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Saturday, June 22: Day 61 – Return to Neuschwanstein

46 years ago I visited Neuschwanstein Castle with my friend Mike. Neuschwanstein was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria between 1869 and 1886 when he died suspiciously. He constructed the Romanesque Revival style castle on the top of a hill where the remains of two medieval castles existed so he could withdraw from public life. This is one of the castles that people claim inspired the Disney castles. I think it looks the most similar to Disney versus the others. Today I went back to Neuschwanstein. You can see below that unfortunately the red front is currently scaffolded. The limestone façades have to be renovated section by section because of the harsh climate.

We left the hotel about 8:15 to catch a train to Fussen. I forgot to bring the Eurail Pass, so I ran back to the hotel to get it. The train left 1 minute before I returned, so we missed it. The next train left an hour later. During the 2-hour train ride Brenda practiced saying Neuschwanstein (Noy-SHWON-shtine).

A bus ride took us from Fussen to Hohenschwangau where the ticket office is located. I don’t remember any of this tourist infrastructure from my previous visit. Today we see this ticket line. 6,000 people per day visit here now.

We purchased tickets to tour the inside of Neuschwanstein castle and then went to lunch. The jolly waitress recommended the goulash with deer meat. I questioned her about the meat. She confirmed “deer, not springbok”. Brenda quipped that she was disappointed because she wanted springbok. They both laughed and laughed (I guess you had to be there). The goulash was tasty.

A 30-minute walk up took us to the castle.

We wandered around a bit to take some photos.

On my last trip I remember walking up to the large wooden front door and feeling like I had arrived at the castle of the Wizard of Oz.

Just before our time to enter the castle, it started to pour rain. I was grateful for the folding umbrella I bought a month ago. We noticed this couple standing by themselves waiting.

Inside the castle the tour in English lasted about 30 minutes. They prohibited photos and any touching of walls or objects. We had to put our daypacks in front.

Only a third of the rooms are finished since King Ludwig died suddenly. The castle opened to tourists 7 weeks after his death. When we exited to go outdoors, we were greeted by sunny weather again. What a pleasant surprise!

We reversed our steps and got back on the bus. Brenda struck up a conversation with the young girl sitting beside her. Margaret is from Cleveland, Ohio. She just graduated from Ohio State and is traveling in Europe before starting her new job in accounting in August. We figured out that Margaret’s college roommate was our former backdoor neighbor (it’s a small world!). We enjoyed Margaret’s enthusiastic personality and continued our discussion on the train.

Once on the train we struck up a conversation with the ticket inspector who has an engaging, friendly personality. Sam emigrated from Nigeria. He formerly worked in sportscasting of soccer, but the extreme travel kept him away from his family. Originally he went to Britain, but the cost of living there is “too high”. As it is, his wife and two children spend much of the year in Belfast for schooling while Sam is here working for the railway. Sam speaks excellent English. He said that he left Nigeria 15 years ago. Sam has traveled to many countries. He would like to go to the United States but feels it is dangerous there. It is a shame that the news reports feature so much violence about our home country.

Sam explained that he generally can distinguish the nationality of people in the train by how they are dressed and how they speak. We were obviously Americans to him. He explained the system of dealing with people who come on the trains without paid tickets – in his experience about 10 to 15 per day. He collects their contact information into his handheld computer. They are automatically fined 60 Euros (about $70). Anyone who misrepresents who they are can be subject to up to 3 months in jail. We are happy to have Eurail Passes.

At the end of the day we acknowledged that it was a blessing to miss the morning train so that we met our new friends Margaret and Sam on the way back. The interesting people we meet are always the best part of our journey.

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