After a day spent wandering around Munich, my parents, Jeremy and I piled back into our little VW to head south to reach Neuschwanstein Castle, which Disney modeled the Sleeping Beauty Castle after (apparently). Acting as navigator once again, I wanted to get us there by taking the Romantic Road, a route that would lead us through charming Bavarian towns and worthy places to stop. We had no time constraints, so we figured we would just start driving and see where it took us.
When it was approaching lunchtime, we started looking around for places to eat. The villages we drove through looked absolutely dead; all stores were closed. It seemed like it might have just been lunchtime closures at first (something we had grown accustomed to in France), but after a while it did seem like something was going on. We finally landed in one town, and started to see people in traditional lederhosen heading in a direction where we could hear some music, and knew we had to follow. We parked the car, and followed the smell of bratwurst to an outdoor festival. There was beer, bratwurst, cake, and music, and we sat down to indulge in the village’s holiday celebration. We asked two people at our table what the holiday was, and in their limited English explained that it was Ascension Day, celebrating Jesus’ ascension into Heaven. It is also sometimes called Father’s Day, which I had seen signs for, but didn’t realize what it was referring to. I don’t eat meat except for fish, and my dad hasn’t eaten red meat in, say, 40 years or so, but when you find yourself in the midst of a Bavarian village celebration and they are only serving homemade bratwurst, you eat a homemade bratwurst. We all had one, and they were delicious.
My mom and I had a really hard time deciding between all the different homemade cakes, but finally settled for these two, a chocolate/banana slice and an apricot slice.
As it often happens here in Bavaria, it was sunny when we arrived but storm clouds began approaching rapidly, and the band packed up their instruments. The rain started falling as we were walking back to our car; it was perfect timing, really. We got back in, and continued our journey south.
Our next stop was the Wieskirche in Steingaden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It doesn’t look like much walking up to it, but once you step inside, the rococo-designed church that dates back to the 1740s is really something.
After leaving Steingaden, we didn’t have much further to drive until reaching Neuschwanstein Castle. We stopped at a gas station, where Jeremy and I had our first truly rude experience in Europe (after over two months, I’d say that’s pretty good). I wanted to ease our hurt feelings with huge fried balls of dough covered in chocolate, a Bavarian specialty, but I refrained.
Pulling up to Schwangau, we got our first glimpse of the castle.
We hiked up to it, but there were busses or horse-drawn carriages that you could take up the steep hill instead. It took about thirty minutes of climbing (with beautiful views along the way), but we finally made it.
After walking around a bit outside (tickets to tour the castle were sold out), we wanted to find a bridge I had read about online, called Marienbrücke, where you could get a really good view of the castle from above. It was a bit more hiking, but we found it, and now my stomach turns just thinking about it. I had no idea how high up it was going to be, and what a dinky little bridge it was going to be. I was paralyzed with fear as soon as we approached it.
I have never been afraid of heights, and consider myself a pretty brave person. Growing up, I remember being nervous about doing things for the first time (like riding a roller coaster, but who isn’t?), but after being talked into doing it (usually by my brother), I loved it and wasn’t afraid after that. I don’t know if it’s because the older I’m getting, the more of a wus I’m becoming, but this bridge scared the hell out of me. It didn’t help that it had started raining, it was windy, and there were huge storm clouds ahead. The bridge is made of wooden panels you walk across, that move when you step on them. I couldn’t fathom how everybody was nonchalantly walking across, like it was nothing. I was gripping the handle so tight and wouldn’t budge, and I wasn’t even on the bridge yet. Jeremy came and got me and finally convinced me to walk across, and I basically had a panic attack as I did, and couldn’t look at anything except the unstable wooden panels beneath my feet. I didn’t even look at the castle. All I could think about was a lightning bolt hitting the bridge, and falling to my death. I didn’t get any pictures because of my debilitating fear, but luckily Jeremy and my dad did.
I tried to find a picture online of the bridge and how high it was to make people understand my fears, but I couldn’t find a good one. You guys will just have to believe me.
After going back across the bridge, I really wanted a picture of me and Jeremy on it with the castle behind and knew I’d regret if I didn’t get one, but obviously I wasn’t going to walk out onto the middle of the bridge like the thousands of other lunatics that do daily (the castle gets 6,000 visitors a day on average), so I shuffled out just a few feet, and grabbed onto Jeremy for dear life. It’s one of my favorite pictures from our adventures so far.
I feel like a real sissy now, especially seeing how many people just walked across it no problem. I’m hoping this was just a fluke, and that my bravery returns.
Anybody else afraid of heights? (Please say yes.)