Despite the cold weather and rain, we made our way up the narrow main street in the village to the bus stop for the trip up to Mad Ludwig’s Castle. The crush of tourists had not shown up yet; they were still having breakfast in Munich, Salzburg, and Innsbruck, and their bus drivers were beginning to idle their engines on the huge touring buses. The bus ride was short, zig-zagging up the mountain, but I wouldn’t have wanted to walk up that incline for very long. The bus stopped at Marienbrucke (Mary’s Bridge), a bridge across a steep and deep valley that overlooks a waterfall and the castle. It is a great spot for taking photos of the castle and viewing the surrounding valley and Alpine lakes. Unfortunately for our photos, today is grey and dark.
We walked down the path through the forest to the castle. In the front courtyard, groups of tourists were already standing in a crowd waiting their turn to get in for their tour. I had read that there were very few finished rooms to tour inside this castle, and it wasn’t worth the wait. It took 17 years to build the castle for Ludwig, and by the time it was (almost) finished in 1888, he was considered insane by the other leaders and deposed. He only lived in the castle for a few months. It is a magnificent ideal of a castle though, built from white stone, with towers everywhere. We had a walk around the two courtyards, and then headed back to the village via horse wagon with a group of Japanese ladies. The youngest woman, about 18 or so, was fully equipped with all of the gadgets and baubles of the young Japanese rich, including not one but two cell phones, cameras, music players, designer purse, and fake nails an inch long.
Ludwig lived most of his life in Hohenschwangau Castle. It looks like a small castle from the outside, but really is more of a country mansion/hunting lodge built on the hill overlooking the Alpsee (another Alpine lake). We had a tour of the king and queen’s rooms by an English speaking boy who told the story of Ludwig’s life. The guy explained how there was a heater in each room, fed with wood or coal by servants in the hallway so the servant didn’t have to go in the room and disturb the royalty. The living rooms had fantastic views across the surrounding mountains, lakes, and valleys.
We left the crowded village and drove to the neighboring town of Fussen for lunch. After some more Italian food (there are a lot of pizzerias in this part of Germany, because of the proximity to Italy?), we briefly wandered the pedestrian area of Fussen. Peter wanted to visit the local skate shop. The proprietor had recently been in Canada, and even had been to Portland to skateboard at the semi-famous skate part under the Burnside Bridge in downtown Portland.
With the exception of the cashier at the Burger King on the Autobahn on the first day of our trip, everyone we have come into contact here has spoken English. Even at a gas station in a small village near the Austrian border, an old woman running the cash register spoke a little English. Unlike the snooty French, who don’t want to speak French to you, in Germany everyone instantly speaks English to us. On a couple of occasions, someone has asked me if I speak English. That question made me feel pretty good, that I wasn’t so obviously American. Although every other time, it’s not “Gutan Tag”, but “Hello, how are you?”
The drive through the Alps was very beautiful, despite the cold and dreary weather. We were looking for another alpine slide in a small village off the highway. We found the place, nestled at the bottom of two mountains. There were many ski runs on the mountain. Just then the sun came out for our ride up the chairlift. This luge is the longest in the area, at almost a mile long. We had a great and fast ride down. I had to keep breaking or I would have flown off the track and crashed in the meadow.
No matter where you drive in the world, in the summer there is road construction. On our drive from Innsbruck to Salzburg, we must have hit a dozen construction sites. At each one, the lanes narrowed to barely the width of the car. This delayed us, so that by the time we got to the hotel in the old part of Salzburg, we had to rush dinner to get to the theater in time for our show. The show was our attempt at being exposed to some musical culture while in Salzburg, a city famous for Mozart. This show was a little less cultured, consisting of several singers and a piano player playing music from “the Sound of Music” interspersed with video clips of the real Maria von Trapp telling her life story, plus Austrian folk songs, and famous opera parts. A little too “touristy” for my taste, and I am not an opera fan by any means. Plus I was tired from the mountain and autobahn driving.
Tomorrow we’ll do some more walking around Salzburg, before driving to Vienna.