Years ago, just before Christmas, I took a flight on my own from Brisbane, Australia, to Frankfurt, Germany to see a friend of mine who was living there at the time. One of the most memorable day trips was on one of the coldest days. We stood at the bottom of a mountain in Schwangau with a group of other tourists, dressed in layers to keep the warmth in, me in my Russian-style hat so my ears didn’t ache. The water that had dripped from the rooves of the small buildings that sold tickets and hot chocolates had frozen into clear stalactites.
Snow had fallen onto the branches and leaves of the fir trees to make everything look majestic, as if it were a set from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We decided to take a horse and carriage up the mountain to Neuschwanstein castle. The seemingly easy decision was harder than we’d originally thought: walk up and stay warm from the exercise but arrive later than most people, or ride up feeling like an ice statue and arrive in time for the tour. The dark wooden seats were cold as we sat down and the horses’ breaths were steam in the freezing air. We huddled together and hugged our hot chocolates, watching our winter wonderland on either side of the carriage and listening to the crunch of the snow under the hooves and wheels.
As we neared the top of the mountain the castle came into view.
It was absolutely breathtaking.
Almost exactly as it is pictured above, it stood, looming over us like no building I had encountered ever before. I almost expected Rapunzel to drop silky golden hair from the top window and Cinderella to be cleaning the fire places inside. We were taken on a tour throughout a section of the castle. I was enamoured by the detail in every part of each room: the wood that was turned so precisely for bed rails and table legs, gold chandeliers that lit the dim, large rooms for us to see decorative cornices, architraves and ceilings.
After a detailed tour we decided to walk back down the mountain. The unfamiliar squeak of packed snow under my boots made for an interesting trip downhill. We caught a bus back to our hostel and made a short snowman outside. The castle has lived in my dreams ever since and I look forward to the day I will return.