From Nördlingen we drove further down the Romantic Road to Augsburg, which didn’t strike us as particularly ‘romantic’. I am sure the centre is lovely, but the outskirts are very industrial. The nearest campsite was 8km outside – just beyond the industrial belt. We decided that it might be too much of a trial to traverse the industrial bit to see more baroque churches, so agreed to pass on Augsburg. It was late afternoon in any case, so we spent the afternoon taking advantage of the swimming lake at the site and the various surfboards and rowboats provided. At one point, Mark decided to try the children’s hand pedalo (if that isn’t some kind of oxymoron) and promptly sank it.
Next stop down the road was Landsberg am Lech, a charming little walled town with painted buildings and a weir on the Lech river. The pavements were less brilliant and I promptly tripped in a pothole and hurt my ankle. It is a little swollen, but not stopping us making the most of our adventure.
Shortly after Landsberg, we rounded a bend in the road and there before us were the Alps. Soon the scenery changed to look more Austrian than German and we travelled the final 30km along the Romantic Road through pastures and past chalets until we reached Schwangau and another site with its own swimming lake. It was ridiculously hot, so there was no alternative but to make immediate use of the bathing facilities before heading out to find dinner. The local craft brewery makes good wholesome German/ Austrian fare (schnitzels etc), its own beer and has an uninterrupted view of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles and the para-gliders descending from the nearby mountains – a recipe for a very pleasant evening.
This morning, we cycled to Hohenschwangau, seeing only a few cars and bikes on the way. Then we got to the roundabout at the bottom of Hohenschwangau village and suddenly from nowhere the world appeared – and they were all in the ticket queue for the castle. We chose to visit both castles, Hohenschwangau first.
The lesser known castle was built by Maximillian, King of Bavaria in the 1830s. It is small – many rooms only the size of those in a large family home. The walls are painted in pastel colours with ‘seccos’ (frescos painted when the plaster is dry, apparently) of various myths, particularly the swan knight. It was lovely. And despite the hoards outside our tour group was just 12 people, so plenty of time to look around and ask questions. At one point the guide showed a 4ft high silver centre piece – the model of a fountain in the centre of Ludwigshafen. I used to live there and there is nothing in that town that predates the 60s and is anything but utilitarian and concrete. The guide clearly noticed my scepticism – Ludwigshafen would have been 1000% prettier if there were such a fountain. So he quickly added that it had been destroyed when they built the trams!!
After lunch we took our tour of Neuschwanstein – sadly with a bigger group. The interior is impressive – the throne room is modelled on a palace in Byzantium (though the throne was never delivered!) and the rest seemed not dissimilar to what Pugin did with the interior of the Houses of Parliament – lots of neo Gothic in deep reds, greens and blues (and a fair number of depictions of German myths thrown in; Ludwig II being friends with Richard Wagner). The castle was unfinished and wandering through the 2nd floor with its bare brick and half sketched seccos was fascinating.
All around Hohenschwangau are photos of the Bavarian royal family. So I leave you with this question – does any one else think that Ludwig I (grandfather of Ludwig II who built Neuschwantstein) looks like Richard Hammond?