Yesterday, we returned from our almost-three-week vacation to Bavaria to go see the many castles and forts in Bavaria, now a part of Germany. It used to be a part of the Holy Roman Empire and then was converted into a kingdom by Napoleon. At the end of WW1, it became a republic. But what is amazing is that essentially the same family, the Wittelsbachs, has ruled Bavaria from 1204 onwards — first as Duke, then as Electors, then as Kings. So there’s a lot of history there that’s been preserved because it’s simply part of the family history — there has never been a need to get rid of everything reminding people of the previous people in power.
So there is quite a large number of castles and fortifications from 1204 onwards that are still (relatively) intact today — which is interesting. But it didn’t end there. Maxmillian II built his summer castle, Hohenschwangau, as some sort of fairy tale castle. And his son, Ludwig II, inherited that trait — he went on to build several castles, of which Neuschwanstein is the best known. It is no mistake when the Bavarians call them their ‘fairy tale king’. But these buildings are relatively modern (construction of Neuschwanstein started in 1869!), so they are well preserved too.
All this inspired us to plan for a vacation to Bavaria, to go see some castles. (Earlier this year, we did a week-long vacation in the Loire valley to visit some castles as well, so why not keep the theme?) We hadn’t really planned an order or a list of things to see, but it all worked out. We spent five days in Bamberg (towards the north of Bavaria), six days in Ebersberg (near München, the capital of Bavaria and relatively central) and six days in Pfronten, which is towards the south-west, in the Bavarian Alps. Every single day, we visited a castle, palace or a fortification (sometimes well-preserved, sometimes a ruin). We haven’t seen everything (the three-hour one-way hiking trip to see the royal lodge in Schachen and then hiking back three hours didn’t really fit in our plans or our physical condition), but we’ve seen quite a lot — and all of the highlights.
I’ve been taking crappy selfies with the castles that we visited (often only of the exterior, because photography of any kind was not allowed inside), and I want to share with you the crappy selfies of my top three Bavarian Castles.
So yes, Neuschwanstein isn’t even in my top three… I mean, it’s nice and all, but these three are better. Go figure.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the prices for the admission tickets. Whereas you’d easily pay EUR 15 to get admitted into a castle in France, you’ll easily get admittance for two for that price in most castles! In some places, that also includes a guided tour — for instance, while you can visit most of the rooms of the Würzburg Residenz on your own, there are rooms that you can only visit under the supervision of a guide. Sometimes you book a specific tour (and there is often the choice between German and English), sometimes you just have to wait for a bit before the next tour starts off. Some castles you can only see as part of a tour. And unfortunately, on most of those guided visits, photography of any kind is not allowed. But that’s not too much of a problem, is it?
I can heartily recommend a visit to Bavaria and its many castles!