Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 2 Bavarian Castles

The weather was looking reasonable, so we had a quick breakfast and got in the car to drive to our castles about 50 minutes away. Richard’s turn to drive, and yes, he made all the same mistakes I did! Its the roundabouts we find the hardest.... and driving a manual again, when you are trying to concentrate on other things! He got into the spirit of things on the motorway though and made it up to 130km/hr – listed in our guide as the recommended maximum.

The countryside is gorgeous, lots of little villages in mostly white with orange tiled steep roofs, surrounded by big open fields with mostly no fences and just a spring tinge of green, with wintery trees on the edge just waiting to burst into life again. Sarah wondered where all the animals were. We can only presume they are kept indoors? We had great excitement when we saw a squashed fox on the side of the road. Very tempted to stop and give it a poke, but travelling too quickly, and probably not allowed to cross anyway. This lead to a big discussion about what animals actually do live in Germany. We also saw black birds that are either crows or ravens.

On the way to schloss Linderhof (castle) we stopped in a super cute village, and went to investigate an enormous churchy looking building, which turned out to be Ettal monastery – a Baroque/Rococo church (catholic we presume). A service was taking place, but this didn’t stop us from taking a peek inside – it was incredible – painted/gold/elaborate dome and internal walls. There was still a little snow sitting on the ground from the cold snap of a week ago and there was a real bite in the air. It stayed around 5 degrees all day (according to our car). One of the little shops there had leiderhosen (swiss looking shorts) displayed in their window, which we thought Richard should buy, but sadly, (or luckily) the shop was closed. (At Linderhof we actually did see a couple of men wearing this traditional garb. Just doesn’t seem quite right though somehow.

We passed lots of tour buses on the way to the castle, but when we got there, there weren’t too many crowds to hold us up. We booked for a tour of the castle (which Hayden thought didn’t look like a “real” castle as it has no turrets etc) and the kids were excited to see a squirrel while we waited. It is the very beginning of the summer season, so some things were still closed in the castle grounds, and many of the statues were boxed up in plywood – to protect from the winter we presume. We were herded into the English speaking line of tours, and were shown round Ludwig’s castle, which was built in the 1870’s and was inspired by the Versailles palace and King Louis the fourteenth of France, 6 kg of gold leaf (which is a LOT) adorns the elaborately decorated walls and ceilings, along with delicate porcelain, enormous chandeliers and even more gold. One room was also mirrored, and looked like it went on for infinity, and the fine tapestries were incredible.

A (big) walk round the grounds down to the hunting lodge (which unfortunately was closed), resulted in another (even bigger) walk back over a hill, to get an excellent view down over the castle and grounds. We were struck by the symmetry of the formal gardens for quite some area around the castle. It was trying to drizzle, and was cold, but not uncomfortable, and quite still with no wind. We also took a tour through the grotto – a man-made fantasy “underground” cave complete with stalactites and lake and coloured lighting, which was inspired by one of Richard Wagner’s plays. The kids and I wandered out early as the commentary was in German, but Richard was treated to the waterfall being turned on¸ and an English commentary, so that was a shame (for us).

From there we travelled to Neuschwanstein castle, which met with Hayden’s approval as to what a castle should look like. Many more lovely villages later, we arrived back home, had dinner, and off to bed.