Destinations

How Neuschwanstein Castle Became the Proof That Dreams are Only Dreams Until You Make It Real

How Neuschwanstein Castle Became the Proof That Dreams are Only Dreams Until You Make It Real

I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?
— John Lennon

Once upon a time, I dreamt of fairy tales coming to life not just on big screens, but in the form of an unbelievably gorgeous Neo-gothic romantic castle, perched on a rugged cliff ridge, secluded in the Bavarian mountains – the world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle, built by King Ludwig II (1845 – 1886), popularly known as the “Mad King” or “Swan King” of the 19th century. To be completely honest, it was the Disney’s live-action remake of the Beauty and the Beast and the sudden surge of comments on my Facebook cover photo featuring Neuschwanstein, which inspired Disney’s storybook castles that ultimately prompted me to write this piece – at long last.

I thought, why not? It’s the perfect time to take you on a tour in and around the castle despite the lack of interior visuals due to the fact that you’d be sent out if you tried clicking away as soon as you step inside the halls. When a German gives a stern warning, you better believe it. So at least I’ll do my best to put into words what makes this experience absolutely dreamy, especially for all you royalty wannabes out there.

I constantly come across photos of this Neuschwanstein castle on so many travel magazines, fliers, websites and the likes, but travelling to one of the most-visited castles on earth was not on my priorities list until I moved to Germany, and that’s the truth. But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t always curious to see if there was more to this emblematic castle on a hill, apart from the likelihood of being turned into a fairytale-crazed adult. That was why I just had to go.

Neuschwanstein Castle during autumn

It was in expectedly bleak and cold November when I, together with my husband, planned to do a roadtrip to some neighboring countries and to the south of Germany, specifically Schwangau region, the home of King Ludwig II’s imposing 65-meter-high masterpiece. Admittedly, it’s not the best time to go, but we couldn’t find a better occasion to fit this itinerary into our schedule. We just hoped and prayed the heavens would smile on us and give us an amazing weather.

Oh, we were so blessed.

The next morning, the sun was brimming brightly and the cobblestone pavement appeared dry unlike the day before as we made our way to buy our tickets at the ticket center in Hohenschwangau, where our journey on foot would start. We went during the off-peak season, so we were quite confident we’d be able to get tickets on the day of our visit IF we turned up early, and we did. During busier months though (summer season for example), it’s highly advisable to purchase admission tickets way in advance to avoid massive disappointment and regret. Days before we arrived, we debated for a while whether or not to take the guided tour, which is the only way you can be allowed to peek inside. It was simply because we were unsure if it was going to be worth it or it was just going to be another overrated castle. Now we know the answer.

IT WAS DEFINITELY WORTH IT!

Let me tell you why.

After a 25-minute hike, making a few stops to take photos, I found myself gapping at the view of this utterly majestic architecture right before my eyes. White limestone façade, prickly turrets, Gothic gargoyles. I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve been to a number of palaces and castles across the globe, mind you. When it was our turn to experience the magic hidden within its walls, I tried hard to contain my excitement.

We began to walk up the stairs, that was nothing special, but it was like a secret entry point to the past. Then our guide led us to the end of the hallway to be greeted by King Ludwig II’s bronze head bust, right before we quietly slipped into the world of this imaginative genius.

Neuschwanstein Castle - Throne

Photo credit: Neuschwanstein Official Website

The castle’s interior is whimsical; the artfully adorned walls roll out murals depicting biblical narratives, German legends and mythology mainly based upon operas created by Richard Wagner, the king’s beloved composer. In a sense, Neuschwanstein Castle plays as a tribute to Wagner’s theatrical stories and is the result of Ludwig’s obsession to breathe life to all of his works.

King Ludwig II's Bedroom

Photo credit: World Visits – King’s Bedroom

Gold, oak wood, silk, decadent décor – Ludwig’s got an expensive taste. From fully-furnished servants’ quarters, to the enchanting grand ballroom that was never used for any function, to the bejeweled two-story throne room with a massive golden chandelier, to the Byzantine church inspired bedroom where he spent most of his time in isolation – beyond a doubt, this entire place embodies his soul. For what it’s worth, he definitely knew how to impress.

Neuschwanstein Inside Cave and Waterfalls

Photo Credit: Curmudgeon Abroad | The very first “man cave” 😉

As soon as you enter “the cave” which leads to his elaborately decorated bedroom, you will certainly begin imagining how in the world this part of the castle was built with the limited resources and knowledge of technology during that period. A dripstone cave with waterfalls illuminated by color changing mood lights? Mind blown. Elaborate, intricate, modern – no wonder you’d be called mad for these wild ideas. But it’s my kind of crazy. Here are more features: centralized heating, hot and cold running water, toilets with automatic flush, intercoms, electric bell system, and get this, a food elevator! A true definition of luxury. The bed may seem comparably small to a king size, but it’s intricately and painstakingly hand-carved for 7 long years, adorned with Bavarian blue embroidered linen and draperies. Also don’t forget to look up and marvel at the ceiling of the canopy bed dotted with tiny lights, resembling stars and constellations.

Neuschwanstein Conservatory

Photo credit: Official Neuschwanstein Website

However, my favorite spot was the conservatory with pebble flooring, offering panoramic views of Alpsee and alpine foothills; intertwined twigs covering the interior, a 2-tier mini fountain standing in between two chairs made out of rustic tree branches. How classy is that? When I caught a glimpse of the candles and the wooden antique table clock, it instantly reminded me of Lumiere and Cogsworth! And that was when my so-called “Belle moment” kicked in. I could totally picture myself having teatime with someone right there and just taking in all that beauty around me.

For a good 30 minutes of my life, I was entranced by the grandiosity of Neuschwanstein Castle. It is one of those places you have to see for yourself to believe it’s real.

Quick facts:

  • Neuschwanstein means “new swan stone” or “new swan jewel”. The swan was the heraldic animal of the counts of Schwangau and became the coats of arms of the ruling Bavarian family which also symbolizes purity.
  • Neuschwanstein Castle receives 6,000 visitors a day during peak season (Spring/Summer) and around 1.5 million per year
  • Located 2-hours away from Munich (you can take a tour or DIY)
  • Only 15 were completed out of planned 360 rooms at the time of Ludwig’s untimely and mysterious death, 17 years later from the start of its construction in 1869. The original plan included an ornate chapel, a huge balcony, bathhouses, additional bastions and turrets.
  • Even though not a single cent from the state funds was used to build the castle, Ludwig was declared insane because of the amount of time and money he was willing to pour out to realize his extravagant dream for it. He pulled in all his resources to realize his projects, that’s a fact.
  • Ludwig II spent his childhood days in a nearby beautiful yellow castle his called Hohenschwangau which you can combine with the Neuschwanstein tour on the  same day for 25 EUR.

Quick Tips:

  • Book your tickets online in advance even during low-peak season if you really want to take the guided tour (and I highly recommend you should! It’s worth a visit!)
  • Current prices for the tour is 13 EUR for adults (more info here: http://www.neuschwanstein.de/englisch/tourist/admiss.htm#ticketcenter
  • Guided tours start punctually. If you miss your schedule, you can NOT ask to be included in the next scheduled tour.
  • Their website states allow 45 minutes to reach the castle from the ticket center, even though you can do it in 20 minutes if you’re quite fit and don’t need to stop for photos along the way. They just do not want you to be late for your schedule.
  • If you don’t want to walk uphill and do an early morning cardio, you can take the horse-drawn carriage ride in your princess gown! No really, I think it can be a real authentic experience. It’s only 5 EUR per head each way. Alternatively, you can take the shuttle bus for 2.90 EUR return – but you’d still need to walk a few hundred meters to the castle’s entrance. No biggie, it’s close!
  • Wear comfortable clothing/shoes if you plan to hike/walk
  • You may bring water and snacks, but obviously, you can only eat it outside. Keep your trash.
  • Bring your pro camera, but do not dare taking photos inside. It is strictly prohibited. Hence, I have gathered all these snaps of its interiors from the official website and visitors who defied the rules and just got lucky.
  • The best spot to take photos of the Neuschwanstein is from Marienbrücke (Queen Mary’s Bridge). It’s a short walk from the castle, close to the bus stop.
  • Always check the weather forecast before you go. Usually during winter months, they would close Marienbrücke for visitors’ safety. Also, if the skies aren’t clear, you will hardly see the castle anyway.
  • The castle entrance has a storage facility but only for small bags/items. Leave all your bulky belongings in your car or hotel.

Where to stay:

Disclaimer: May contain affiliate links

We booked a place in Füssen, only a 5-minute drive from the ticket center, where a medley of charming boutique hotels, cafes, bars and restaurants can be found in a central area. A fancy stay at a hotel also won’t cost you an arm and leg, so it was definitely a good decision to stay there. The authentic Asian restaurant was a bonus, too! With more than half of the tourists flocking every year coming from Asia, they’ve figured they must have sushis and Chinese fried rice on offer.



Booking.com

Check out other accommodation options near Neuschwanstein castle.

How to get to there:

Here’s a comprehensive travel information if you are coming from Füssen or Munich

If you prefer to take a day tour from Munich, Viator offers a small group tour you can join in!

THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO VISITING NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE

Posted by Sarah in Destinations, Travel Stories, Travel Tips, 24 comments
Filipino Christmas Traditions (& Food) I Miss

Filipino Christmas Traditions (& Food) I Miss

As I was wondering of what topic to write about while listening to my Christmas feels playlist tonight, a classic OPM (Original Pilipino or Pinoy Music) song broke into my head and made me feel all nostalgic over Christmas festivities and celebrating it with my family in the Philippines. So now I know exactly what I’d like to share with you – this is for anyone who is traveling to the Philippines this season and curious to know about why this event of the year is the most important and special for most Pinoys at least and how you can best experience a meaningful and one-of-a-kind tropical Christmas such as ours.

Simbang Gabi

simbang gabi

If you don’t already know yet, around 80% of the Philippines’ population is devout Roman Catholics. Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo in Spanish, which literally means rooster mass, is a 9-day novena mass commencing from the 16th of December up to Christmas eve – a long esteemed tradition being practiced until today for over 600 years. Beautifully-decorated churches usually hold masses as early as 4 in the morning or an anticipated mass varying between 8 and 9 in the evening to give the devotees a chance to attend the masses after work or the ones who can’t commit to waking up every 4am – although that’s definitely part of the sacrifice you make. It has been believed that if you complete all the masses throughout these 9 consecutive days, whatever you fervently pray for will be granted. Also, at every Simbang Gabi, there will be vendors outside of the church selling Filipino delicacies traditionally cooked and eaten during the Christmas season.

Parol

These are glorious handcrafted Christmas lanterns that can be made out of art paper, colored foil or plastic or capiz shells. As early as September, parols will start appearing along the streets, in front of homes, surrounding shopping malls, parks and other public spaces. Parol to us is like Christmas trees to Western culture. This symbolizes the star of Bethlehem, which guided the three kings to the manger. Although it has evolved from having a simple star-shaped pattern to very intricate kaleidoscopic versions with hypnotizing light mechanism through the years, it has always remained the most recognizable symbol of Filipinos’ faith and hope. We even have a giant lantern festival happening a week before Christmas every year in Pampanga City http://www.giantlantern.ph/, where many and the most beautiful parols are produced, holds a lantern competition showcasing breathtaking parol craftsmanship.

Longest Christmas celebrations

At least in my opinion, it is – the festivities seem to go on forever. Christmas parties before December, why not? You hardly have any “me time” during this month because you’ll have way too many visitors, people to shop for and parties to attend. That’s why a lot of my Filipino friends overseas do not come home for Christmas every year (even if they are dying to) because it can get really expensive – you can probably imagine why. As mentioned before, Christmas spirit gets fired up as early as September and burns until after the Epiphany or Three Kings’ day on the 6th of January. I’ve never been anywhere that celebrates Christmas for an extended period of time besides the Philippines. So the first week of January is actually the only time people start putting away their Christmas decors.

Christmas carols

We have a bunch of kids doing rounds in the whole village everyday to sing Christmas carols outside of your house in hopes of getting a few coins or treats. You can even request a particular song you like and if they know it, they will be happy to sing it for you with their tambourines, marakas and drums. Yes, it’s like trick or treating in Halloween, but they won’t play tricks on you if you don’t give them anything – they will instead belt out a special song just for cheapskates. So give them something! Oh and adults also do this, but oftentimes, they will give you an envelope before they come to visit you with a letter of intent. That way you’ll be more prepared for them.

Aguinaldo

This Spanish term, which the Filipinos have adopted, means a Christmas bonus or stapled crisp peso bills. Normally, children will be visiting their immediate family, relatives and godparents and receiving “aguinaldos” on Christmas day or some days later. It’s like the red packet or ang pao in Chinese tradition given during special occasions. But in the Philippines, we only expect it from the elderly during Christmas time and in my experience, if you’re already older than 16, you don’t get anything anymore! A time will come that you will eventually stop being considered as a kid consequently cutting your Christmas funds cashflow.

Noche Buena

On Christmas eve, we get super excited about two things: the gift giving part and sharing a dinner feast together with typical Filipino Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) dishes on the table. More than the delicious grub on the table, it’s the togetherness that always makes it complete.

Now let’s talk a bit about some typical Filipino Christmas food, shall we?

15644951_155926608221360_1349869045_nBibingka and puto bumbong – this will normally be available during the Simbang Gabi/Dawn Mass. Bibingka is a type of rice cake topped with cheese, margarine and salted egg steamed with banana lining while puto bumbong is a purple glutinous rice recipe with a dash of sugar, salt, butter and heaps of shredded coconut. YUM!

Meats – pineapple glazed ham, goat meat stew (kaldereta), crispy pata (pig’s thigh), roasted pig (lechon) – yes, we love pork! Stay away from these if you need to watch your cholesterol levels. You know what they say, the bad stuff always tastes the best. There are always healthier options or try it in small portions – if you got your self-control down pat.

Pancit malabon or spaghetti – other than rice, you can pick either of these for your carbo fix. Pancit malabon is a savory rice noodles loaded with seafood, boiled eggs and veggies. Our Filipino-style spaghetti recipe is sweet with hotdog slices and carrots – you will hardly taste the “sourness” of the tomato paste! I’m not sure how the Italians will react to it, but we like it that way.

Fruit cake or bread – everyone knows what this is, right? We like giving these away because it lasts for a while and you can get these in supermarkets in gift-ready shiny colored boxes – held together with a cute ribbon!

Macaroni or fruit salad – If you’re making the fruit salad, you should never forget the shredded young coconut meat!

Keso de bola – this is our local version of Edam cheese from the Netherlands. You will normally pair it with the sweet ham and a slice of bread! Or just with wine.

lechon

Uhmm, okay enough of that for now. I hate to work up an appetite for all of it and not have any within reach! And I’m starting to miss everyone back home sorely…again!

With everything that is unique about Christmas in the Philippines, it’s really something that grows on you and miss everytime you are away. Just as someone who has been celebrating Christmas in the cold all their life and doing their own Christmas traditions will find it hard to adapt to Christmas celebrations elsewhere – somehow there’s always something missing, right? But it’s always good to experience Christmas in other places and be exposed to other traditions – and appreciate your own even more.

Posted by Sarah in Destinations, Food & Drink, Philippines, 7 comments
9 Scary Good Travel Destinations to Celebrate Halloween

9 Scary Good Travel Destinations to Celebrate Halloween

9 TRAVEL DESTINATIONS FOR HALLOWEEN

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Do you get caught in the Halloween madness every year with your spookiest home decoration ideas, winning ghoulish costumes, and unending frantic search for a destination that will give you that real festive feel of Halloween? If you’re thinking this is the year you take a trip somewhere for Hallow’s eve, I might just be able to help you decide where to dust over your magical charm!




EUROPE

Ireland

ireland-snap-apple

Source:www.irishtimes.com

Where else would you rather be than where it all began? Yes, Halloween originated from the ancient Gaelic harvest festival Samhain from the 6th century, usually translated as “the end of summer”. From then onwards, it has been marked as one of the most important holidays of the year in Ireland where it involves bonfires, snap-apple games, and jack-o-lanterns to mention a few.

A torchlit procession to the Tlachtga Hill, believed to be the birthplace of Halloween, on October 31st is a commonplace. There are also amusement parks featuring ghost trains and treasure hunts for the youngsters; spooky castle tours for the fearless and Halloween specials at pubs for a great night out for grown-ups.

London,UK

Spooky Big Ben © petarpaunchev – Fotolia.com

Source:© petarpaunchev – Fotolia.com

Streets Jack the Ripper once stalked, dungeons that take you to a terrifying dark past, abandoned railway stations so eerie it make your insides turn, and historically haunted inns and pubs – the British capital most certainly casts a spine-chilling mood during Halloween. You will surely get what you come here for!

Whether you just want to watch horror films nonstop at the Rivoli Ballroom or party all night long at the Sky High Screams, London on Halloween will be out to creep you out with its thrilling events all over the city.

UNITED STATES

Salem, Massachusetts

salem-haunted-happenings

Source:www.hauntedhappenings.org

It wasn’t until the 19th century when the Americans followed suit after over 2 million Irish escaped the great famine in the 1800s brought the Samhain traditions and celebrations with them. Today, no other country in the world celebrates Halloween quite like the US does and Salem, Massachusetts throws the biggest annual party labeled as the Witches’ Halloween Ball. The city is known for carrying out witch trials back in 1962 resulting to executions of more than 30 people accused – so don’t think it’s just a made-up tale! Their people have managed to capitalize on that fact to attract tourists to Salem instead of turning them away.

As soon as October steps in, Salem’s month-long haunted happenings are spread throughout town. With nearly quarter a million visitors flocking to this city during this time of the year, it can be a madhouse with parades, costume parties, psychic reading, theatrical shows and more! If you could take the crowd in NYC’s Times Square during NYE, you should be just fine in Salem on Halloween.

New York City

halloween-nyc-street-party

Source:www.halloween-nyc.com

Do you really think NYC will ever lay off on the opportunity to host awesome Halloween parties? Never. The city that never sleeps cannot fail with its Village Halloween Parade showcasing the world’s largest pumpkin procession ushered by zombies, massive puppets and a sea of New Yorkers, partygoers from other cities and countries. Note that only attendees must ONLY show up in their freakiest costumes can show up – so dress your best! You can definitely secure a spot at the parade’s starting point at Sixth Ave to watch it if you just want to stay on the sidelines, so you better make it there early.

Over and above, hundreds of entertainers – puppets, bands, dancers and artists – are invited to give explosive performances on the 31st to bring the dead back to life.

New Orleans

neworl-frenchmenstreetlive-halloween

Source:www.frenchmenstreetlive.com

Although nothing comes close to the hottest and wildest party of the country that is the Mardi Gras, Halloween is doing well in second place with all the terrifyingly cool events lined up during the Halloween weekend. Yep, street parties around the French Quarters are on the cards! If you’ve been to New Orleans and wondered why there are copious voodoo shops all over the place, those are physical traces of the Voodoo culture influence brought by workers from West Africa during the colonial period. Up to this point, it’s apparent that many are still practicing these centuries-old voodoo rituals characterized by occult magic and the use voodoo dolls. It is said that the presence of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of the 19th century, is still being felt in some shops. Stop by one and learn a thing or two about the history and most possibly, concoct a magic spell.

That may be the number one reason why New Orleans has been named as one of the most haunted cities in the US, but the notable tragedies and catastrophic blows (yellow fever, hurricanes, etc) that passed through this relatively small city have claimed many lives over the past decades contributed to the eeriness of some of its popular landmarks.

ASIA

Asians were in the dark in regard to Halloween celebrations until the 90s. When they found out it was a hell of a good excuse to party, holding Halloween costume parties quickly became the norm.

Hongkong

lan kwai fong halloween street party

For Chinese communities in Asia, the Halloween equivalent may well be the Hungry Ghost Festival, a Buddhist and Taoist religious tradition which usually begins in August. Various activities include preparing food, burning incense and offering material things to be used by visiting souls believed to roam around during this time. However, with the growing number of expats who introduced and popularized Halloween parties in this part of the world from Disneyland’s haunted Halloween celebrations to Lan Kwai Fong Halloween street party, you will not run out of choices! Of course, don’t forget to zombify your look or show off that sexy vampire outfit before going out!

Bangkok

bangkok halloween party

Source: www.live-less-ordinary.com

Not only are the Thais good in creating insanely good horror films, seems that they have also started venturing into staging fright nights with their scary ideas at party venues! If you’re a backpacker staying in Khao San Road, oh boy, expect that the crowded, chaotic street and the blasting music from every pub will not put you to sleep – especially not on this night! The recommended parties are usually held at high-end clubs and bars which charge standard admission fees. So be prepared to fork out some moolah!

Philippines

Halloween Party Palace Pool Club

Source:www.facebook.com/PalacePoolClub/

With Roman Catholicism being the predominant religion in this country, people here have been celebrating All Saint’s Day and All Souls’ Day on Nov 1st and 2nd respectively ever since it became part of their culture when the Spaniards came in the 1500s. It’s usually a 2-day holiday starting from Oct 31st when families honor and remember their dead by praying and visiting them at cemeteries so this can be quite a busy time especially in the provinces. When families & friends huddle, topics for conversations are normally saturated with supernatural/ghost stories – same on TV features and such.

In the recent years, Metro Manila finally caught on the Halloween craze – thanks to the American influence. There are now Halloween-themed gimmicks for all ages the whole month and organized events such as zombie run marathons. You can even travel to Siquijor, a tiny mystical island home to “witches” and healers – so they say. But if none of that actually exists, you can always enjoy watching majestic sunsets on one of its white-sand beaches.

Mexico/Latin America

Mexico Day of the Dead Celebration

Source:Miamiairport.com

Halloween here takes a different name: The Day of the Dead (Spanish: Dia del Muertos) which extends the holiday to 3 days starting Oct 31st. Among the places you can visit in Mexico during this time, Mexico City’s vibrant and loud parade on the Day of the Dead highlights Santa Muerte costumes, painted faces, mariachi beats and truly spirited dance moves is hard to beat as well as the lively celebrations at the Chiapa de Corzo colonial town where you can marvel at artistic decorations leading to the cemeteries. However, more than the fun and festivities, it’s a solemn reflective holiday for families and friends to get together and offer prayers for departed loved ones – just like in other countries with predominant Christian faith.

Although it’s a holiday, some hot spots in Mexico City are open for lads and lasses still up for a good time or head out to Cancun where you can enjoy the best of both American and Mexican traditions in most resorts to spoil their foreign guests.

This special Halloween post is part of 31 Days of Halloween initiated by Lindsey Mozgai. Share if you like it! #31DaysofHalloween

Posted by Sarah in Destinations, 6 comments