Your Happily Ever After
Fuessen (known locally as Füssen) is a quaint town Germany's Bavaria region. It's the end of the line for railroad tracks and at the end of the "Romantic Road" – but it's also your starting point into the land of fairy tale castles. The closest major city to Füssen is Munich, a two-hour train ride away. This just adds to the allure. Where dusty roads wind around charming corners, and one can imagine fair maidens waiting for noblemen to court them. Ladies however could probably count out the man responsible for the fairy-tale image.
Call him what you want: The Swan King, der Märchenkönig (Fairy Tale King) or Mad King Ludwig, the man has left his indelible mark on Füssen and southern Bavaria. It seems King Ludwig II himself knew he was hard to describe, and liked it this way. "I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others." Seems he got his wish.
To some, he possessed mental disability, to others, he was an eccentric who lived his dreams. These dreams clearly told him fairy tales, which he translated into extravagant, excessive castles.
The most famous of these castles is Neuschwanstein, which Ludwig created as homage to the composer Richard Wagner whom he greatly admired. The palace was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, but it was opened to the paying public immediately after his death in 1886. In the years since, over 60 million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle, which provided the inspiration for Disneyland's famous Sleeping Beauty Castle. Perched on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau, the location is enough to sweep you off your feet (take that, Prince Charming.)
This village also has its own fortress, the Hohenschwangau Castle. This 19th century palace was the childhood residence of King Ludwig and built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria. Built on the remains of the 12th century fortress by a family of knights, the castle fell into decay after changing hands several times. In 1829, then Prince Maximilian discovered the historic site and reacted enthusiastically to the beauty of the surrounding area. He acquired the ruins and a few years later, the reconstruction of the Castle began, continuing until 1837, with additions up to 1855. Hohenschwangau became the family's official summer and hunting residence, because all royalty need a place to put their taxidermy.
Within Füssen, the main attraction is the Hohes Schloss, or High Castle. One of the best preserved late Gothic castles, it was once the summer residence of the prince-bishops of Augsburg. Inside you'll see the "Knight's Hall," known for its stunning coffered ceiling and a princes' chamber with Gothic-style tile stove. Just in case there was no princess to keep him warm at night.
Füssen, at the end of the Romantic Road, but the beginning of your happily ever after trip into Bavaria. With the help of a German Rail Pass, all your vacation dreams can become reality.
Contributed by: Rachel, E-business Editor, who has experienced much more of Europe than she ever imagined, traveling by train.