When you travel, you see many things that you have never seen before. Things that will amaze you. Castles for example. I had never seen a castle when I first began our trip so when I walked around inside my first one, I was pretty awe-struck. But you can only see so many strongholds before you get all castled out. And after that, you need a special kind of castle to re-kindle your fortress-lust. So we’re in Germany and we hear about this castle called Neuschwanstein and rumor has it, its pretty damn special. That little piece of second hand information was all the motivation we needed to change course and go on a five day detour to check it out.
Our path was quite an unusual one, at one stage leading us so close to the Austrian border that we decide to stop off for a sleepover. Once we crossed into Austria we quickly stumbled upon a sign for the town of Routes and after a few immature jokes about the name, we decide to make it our home for the night. It was quite a small place so we quickly found somewhere to park Vandamme and ventured into the town on foot. Being a country area, there were not a huge number of people around and all the nightspots were virtually empty so we found ourselves the warmest bar we could and sat down for a quiet nightcap. Before too long we had befriended one of the only people there, a middle-aged local who worked as a scientist who offered to buy us a drink. We discussed travel stories and he told us what it was like to live in Austria. He told us of the tradition there to drink mulled wine and eat roasted chestnuts on cold days. He then proceed to walk out the front door and returned several minutes later with chestnuts from a local vendor for us to try. Our first impressions of Austria were that the locals are unusually friendly.
We exchanged more stories and our new friend offered to take us to a beautiful secluded lake high in the mountains early the next morning. It was at this point that the travelers paranoia kicked in. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this guy was an absolutely top bloke, and that his intentions were genuine but unfortunately you can’t always tell the difference between generosity and malicious intent. And somewhere in the back of all our minds was the mental image of this guy taking us into the mountains so he could club us to death and make our skins into a three piece suit. Like I said, I’m sure this guy was genuine but on this occasion, the paranoia was a bit too much to take the chance. So we parted ways with our science-loving friend and continued the journey, alone, to Neuschwanstein.
We left Austria and crossed over the border back into Germany. As we drove we read information that we had downloaded from the Internet about the castle we were on our way to see. It was built by the eccentric King Ludwig II of Bavaria who after spending a fortune building elaborate palaces, was found dead under mysterious circumstances at the age of 40. When you think of the word castle, it conjures up images of tall fairytale cartoon mansions but the reality of the situation is that most are built to be practical, not to be aesthetically pleasing. So even if they’re in good condition and not run down and dilapidated, they still don’t look anything like the stereotypical cartoon image of what a castle should be. But this one is said to be different. The Walt Disney company supposedly used it as the basis for their castles at Disneyland so it was sure to be pretty special.
Eventually, after much driving and anticipation, we reached our destination. We soon find out that the best vantage point to get a quality view of not only the castle but a 45 meter waterfall is from the nearby Marienbruecke (Mary’s bridge) which spans a deep gorge. We set off and hike up the long trail keen to get some award winning footage for our docco but when we finally get to the exceptionally long and slender bridge we are mortified to find the view is entirely obscured by a thick cloud of fog. No view of the fairy-tale castle. No view of the 45 meter waterfall. A five day detour. It took us five days to come here and all we get to see is this impenetrable blanket of haze with a soundtrack of running water. Needless to say we were pretty shattered. Yet again, another lesson in traveling. No matter how much planning or research you put into your trip, or how much you want to see something, things won’t always go your way. Life isn’t a fairytale. Sometimes shit happens.