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Todayville Travel: Down on the Bayou- Cajun Hospitality

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The news from Louisiana is often hurricanes, burst levees and the dangerous streets of New Orleans.

What we’ve discovered down South has been unreserved hospitality.

A few years ago on our first trip through the Bayou State the weather turned cold. We became stranded in the town of Natchitoches, blind-sided by a gale of sleet. Thrilled locals informed us they hadn’t seen snow in NAK-a-tish (that’s how it’s pronounced) for nine years. As polite Canadians, we controlled our elation.

A snowstorm in Louisiana?!

As luck would have it we had arrived the day of the annual river-barge parade. We mingled with happy revelers on the banks of the Red River. As we strolled, the sound of a Cajun band spilled from an antebellum mansion fronting Front Street. The owner, a well-dressed southern gentleman, was watching the parade through his wrought-iron fence. Small talk ensued. Soon the wandering Canadians were invited into a stately pre-Civil War home to join a bon fête.

Cajun fiddler in Natchitoches

The party lasted into the wee hours. Filet gumbo, stomping feet, a crackling fire and genuine Louisiana friendliness kept us warm. After much cajoling I joined the band, rang the Cajun ti-fer… and did credit to all Canadians – in the beverage consumption department.

Antebellum (pre-Civil War) mansion in Natchitoches

On our return to Louisiana this time we bypassed Natchitoches, hugging the Gulf Coast, seeking the blue bayou of the South. Roadside billboards stuck in the swamp advertised free consultation to shrimpers still affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The ex-lawyer in me was intrigued. The guy seeking quiet solitude was – quietly disgusted.

A great blue heron rests on a cypress stump

Bald cypress in winter plumage

The bayous of Louisiana start where the Mississippi River begins to end: in the silted course of its enormous delta. Braided channels open and close. New rivers form. Shallow meandering creeks emerge in swamps overgrown with cypress and mangrove forests. These muddy backwaters are the birthplace for a vast array of aquatic life. Their predators – birds and reptiles – lurk quietly in the sultry stagnant shadows.

When we arrived at the Morgan City campground it was dark. We were hungry, tired, irritable – and without a reservation. Most horrible camping experiences begin with a late arrival. While attempting to set up in the dark I backed into the last open site, glancing off an oak tree and a concrete picnic table, fanning the fires of a simmering matrimonial dispute.

I walked, fuming, past a campsite’s roaring fire toward the office to register. A happy group of tenters were huddled near the flames, laughing and smoking.

“You were pretty lucky to get that spot on a busy weekend,” said the affable occupant of site B12. “Where y’all from?

I told him we were from Alberta and said we were hungry and hoping to find a Cajun restaurant nearby. He recommended a place in town down by the Riverwalk and wished us a pleasant evening.

My mood was greatly improved when we drove back through the gate a couple of hours later, stuffed to overflowing with crawfish and dirty rice.

“How was the Creole?”

The small group settled around B12’s fire was well into their cups and still going strong. My relaxed demeanor confirmed we had not been led gastronomically astray.

“Why don’t you and your wife come on over for a drink?” asked the friendly fellow who was responsible for my contented smile. I slipped into our RV and grabbed a couple of Pilsners I had lugged from home. I handed a cold one to Dean Landry and his wife Vicky.

“These all the way from Canada?” Dean asked.

“Yup. There is no finer Canadian beer.” (I had my fingers crossed behind my back.)

“How come he talk so funny?” asked Zach, Vicky’s precocious twelve-year-old.

“Sshh, you mind your manners,” said Miss Vicky.

Zach carried on, unabashed. “You got a different kind ‘a money up ther‘ in Canada?”

I reached into my pocket and handed Zach a blue, five-dollar bill. I proudly told him it was worth almost $4 American and that it was now his.

“This’s made out of plastic,” he screamed, running through the campground, announcing to the world that some geezer from Canada had just given him a foreign blue fiver.

“Why you come down to these parts?” Mr. Landry asked. His surname and that unique Louisiana cadence confirmed his Cajun ancestry.

(Cajuns are the descendants of Acadians, French Canadians expelled from Nova Scotia in the eighteenth century. They brought a distinct culture and dialect to the swamps of the South. To the uninitiated, Cajun French is unintelligible. Their English is only marginally more comprehensible. For instance if a Cajun asks, “where you gonna powk de caw?” he is not rudely inquiring about your bedroom habits – he’s just asking where you intend to park the Buick.)

“We’re here to see the bayou,” I told Dean. “I want to get into the backwaters, see the swamp, the alligators. I noticed there are some operators in town offering boat tours. What do you think?”

Dean looked at the fire for a moment, drained the last of his Pil and said, “You an early riser?”

“Not particularly,” I replied truthfully.

“Dean, he an early bird,” chimed in Vicky. “He’s up with the roosters.”

“I live only a little more than fifty mile from here, up near Thibodau, in Lafourche Parish.” Unlike the other 49 States of the Union, which have Counties, Louisiana is divided into Parishes – further tribute to its French roots.

“Ain’t any big deal for me to scoot over first thing in the morning and hook up my boat. By the time y’all get up, my skiff’ll be waiting for you. I’ll show you the real bayou, not some tourist crap.”

We’d had a few brewskies by then – and I don’t put a lot of stock in late-night campfire bravado. So when I popped my head out of the camper the next morning my expectations for a bayou experience weren’t high.

“There you are,” shouted Dean, wiping down the lovely flat-bottomed craft that had appeared at his site. He’d driven 80 kilometers to his home, breakfasted with his daddy, hitched up the boat and returned – all while I was still sawing logs.

“And he’s been polishing that motor for near an hour now,” Vicky smiled.

My mother told me I’d never amount to anything if I didn’t get up early and get to it. But somehow serendipity follows my late-morning shadow, shaking me awake with fortunate encounters.

Vicky, Zach, my wife Florence and I jumped into the boat and Dean motored us into the bayou. The perspective from water was entirely different from the bits of swamp we could see while driving. Narrow muddy channels serpentined every which way and within minutes I was completely lost in a vast wet labyrinth.

We floated through vast groves of bald cypress trees draped in Spanish moss, their knees soaked in brackish water; past “fishing camps” – remote wooden cabins fronted by a small deck for fishing. (Many sported a Confederate flag. For the South, the Civil War is not yet over.)

For some Southerners that war ain’t over yet

The gators were out, sunning on logs or floating motionless, eyes protruding silently above the water. These malevolent-looking reptiles can grow to four meters and 400 kilograms – top of the food chain in these hidden warrens. In the bayou it’d be easy to dispose of things unwanted. I was glad Dean was a friendly chap.

Zach acted as lookout, chatting constantly, identifying all flora and fauna the bayou had to offer.

An abandoned orange hurricane pod, resembling a wayward UFO, floated uselessly in a backwater, testament to the unrelenting power of Mother Nature.

An abandoned hurricane pod resembles a wayward UFO

We moored for lunch at Gros’ Place, a remote camp accessible only by water. A huge kettle of fragrant jambalaya boiled above an open fire. A fresh-dressed deer carcass dangled from a hook in the kitchen.

This must be the place!

After a meal of fried catfish and white beans – and an afternoon of great camaraderie, Dean steered us out of the bayou, effortlessly retracing our path through the indiscernible twisting, turning channels. The sun, shining through a thick canopy of cypress and mangrove, hinted vaguely at our direction of travel.

Zach entertains the womenfolk in the bayou

At the dock we shook hands with Dean and Vicky, said good-bye and climbed into our RV, headed for New Orleans. As we pulled away Zach strolled up. I rolled down the window:

“That new? That got a diesel engine in it? My grandpa told me down on the farm that you got to fill a special compartment with somethin’ called urea to keep a diesel engine running. Urea same as pee, but you got to pay twenty dollar for five gallons.”

If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a know-it-all kid. I thanked him for his advice and drove off.

“That kid is either a savant or a nut,” I said to Florence.

Less than a hundred kilometers down the road a yellow warning light flashed on the dash. I pulled over. The owner’s manual indicated there was a malfunction in something called the DEF. The problem required immediate attention. After twenty ignition starts the vehicle would be rendered inoperable. I stopped at an Auto Zone and explained my problem to the man behind the counter.

“You need to add DEF fluid. It’s over there behind the antifreeze. It’s really just urea,” he said in a thick Cajun drawl.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Just like pee, but costs twenty bucks.”

About the author:

Gerry Feehan QC practised law in Red Deer for 27 years before starting his second life as a freelance travel writer and photographer. When not on the road, Gerry and his wife Florence live in Red Deer and Kimberley, BC. Todayville is proud to work with Gerry to publish some of his most compelling stories from his vast catalogue developed over more than a decade of travel.

Check out other stories by Gerry simply by clicking on the title below.

Todayville is an independently-owned digital media company. We specialize in helping community groups, local businesses and organizations tell their story. Our team has years of media and video production experience. Talk to us about advertising, brand journalism stories, opinion pieces, event promotion, or other ideas you have to make our product better. We also own and operate Todayville Red Deer and Todayville Calgary.

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My European Favourites – Day Trip From Amsterdam

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The Netherlands is a great place to visit either as a main destination or as a stopover for a couple of days. I have always enjoyed flying KLM and use them often for our many groups travelling throughout Europe. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is an east hub to fly into from North America, and I like the airport layout over other big and busy European airports.

Amsterdam itself has many interesting places to visit and explore. The city is full of history, great architecture, canals, bridges, museums, great shopping, cyclists, interesting cafes, the Anne Frank House, the Heineken Brewery, and yes, the notorious red light district. Not many people venture outside the city during a stopover, but one of our favourite day trips is from Amsterdam. We always try to do it on a Wednesday, so we catch the Edam cheese market show.

De Huisman Windmill exterior and interior grinding spices. Clog machine at work and the final products.

Zaanse Schans

Our twenty minute early morning trip to Zaandam starts after a good breakfast at our centrally located hotel in Amsterdam. On the way, you can enjoy the beautiful Dutch countryside including dikes and plots of land reclaimed from the water, called polders. Starting in the late 16th century, the Zaandam and the Zaan river area were important wood milling regions during the “Dutch Golden Age” with thousands of saw windmills. In the 19th century, the area became a leader of the “Industrial Age” in the Netherlands.

Starting in 1961, the Zaanse Schans was turned into an open air museum with windmills and buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Various wooden houses, barns, shops, warehouses and windmills were transported here starting in 1961. The buildings along with traditional farmsteads, paths, ditches and fields depict how village life was like during that prosperous time.

When we arrive at the Zaanse Schans parking lot, you will undoubtably smell chocolate from the nearby cacao processing factories. Entrance to the Zaansee Schans is free, but some of the workshops and windmills located throughout the grounds are museums and require an entrance fee. You can purchase a ticket to have access to all the museums.

One of the first buildings you will see on arrival is the Kooijman Souvenirs & Clogs Wooden Shoe Workshop. Here you can see a wooden clog machine demonstration. Afterwards, wander throughout the site checking out the bakery, fisherman’s house, weavers house, clock house, merchant house, cheese house, pewter house, pancake house and see how vats and barrels are made at the cooperage. With a little breeze, you can see the sails of the windmills slowly turning while the inner workings churn away. The windmills saw wood or mill oil, flower, spices or pigments to dye cloth. Some windmills allow visitors to climb up to the deck via narrow stairs for a nice view of the river and the area.

The Zaans Museum, located by the parking area, opened in 1998, and contains clothing and artifacts from the area. At its Verkade Experience you can see original chocolate and biscuit factory machines from the early 20th century at work. The museum also has a café and shop.

Traditional houses that are now workshops and museums. Like the Catharina Hoeve Cheese House.

Edam

Another short 20 minute drive, and we reach Edam, which is famous for its cheese market that started in1520. Edam cheese is round with a flattened top and bottom and is coated with a red paraffin wax which allowed it to age well and not spoil on long voyages. Its unique taste plus the lack of spoilage made it extremely attractive for exporting throughout the world. The market was closed in 1922 when cheese began to be made in factories rather than by local farms.

At the original market, farmers would bring their cheese using horse drawn cart or by boat. Once they arrived, the cheese carriers, who wore different colored hats depending on which cheese guild they belonged to, would load the product onto wooden barrows. Once the barrow was loaded, the carriers placed carry straps over their shoulders and walked the precious cargo to the cheese tasters. The tasters would drill a core sample from the cheese and based on the exterior wax, smell, taste and other factors began to bargain the price with the seller using a series of shouts and hand claps. When the price was settled the cheese was taken to the weighing house to determine the final amount to be paid.

Every Wednesday in the summer from 10:30 to 12:30, the town re-enacts the hustle, and bustle of the market at the Jan van Nieuwenhuizen Square. The colorful market includes many family members, including children, wearing traditional costumes, dresses and clogs plus kiosks selling cheese. Throughout the performance, horse carts and boats arrive, cheese carriers scurry at a comical pace and bargain shouts and hand slaps can be heard. So visitors understand everything that is happening, there is a person on a microphone explaining the entire process. It’s quite interesting and fun to witness.

The Edam cheese market square, unloading the boats, cheese carriers and girls in traditional costumes.

Smoked Eels

Next, we will travel from Edam to the seaside fishing village of Volendam to visit a local smokehouse that was founded in 1856.  Smoked eels at one time were an important staple food in the Netherlands but recently a drop in the eel population and the resulting price increase has made it a delicacy. Today, the 5th and 6th generations of the Smits’ family keep their family’s secret fish smoking process and traditions alive. The smoked eel is their specialty and during the eel fishing season the entire family is involved in the cutting, gouging, skinning, digging and filleting of the eels. The Paviljoen Smit-Bokkum offers private tours of the smokehouse to introduce people to the traditional eel fishing, processing and smoking activities. In addition to eel, they smoke salmon, dorado and sea bass using pine wood. The eel is delicious and at their restaurant you can try various local dishes. The location also has a shop and a small Palingsound (eel sound) Museum dedicated to Volendam’s unique and famous pop music.

The Paviljoen Smit-Bokkum, our guide with smoked eels, smoked fish and a fish display in Volendam.

Volendam

Volendam, once a simple catholic fishing village, is now Holland’s best-known seaside town and is visited by millions annually. The Volendam Catholic fishermen had their own typical costumes and dialect. The town’s boardwalk, once home to fishermen’s wooden shacks, is now adorned with colorful wooden houses, tourist shops, cafes and restaurants. As you walk through the town and its shops, you will see locals wearing the traditional clothing. If you explore the village’s narrow lanes in the old neighborhoods, you can still see some of the old fishermens’ houses.

There used to be hundreds of vessels at one time when Volendam’s fishing fleet had access to the North Sea, but after closing its access, the harbour contains only a few fishing vessels doing fresh water fishing on Markermeer lake. Nowadays, leisure boats and the ferries that go to the nearby island of Marken occupy the majority of the harbour space.

Some restaurants offer tasty local seafood dishes and cool drinks on patios overlooking the harbour. For a quick lunch, food stands and take away restaurants sell kibbeling (battered and fried fish nuggets), herring, shrimp and of course smoked eel.

A visit to the Volendams Museum provides an interesting look into the town’s history, costumes, traditions and art. If you have time, you may consider taking the Volendam Marken Express boat to Marken.

Volendam’s boardwalk with shops and restaurants. The harbour area with leisure and ferry boats.

Cheese Farm

On the way back to Amsterdam, and a short distance from Volendam, we will stop at the Henri Willig Jacob’s Hoeve cheese farm. The staff wear traditional clothing, and they give a short introduction and demonstration of the cheese making process. The number of cow goat and sheep cheese varieties is quite overwhelming but very interesting to sample. Some flavours you might encounter include truffle, cumin, pesto, red chili pepper, coconut, pepper, rosemary and garlic. They are all for sale in various sizes along with other Dutch souvenirs and foods. You can also see the cows in their new stable especially designed for the organic farm’s herd of Jerseys.

Henri Willig Jacob’s Hoeve entrance, the cheese making demonstration and the many cheeses for sale.

It is only twenty minutes back to Amsterdam and as you enjoy the countryside you can decide on what great restaurant you will go to tonight. I think an authentic Indonesian “rijsttafel” or rice table would be a great way to end the day. The rice table was brought back to the Netherlands from the Dutch East Indies where it was created by the Dutch as a festive way to showcase their colony’s diverse and multi-ethnic Indonesian cuisine. The rice is accompanied by a multitude of small meat, vegetarian and condiment dishes that may include spring rolls, satay meat skewers, curries, fish, boiled eggs, spicy sauces, peanut sauces, vegetables, and fried bananas. It is great for sampling different tastes and for sharing. You can find Indonesian fast food and restaurants throughout Amsterdam, but a place like Tujuh Maret or Ron Gastrobar Indonesia offering a rice table is definitely something you should experience.

Explore Europe With Us

Azorcan Global Sport, School and Sightseeing Tours have taken thousands to Europe on their custom group tours since 1994. Visit azorcan.net to see all our custom tour possibilities for your group of 26 or more. Individuals can join our “open” signature sport, sightseeing and sport fan tours including our popular Canada hockey fan tours to the World Juniors. At azorcan.net/media you can read our newsletters and listen to our podcasts.

Images compliments of Paul Almeida and Azorcan Tours.

My European Favourites – One Day In The Bavarian Alps

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My European Favourites – One Day In The Bavarian Alps

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My European Favourites – One Day In The Bavarian Alps

My favourite area of Germany is Bavaria. It’s the largest state, about one fifth the size of the country, and is located in the south-east of Germany. Bordering the Czech Republic and Austria, the state’s capital Munich is an easy place to fly into, and it is a great city to explore and enjoy, especially during Oktoberfest.

Hotel Wittlesbach and two buildings in Oberammergau with painted frescoes

Oberammergau, Germany

The Bavarian Alps are about an hour drive south from Munich, and one of my favourite places to stay is in the town of Oberammergau. You may have heard of the town as it is well known worldwide for its performance of the “Passion Play,” which is performed in the aptly named, Passion Play Theatre. In 1633, while the plague was rampant in Europe, the villagers promised to perform the play every ten years if no further deaths from the plague occurred in Oberammergau. The play details the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. Their prayer was answered, and they kept their promise with the first play staged in 1634. The most recent performance was supposed to be in 2020, but due to the covid-19 pandemic, it has been moved to 2022.

Oberammergau is a compact place easily explored on foot. The Bavarian State Woodcarving School is located there, and there are shops where you can purchase everything from wooden toys to elaborate woodcarvings, including those of religious saints and crucifixes. As you walk through the town, you will see many buildings with painted frescoes (Lüftlmalerei) on their exterior walls with scenes from fairy tales, Bavarian folk themes, religious scenes and decorations that imitate architectural elements.

To be able to accomplish our sightseeing today we need to start with an early breakfast at one of the local hotels. One of my favourites is the Hotel Wittlesbach which is located right in the town centre and has been operated and owned by the Ternes family for many years. The hotel is full of the Bavarian charm you would expect, and the breakfast they offer is very good. We have stayed there many times over the years, and our groups love the hotel and location.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s Linderhof Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle

Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Linderhof Palace is only a 15-minute drive away from Oberammergau and is the smallest of the three places or castles built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The Kingdom of Bavaria existed from 1805 until 1918, and the Ludwig’s Wittelsbach family ruled during the kingdom’s entire existence. In 1864, Ludwig became king at the age of 18. He had little interest in politics and soon began to spend his own wealth on personal projects, like three fairy tale palaces or castles. His spending and accumulating debt became such a concern by Bavaria’s political elite that they had a medical commission declare him insane and

incapable of reigning. A day later, he was on a walk with his psychiatrist, and they were both found dead; presumably drowned and floating in Lake Starnberg. Now that you know some of the story of King Ludwig II, we can talk about two of the three places or castles he built, Linderhof Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle. The third and largest building, the New Herrenchiemsee Palace, which will not be part of our day, was built on an island in Lake Chiemsee and was to be a copy of Versailles in France, but it was never completed.

Linderhof Palace, the Gilt Fountain and the Neptune Fountain

Linderhof Palace

Linderhof is the only palace that King Ludwig II lived to see completed, and it is located near where his father, King Maximilian II, had the royal hunting lodge. Ludwig went there many times as a child and was very familiar with the location in the Graswang Valley near Ettal.

Ludwig idolized the French Sun-King Louis XIV and wanted to emulate his grand palaces in Bavaria. Throughout the Linderhof Palace, you will find sun decorations as an homage to his idol and as a symbol of royal absolute power. Linderhof was initially intended to be Ludwig’s Versailles, but due mainly to an unsuitable sized area, it became a smaller project which was completed in 1886. During his construction of Linderhof, Ludwig purchased the much larger Herrenwörth island on Lake Chiemsee, and it became the new site to build his Versailles as Herrenchiemsee Palace.

The Linderhof Park is fun to explore and has a mixture of different garden designs, cascading waterfalls, fountains, and a large pond with a gilt fountain that jets water 25 meters in the air. As you walk through the park, you will find a swan pond, the Moroccan House, the Terrace gardens, a Temple of Venus, a Neptune fountain, a Royal Lodge, a chapel, a music pavilion, a Moorish kiosk, various parterres (level gardens with symmetrical patterns) and a grotto. The Venus grotto is an artificial grotto and theatre where Ludwig could sit in his small boat as it was gently rocked by a wave machine and watch his favourite operas by Wagner.

A ticket is required to tour the palace with a guide, but there are really only four rooms that served a specific purpose. The first room is the “Hall of Mirrors” which served as the main living room. Then there is Ludwig’s bed chamber, the dining room with a disappearing dumb-waiter, and the small audience chamber which was used by Ludwig as a study and not a room where he would see people. There are two “Tapestry Chambers” which serve no real purpose, and there are no real tapestries on the walls, but instead, there are canvas paintings made to imitate tapestries.

A visit to Linderhof is enjoyable mainly for the gardens and palace exterior, but you might as well see the palace interior if you are there. Near the parking area, there are shops where you can purchase your ticket to tour the palace, buy a souvenir or a snack. The Schloss Linderhof Hotel is there as well, but I would rather stay in Oberammergau.

Fussen Arena, Fussen’s colorful old town, plus the Abbey and Castle

Fussen

After spending the morning at Linderhof, we travel west for about an hour through winding mountain roads to the town of Fussen just north of the Austria border. Our hockey tours often go to Fussen to play at the BLZ Arena or Bundesleistungszentrum, which ever you prefer. The main arena is a fabulous structure with windows installed above the seating area offering natural light into the building and onto the ice surface. The hometown team, EV Fussen, nicknamed the Leopards, play in the U20 Deutsche Nachwuchsliga II. The BLZ complex also has a second arena, and surprisingly, a curling rink.

Fussen is at one end of the Romantic Road which is a 350 km tourist route with interesting towns, villages and sights. Wurzburg, in wine country, is at the other end and the medieval walled town of Rothenburg, just south of Wurzburg, is one the must stops on the road.

We will stop in Fussen for a couple of hours to explore the old town and have time for lunch. Fussen is an underappreciated town with medieval walls, baroque churches, a former Benedictine Abbey (St. Mang’s) and a museum with historical music instruments including violins and lutes. The interesting Fussen Castle has the unfortunate luck of being located on a few kilometers from one of the most famous castles in the world and gets no respect. With just a couple of hours in Fussen I’m walking directly to the old town’s pedestrian friendly cobblestone streets to find a nice place to have lunch. I don’t have a big sweet tooth, but I will try to make time to slip over to the Hotel Schlosskrone’s Konditorei Kurcafe for a nice dessert. The hard part at the pastry shop is deciding which one to have.

Hohenschwangau Castle and the scenic Bavarian Alps

Hohenschwangau Castle

Just a few kilometers from Fussen, you will find one of Germany’s top attractions- the Neuschawanstein Castle. When you arrive to the parking place, you will immediately see a mustard colored castle that is not as famous, named Hohenschwangau. King Maximillian II of Bavaria, Ludwig’s father, rebuilt this 19th century castle on the ruins of a previous castle which had been partially destroyed in various wars. The castle was restored to its original plans and became the summer residence of the royal family and a young Ludwig. The castle, which is now often overlooked by the larger Neuschwanstein Castle, can be toured along with the Museum of the Bavarian Kings. Unfortunately, our schedule does not allow time for it.

Mary’s Bridge, Neuschwanstein Castle entrance, lower courtyard and tower

Neuschwanstein Castle

Our goal today is to see the Neuschwanstein Castle before it closes. It’s a good idea to reserve your time online prior to arriving, especially in the busy season from May to September. After getting your ticket and tour time at the ticket office, you must get up to the castle courtyard on your own in time to join your tour. There are three ways to get up to the castle from the town; a walking path up to the castle that can take 20-30 minutes, horse carriages that take you most of the way up to the castle, and a shuttle bus that takes you up to the Mary’s Bridge (Marien Brucke). We will take the shuttle bus which costs a couple of Euros to the Mary’s Bridge drop off. The Mary’s Bridge offers a fantastic panoramic view of the castle and the valley below. Tourists flock here prior to or after touring the castle to take their most prized photo of the day.

After taking our photo, we still have to walk from the Mary’s Bridge on a paved path to the castle courtyard to join our English tour which takes about 35 minutes and ends, as most tours do, in a souvenir shop.

Despite its medieval look, Neuschwanstein was built in the 19th century and served no defensive purpose. It was built for one man, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, but unfortunately, he only spent eleven nights there. The original castle name was New Hohenschwangau Castle but was changed to Neuschwanstein Castle after Ludwig’s death. Neuschwanstein literally means “New Swan Castle” and was named after a character in one of Wagner’s operas, the Swan Knight.

In addition to being a big admirer of the French King Louis XIV, Ludwig was a big fan of the renowned composer Richard Wagner and was his patron. Many rooms in the castle were inspired by other characters in his operas, but sadly, Wagner never got a chance to see the castle as he died before its completion. The singer’s hall which occupies the entire third floor is adorned with characters from Wagner’s operas. The amazing woodwork in Ludwig’s bedroom took fourteen carpenters four years to complete. You will find that there is no throne room in the castle for Ludwig as the Throne Hall had not been completed by the time of his death. Although the fairy tale castle is one of the most photographed buildings in the world, tourists are not allowed to take photos inside the castle.

After our tour, we can slowly make our way down to the parking area and make our 45-minute drive back to Oberammergau where we can have dinner and enjoy the evening at an outdoor patio. Maybe tonight we will go to the Ammergauer Maxbräu in the Hotel Maximillian where they brew their own beer. That concludes a great day in the Bavarian Alps.

Explore Europe With Us

Azorcan Global Sport, School and Sightseeing Tours have taken thousands to Europe on their custom group tours since 1994. Visit azorcan.net to see all our custom tour possibilities for your group of 26 or more. Individuals can join our “open” signature sport, sightseeing and sport fan tours including our popular Canada hockey fan tours to the World Juniors. At azorcan.net/media you can read our newsletters and listen to our podcasts.

Images compliments of Paul Almeida and Azorcan Tours.

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