I have a memory from my childhood of seeing the sunlit white castle surrounded by dark green pine trees perched on top of a mountain. I know I have seen Neuschwanstein before when my mother brought me to Europe, but I have no idea whether this memory is real or from a postcard. When we saw Neuschwanstein today it was neither sunlit nor sparkling however it still impressed the BOSS, and it also rocked the world of a small five year old girl who screamed with delight when she rounded the corner and saw the castle in all its splendor.
Tip #23: The proper way to see Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein is to ignore the guide books which tell you to "get there early to avoid the lines". The Italians need to learn from the Germans how to conduct proper crowd control - they could certainly use the German's system in the Sistine chapel.
Arrive moderately early, around 9am, go to the ticket office and purchase tickets for both castles (children under 18 are free). These tickets will be stamped with a time allocated for a tour in your appropriate language. This time stamp will allow you to leisurely have a cup of coffee and stroll slowly to Hohenschwangau to sit around the courtyard enjoying the sunshine waiting for your tour number to come up on the screen. The tour will then be conducted by a lovely young German girl using the tour group to practice her broken English. She will show you the unbelievable opulence, painted rooms, gilded ornaments and incredible extravagance that is Hohenschwangau. This tour will be conducted in a civilized manner with no crowds at all, staggered three minutes behind the previous tour and completed at a leisurely pace. Even the souvenir shop has an aire of civility where the trinkets are of good quality and not at all expensive. This is one of the first places I have felt that the "stupid tourist" has not been taken advantage of.
After the tour, stroll leisurely down the hill, through the forest, past the lake and back into the fairy tale village. Join the line for the bus which takes you to the lookout above Neuschwanstein on the other side of the valley. Once again the efficient German system has ensured that the timing on your ticket for the second castle has given you sufficient time so you can arrive in an unhurried manner. Alight the bus and walk for five minutes up to the bridge to get a most spectacular photo of the sunlit castle. Then walk down the path to join your tour which once again is conducted in a very organized way.
Do not under any circumstances attempt to walk up from the village along the horse poo strewn / fly infested road. About half way to the top you will be begging a carriage driver for a lift - however he has crammed 11 passengers into his carriage and this will leave you with no other choice than to continue on foot to arrive exhausted at the top.
After your second amazing tour of the day, catch the horse drawn carriage on the way down the mountain for a pleasant drive through the forest.
The BOSS and I spent a leisurely afternoon catching up on emails and washing etc. We then walked the three kilometres into town to try and find some traditional German food at a traditional German cafe. However the few places we found were advertising live world cup football broadcasts - not pleasant dining atmosphere. We finally found a lovely cafe tucked away in a backstreet which served the most delicious potato cakes.