I’m not a mountains person, but as soon as I saw the idyllic, bucolic landscape of the Bavarian Alps from the window of my tour bus, it was love at first sight. All I could think was “I can’t believe God has made something so beautiful.” Give me a minute, I think I might have something in my eye…
Of course I’ve seen photos of the Alps before, but somehow they didn’t come close to filling me with the kind of overwhelming awe that I felt as I watched green valleys turn into blue mountains before my own eyes. Maybe the photos were too perfect, in a ‘no way this is a real place’ kind of way? Well, it’s real alright. Real and incredible at the same time.
And totally unexpected. The Alps are the hidden bonus of the Bavarian Castles tours one might take from Munich. You go for the castles, but the landscape surrounding them totally steals the show. The mountains, the forests, the lakes, OMG THE HORSES peacefully grazing in the meadows blooming over the gently rolling hills that are made to be galloped across! At first horse sighting I was already planning my return to the Alps.
I like group tours — when you travel there’s always so much to organize and keep track of and worry about, that sometimes it’s great to have someone else do it for you. On Allane’s recommendation I booked this Royal Castles tour, which included visits to King Ludwig II’s two dream castles: Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, plus a stop in the Alpine village of Oberammergau. Price: €51 for the tour, and another €23 for entry to Neuschwanstein. The verdict: totally worth it.
This tour isn’t totally easy-peasy though, because everything is very rushed. To start, get to the bus at least half an hour before they tell you to be there. My tour departed 300 meters from my hotel so I didn’t worry about getting stuck or lost on the way there. And yet, when I got to the bus about 20 minutes before departure time, it was already packed. If you want a good seat by the window, come early!
The first stop is Linderhof (Linderhof, Neuschwanstein and Oberammergau will all get their own posts because they’re just too special) and you have about 45 minutes to power-walk from the parking lot to the palace, do a 15 minute guided tour, take a couple of photos of the grounds and power-walk back. The second stop is Oberammergau — a great place for shopping and a quick bite, but you are only given enough time for one or the other. PRO TIP: bring at least a snack or maybe even a full lunch with you, so that food stops don’t cut into your sightseeing/photo-taking time.
Then you get to Neuschwanstein, where you’re expected to have a proper lunch before taking the tour of the castle — which is still about an uphill mile away. After the tour you have a very strict departure time — and if you have the kind of tour guide that I did, a humorless frau that chills blood in your veins with a single glance, you won’t even dream of being late. Oh yeah, we did leave a person behind, because the poor soul didn’t make it back within the allotted 20-minute window.
In summary, I did wish I had at least 50% more time at each stop, just because I want to take it all in, buy some souvenirs, eat, have a drink AND take a million pictures. But the tour IS doable and and efficient way to see three gems of the Bavarian Alps — plus the stunning countryside! — in under 10 hours, from Munich.
Next time though, I’ll be taking it slow. I am thinking a week at a farm stay with the horses, and a car to take me to forest hikes and mountain lakes.
Bavarian Alps ARE Eden, and I want a little bit of heaven.