My parents and my brother came to visit in June, and decided to make a quick additional trip while in Europe. They landed on Germany, specifically the southern region of Bavaria. Now, I’ve watched enough Rick Steves to know that I wanted to go here too. Southern Germany was at the top of my list, and NOT at the top of Rich’s.
If we could swing the childcare, maybe I could join my family for a couple days and knock it off my list. And that’s what happened! Between our Au Pair still living with us, and Rich making a couple drop offs and pick ups, I was able to escape basically guilt free. I had two full days in Munich with them. On the first day we took an all day bus tour to the Neuschwanstein Castle. Then on the second day we took an all day bus tour and crossed the border into Salzburg, Austria.
My mom took enough pictures for all of us, which meant that I blessedly got to take my photographer hat off for a while and focus on living in the now, looking around, and enjoying the quiet of no kids. This also means, that most of my pictures from the trip are just selfies of me and my brother (who doesn’t smile with his teeth).
But I’m fine… with both of those things.
Neuschwanstein Castle is the stuff of fairy tales. I saw this. I lived this in real life. However, I did not take these pictures:
Opulence and grandeur on a level you can’t believe. Just… literally unbelievable. To think they did it without modern machinery… or vehicles… or a crane. How many thousands of trips up this treacherous mountain did they make, WITH HORSES?!
You have to see it to believe it.
Three notes –
One: you only see a teenzy bit of inside the actual castle. We guessed only 1/10th of the castle. I don’t know why this is. What you do see is incredible. Inside the castle itself… I’d say took us 30minutes.
Two: you have to get there yourself. The bus tours drop you off at the village near the castle. Then you have three choices. Shuttle, horse, or walk. Also – if you miss your tour time at the castle, they won’t let you in. Or so they said.
Our tour guide recommended walking it. He was at least 65, and told us he was going to be walking it, and it was an up-hill hike of 30minutes or so. We decided he was insane. You can also take the shuttle, but it only runs every 20 minutes and takes you to the top of the mountain where you still have to walk down-hill to the castle for 10 minutes, plus it’s not the most reliable because if it fills up they don’t let you on. And then you’re stuck waiting for the next shuttle and you miss your tour time. Then there are the horses. The horses run at regular horse intervals, not timed or tracked by any one. And they cost a little extra money. However, once you are on a horse carriage, it’s only a 15 minute very-scenic trip up to the castle. When we got dropped off by the bus, we had lunch, and decided to wait for the scenic horses. The horses did not come and the horses did not come. And there was no one there to tell us if the horses were coming soon. Then one horse carriage came, FINALLY, but our group was not first in line and we couldn’t fit on. Now we are first in line, but we still don’t know when the next horse carriage is coming and it’s getting closer and closer to our allotted tour time. We wasted so much time waiting on those horses. Worried more and more about time. It’s for sure too late to walk it. We spot the shuttle at the top of the hill. We race to it. The driver graciously lets us on without a ticket (as long as we can give him cash at the top). The shuttle shuttles, drops us off and we raced down the hill, actually running… all four of us… to the castle to make our tour time. We ended up being there about 5 minutes early, hahahahaha. So funny. Lesson learned. Avoid the horses. Either grab a quicker lunch and wait for the shuttle OR grab a quicker lunch and go on a hike with your insane and incredibly fit tour guide.
Three: Seeing 10 percent of this castle is worth the stress and the hike.
In fact, Isaac was so thrilled to make it to the top of the Neuschwanstein, that he smiled with his teeth.
On our next tour day we went to Salzburg, Austria. Home of Mozart and the Sound of Music. We walked around and took in the old cathedrals, cemetaries, and garden. We followed that up with a ride down the river. It was beautiful and relaxed and educational and cool.
On beer: The perfect place to unwind after a treacherous and exhausting castle mountain hike or a trip to Austria is the Beer Hall/Beer Garten. They are all over and we asked our tour guides what they recommended. You can refill on a huge pint of beer (often brewed in-house) and have as many pretzels as you can handle. You’ll probably need to ask for an English menu, but the atmosphere will be fun and laid back. (Unless you go to the pumped-up-on-steroids Beer Garten that my family found the day after I left… where they couldn’t figure out how to order, got yelled at for being slow, and then couldn’t find a place to sit)
At our first Beer Hall, instead of a full beer, I ordered a Radler – which I had read was the way to go. A Radler is a half beer and half lemonade (or we suspected, some sort of lemon-lime soda). And it IS the way to go. For me, at least, because I’m not much of a beer drinker. My family thought it sounded gross and ordered regular beer, but of course, my Radler quickly became everyone’s favorite. Because it is awesome.
On accommodations: Our hotel was apartment style. It wasn’t super luxurious to the eye, but it was clean and spacious, very convenient and highly rated on trip advisor. It worked great for us and I would stay there again.
On getting around: Munich public transport was clean, simple, and consistent. I love when one pass gets you on all busses/trams/trains. That way switching is easy. Their transportation system is probably the best I’ve witnessed. If not tied, then second, to London. You may, though, need a little German… or a little luck finding someone who can translate while buying your tickets. We felt so confident that we didn’t even bother with a taxi service from the airport at 10 o’clock at night. Someone helped us buy the right ticket, and we found our way to the hotel on our own, via train.
On language: Munich is not a huge tourist town, so English speakers/menus/signs are less common. But still common enough. You can clunk around ok enough if you try. The people are friendly and helpful. And if they know English – I found a polite acknowledgment at the beginning of the conversation was best, and then were happy to speak it.
Where we stayed:
We toured with Grey Line Bus Tours. COMFY seats, great guides. Our only complaint was that we wished we would’ve been warned about the physical hike at the Neuschwanstein. I don’t know how it would’ve helped us, but we would’ve like to have been warned. And we think that the Salzburg trip could’ve been timed a little differently. But overall, we were very happy.