Our tour guide on the The Ultimate Alps and Dolmites Tauck Tour referred to it as, “A castle a day.” “You came to see castles, right?” teased Anna, our proficient Italian guide. “Well, you shall see them!” And our Swiss, twenty-five year old Tour bus driver, Stephen, was expert at getting us UP and around all the curves to arrive at the castles. It must have been a rule of the day that castles be built high atop hills.
The first castle we visited was Linderhof Castle in the Bavarian Alps. In 1869, King Ludwig began transforming his father’s royal hunting lodge into a mini-Versailles.
Pictures were not allowed to be taken inside the castle. We viewed a luscious setting, complete with a Hall of Mirrors and a dining room table that rose up from below, featuring the menu of the day and table service, once the king sat down in his dining chair. The pity of it was, however, he always dined alone. He never had guests. He held parliament meetings without anyone being present. He walked the castle alone, day and night. He had a remarkable study/lounge, filled with an unknown number of classic literature books. His castle walls were adorned with the finest of paintings. He lived in an art museum.
The grounds were beautiful and immaculately groomed. A joy to behold as we waited our tour time to enter the castle.
From his extravagant bedchamber, the King awoke each morning with a window view over his fountain gardens. That must have been a great start to any day.
In Austria, on the slopes of the Karwendel Alps, we visited Schloss Tratzberg Castle, built under Emperor Maximillian I. We began the visit with a private wine reception and lunch, featuring wine from the castle’s own vineyards.
From a window of Neuschwanstein, perhaps the most famous of King Ludwig’s castles, we saw beautiful lake and mountain scenery. The castle King Ludwig II grew up in is also in view. This is his boyhood castle, where he grew under his strict father’s watch and dreamed of a “fairyland” castle atop the hill where he would one day retreat and live in solitude and comfort.
Let me be clear about this. Neuschwanstein Castle is THE castle destination of the Alps, as evidenced by the bus traffic in the little town below.
We got to the next level, striving for the top, by horse carriage.
Then we walked steeply upward.
The castle is in sight…huff, huff, huff. I think I can, I think I can.
We have arrived! But another surprise awaits. INSIDE the castle, there are more than 300 steps up spiral staircases we ascend to the top. I think Rapunzel’s spiral homebase is a bit overrated. Yet the views were spectacular and we all improved our heart health as we wrapped our way around the winding hallways.
This is the castle said to have inspired an artist for the conception of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. My five year old granddaughter is very into princesses and castles, but she seemed none too impressed that grandma had visited one or more.
Walking down to where the horse carriages awaited us was a little easier but hard on the knees. Then a ride back to town, where a hotel luncheon that satisfied any taste bud on the palette awaited at the Hotel Muller.
Tour guide Anna keeps the group together and tells wonderful stories.
Paragliders seek adventure in the skies above the spires.
Tasty lunch and treats and we depart feeling like royalty, indeed.