Monthly Archives: May 2016

Dream castle

When I travelled to Europe for the first time I was away for eight months.  I had a list of places I wanted to see and managed to not only tick most of those off  but also to add a whole swag of other places I did not know existed.

And that’s the beauty of travel.  The unexpected and wonderful things you discover when you are looking for something else.

At the top of my list for Europe was to see Neuschwanstein, the castle that Walt Disney based his fantasyland castle on.

Neuschwanstein jpeg

In the alps of Bavaria, a train and bus ride from Munich, Neuschwanstein is one of two castles in the area not far from Oberammergau of the Passion play fame.  That was a nice surprise!

The other castle – Hohenschwangau was built by Ludwig II’s father and is an amber castle further down the mountain.  Neuschwanstein was built by Ludwig II, sometimes called the Mad King.  However you view him, his grand design for his castle is one that commands the mountain and invokes awe.

Whilst the whole castle is built, only several of the state rooms were ever completed, and these are the bulk of the tour of the castle.  The huge carved wooden bed in Ludwig’s bedroom was not only his sleeping chamber, it also served as a reception room sometimes.  The throne room and dining hall are well worth a look.  No expense was spared on the furnishings – crystal and gold thread embroidery, tapestries and inlaid wood.

Ludwig was also a huge fan of Wagner and built a theatre for him to present his work in.  The grotto with water for the swans is amazing to see.

Ludwig also built two other castles – Linderhof, a scaled down model of Versailles – then the most splendid palace in Europe courtesy of Louis the fourteenth, and Herrenchiemsee built on an island in a lake.   This last was the only castle Ludwig actually lived in.

Seeing the castle both fulfilled a dream and also slightly disappointed me.  I was expecting a completed castle but Ludwig ran out of money to complete Neuschwanstein.  Nonetheless, the setting was amazing and the completed rooms are well worth the visit.

Angkor Wat

Getting out of bed early is not one of my favourite things, but I will do so to catch a plane, or see sunrise at a very special place.

Angkor Wat is one such place.  World Heritage listed, the perfectly preserved Angkor Wat complex was hidden in jungle for hundreds of years, and it has become a huge favourite for travellers who go to Siem Reap to see the temple complex.

The preferred time to go is just before sunrise so that you can see the temple come to light.
On the day I did this the weather was clear and calm and the light superb.

-angkor-wat-sunrise

Once the photos are taken, enter the temple complex by one of the other entrances so that you are not overwhelmed by the number of tourists entering the western gate.  You will need a tuktuk or other form of transport but it is much easier to see the complex with far fewer people coming in from that way.  And if you are not on a tour already, make sure you get a local guide who can tell you what you are seeing as the history of the building and the Khmer people needs local knowledge to make sense of it.

A reasonable level of fitness is required as all the temples have lots of steps to climb up, and the views are worth it.  And a tip to manage lots of steps, zigzagging across the steps makes it much easier to climb.  Try it and see.

Angkor Wat is just one of many temple complexes in Siem Reap and nearby.  Keep an eye out for other places to visit on another blog.