Wandering around the Fairytale Castles of Bavaria

Text and Photos by Farah S. Kamal

In this fast paced road trip around European cities, our group was on a tour bus riding from Alakhmar – Netherlands on way to Insbruck – Austria with two days stop over for sightseeing and exploration of a fairyland. I am not joking, it was indeed a trip to real fairyland. We spent two days exploring Bavaria in Germany. The enchanting majestic castles, alpine lakes and medieval towns – I could not help but find myself lost in the magic, walking around the places that I have only read about in all the fairy tales.

We travelled through Germany in a scenic bus ride along the shores of Rhine. The most famous River Rhine starts in the Alps and flows to the North Sea, and is one of the few rivers in the world flowing north passing through Switzerland, France, Germany and Holland, making it one of the longest and busiest rivers in Europe. We arrived at Bopard, a small, charming town by the Rhine with beautiful castles converted into hotels and restaurants overlooking picturesque views. Soothing to eyes, the lush greenery on the hills that meet with the river gave me stunning frames for photography.

As a travel writer, an important activity I am always looking for is to talk to people around. Be it fellow travellers, shop owners or anyone who smiles at me and is not afraid of my camera is a treat. To my delight, in this town, I met many friendly people as I visited stores and restaurants, beaming and ever-ready to chat. “We are very proud of our Roman heritage”, mentioned a waitress as she set a plate of Bavarian hot dogs and coffee on the table in front of me. She continued chatting proudly telling me that Boppard is the biggest wine-growing center in the Middle Rhine, popular with the Romans in 643, and today these vineyards are spread over 75 hectares. The juicy sausages with smokey taste pleasured my taste buds like never before. One of my travel mates told me that there are 1500 kinds of sausages to choose from in Germany.

After our rest and meal, recovering from the long bus ride that really starts early on such road trips, I was excited and ready for the upcoming cruise of Rhine. It was perfect weather for the cruise and photography. I boarded the beautiful boat and ran to the upper sun deck to enjoy the scenic view of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley called the Rhine Gorge.

The boat that sailed along the Rhine river meandering between little towns was no doubt an interesting sensory experience. The Lorelei rock is a huge rock formation that constricts the river to its narrowest width and strongest current. Lorelei was a siren which according to legend sang on the rock and lured sailors to their deaths with her songs. Lured by her song, the sailors’ boats would be dragged by the current onto the rocks where they drowned. I listened to the commentary on these castles and the legend of the Lorelie by the cruise director, while my eyes focused at the scene ahead as the boat sailed through grape vineyards and those fairy tale castles, and my fingers continually on the shutter button of my camera. It’s fun to watch, photograph and wave at the many boats and cruise ships sailing on the pristine and calm water.

After a good night sleep in a hotel at Mannheim area and a sumptuous breakfast which consisted of finest German breads and buttery croissants, I was ready for yet another surprise, the trip to King Ludwig's magnificent Neuschwanstein castle. Disney Worlds’ Cinderella castle is inspired by this very castle. Getting down from the bus and taking a short train ride followed by walking up a winding path I reached the castle perched high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the village of Hohenschwangau and the alpine foothills.

This limestone coloured castle is a magnificent combination of Roman, Gothic and Byzantine architecture. Being summers, it was crowded with tourists and groups of school children. We already had the tickets and time slot reserved so we got to enter the castle to explore corridors, stairways and the royal rooms. The interior of many of the rooms were inspired by Richard Wagner character, a renowned composer who King Ludwick admired. The Singers Hall reflected Wagners operas, the throne room had some excellent Byzantine artwork, but no throne as the King died before moving in the castle. Thoroughly admired, the ceilings of some rooms with murals illustrated the works of poets Walther von der Vogelwide and Hans Sachs.

After an hour and half of the guided tour of the castle I came out and spent sometime photographing the iconic view from Marienbrücke. Walking on the wooden path around the castle I almost looked for a princess searching for her glass shoes, or another one letting her long hair down from one of the windows and the beauty and the beast might come out strolling together on the path. Well, it’s time to break the spell then, it was and join my group to the next destination. •