Linderhof and Neuschwanstein
07/25/2016 - 07/26/2016
Munich had been a huge success, and the food was much better than I'd remembered from my last visit to Germany, Nevertheless, we were eager to get on the open road and begin our discovery of Central Europe. There were so many legendary cities ahead of us. I had structured our itinerary to take us to some of the greatest castles of Europe, with the most famous of all being Neuschwanstein. Apparently the tickets to see the interior of the castle had to be bought hours in advance, so we decided we'd save that one for the following morning.
Soon after leaving Munich, we found ourselves winding through the beautiful Bavarian countryside. Our first stop on the road trip was the 18th century rococo style Wieskirche, which has been a destination for pilgrims since tears were seen on the face of a wooden figure of Jesus in 1738. The church was surrounded by green pastures with patches of forest and the Ammergau Alps visible in the distance.
After a snack at Wieskirche, it was still relatively early so we decided to squeeze in Linderhof Palace that afternoon. We spent quite a long time at this Versailles-inspired estate, between the extensive grounds and the main palace building. There was even an artificial grotto with a lake and a swan boat.
We decided to have dinner in nearby Oberammergau, famous for the fresco-covered houses called Lüftlmalerei. Some of the houses had been painted so that the flat walls looked to be festooned with Greek columns and elaborate balconies. After walking around the town we had an excellent dinner at a hotel restaurant we found on TripAdvisor.
Our Airbnb hotel was over the Austrian border in Heiterwang. We still had to gas up the car and buy a highway vignette sticker for Austria, so it was very late by the time we finally bedded down. The hotel and setting reminded me a lot of our overnight stay in Andorra a few months earlier. The next morning we took a few minutes to gaze at the mountainous surroundings before heading to Neuschwanstein.
As usual when we most anticipate something on our travels, the destination can't live up to expectations. Neuschwanstein Castle looks amazing in pictures, but those are taken from helicopters or drones and never show the throngs of tourists that clog every path. We quickly ruled out the tour of the interior of the castle after we learned that there was a four hour wait before the next available space. The line for the horse carriage to the top of the hill seemed short, but a carriage only showed up every half hour. Once we reached the top, we found that the Marienbrücke which affords the best view of the castle was closed so we had to settle for pictures partially obstructed by trees and crowds of people. Despite these drawbacks, the sheer size and classical beauty of the castle made the visit more than worthwhile.
After lunch we set off for Innsbruck. Back in Austria, I saw a ruined castle atop a tall hill from the highway. Something resembling a wire ran from the castle to the top of another tall hill on the other side of the highway. As we drew closer, I realized the wire was actually a suspension bridge running hundreds of feet above us. I could see tiny figures moving back and forth across the bridge. I knew this could be an amazing experience if it was possible for us to take the kids up there, so I pulled over and did some quick research on my phone. I learned that the bridge was called the Highline 179 and it had only been open for less than two years. We still had some time before the bridge closed for the day so we got our tickets and began the long hike to the top of the hill. Mei Ling vetoed my plan to backpack both the younger kids and Ian did much better than I expected with the hike. We eventually made it to the ruins, which were a lot of fun to explore and had great views. Mei Ling couldn't stand to be on the suspension bridge for more than a few seconds, so I took the kids halfway across. The sight of the parking lot 350 feet below us didn't seem to bother them one bit.
We hurried back down the hill to the parking lot. We were going to be late for dinner in Innsbruck.