From Innsbruck, we drove north into the German state of Bavaria through the rolling pre-Alpine hills and mountains to Hohenschwangau, a small (VERY small) village best known as the home of the Konigschlosser (King’s Castles), the famous Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Hohenschwangau. These castles were the homes of the Bavarian royalty, including the best-known “Mad” Ludwig II. Hohenschwangau is the older of the two castles, and was built upon the ruins of an older castle that Ludwig II’s father stumbled upon during a hike/hunt. The inside of the castle is stunning, with wall-sized frescoes of Germanic traditions and legends. However, the Schloss Neuschwanstein is the more intriguing of the two: it was designed and built by Ludwig II, who dreamily envisioned it as a medieval knight castle inspired by legends and Wagner operas. While the castle’s hilltop setting is fantastic in its own right, the interior is potentially even more magical. King Ludwig did not live to see the castle’s completion – he was forced off the throne by the presiding Bavarian political council after being judged “unfit to rule”, and died under very mysterious circumstances.
Before leaving Bavaria, we ventured to Schloss Linderhof, a castle that Ludwig II built as a celebration of the French monarchy and their absolute rule. The opulence of the palace and expansive grounds certainly evokes themes of the French Versailles.
August 1st is Switzerland’s national holiday, commemorating the first mutual protection alliance between 3 cantons (of the now 26)in central Switzerland in 1291. Bundesfeiey celebrations across the country consist of brunches on farms, traditional singing and dancing, and even a cow ride or two. In Zurich, the day started with a parade down the Bahnhofstrasse, speeches by politicians and young Zurichers, and a singing of the national anthem. Then the party started – with raclette, spatzli, wurst sausages, and risotto food booths demonstrating food across Switzerland and traditional singing, dancing, and music groups performing yodel-esqe choruses. Swiss flags were everywhere the eye could see, and the evening culminated with fireworks over the lake.