Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let it Snow!

We are in a little town called Hopferau in Germany. It is in Bavaria and is very close to the ski resort of Garmisch-Partekirnen and the gorgeous castles Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. You are doing well if you can read that last sentence out loud.

It began snowing a few days ago and with the temperature below zero the snow has stayed. It is the beginning of their ski season. The area is beautiful. The air is crisp and clean. The buildings are all chalets and the white rolling hills are surrounded by high mountain crags. Dotted around the countryside are little lakes which will be frozen for skating in a few weeks I am sure. This is the perfect winter resort area.

We spent our first day inside, listening to the wind howl and watching the snow come down in thick flakes. We baked cookies, played board games and surfed the internet feeling cozy and happy in our top floor chalet apartment. Baking was an experience as they don’t have baking soda here. They have something called potash which sounds suspiciously like a chemical belonging in a lab somewhere. It tastes about that good, too, as it refused to blend in to the cookies and so is hidden in nasty little lumps of sour surprise. We ate the cookies anyway. We miss chocolate chip cookies.

Yesterday the day dawned clear and sunny. We visited the two spectacular castles. I don’t think I can do justice to how beautiful Neuschwanstein is as a castle. I love castles and I am a romantic at heart. This was everything my romantic heart could desire. The Bavarians claimed King Ludwig II was crazy and he almost bankrupted Bavaria building the castle but after touring the place, I think he and I would have gotten on quite well. This is a castle from your dreams, with high turret towers that Rapunzel would have recognized and a setting almost surreal in its beauty. I think they used this castle in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. If they didn’t, then this was the model for it.

I had no idea the inside was so fantastic. I knew the story about Mad King Ludwig building the castle. He died before it was finished and so construction stopped and it was never completed. I figured if it hadn’t been finished, it couldn’t be that great inside and really, how could you possibly make the inside as fabulous as the outside? Somehow, he managed just that. Some of the floors were not finished but the floors that were completed are a fantasy.

While all of the rooms were splendid, some of them were mind-blowing. Almost every finished room had walls covered in paintings. The paintings were scenes from Richard Wagner’s operas because Ludwig really liked Wagner. Many rooms and hallways had huge chandeliers that looked like giant gem studded crowns. The King’s bedroom had taken fourteen woodcarvers four years to complete. The woodwork is amazing. Ludwig had also built a cave grotto into his rooms. The whole area looks like a giant cave and has a window out onto the most amazing view. I believe Ludwig and Disney would have enjoyed each other’s company.

Hohenschwangau is very close to Neuschwanstein. You can walk between the castles. Hohenschwangau was Ludwig’s childhood home. His parents used the castle as a retreat from court life. It is kind of like the cabin at Shuswap…kind of. The castle of Hohenschwangau is beautiful but pales in comparison to Neuschwanstein. My favourite part of Hohenschwangau was the room with the billiard table. It just made the castle seem more like a home and the royalty seem more human. Of course, the bedroom Ludwig slept in had a ceiling painted with a starry sky. The stars were translucent and could be lit from the floor above. Ya gotta love him.


maryanncart said...

This town is totally enchanting. I love the pictures you've sent and hearing your descriptions is even better. What a wonderful place!