Sunday, April 29, 2018

Take a Hike in Fussen

Our road trip down the Romantic Road ended in Fussen, home of the Sleeping Beauty castle where the flat farmland meets the snowy Alps. We made the most of our two days in Fussen by hiking and enjoying some German beer on top of a mountain. 

Tegelberg Hike
We left Tannhausen early since we were excited about our planned hike in Fussen. After about 2 hours of easy driving, we arrived at the town. Since it was Easter Monday (which we didn't know was a thing), we had trouble finding somewhere to pick up lunch. Fortunately, gas station food in Germany usually consists of fresh handmade sandwiches that aren't vacuum sealed like the ones you might find in the US. After picking up some food and checking in to our hostel, we drove to the parking lot for the Tegelberg Hike. 
The hike started out pretty steep but we were motivated by our increasingly great view of the Neuschwanstein Castle. About halfway up our climb, the trail was covered in a sheet of white snow. We were thankful to have our waterproof shoes and thought the snow only added to the beauty of the hike. It was a pretty warm day, probably in the 50's, and the sun made it even nicer. 
We passed a lodge where we heard someone playing the accordion and felt like we were having an authentic German experience. After the lodge, the terrain became very steep and the snow deepened. Skiers flew down the mountain making switchbacks to keep from speeding uncontrollably. 

Few hikers headed straight up as we did, and we think there was an alternate path, but we chose to go in the direction we knew would take us to the second lodge at the top. We ascended through at least two feet of snow but our spirits were up thinking about the beer at the top. When we finally reached the lodge, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Alps across Austria and, of course, an incredible German beer!

We had planned on completing the full hike as a loop, but we were advised that the path down to complete the loop was blocked by snow. The cable car down was tempting but a little pricey and we couldn't figure out where to purchase tickets. We thought that maybe tickets could only be purchased at the bottom, so we descended the same way we came up. Our climb down was much faster and easier than the climb up, though our legs were sore by the time we got back to the car.  

Hiking Around the Castles
Fussen boasts 2 castles, the famous Neuschwanstein Castle and its less popular neighbor the Hohenschwangau Castle. The Neuschwanstein Castle, built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 1800's, is well known as the "Disney Castle" as it inspired Walt Disney's design of Sleeping Beauty's castle. When we planned our trip, we thought we'd go inside the Neuschwanstein Castle like the vast majority of tourists who stop in Fussen. However, our Airbnb host in Tannhausen advised us to see the Hohenschwangau Castle instead, and warned us that former guests of his waited for hours in line to get tickets to see the Neuschwanstein Castle. We looked more into both castles and opted to hike around them instead. Having seen the Residenz in Wurtzburg, we didn't feel the need to see the impressive interiors and didn't want to waste our precious time in Fussen waiting in line. 
Hohenschwangau Castle
Our hike made us more confident that we made the right decision. We made a loop around both castles that took a little under 5 hours. The two castles are only a mile apart, so seeing both was easy. We'd become accustomed to hearing German all around us and were surprised to see mostly Americans around the castles, especially at Neuschwanstein. Tourists flocked around the fairy tale structures and it felt a bit like Disney World. The grounds of the castles are open to all so we enjoyed the view, snapped some pictures, and were thankful to get away from the crowd and back to our hike.
The best view of Neuschwanstein was from the Marienbr├╝cke Bridge, though it was extremely crowded and windy! 
Hiking Around the Alps
Around 2pm we made it back to the hostel and took a little time to rest and snack. Then we set off again, this time driving to the Weissensee where we could park to start our second hike of the day. We made a giant loop, hiking for another 5 hours through the edge of the Alps. The beginning of the hike was the most impressive, with a climb up to the remains of a third castle that King Ludwig II dreamed of building, but ran short on money (since he had blown it all on the two other castles). An elaborate hotel sits next to the ruins with a spectacular view of the Austrian Alps. 
King Ludwig II's unfinished castle on the right

For someone not as into hiking, I would advise going up to the ruins and back down to shorten the hike to maybe 3.5 hours. The highlight of our hike was the weathered structure and the spectacular view of the Austrian Alps. 
Viewing the Austrian Alps

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