Awakening: the sounds of Bavaria

Who's ready for a trip to Bavaria? 

Hohenschwangau Castle, Bavaria

Hohenschwangau Castle sits in southern Bavaria, on the border between Germany and Austria. The castle was built by Bavarian King Maximillian II in the 19th century, on the site of a fortress that had existed since at least the 12th century. His son, King Ludwig II – referred to by many as 'mad' King Ludwig, spent many days of his childhood here, dreaming of knights in shining armor and damsels in distress. Ludwig later built a bushel of castles and palaces, including the fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle from which this photo was taken. The fact that Ludwig's castle sits high above, looking down on his parent's castle, may tell you something about their relationship.

If you're traveling in the area, advance reservation are essential to visit Neuschwanstein, and highly recommended for a visit to Hohenschwangau. Both castles are currently closed due to the COVID pandemic, but once they re-open reservations can be made online here.

Linderhof Palace

Schloß Linderhof (above) was built by Bavaria's King Ludwig II (aka 'mad' Kind Ludwig). It's one of four extravagant palaces Ludwig built in the Bavarian countryside. The most famous of these is Neuschwanstein, the 'Cinderella' castle that looks like a medieval fortress. Herrenchiemsee, built on an island in Lake Chiemsee, mimics Louis XIV's palace at Versailles. A wooden chalet on the Schachen Alp is the least known of his structures, partly because getting there requires a minimum 3 to 4 hour hike. From the outside it looks like a simple (if large) alpine hut, but inside is a different story.

Schloß Linderhof is my favorite. The only one of the palaces that was actually completed in Ludwig's lifetime, this rococo jewel box is where he spent much of his time. In addition to the main palace, there are numerous smaller buildings scattered around the extensive gardens. Don't miss the Venus Grotto, a breath-taking walk (literally) above the main palace. The artificial cave was built to host private opera performances for the king, and includes a small lake with a swan-shaped boat.

Visit to the Eagle's Nest

Kehlsteinhaus, known in English as the Eagle's Nest, is a popular destination for those interested in World War II history.

Hitler's close associates gave him the house as a surprise 50th birthday present. Many visitors come under the mistaken impression that this was Hitler's secondary HQ/vacation getaway. Actually Hitler hated the house, and rarely spent more than a few hours here. Photos of him in the Alps are almost all from the Berghof, a chalet further down the mountain, where he did spend a lot of time. Nothing remains of the Berghof, which was damaged in bombing raids, and later dynamited by the Allies.

Reaching the Eagle's Nest is no easier today than it was 70 years ago. The steep, narrow road is only open to specially-equipped buses. Visitors park at the base of the hill, buy a bus ticket, and then ride up to the upper bus station. From there an elevator drilled through solid granite ascends the last 400' to the house, which is now operated as a restaurant.

Be sure to reserve your return trip time as soon as you arrive at the upper bus stop. Buses are often full, and without a reserved seat you could be in for a long wait. Two hours at the top is sufficient for a bite to eat, and a walk along the path for views of the house and surrounding Alps.

Rubber duckies

In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, even the rubber duckies wear Bavarian garb.

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