Day 16: “I’m Going To Disney World!”

Today an early alarm greeted us in the morning so that we could make the long journey to Neuschwanstein Castle. Getting the tickets was relatively so we had to time to spare. However, once the train arrived and we boarded it we overheard on the speakers that the ticket we bought would not cover the first leg of the trip. In a pinch, we raced to the ticket office to get what we needed and somehow still not miss the trains’s departure. Fortunately, we re-entered the train in time as Munich soon was left behind in the distance. Sitting comfortably we both caught some zzz’s in between taking in the view of the beautiful Bavarian Forest and small German towns just outside our windows. Looking forward to the World Cup, I placed ESPN’s special issue of the magazine on the pullout table. As I set the table in place, I noticed a map of the train’s route printed on it. My dad and I looked closely at it and noticed Fussen, our destination to transfer to Neuschwanstein, was nowhere to be found. How can that possibly be? We could not find anyone to ask for information so we kept riding this train taking us deeper and deeper into the Forest for a couple more stops. Finally, a ticket handler explained how much earlier on we needed to get off and switch to a different train. The plan to get to Neuschwanstein early was already getting off to a rough start. After rerouting ourselves to the proper train station and getting on the right train, I was still comfortable with the amount of time we we would have to spend at the castle (what a foolish thought that turned out to be). The train could not have stopped more often and the last connection to Fussen got delayed by an apparent fire down the line (I wish I was making this up but sadly, reality can be a royal pain in the ass). After being forced to exit the train early, a large group of us, desperately wanting to see what we put up for, boarded a sardine packed sweat shop they call a bus for the never ending bumpy ride to Fussen. With that final bus ride we finally arrived at the base of Neuschwanstein after 5 hours of travel when it should not have taken anymore than two and a half hours. Despite the ridiculous series of events, I enjoyed the view of the Bavarian alps and the long rolling country sides. To start, the trail first took us to Schloss Hohenschwangau, the castle that young Ludwig II grew up in. The history of the castle was interesting but I was distracted by the phenomenal views of the crystal clear lake below that resided at the base of the towering Alps. After learning about Ludwig and his childhood as he dreamt about building his own castle on the mountains, we took the strenuous climb up to the castle made famous by Disney. Neuschwanstein Castle is rooted seamlessly into the mountain itself among the multitude of vibrant green trees bringing further life to the mystique of Bavaria. As I talked about in earlier posts, I have enjoyed staring at and pondering certain paintings that have caught my eye in museums because of the story telling captured by the artists in that one single moment. As powerful an experience as some of those paintings were, the view from atop the castle grounds brought a much more tangible and emotional state of being. I could have never laid my eyes on Neuschwanstein and been left perfectly content and at peace with the world. From this standpoint, the mind drifts off as you get absorbed by the large cool beckoning lakes on a hot summers day and a bountiful forest of trees that would leave all thoughts of the commotion and problems of every day life behind. Also, I enjoyed the view of the small Bavarian town of Fussen surrounded by farm land and cow pastures of varying shades of green. I hate to disappoint all you Mickey Mouse fans but the castle was somewhat underwhelming after getting a view of paradise. It is a shame that Ludwig was never able to see the fruits of his labor after dying mysteriously within a year before the castle was completed, 17 years after breaking ground. Thinking about how the man never got an opportunity to sleep in that splendidly opulent bedroom changed the scope of the tour; in fact his throne room never ended up having a throne room due to his untimely death. The walk around the castle to a wooden bridge gave the best view of the castle one could ask for; to further the splendor, twin mountains cradled the bridge over a waterfall that took you to a world of princesses, beasts, and awful stepmothers. After a long day with practically no food, our hallow stomachs could not help but beg for some authentic Bavarian cuisine. Through the winding streets of Fussen and among the full spectrum of color on those cute little houses and shops, we found a restaurant willing to satisfy our appetites. With the meat heavy diet in Germany and Prague, my arteries have been crying for mercy but as they say, when in Rome… I had pork cutler lathered in a creamy mushroom gravy with a bed of spaetzle and some sauerkraut (the plate had a small “salad” that was more of an afterthought and an excuse for Germans to say they have eaten their vegetables for the day). For dessert, we each had apple strudel and a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a dollop of whipped cream covered by a chocolate dusting. Although tasty, the strudel has no chance against the best strudel I have ever had prepared by my Oma (grandmother); besides a lot of TLC she knew how to bake. This made me realize that as much as you might travel to the farthest stretches of the Earth for the best that the world has to offer, some things just can’t beat home. After filling our bellies, we boarded the train back to Munich and navigated our way to the hostel. Just outside the hostel’s doors I heard my name called. Figuring I was hearing something, I continued on reaching for the hostel doors. Low and behold my friend Will, who I met in London and subsequently traveled with in Paris, finally got my attention. What are the odds that we would cross paths in Munich let alone being in the city at the same time. We caught up on each other’s travels and continued chatting as if we never went on separate paths. Needing a beer to cap off the night, we went into the hostel bar for refreshments. As simple as it has been this whole trip, I ended up talking to some girls from Virginia for a while. Sure the occasional asshole is always around but everyone is really receptive and want to meet more people taking similar journeys but learning different things and forming unique stories all to their own that everyone is dying to hear. Now, for another short night of sleep followed by that beautiful buzzing of an alarm clock.

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