. For our final “Rest day” in Munich, Choir members were allowed – prior to tour – to choose from 3 options: stay in Munich, or pay for one of two excursions, The Dachau Concentration Camp or Neuschwanstein Castle.
I chose the CASTLE – of course!
Mr. Mo and I were up by 4:30 am to leave the hotel by 5 am on Bus 1, even though we had a really late night running the Luggage Pull. Ah, yes. I have to take a moment to tell you about THAT classic Tour event! The Mr. and I volunteered to help get every tour member’s large piece of luggage out of the hotel and loaded onto a truck to send ahead to our next hotel in Frankfurt. A Choir Tour Luggage Pull is a truly remarkable event to behold. They are like a well-oiled machine, and very streamlined. Here’s the way it works:
All Tour members are required to place their large piece of luggage outside their doors by a certain time – in this case, no later than 10:00 PM. A set of volunteers are assigned to each floor on the hotel to run up and down the halls gathering the suitcases and corralling them near the freight elevator. One or Two volunteers will travel up and down inside the elevator helping to load as many suitcases as possible inside [this looks something like playing a game of TETRIS with Suitcases all stacked to the ceiling!]. Another team is waiting in the lobby who quickly unload the elevators each time one opens, and roll the luggage to the waiting semi truck outside, where the final volunteer team are artfully packing in the suitcases. Depending on the amount of elevators at our disposal, the number of volunteers, and the amount of floors tour members are staying, the entire operation usually moves upwards of 1,200 pieces of luggage in less than one hour. I always love catching a glimpse of hotel employees standing by watching in utter amazement.
Unfortunately, our luggage pull went longer than usual because #1. Our hotel did not have a freight elevator and we were only allowed to use one patron elevator. #2. Our semi truck arrived an hour late – so, by the time we had all of the luggage stacked in the lobby and even spilling out onto the sidewalk – it took longer to wait to finish and then get to bed. We admit to enjoying a delicious burger in the hotel’s American-style bar while we waited for the truck.
So, now here we were up early again, with just a few hours shut eye between us. And everyone on the bus is still smiling because we were headed to see CASTLES!
How can that not make anyone happy?!
Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most famous castles in the world. It has been seen in many famous movies – such as the classic musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the opening credits of The Sound of Music.
And of course, Schloss Neuschwanstein is also the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Fun fact, did you know that Disney purchased the “rights” to the outside of the castle? True. He wanted to make sure no one else will ever build using “his” design.
(I like to wonder what the great narcissistic King Ludvig would think of that?!)
I’ve always wanted to see this castle. This is a true bucket list item. But, I really had NO IDEA just how amazing this optional excursion would actually be. The castle is perched high up on the side of a mountain overlooking a stunning valley filled with lakes and beautiful green rolling hills. Even from a far distance, you can see it across the valley.
There are actually two historic Royal castles to see in this beautiful “Hohenshwangau” valley. The oldest is Schloss Hohenschwanau [Schloss = Castle] which was originally built in the 12th Century, destroyed in the Napoleanic wars, and rebuilt by King Maximillian in the 1830s. King Max had a son named Ludvig II who grew up in this lovely castle near the lake (the “yellow castle” as I’m calling it, is privately owned now but can be toured).
Max died when Ludvig was only 18 years old, and over the next 22 years little King Ludvig went to town with the family coffers and taxation to have not just one but four castles built throughout his kingdom of Bavaria.
I hear that each of these Schloss are quite splendid – however, Neuschwanstein surpasses everything else, as is definitely his crowning jewel.
It took 17 years to build what currently exists as Schloss Neuschwanstein (it was never fully completed according to the original plan, which was to include another tall turret tower and another chapel). The design was inspired by the classic medieval tales that Ludvig loved – as well as the composer Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle operas (Lohengrin, Parcifal, Tannhauser), and the tales of the quest for the Holy Grail, all of which Louis was obsessed with. So, he spared no expense outside or inside paying homage to these tales and using the most beautiful and expensive art and craftsmanship.
Interestingly enough, Ludvig’s life imitated the tragic art he loved. Only 170 days after moving into his dream castle he was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a lake. He was only 40 years old. Most historians believe he was murdered, but the mystery was never solved [where’s CSI when you really need them?]. So, Luey died just like the tragic operas that he loved – and after he died, the castle was never lived in again. In fact, it was opened to the public for tours just 6 weeks after his death, and has been seen by over 100 million people since.
What was very exciting that I didn’t expect is that the inside has been perfectly preserved since Louis death and all of the original furniture, tapestries and paintings are inside! The only thing missing is his throne which was removed after his death [I’m not sure where it was taken].
There are all the requisite features of a TRUE CASTLE here – gold, jewels, extravagance, secret passageways, turrets, hidden doors, even a totally bizarre grotto cave (the original “man cave”), and so many glorious surprises around every corner!
Sadly, photography inside is not allowed. 😦 So you will just have to trust me that it was incredible, or you can check out photos here. One could stay in there for hours, days, weeks or years studying each of the walls, paintings, murals, statues and inlaid floors and never be able to see everything, or discover all the hidden messages and symbolism in each room and each work of art.
But, I’d sure love to try!
However, I am getting completely ahead of myself.
A Walk In The Woods
We arrived super early to the site and actually were the very first visitors of the day. Everything in the little village was still closed – so we had about an hour to explore the village and surrounding area with no other tourists there until it was time to pick up our tickets for our tour. Naturally Mr. Mo and I took off on an adventure walking around the gorgeous lake. We had the whole trail to ourselves and it was like a fairy tale forest. In fact, I had forgotten my sweater so I grabbed my travel blanket to ward off the chill, and I inadvertently became a fairy tale character as captured in this photo taken by the Mr. 🙂
We walked all the way to the other side of the lake and we were able to look back and see the two castles on the mountain. We could see the clear lake, and the only sounds we could hear were the lapping of the waves and birds singing.
It was magical.
If you look close you can see both of the castles across the lake – one of the far left, and one on the far upper right.
Fitbit For A King
After we walked back and got our tour tickets we had to climb the mountain to Neuschwanstein castle, and it was quite a steep hike!! My fitbit recorded 71 flights of stairs for the climb! Plus, we had over 20,000 steps from our day (and our feet are feeling it!)
But, it was a gorgeous hike with stunning views. And, it comes with the best reward at the top.
Sadly, no photos inside – however there are some opportunities to take photos of the view of the valley and mountains from a couple of balconies.
This is a very romantic spot, and incredible to see this magical place together. I think it is is truly one of the most gorgeous places on earth and definitely worth planning to see if you are going to spend any time at all in Germany. I hope that we can return and bring our girls here someday. They would love it! There’s still so many things that we didn’t get to see and do on this whirlwind afternoon tour. For example, due to construction, the famous bridge near the waterfall was closed today. We could not walk out to see the waterfall and get some of those fabulous photos you often seen on postcards with the full castle in the distance through the trees.
Neuschwanstein is definitely back on my “bucket list” for a second visit.
I really, really, really did NOT want to leave. Ever.
So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehn…
After we made our 2 hour drive back to the hotel in Munich we decided to take a “short nap” which turned into a 6 hour nap. So, that was the end of our free time. Oh, well. Brother Wilberg would be pleased that we used our time to properly “recover.”
Tomorrow we must say a fond farewell to our beautiful Munich and embark on another “epic travel day”. We will depart at 6:30 am and travel 6 hours on the bus to Zurich, Switzerland where we will perform in the Hallenstadion, and then we will hop back on the bus immediately after the concert [of course, right!] to travel another 6 hours [does this all sound too familiar?] to Frankfurt Germany – arriving sometime around 3 am.
Yep – this is how we roll on a MoTab tour. I have to admit I’m not looking forward to being squished in a bus again for 12 hours within a 24 hour period. But, today – and every day – reminds me that it is all worth it just being here. Besides, I am really looking forward to singing again. It seems like it’s been a long time since our Vienna concert, and I am so excited to get to sing for the people of Switzerland!
We are going to miss our beautiful Munich. We’ve grown very attached to this peaceful, green town. And now we must say farewell.
I’m going to Switzerland tomorrow to sing again for another big group of wonderful people! I can’t wait! – MoSop
This is part of a 3-week series sharing my experience during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s European Tour from June 28-July 16, 2016. Due to security concerns, tour participants were not allowed to share anything on social media until we returned.
Check back each day for a new installment!