Hohenschwangau

Visiting the Schwangau Countryside

Visiting the Schwangau Countryside

We were in Schwangau last week. It’s in the southern part of Germany, on the border with Austria. In fact, some of our day trips in the car took us up into the Alps of Austria just to see the sights.

The main draw for this incredibly popular tourist town is the two pristine, 19th Century castles, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. It seems that every bus tour that visits Germany makes its way there. For such a small town with barely a cell phone signal, it seems packed with tourists.

We were here two years ago and spent the little time we had visiting the castles. We wrote about it here along with some images of the castles and surrounding area. This time we’ll be spending more time in the area, admiring the castles from afar. We don’t mind going back to a place we’ve visited before, but we usually like to spend that time doing the things we weren’t able to do the first time.

Last time we visited Schwangau we stayed at a hotel called Villa Ludwig. We were so pleased with it we decided to stay there again. We’re not people who believe you can re-create the magic of a trip simply by doing the same thing again, and we’re not necessarily interested in doing exactly the same things when we visit a place for the second time. But some things, like your hotel accommodations, are not a trivial choice. If it was good the first time, think about doing it again. And this time it paid off. Villa Ludwig was easily as good as it was the first time around. We wrote a more detailed report about the hotel here.

Lake Alpsee

Hohenschwangau Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle.

For much of the walk along the south side of Lake Alpsee, you could turn back and see both castles in Schwangau. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

There’s a small lake at the edge of town called Alpsee bie Schwangau, and of course it has a reasonably well groomed hiking trail around it. Being a lake, it’s reasonably flat and easy to walk. It takes a normal person about 1 1/2 hours to walk the perimeter of the lake, but with the nearly 400 photographs and over 50 video clips we took, the short trek in the woods took us nearly 3 hours. It would have been longer if we had used a tripod, but that’s how we do things in the woods.

At nearly every vantage point along the way, meaning every time we cared to stop and look, there was a view of one or both of the castles in the backdrop of this pristine alpine lake. The lake was flat the day we were there with almost no wind in the crisp morning air. The water seemed to be fed by a single spring, but there is a sizeable streambed that appears to be seasonable where most of the water apparently enters the lake. The water-like many of the streams and rivers in the areas-has a slight turquoise color like so many of the glacier fed rivers do in Montana, near Glacier National Park.

We enjoyed our walk around Alpsee bie Schwangau. If you visit Schwangau and you have the time, this trek in the woods is worth it. If you don’t have the time for the full five kilometers, go out and back with the time you have. If you do, head left as you face the lake. It’s the flattest part of the walk.

Austria

Gurgltal Valley in Austria

Looking down into the Austrian valley of Gurgltal. Photo by Bonnie FInk.

We also wanted to see a little more of the surrounding area this trip and we were instinctively drawn to the mountains immediately to the south of town, also known as Austria. On our second day here, we took a drive into the hills along Highway 179. It wound its way through the mountains through something called Fernpass. We saw mountain scenery that rivaled the Rockies of the northern US and British Columbia. Elevations weren’t particularly high like the Rockies, but the landscape was definitely Alpine in nature, probably because of the northern latitude. There were ferns along the forest floor in the lower areas that were starting to turn brown from the cooling evenings. The trees ranged from evergreens of various kinds to deciduous trees that were starting to change with the fall weather. Higher up along the mountains, you could see a definite tree line where the big trees suddenly stopped and only grasses and shrubs lived, and finally, higher still, there was no vegetation at all.

Photography was interesting too, again, probably because of the high latitude. The images when shot with a daylight balance rendered a bit of sunset color, along with the long shadows associated with either late afternoon shooting,or making images in the deep winter in lower latitude areas.

We drove all the way to Innsbruck, but since we didn’t have a plan for the day, and no pre-planning to visit the city, we basically turned around at the outskirts of the city. We’ll certainly come back when we have an actual plan to see the city, but this day was for looking over the mountains.

Along the way through the mountains, we couldn’t help but see several side roads that led to who knows where, but they looked inviting. Next trip down to this area we’ll see about renting a little more capable vehicle. Our little diesel powered Renault Dacia does a pretty good job on the Autobahn, but didn’t seem too willing to go off road, four-wheeling. This trip we were resolved to enjoying the beauty from the various pull-outs along the road.

There were pull-outs with what looks like trail head parking for hiking into the hills. No doubt some research will reveal a plan of action for our next trip that will be lots of fun.

It turns out that this trip to Schwangau was more about  an impromptu journey into Austria. Considering that when we showed up in town, we didn’t have a plan other than to do something we didn’t do last time, we think our time was well spent. True, we didn’t actually spend much time in town other than the hike around the lake and a couple of meals, but we had enough fun that we’ll definitely be back; probably on our next trip to Europe.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Cruising, Travel, 0 comments
Villa Ludwig – A Great Hotel In Southern Germany

Villa Ludwig – A Great Hotel In Southern Germany

The first time we stayed in Schwangau, we made our home at the Villa Ludwig, a small eighteen room hotel just on the outskirts of town. We were so taken with this little hotel that we booked an even longer visit here on our second trip.

Vilage of Schwangau

Tourists can take over the village of Schwangau at times, spilling into the streets. Locals seem to take it in stride. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

Schwangau is a small town along the southern border of Germany, within a literal stone’s throw of the border with Austria. In fact, when driving around just randomly looking over the country side, much of our sightseeing was in Austria. Of course, with the European Union fully entrenched here, it’s hard for us outsiders to actually know when we leave one country and enter another. The signs denoting the event are not much different than driving from one state to another in the US. If anything, they’re usually smaller and less significant.

The hotel is modern. It was first in operation in 2012. The main lobby or reception area serves as a dining room where breakfast and an afternoon snack are provided. There is underground parking, and there’s reasonably good internet.

Neuschwanstien Castle

Here’s a view of Neuschwanstien Castle as seen from Villa Ludwig. Many of the rooms have a castle view from the balcony. Photo by Donald Fink.

The hotel has a great view of Neuschwanstien Castle. This is the famous castle designed and built by Mad King Ludwig II. King Ludwig grew up in the village’s other castle, Hohenschwangau, which was built by his father, Maximillian II of Bavaria.

The Disney fans in the crowd will know that Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom came in part from the Neuschwanstien Castle here in Schwangau. You can certainly see the resemblance when comparing the two. It seems that the parts of Neuschwanstien that were most attractive and over the top were re-created with gusto in Cinderella’s Castle. We haven’t visited the castles on this trip, preferring instead to concentrate on other activities in the surrounding area, but we wrote about the castles of Schwangau on our first visit here.

Walking to town from Villa Ludwig takes about five minutes. This is good. There’s lots of parking in town, but it’s so busy with tourists that having a free parking spot underground at the hotel is a real treat. We have been able to access all parts of town and the castles on foot, saving the car for our adventures into the alps of Austria, located just behind the castles.

Pricing

This hotel is not a youth hostel. You won’t find it in a book about how to get around Europe on $15.00 a day. In fact, it’s the most expensive hotel we’ve stayed in this trip. But is it worth it? For us, it’s been worth every penny. The price included internet, breakfast, parking, snacks in the afternoon, free bicycle “rental”, and free concierge service.

If you’re planning any activities in town that require a ticket, don’t pass up the concierge service at the hotel. They can arrange everything with absolutely no trouble for you. The one day we walked by a ticket center in town, the line for castle tours was out the door and wound around the street; not our idea of the best use of your time.

The bottom line is, sure this hotel was more expensive than others we’ve found, but the value was certainly there. In fact, when it comes to value, the prices at Villa Ludwig were similar to prices at other hotels in Schwangau, so it might be argued that with the amenities they offer, it’s actually a bit better value than other establishments.

Everyone at the hotel seems to speak good English, including the folks that service the breakfast in the morning. We didn’t speak to the house keeping people, but they probably speak English too.

Chalet

Villa Ludwig Chalet

The ordinary rooms at Villa Ludwig are good, but if you need a little more room, or more privacy, there’s always the Chalet in the back. This is new for this year and should be popular with guests traveling with large families. Photo by Donald Fink.

There’s a separate building that just recently opened in the back of the hotel called the Chalet. This building houses only two suites, each with multiple bedrooms in different configurations. This Chalet is for groups, families, or folks wanting a very special place to stay while in Schwangau. They have kitchens and separate living rooms apart from the bedrooms. They’re complete apartments, appointed in a tastefull and thoughtful way that lets you know that you’re in a place where kings once lived.

The Chalet is not for everyone, but can be something to think about if you’re visiting with a small group or family.

Rooms

Junior Suite ”Parsifal” at Villa Ludwig

View of the Junior Suite ”Parsifal” at Villa Ludwig. There was plenty of room, lots of electrical outlets, and good WiFi. Photo by Donald Fink.

Our room was a more or less common room with a single king size bed, done in the European style. This means that the bed was made with two separate quilts. There were plenty of plugs around for our electronics and the WiFi signal was strong in the room. There was a fully equipped mini bar which we partially unloaded to make room for a carton of milk. There was also a kettle and a coffee machine.

We also had a view of Neuschwanstien Castle by stepping out on th balcony and looking left. Other rooms had better views but they were more expensive suites. Some rooms have no view of the castle. You need to specifically ask for a Castle view when you make your reservations.

Services

The staff has a concierge service and will take care of reservations for Castle tours, or just about any other kind of excursion you could want. Their German is probably better than yours, so it’s not a bad idea to let them help if you’re the least bit uncomfortable about this kind of thing. Also, if the reservations you’re trying to make are in any way complicated, it would be a good idea to let them help since their language skills—meaning their ability to translate into English—are all excellent. We didn’t use their service since we didn’t do any organized tours this time around, but we did consult about other things to do since they’re locals and know the area.

Tiefgarage at Villa Ludwig

The underground Garage at Villa Ludwig. This guest parking area has nineteen spaces. There are eighteen rooms in the hotel. Looks like they’ve got it covered. Photo by Donald Fink.

There are nineteen parking spaces under the hotel, plus a staff parking area outside to take care of staff and service vehicles. Since there are eighteen rooms, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have a place to park if you bring a car.

Breakfast is daily. They serve American style bacon and scrambled eggs. You may think it’s unusual to mention this, but after a couple of months in Europe, we get excited when we see something besides hard boiled eggs and cold sandwich meat for breakfast. And of course, there are the usual pastries, jams and jellies. And if you actually like hard boiled eggs and cold sandwich meats for breakfast, they have those too.

We prefer walking, but we already mentioned that the hotel provides free bicycles and helmets if you prefer to move around the village and surrounding area that way. They can suggest some routes to see the countryside too.

The internet is free here, which is a change from our stay two years ago. Latency times were in the 20-30 millisecond range and downloads were as fast as 15 megabits, but when afternoon comes around and everyone is on the internet, it slows down quite a bit. We suspect that if we cared to look into it, we would find that the internet service is probably dictated by what’s available in this small town. We could complain to the hotel, and they could complain to the internet provider, but it probably wouldn’t get any better any time soon. It’s just how things are in a small town.

Truthfully, the internet is good enough to check email and do some casual browsing in the evenings. At all other times, it’s good for streaming, skyping, or whatever high bandwidth activity you have in mind. You just have to pick you’re times carefully if you’re going to do something that requires a lot of bandwidth. We’re just spoiled.

We would be hard pressed to say that Villa Ludwig is our absolute favorite hotel of this trip simply because we’ve stayed in so many great places. We wrote about Stumberger’s in Cochem and Weinhaus Uhle in Schwerin earlier, and if we visit those areas again, we’ll certainly use them. But when we come to the southern part of the country, and we certainly will, Villa Ludwig will be our first choice. We’ve stayed here twice now in two years, and haven’t been disappointed yet.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Europe, Hotels, Travel, 1 comment
Hohenschwangau

Hohenschwangau

Hohen schwan gau – in german means high (hohen) schwan (swan) gau (country, district). The community of Schwangau was originally nothing more than a couple of farm houses until King Maximilian II of Bavaria discovered the ruins of an old castle in the early 19th century. The castle, called fortress Schwangau was thought to have been originally built in the 12th century, and was the fortress of a group of knights. Continue reading →

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Europe, Featured, Travel, 2 comments