Innsbruck, Austria: To be truthful, the only reason we are in Innsbruck is to use it as a staging site for a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle. I became fascinated with this castle after a classmate in my high school German class visited one summer with her family. I have had it on my Bucket List since... and that was a very long time ago. Thinking back on this now, I wonder how anyone planned such a trip from Oregon to Germany in the 1970s? Me? I just booked tickets online and rented a car on my phone.
Which is how we found ourselves at the Innsbruck Airport at 8a today to pick-up our ride. Our tickets for the castle were for 11:45a, so we had hours to make the 100 mile drive. We were late. Though it was easy to use the GPS on my phone to find our route, there was some sort of traffic trouble (we later learned it was just usual Sunday traffic from all the Bavarian campers returning home from the weekend).
The roads were in great shape and it was easy to navigate, but several times we just sat in traffic. Once for 35 minutes. When traffic started again, there was no evidence of an accident nor road work.
Since we were driving in the mountains, we went through several long tunnels. One was over two miles long. One stop was for quite a while, and the van stopped in front of us opened the doors and three little boys popped out with a soccer ball. A cry was heard a few cars behind us - one of their friends was also in the line. The boys began playing soccer in the empty field next to our cars... until the farmer's wife drove from her house (in a car) to tell the imps to get off her property. I'm no farmer, but I can properly report this was not a field of hay, wheat, alfalfa, nor nuttin' but weeds. Don't know why she was so mean.
As I said, we arrived late (along with hundreds of others driving via Innsbruck). After parking (10 euros), we basically ran to get up the hill to the castle. Several people around us also has 11:45a tickets. We were told the fastest way up the steep hill was to run (the mile+) to the castle. (Hard no.) Second fastest was to take the bus, but the next bus was in 20 minutes. Door number three? Horse-drawn carriage for 8 euros per person for the win.
We felt truly guilty for subjecting these beautiful animals to our tourist-bellies... until we learned the carts have some-sort of electric booster motors so the horses do need to work very hard. The hill is very steep! Even with our cart ride, we all arrived late for our English-language tour of the castle. The not-friendly ticket taker pointed us to the Information Office, where we found a very friendly woman who explained "this happens all the time, we will just move you to the next tour" and sent us on our way with directions to sneak in the side gate via a security guard when the next English tour began in 10 minutes. We rushed for nothing. Guess if you have a major world-wide tourist attraction in the middle of absolute nowhere, you adapt?
Major drawback of this tour (17 euros) is photography is not allowed. No phone photos. No videos. Nothing. We were led up about 5000 steps (still sore from the fort in Salzburg and the Innsbruck mountain top hike the past few days) to the FIRST floor of the castle to see the servants quarters, then up another million steps to see King Ludwig's bedroom, dining room, chapel, throne room, etc.., then up even more stairs to see the Singing Room (I would call it a ballroom). We had a guide, and we also had a "minder" (someone who made sure we did not snap photos!). After all this, we went down four billion steps and exited through the kitchen (where I guess it was okay to take photos) and exited through the gift shop (of course).
You can read the history of the castle by clicking the link above, but Ludwig became king at age 18 and built this castle just up the hill and around the corner from his dad's (King Maximilian II) place (where they summered), as one does. Hard to believe, but Neuschwanstein was built around the time of the US Civil War. Only hours after being proclaimed unfit to rule due to mental illness, King Ludwig II was found dead at age 40 in a lake in 1886. He died before the castle was officially finished and just a few weeks after his death the castle has been open for tours. Till this day.
Lines were long and we were pretty-much done in by 4p. We gave the horses a break and walked back down to the parking area and returned in Innsbruck in record time. It was A LOT of exercise, something we are used to, but it had been several stair-climbing-forever days in a row. Ouch!
Happily, all the weekend traffic was over and we drove back to Innsbruck quickly, returned the car at the airport, caught a taxi back to our hotel and were at a local beer garden before 6p.
The beer garden was busy with tourists and locals on a sunny Sunday, but a friendly couple from Koln, Germany invited us to join them at their table. They were on their way to Italy and stopped by Innsbruck for a few days. After chatting a bit, we learned it was their wedding anniversary and suddenly felt terrible (3rd wheels), but they had invited us. Such nice people and they were great travelers so we had a lot to talk about. Dave and I had not eaten since the hotel breakfast buffet, so they probably assumed they had invited mad dogs to their table the way we chowed-down.
So hungry, but there was no way we could eat this much food. A second round of beers, however, was easily accepted. Fun night!
More adventures tomorrow? Not really. We really need a day of rest.
Until my next update, I remain, your German correspondent.
Pedometer: 13,000 steps. Felt like 50,000.