Saturday, June 4, 2011

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I am determined to get on with things.  I pack up my bags, order a cab to the train station, and settle in for the journey south to Füssen and the Hotel Sonne.  It’s a charming place awash in salmon pink, where the corridors are lined with costumes and memorabilia from the local stage production of a musical based on the life and death of “Mad” King Ludwig II.  I settle into room 212, but then immediately hop onboard the #78 bus to Hohenschwangau.  The town of Füssen can wait.  Above all, I want to see Neuschwanstein Castle and I will not rest until I do.  My reservation to tour the interior isn’t until tomorrow afternoon, but since the sun is shining brightly today, I think of this afternoon’s exploration as a prudent insurance policy.

As I peer out the window of the bus for my first glimpse of the castle perched high on the hill, I feel a welcome stir of anticipation, the first I have felt for days.  I walk through town, past a line of souvenir shops selling postcards and beer steins, to the shuttle bus stop and ride the rest of the way up a long and winding road to Marienbruecke.  Mary’s Bridge hangs suspended above a deep gorge and looking down gives me an unsettled feeling in my still fragile stomach, especially since the narrow planks are crammed by hoardes of tourists, but the view between the mountains and out across the valley towards Neuschwanstein Castle is nothing short of spectacular.  I snap away on my Nikon D5000 and when I’m through I inhale deeply and relax.  It’s hard to put what I feel into words, but I am grateful to be here.  Perhaps it is as simple as that.  No matter what happens next, I have been here.  I have at least done this, and perhaps it is enough.

Back in Füssen, I build on the afternoon’s success by visiting the opulent Baroque interior of St. Mang’s basilica, and then walk up gingerly to the Hohes Schloss, or high castle, once the summer residence of the bishop of Augsburg, to see its whimsical tromp l’oeil decoration.  I have a quiet dinner in the restaurant of the Kurcafe Hotel, and then stroll through town under damp and darkening skies, all the way to the banks of the River Lech and back.  Later, when my head hits the pillow and I fall off into a well-earned slumber, it is with a contented heart.

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