If I started out the day in Hansel and Gretel I surely ended it in Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. I'm not going to lie, the whole trip had basically been a prelude to this. I had bought postcards already that morning, we had been looking at pictures on the internet, we had been sharing stories about how beautiful (beautiful! beautiful!) this castle was. But nothing could have prepared me for the moment we turned the corner, the moment we braked at the lights, the moment my friend shook me by the arm and said, "Look up!" There it was, literally emerging out of the mountains, surrounded by a sea of tall conifers, dusted lightly with icing-sugar snow and standing tall and proud, almost taller than the mountains (or was that all part of the illusion?). Neuschwanstein. The fairy-tale castle of Bavaria's slightly nutty 19th century King Ludwig, deposed before he even got a chance to live in this palatial spread (just as well, the inside is a bit kitsch), but what a legacy to leave behind!
The tour on the inside was short and not so sweet, like with all kinds of castles left with furniture and artworks intact it's a very look but don't touch/talk/document/breathe kind of approach, and because of bad weather (hmmphh, I hate the snow) we couldn't climb the tower. But one thing did make up for all of that. Ludwig, mad though he may have been, had the foresight to request windows on all four sides of the castle, steadily increasing in size as the floors climbed up. It was quite, quite startling to look out the window from the 7th floor onto sheer rock face, covered in snow, completely endless, practically pushing the borders of the windows further and further out that's how infinite this mountain was. I'm sure in summer, with rolling greenery and lakes and birds chirping happily from windowsills and all of that Disney stuff the castle would be something to behold. But I'll never forget that afternoon in winter, cold, so, so cold, when everything was white and still, a true fairy tale.