Monday, July 9, 2012

On the Road in Germany: Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle as seen from Marienbrücke
On the border of Bavaria and Austria lies a picturesque castle, like something ripped from a fairy tale.  While Amy has much better photos to show you later, this photo captures something very special about our journey to Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Disney's portrayal of Sleeping Beauty's abode.

We decided to go to the castle on the second day of our trip, despite it being a bit out of the way.  Though Amy and her parents could have gone at another point during their travels, they were gracious enough to go out of their way to take me!  We went down winding roads for hours before coming to a detour sign a 30-minute drive from the castle.  All we could do was turn and hope for the best.  While our GPS, dubbed "Carol", repeatedly told us to turn around, we kept driving.  Carol offered no assistance but a big old green arrow instructing us to go back where we came from.  Eventually, though, we found another road and we were back on track.  We were not even that behind schedule!  As we approached our destination, I pointed at a huge mass of scaffolding in the distance.  "Is that it?"

It was.  We reached the village of Hohenschwangau in the valley below the castle and could see little for all of the scaffolding.  We inquired about a tour and discovered that it would be two hours until we could even get into the castle.  We decided that even if it was covered in scaffolding and we could not enter, we would go up to see the castle.  We took a bus up to where we were told it was a 15 minute walk to the castle.  One trail marker directed us to the castle, the other to a bridge with an excellent vantage point.  We hoped that we could see something other than construction.  

When I saw Marienbrücke, the bridge with a view, I was so excited.  It was full of people but clearly would be the best way to see the castle.  

Then I set foot on the bridge itself.  

The flimsy wooden boards under my feet creaked and buckled with each step*.  I foresaw myself falling through into the waterfall below.  I took stock and realized that if it were a more rushing waterfall, maybe I would land just beyond it and swim to shore.  But as it stood, I imagined falling to my death on the rocks far under my feet.  I gripped the metal railing, and held on for dear life.  This is coming from someone who is not even afraid of heights.  I am not afraid of being up high in a well-supported structure.  I relish it sometimes!  Some of my fellow travelers never enjoy heights, even in a very sturdy, enclosed building.  Amy gave me her camera and sent me out to take pictures.  But somehow, she swallowed her fear and made it to the middle of the bridge so that this photo could be snapped of us!  So yes, we look awful.  We looked terrified.  And rightly so!  Nevertheless, I love this photo because it reminds me how good it felt to overcome everything that day and see this beautiful castle.

*Nota bene: Upon further inspection, we probably would not have fallen to our deaths.  There was apparently a lot of steel under our feet, plenty of girders and what-have-you.  However, it did not feel like that at the time.  

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