Upon seeing this view from the train whilst we were still more than an hour from our final destination, I knew we were in for a good day. Because this train wasn’t taking us just anywhere. It was taking us to the original Disney castle (via a bus and a bit of a hike – who knew Disney castles were found through such mundane means).
Schloss Neuschwanstein was originally King Ludwig’s summer home, but is most well known today for being inspiration for the Disneyland Castle, the castle in Beauty and the Beast, and was actually where parts of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang were filmed, including the iconic car-flying scene. I expected great things from this day, and I was not to be disappointed.
Arriving at the base of the mountain, the weather could not have been better. Clear blue skies and crisp winter sun was broken up only by the lightest falls of snow – essentially, the most perfect winter conditions for exploring a mountainside castle.
Neuschwanstein itself is perched on the side of the mountain, with wide paths winding up it leading to the gorgeous turrets. Horse-drawn carriages trundle past marching tourists, and within half an hour you are at the base of the spectacular building.
If you manage to drag your eyes from the picture-perfect architecture, you see the potentially even more stunning views behind you – the village of Hohenschwangau sits beneath you like a child’s playroom, and Bavarian lakes and forests stretch out as far as the eye can see. Soft fog wound its way through the foothills of the Alps, adding even further to the fairytale atmosphere.
Inspired by the postcards, we set out to find even better views of the castle, scuttling past ‘Do Not Enter’ signs and risking death (mostly out of clumsiness) on narrow mountain paths.
After a minor freak-out due to my fear of heights, we made it to Marienbruecke, a tiny white bridge over the most horrifying drop, but also with the most amazing views. No amount of pictures do it justice – if you have the opportunity, always take it.
After taking in our fill of Neuschwanstein, we wound our way back down the mountain, deciding it would be a good idea to take the steeper, but quicker path back to the village. As you can see by our faces here, it was plainly a terrible idea.
Somehow emerging unscathed, we headed merrily off to the smaller castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau, further down in the village.
Sitting quite literally in Neuschwanstein’s shadow, this smaller castle may not have the stature of its larger sister, but its yellow bricks and sweeping walkways offer stunning views of the valley it sits in.
As the sun slid under the snow-capped mountains (it sounds like I’m making this up, but it really was a fairytale), we jumped back on our bus to normality, or its real name, Fuessen.
This small Bavarian town seems to be largely filled with tourists on route to the castles, but in the twenty minutes before our train arrived, we had the opportunity to explore a little, and it essentially reminded me of a German version of my hometown, Guildford. Even modern shops had the most gorgeous, old-fashioned signs to announce them.
Small and cosy, quaint and traditional, it was the perfect spot to watch the sunset after a day living the life of a Disney character.