Adventure in Bavaria and Austria
Just a bit west of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 700-year-old F|ssen lies within an aptly-named German regionDer Kvnigswinkel (the Royal Corner). Bavarian monarch Ludwig II (1863-1886) made his mark here with Schloss Neuschwanstein, a medieval-style castle that evokes the living arrangements of knights, lords, and ladies. Neighboring castle Hohenschwangau was his childhood residence.
Get your outdoor fix and see the sights by biking or hiking (about three miles) to the village of Hohenschwangau where both castles stand. In winter, grab a pair of skinny skis to kick and glide your way over. From Hohenschwangau, skip the bus and continue along one of the paths up to the famous NeuschwansteinDisneyland copied it for Cinderella's castle, and the palace also appears in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Although Neuschwanstein was never finished, you can still admire the amazing number of Wagner-inspired murals and dicor.
From Neuschwanstein, a hiking trail heads southeast along the Pvllat River gorge until it meets up with an interpretive nature trail (Naturpfad Ahornreitweg). The two-hour trail traverses Mount Tegel and offers spectacular panoramas (5,600 feet). You can take a cable car down or descend along a two-and-a-half hour trail that guides you through local culture and history (Kulturpfad Schutzengelweg).
For off-road biking ideas, just ask the friendly staffers (and avid riders) at F|ssen's youth hostel. They may recommend a four-hour, 30-mile hammer to Otto-Mayr-H|tte (5,000 feet) and back. The climb up the mountain is toughAlpine altitude's a killerbut the downhill makes it all worthwhile. Stop for a rest and refreshment at one of three mountain huts and you should survive.
The ride begins by heading southwest from F|ssen toward Vils, Austria. Bikers must pedal south along B 314 toward Reutte, then head west at the Bdrenfalle Gaststdtte (inn)there will be yellow signs for the Reintalweg (Rein Valley Trail).
Check out Jetis Bikes (011-49-8362-39712; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.jetis-bike-shop.de) to rent your steed. One-day rental (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) for a front-suspension model runs about $12. They also offer guided full-day toursjust $30 including the bike.
For a scenic cruise, check out the 20-mile Forggensee Rundweg (Lake Forggen loop), just northeast of F|ssen. Although occasionally tangling with four-wheel traffic, the route primarily goes car-free and passes through tiny hamlets. You can see the two royal castles Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau from the paththe best view will be along the southeastern coast. Beyond the castles are the lofty peaks of the AmmergebirgeBavaria's largest conservation areaand the vistas make the effort worthwhile. For bikers too tired to finish the loopor for those who prefer to get a little further along before beginningthere are seven water-taxi stops along the lake.
F|ssen marks the end of one of Germany's premier scenic drives: Die Romantische Stra_e (Romantic Road). The route, which runs between the River Main and the Alps, is the work of the German tourist industry to get people out of the cities and into the countryside.
Stop and explore elaborate churches, grand castles, quaint towns, and fascinating museumspart of the Romantic Road even follows the Via Claudia Augusta, an ancient Roman thoroughfare. At 199 miles long, it will take you a good week to wind your way north to W|rzburg.
Mad About the Mad King
Was Ludwig's love for Wagner inspired by more than just music? Was he offed for draining the Bavarian coffers to construct three (and nearly four) castles? If you can't get enough of the Bavaria's"fairy-tale king"and have money to spare for a night of musical theatercheck out Ludwig IILonging for Paradise. The show has everything from polkas to arias and offers one take on the king's eccentric life and mysterious death. Enjoy pre-theater dinner at the aptly named Romantik Restaurant, which offers fine cuisine and picturesque views of Ludwig's fairy-tale castles (011-49-89-41-18-90-0; email@example.com; www.ludwigmusical.com).
Play your schedule right and you can get from Munich to F|ssen in just over two hours by train.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication