21 May 2007
Neuschwanstein in the Rain
Our arrival at Neuschwanstein was delayed an hour due to road construction and a long, winding detour through the German countryside. We were also a little cranky due to hunger. The pouring rain did not help the situation.
But we had come to see Neuschwanstein. And see it we would.
The castle was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as "Ludwig the Mad." It was used as the model for Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland. The castle is also one of the most popular tourist sites in Germany. Even with the rain, there were masses of people there.
So we stood in the long line and managed to get the last two tickets on the English tour leaving in just under an hour.
We had enough time for a quick lunch of bratwurst, eaten huddled under an inadequate umbrella stand next to a standing café table. While we ate, we watched in amazement as the German college students next to us brought out an enormous bottle of vodka and quickly became drunk and unruly. Although they did seem much, much happier than all the other dripping-wet tourists.
After a quick tour through one of the many gift shops, a thinly disguised and unsuccessful attempt to dry off and warm up, we headed to the bus stop for the trip up the hill to the castle. On a nice day we likely would have hiked up to the castle, but we had no desire to slog through the rain any longer than necessary.
As others also had no desire to hike up to the castle, the bus stop was mobbed. There was a great deal of pushing and shoving to get onto the bus. Elbows were used as weapons by many. Umbrellas were used as weapons by a few. We managed to be the last two allowed on the overcrowded bus. We stood immediately inside the door next to the driver and well ahead of the yellow "stand behind" line. Fortunately it was only a 10-minute bus ride. We were the first off the bus, which saved us from additional shoving and pushing. At least at that point, as there was more pushing and shoving in our immediate future.
From the bus stop it was an additional 10-15 minute hike to the castle itself. Tours were instructed to meet in the courtyard of the castle. Most people were huddled under the archway. However, I am a bit claustophobic and cannot stand to be completely surrounded by masses of people. We chose to stand in the rain to wait.
Finally our tour was announced and we were able to enter the castle, where it was dry and slightly warmer than the outdoors. Approximately 30 people crowded into the corridor. The tour is popular and each group is very large. I glanced at the wall and saw the enormous "No Photography or Video Allowed" sign. Yet another museum with that outdated policy. Ah well. At least photographs out the windows were allowed. Although with the pouring rain, the view was rather limited.
Our tour guide had to clear his throat several times before everyone stopped talking. He was young, short and extremely slender. Frankly, he looked about 12 years old. When he raised his voice I quickly glanced at GLH, saw that he also was starting to laugh, and glanced away again. Our tour guide sounded exactly like Mike Myers's Dieter character on Saturday Night Live.
I would tell you what he had to say about the castle, but I'm afraid I was unable to hear it most of it as several people in the group jabbered incessantly throughout the tour.
I do know that the tour guide had to repeatedly tell one group they were not allowed to touch the items on display. Regardless, they touched everything they could reach. Personally I would have had security escort them out of the castle. It was a group of approximately 8 people, contained the bulk of the nonstop chatters and would have created more room for the rest of us in the very tight spaces.
The tour lasted approximately 30 minutes and deposited us in the gift shop. We stopped at the cafe for coffee (GLH) and tea (me) to warm us up. There was the option to hike a bit further to the Marienbrücke (shown below) for a view of the castle. However it was still raining and the view was limited so we decided it wasn't worth it.
Instead we headed back to the bus stop, where there was a repeat of the pushing and shoving to get on the bus. We went immediately to our car and drove to our hotel in München.
Despite the overcrowding and inability to hear the tour, I did enjoy seeing the castle. It truly is beautiful. I just wish I could have seen it with a smaller tour group.
I understand the need to process the multitudes, but I wish they could find a way to keep each tour group a little smaller and make us feel a little less like cattle.