Despite the fun times we had during our 6 week stay in Italy, it was time for a change. And our first stop outside of Italy could not have been any more of a contrast. The tiny city of Füssen, located smack bang in the middle of Germany's Romantic Road, was just what the doctor had ordered. No more siestas and espresso coffees. We were back in full tourist mode!
Füssen was quite the colourful little city. The buildings were very much of the Swiss Alps design with pointy roofs and lots of interesting pastel colours. Good God, what the hell did I just say? Pastel? What's happening to me?? Get me a beer and put some sport on the tele before I start carrying a manbag or something!
Ahhh. Right where was I? Oh yeah, Füssen was cool. And the people were super friendly. Jess even bought a watch from a very cool cat who worked in the local jewellery store. He was part of the steampunk movement - a group that appreciates Victorian era objects and fashion with modern tweaks. He was an interesting fella with a moustache like the Iron Shiek? Remember him? The dude from whom Hulk Hogan won his first wrestling world title. No? Geez you guys had deprived childhoods!
After spending our first day enjoying the colourful and cheerful buildings in Füssen, we got down to business on Day 2 and made a trek out to the famous Neuschwantstein and Hoenschwangau Castles. Hoenschwangau Castle was more a family holiday retreat for the former Bavarian Royal family but, nevertheless, held its own as an impressive looking castle…..untill you looked down the road to the imposing site of Neuschwanstein Castle at the top of the mountains.
Built in 1886, Neuschwanstein Castle proved to be the most elaborate and grandiose of the buildings built by King Ludwig II. It's the castle that inspired the iconic Disney logo. In fact everything about it has an element of fairy tale to it. You see, Ludwig II wasn't your run of the mill king. He was a man of grand visions, glorious palaces and a tendency to sell a whole lot of sizzle….with not much steak. Yep, he was one of those big talkers and dreamers who never gave much thought to how he was going to pay for anything, or how his great ideas would turn out in reality. Due to mounting debts and a Parliament that had him declared legally insane, Kevin Rudd……I mean….. King Ludwig II was incarcerated in a loony bin and never got to finish building his dream castle.
But that's not to say that Neschwanstein looks like an incomplete castle. From the outside it looks every bit the fairy tale fortress in the mountains. And the 6 or so completed rooms are jaw-droppingly awesome. Every single inch of wall, floor and roof is covered in elaborate, hand crafted detail. And if that's not enough, each room in the castle pays tribute to one of Richard Wagner's operas. As you do.
Of all the castles we had seen on this trip, Neuschwanstein was second to none in terms of grandiosity. This was due to the fact that, unlike most other castles, Neuschwanstein was designed purely for aesthetic purposes and not as a defensive fortress. Defence didn't interest Ludwig II. He'd already lost major wars with Prussia and was basically a king for display purposes only - much like his castle. Just like our deposed King Kevin in Aus, Ludwig II's delusions of grandeur and failure to focus on the finer details (like his amassing debts) undid him in the end. However, in a fitting and ironic twist, the Castle now generates millions of dollars each year from tourists and has more than paid itself off.
So there you have it. From steampunk watch salesmen to over-spending mad kings and Disney-esque castles. Our first stop in Germany had it all.
Next stop: Munich