Monday 16 June 2014

Bavaria's Castles and the Romantic Road

By Sandi Moser
Neuschwanstein castle
While all the cool kids in Ottawa were attending Comiccon, we were on our first family vacation to Europe – Germany, to be exact. Why Germany? After making a shortlist we left the decision up to my 8-year-old daughter. A travel geek in her own right she made the final decision based on the number of castles to visit.
We began the Castle portion of our trip in Schwangau in southern Germany. Schwangau’s main attraction is Neuschwanstein, Walt Disney’s inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle. What I didn’t know before planning this trip was that this castle, like many others in this region, is relatively new. 
Hohenschwangau Castle
The construction of the area’s castles started in the early 19th century, when King Maximilian of Bavaria restored the ruins of a 12th century fortress to be used as a summer home. Hohenschwangau is a pretty yellow castle, full of paintings and statues of knights, lions and swans (schwan = “swan”). There was a certain homey, family feeling to the castle. It’s easy to see why Maximilian’s son Ludwig fell in love with the region and began his own castle-building endeavors.
By the time Ludwig became king the position no longer had real power over Bavaria. To compensate, he built a fantasy world for himself through his castles. In the mid-19th century, he ordered the building of Neuschwanstein, his pride and joy, on the mountain next door. 
Being the Disney fan I am I could see the similarities with Sleeping Beauty’s castle in every tower and courtyard. While the exterior of the castle is complete, only 15 interior rooms were finished before Ludwig’s death. Being there, I was struck by the similarities between Walt Disney and King Ludwig II – they both desired to completely recreate and immerse others in a romantic fantasy world.
Linderhof Castle
Our final castle stop in the region was Linderhof Castle, another of King Ludwig II’s creations. Linderhof is the smallest of the castles, and the only one of Ludwig’s to be fully completed before his mysterious death. I’m not sure if it was the relative coziness of Linderhof or the extensive gardens, but it was my favourite of the three. 
From Schwangau, we made our way through the medieval villages along the Romantic Road to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Rothenburg is the most preserved medieval town in Germany, with its fortified wall still fully intact. The city was founded in 1170 and remained a free city until the early 19th century. The Night Watchman tour was very informative and helped us to understand the history and how it was so well preserved. The reason? They were defeated in a siege then hit by the Plague, and were too poor to do anything more than recover. 
While I agree with my husband that Rothenburg is very touristy, there were still many interesting nooks and crannies in which to daydream myself onto a Carcasonne game board. And once the day-trip bus tours leave, you have the cobblestone streets almost entirely to yourself.

Sandi is a 30-something environmental engineer and mother of two from the metropolis of Stittsville, Ontario. Writing for Capital Geek Girls is a new adventure for her, with previous writing experience limited to technical documents, briefing notes and Facebook updates. In her spare time, Sandi enjoys playing board games and video games, reading books, watching movies, and crocheting. She looks forward to sharing her geeky endeavours with you, as well as reporting on the next generation’s response to those endeavours.

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