Füssen will remain the town dappled by sunlight, nestled in jagged peaks west of the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles. The sense of Bavarian heritage has permeated the very cobblestones here; from town house that stand artful and alluring in winding streets, to the smell of roasting pork and melting strudel that settles surprisingly well in the heavy July air. There is a peaceful sleepiness to this town reminiscent of lore and fairy tales. I find myself somehow disappointed that rather than witches, goblins and blonde-haired twins, I am instead greeted by Chinese tourists. I do spy a family dressed in the traditional Bavarian costume though; lederhosen, dirndl, and all. Their fading silhouettes juxtapose whimsically with the modern crowds that surround them.
The Neuschwanstein Castle itself is well worth a visit if staying in Füssen. The mile uphill trek from Hohenschwangau can of course be done in a horse drawn carriage, but there’s something so magical about the early morning hike through the trees. No people, no hustle, just the shifting sigh of the breeze and the hum of birdsong. The sunlight stains the ground with intricate lace as it filters through the tree branches.
It is true that the early bird catches the worm in the case of Neuschwanstein Castle. When I arrive, sweaty and dishevelled from the climb, my only other companion for that clear shot is a lone traveller who kindly offers to take a photo of my sister and I together in front of King Ludwig’s unfinished masterpiece. And what a view is captured. Neuschwanstein perched proud on its hill, a cascading waterfall under the closed Marienbrücke, and swathes of green, green, green in every which direction I turn.
I have not left the mountains eye for three whole days. Everywhere I turn, these mountains stand, an omnipresent and faithful compass to evening strolls along a glacier fed river.
Those mountains surround me now as I manoeuvre a wooden rowboat with some difficulty across the clear shores of Lake Alpsee. For €4.50, these waters are mine, at least for half an hour. For a while, the only sound is the slap of the oars, the drag of the water, and the distant hum of nature. Leaning back against the faded stern, I feel the late afternoon heat leach through my palms, my face, my chest. My mind drifts like the rowboat underneath me; lazily, gently. This is the first stop in our month-long journey through Europe, and already I cannot imagine leaving.
But leave I must, and all to soon I am waving goodbye to mountains that have been a constant companion for eight days; tied to a train bound for Vienna, and later, Venice. Austria blurs by me in rolls of greens and browns. Soon my mountains will fade and flatten into canals and sinking waterways.
Things To Know, Things To See:
- The number 73 or 78 bus from Füssen’s train station will take you to both Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein for under €3.00.
- Reserve tickets for Neuschwanstein in advance, or arrive at the ticket office early to avoid queues. We arrived at 8.30 and saw about six other people between buying our tickets and arriving at the castle.
- Try a famous Bavarian snowball cake at Diller Schneeballenträume.
- It costs €4.50 to rent rowboats or pedal boats on Lake Alpsee for half an hour.