Righto! So, we were up early this morning to be at the station by 9am (that is, Alfie, Cara and myself. Sean didn't come with us, but apparently went to the Deutsches Museum and had a good time). We were taking the tour with Radius, because Sandemans weren't running their tour today due to a staff shortage. The tour group consisted of us three, a guy from Riga in Latvia, and our tour guide. His name was Mike and he was from Minnesota. Being a small group of 5 was wonderful, because we could ask as many questions as we liked and the guide left it up to us to decide where we wanted to go and what time we wanted to leave etc.
The train ride from Munich to Fussen took two hours, then we jumped on a bus for ten minutes to Hohenschwangau, the village at the bottom of the mountain, bordered by the Alpsee lake. It was amazingly picturesque. The snow was everywhere, though it wasn't actually snowing and we had brilliant sunshine for most of the day. It was also about 4 degrees warmer than Munich so we had a balmy minus three degrees in which to enjoy the day, which believe me, we are growing accustomed to. See my facebook for some killer photos.
Once we got to the village of Hohenschwangau, we went for a walk to see the Hohenschwangau Castle (separate to Neuschwanstein, but extremely close). This castle is smaller, but you are still able to visit it. It is also the older of the two castles and it looked very pretty against a blue sky and white mountains. The Alpsee was enormous, and frozen over. You can see Austria across it (we were about 4km from the border). There were some tourists jumping on the ice and skidding over it, but Mike said that was a sure way to get yourself injured, as the lake doesn't often freeze too deep. After this, we headed up to Neuschwanstein. It is about a 30/40 minute walk uphill, and we were pretty amazingly tired at the end of it. You can pay 6 euro to ride a horse and carriage up, but it works out quicker if you just walk. The actual tour of the castle interior only goes for 35 minutes as it only goes through the completed rooms. Only a third of the rooms were ever completed, as Ludwig the 2nd, who built it, died suddenly and mysteriously, and all construction on the castle ceased. Interestingly, the castle was built as an homage to the operas of Wagner, as Ludwig the 2nd was a huge fan. This means that paintings depicting scenes from Wagner's operas adorn every room. It is truly stunning stuff. Unfortunately, we weren't permitted to take any photos inside the castle. Our guide was this tiny little man (I think it was a man), who spoke very quietly, with a thick German accent, and had the most delicate looking hands I've ever seen. It was like being guided around by a shy pixie, and was utterly adorable. My favourite room was the King's bedchamber. It boasted a reading chair, ornate wooden carvings everywhere, a Wagner theme of 'Tristan and Isolde', and a very modern (for the time) toilet and washstand with running water. The castle also boasts one of the first telephones. There was also a chapel and a secret door in the King's bedchamber. It was very cool.
Once we finished the tour, I bought a photo book because I want some decent images of the castle interior. We walked back down the mountain to the village and I bought some tiny silver earrings shaped like pretzels. Then we hopped back on the bus, back on the train, and arrived back in Munich in time to see Sean off for his beer tour. The whole trip took about 9 hours, cost 44 euro (not including food/souvenirs) and I highly recommend it! We are leaving for Venice tomorrow so I will be packing up tonight and hopefully getting to bed at a decent hour as I'm pretty exhausted. I'm so glad we ended up coming to Munich. It wasn't originally on our itinerary, but I have definitely enjoyed myself here.