The Mayans May Be Right, Y’all… (My Dreams Came True, Part 1)

I’m not one to subscribe to much of that sort of ballyhooed, fatalist rigamarole, you know. Not about the end of the world, or zombies, for that matter. But… this morning, I woke up, and I realized that my own little corner of dreamland is over and I thought, “well, I guess this is it, then…”

Over the last 9 days, Mike and I spent time in the land of the “Fairy Tale King” (for real, that is what King Ludwig II was called, and he had the castles to back it up), also known as Schwangau/Füssen, Germany; Venice, Italy; Rome, Italy; and Innsbruck, Austria. Can you believe that the castle part of Germany and that Innsbruck were really just stop-overs on a long road trip? Matters of convenience? Believe me, people, these places are worth their own trip across the pond, in my opinion. We took almost 900 pictures in Schwangau/Füssen alone! (and, you aren’t allowed to take photos inside the castles, and we arrived at night on Friday, and left early Sunday morning. Almost 900 pictures in about 36 hours. At a point of convenience on our road trip to Venice. Needless to say, 9 days later our memory cards are bursting and our trigger fingers have blisters…

I was telling Mike that every single day of our trip (EVERY SINGLE DAY, I TELL YOU!), I felt like saying, “I’ve never seen anything as beautiful as this. I need to take a picture. Well, not just one picture, this needs multiple pictures – just to remind myself that I really saw it!”

A lake in Schwangau, with water clearer than clear, and reflections sharper than sharp!

We got to our hotel (a really cute family run inn midway between Hohenschwangau (the original hunting palace of the royal family of Bavaria) and Neuschwanstein (the castle that the castle in Disney theme parks is supposedly modeled after) close to 9pm on Friday night. Especially in small towns in rural Germany, this is very late… We decided just to check out what the castles look like at night (and they are gorgeous), but what was breathtaking was the sky! The same sky that each one of us looks upon, but here? Touched with fairy dust… Truly, I’ve never seen a sky that pretty before. We tramped out into the middle of an ice/snow/frost covered field, just under the shadows of mountains, and I saw galaxies, stars, and planets in a way that I have never even imagined before. We have a great camera, but even it does not do justice to the magnificence of this field. I have been hiking, I have been to the mountains, I have been where the sky was supposed to be unfettered by urban interference, but I have never seen anything like this. I was freezing, don’t get me wrong (did I mention that I was standing in a snow/ice/frost covered field at night and it was negative something unmentionable??), but the shivers I had were in no relation to the cold I felt. I was a witness to a miracle.

And that was before I woke up and saw the majesty of the mountains RIGHT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW! And the castles! With a warm cup of hot chocolate, we were off! Check it out:

Walking through Schwangau, both beside and towards the mountains.

The streets cape near the ticket office for the castles. So German and so adorable!

Along the walk to Hohenschwangau… So pretty I could hardly stand it!

There is a walk from the town up to the 1st castle that is about 30 minutes or so… It was brisk, but quite beautiful!

The first, and oldest castle, Hohenschwangau. Mike and I laughed a bit at breakfast, as the inn keeper explained to a fellow tourist that people see this castle first. It is incredibly German to have an order to things, and one would never veer from the appointed order of things, so Hohenschwangau is the first order of business (it is the older of the two castles, thus one would naturally see the older one first)!

Another view of the Hohenschwangau Castle, which was re-built in 1832 by King Maximillian of Bavaria as a hunting/summer residence. There is mention of a castle on this site as far back as the 12th century, but the original castle here was destroyed during several different wars. The interior is well-maintained and quite beautiful, but we couldn’t take pictures inside. It was very funny to hear our tour guide refer to her bosses… who are still the Royal Family of Bavaria, even though they don’t have much power (except over one of the biggest tourist attractions in Germany)…

View from Hohenschwangau… stunning!

Neuschwanstein, from Hohenschwangau. Ludwig II, who is probably the most famous of the Bavarian Royals, was having this castle built (1869-1886) so that he could have a castle like they had in the medieval days. He was very shy, and wanted to have a retreat from the other castle. He once said, “I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others,” and I think it is safe to say that he accomplished this goal completely. He even died mysteriously! He was found drowned (with his doctor) after a coup had him locked up in a mental institution… The castle, which has been very well visited, was never finished on account of his death. The scaffolding, however, is only part of the restoration; it wasn’t left there in the 1800s!

Neuschwanstein, in the afternoon sun. Ludwig II was not only shy, but he was also extremely pious. He identified himself with Parsifal, a medieval character who became the Grail king, who was redeemed through his purity and faith. This character was also the subject of an opera by Richard Wagner, to whom Ludwig II was quite devoted. The castle, Neuschwanstein, was dedicated to Wagner, in fact. After meeting Ludwig, Wagner said this: “… Today I was brought to him. He is unfortunately so beautiful and wise, soulful and lordly, that I fear his life must fade away like a divine dream in this base world … You cannot imagine the magic of his regard: if he remains alive it will be a great miracle!”

So beautiful! The King’s dreams and his reality were often not aligned, and after he was defeated in “The German War,” and his policies were really sent down from Prussia, he set out to build more castle than he really had the resources to do so. It was a squabble with the banks that supposedly caused him to be deposed and sent to the mental institution, where he died.

After touring the amazing castles, we drove about half an hour away to see a church along the Romantische Straße (the Romantic Road) called “Weiskirche,” the pilgrimage church of the Scourged Savior. It is truly in the middle of nowhere, and the town around it is nearly nonexistent, save for the church, but it is beyond the scope of justice any picture can do. Back in the 1730s, there was a wooden carving of Jesus bound in chains. Tears were seen flowing on this rendering of the Savior, and thus began a pilgrimage of epic proportions. The church we saw was built to accommodate the many faithful who came to see the miracle, as the church that was there is probably smaller than most of your closets. It is really, really tiny… The Steingaden monastery (that is the name of the town the church is in) oversaw the building of the Rococo masterpiece that is Wieskirche today. The architect who was in charge was so enamored with the church that he built a house right next to the church! It really is that gorgeous… For more information on this church, check out this site. And these pictures:

It is no wonder that the church is a cultural site on the World Heritage List by UNESCO… (and I don’t blame that architect one little bit, either!)

“Hoc loco habitat fortuna, hic quiescit cor.” (In this place abideth happiness; here the heart finds peace.) This is a quote from the builder about this magnificent place. Throughout all of its magnificence, there is a strong spiritual quiet that speaks more loudly than any of the bright colors.

Just to put this in perspective… at this point in our picture-taking, we haven’t even been on vacation for 24 hours yet! CAN YOU IMAGINE?!?

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2 thoughts on “The Mayans May Be Right, Y’all… (My Dreams Came True, Part 1)

  1. I am also struck by two views — the sky that is nature’s magnificence and the man-made magnificence of the church. Is the statue still in existence?

  2. Love that area!! Our hotel room was directly across from the smaller castle. And we went to the church too. It was so over the top, and certainly memorable! Funny thing– every picture I have of the larger castle has the castle tilted. Very weird.

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