Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Füssen: Land o' fairy tales

Ahh Füssen, I spent two glorious nights in this Little German town, though it’s often done as a day trip from Munich. I’m glad I stayed for so long, but it’s definitely doable in a day if you catch an early train there and a late train back. The reason most people make the trip out is not for the Alpine village but rather for the world famous “Disney Castle”, Neuschwanstein. This was exactly the reason for my trip but I discovered that there’s more to see than the castles! 
I got the 10 o’clock (or so) train from Munich and it only took two-ish hours to get there. Make sure you pay attention to the views on both sides of the train, the scenery is spectacular especially as you go further and further south. My original plan had been to keep my suitcase and backpack in left luggage at the train station because I couldn’t check into my hotel until later in the day. Unfortunately, the train station was under construction and so at the moment it didn’t actually exist. I went to my hotel to see if I could store my bags until check in, which I could. You might be a bit confused because I keep saying hotel and not hostel. Well I splurged and decided to treat myself for this part of the trip. It work out nicely because the hostel was adorable, pretty cheap especially considering how nice it was, and you could choose a single room. It was called Hotel Fantasia and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling there. I payed about 120 euros for two nights and I also got a complementary Fussen card (for discounts), my laundry done for free, and some yummy cappuccinos.
As I was dropping off my bags I met these two girls from China who were studying in the UK. We went back to the train/bus station to catch the bus to Hohenschwangau which is the town where the castles are. It was only a 10-15 minute bus ride. It was pretty late in the day by the time I got there and since everything was running on winter time I only bought tickets to see the famous “Disney castle”. Ludwig II, the king who built it lived in the nearby Schloss Hohenschwangau. I knew I wouldn’t have time to really enjoy both to I just settled for looking at it on my climb up to the other castle. I was surprised how busy it was even on a cold day in the off season. I waited over an hour just to get my tickets. I was also surprised how “cheap” they were because Bavaria (Southern Germany) is pretty expensive in general. It was 11 euros for the tour, and free to walk around the grounds…I’m still reeling from the 16,5 euro tour of the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal! Entrance is only available by guided tour and I had about two hours until mine started. I grabbed a soft pretzel and some coffee and walked around the village of Hohenschwangau for a bit. My favorite part had to be the lake Alpsee and the beautiful mountains in the background. I’m pretty sure I took as many pictures of the mountains as of the castles. I met a Spanish family (they. are. every. where.) and asked them to take a picture for me. After a couple of normal ones they had me doing all these random poses, because “no one wants boring pictures!”
All of the paperwork on Neuschwanstein says that it’s a 40 minute hike up to the castle so I gave myself plenty of time. I don’t know if it was all my youthful energy combined with my love of all things Disney, especially the princesses, or what but it only took me twenty minutes to get to the top and I stopped 4 or 5 times along the way to take pictures. It was solidly uphill, but not as rigorous as I had been expecting. I had a ton of time before my tour started so I got to do some exploring. At first I was bummed that “Mary’s Bridge”, which is a view of the castle from a height, was closed but when I went to check it out anyway I found that people were climbing up a look-out type hill. The fences seemed to be placed knowing that tourists would simply climb over them so it wasn’t too hard to get up. The side of the hill you had to climb was super muddy and slippery but the view was more than worth it. The castle is not only surrounded by mountains but built on the side of a gorge so standing on this particular look out point led to an amazing, undisturbed view of the castle and a heart stopping drop just inches in front of you.

As I was waiting for my tour to start, I wandered around the courtyard of the castle and it started to snow…talk about magical!! The tour was very short, as the castle was never finished and there isn’t very much to see. That being said, it was 100% worth it. It’s true that the exterior of the castle is pretty amazing but you honestly can’t appreciate the level of extravagance that this man had until you go inside. It was spectacular. The art was amazing and there was even a grotto and a winter greenhouse. Not to mention the views. I would have built that castle just for the views. Ludwig may have been living in a fantasy world but he knew what he was doing…
After heading back down the mountain I caught a bus back into town and took it easy the rest of the night, going to the grocery store and making dinner before going to bed. The next day I was supposed to go paragliding but I got an email that morning saying that due to weather conditions I wouldn’t be able to. I was bummed to say the least. I thought about making some other plans but in the end I spent the morning walking around town before giving myself the afternoon off. Füssen is your classic, fairytale German town. I thought it was adorable and filled my morning with a paseo through a park and old fortress, a few churches, a cemetery, and down the little town streets. Most things were closed because it was the Epiphany/Three Kings Day. After lunch and a nap I decided to go to the movies. There was a cute theater in town that was showing the new Heidi movie. In case you’re wondering, I did see it in German. It really wasn’t a problem that it wasn’t in English because I know the story of Heidi pretty well. Did I miss some things? Probably. It also gave me a chance to appreciate how beautiful German is in place of its usual characterization as a hard and angry language. I enjoyed the movie with a kinder sized version of what I think was caramel-corn.

Though I wasn’t super hungry after the movie, it was dinner time so I went to look for somewhere to eat. I stopped at a few places before finally deciding on a traditional Bavarian restaurant called Madame Plüsch. I highly recommend it! My server spoke English and was very nice, even after I managed to know over the three glasses on the table (water, wine, more wine). In reality it wasn’t my fault, the menu that was standing up fell over at the perfect angle. It was like the domino effect. For dinner I got a salad and Allgäuer Käsespätzle which is homemade noodles and cheese with fried onions on top. I got the half portion and I’m glad I did, I was super full but ate it all anyway because it was SO GOOD. For dessert I got a fancy ice cream sundae that came with shaved almonds and hot raspberries/jam. The atmosphere was great: classical music (including Waltz of the Flowers…I was practically dancing in my seat), people watching, snow falling outside. Maybe it was the wine, but that was definitely one of my favorite “eating alone” experiences. Speaking of eating alone, I’m getting much better at it. It’s harder here because there usually isn’t wifi in nicer restaurants but at the same time it’s easier because I can drink wine. After I finished my meal, and let it digest a bit, I took the long way home to enjoy the snow and one last glimpse of fairytale Bavaria. The next day I had to be up bright and early for a long day of travel to Prague.

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