7) The Kings Castles: Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, Füssen, Germany
Of my seven wonders of Europe, the King’s Castles are probably the best known and would fit in as the most “traditional” wonders. The summer palace of the King of Bavaria, King Maximilian II, Hohenschwangau Castle was rebuilt in the early 1800s from the crumbling ruins that had once been the stronghold of the Schwangau Kights—the Swan Knights. The King’s son, King Ludwig II, rose to the throne at age eighteen and began building Neuschwanstein Castle (New Swanstone) in 1866. Hohenschwangau, a squatter, yellow-sand colored castle, sits at the base of the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. Neuschwanstein actually sits high up in them. King Ludwig took to calling Neuschwanstein the “Grail Castle.” He was obsessed with fairy tales from the Middle Ages and took many of these, particularly those from Wagner’s operas, as inspiration for the decorations. Thus a chamber hall painted with trees and magical beasts and a room built to resemble an actual cave opening onto a beach (thanks to come clever painting) or a wardrobe that took a year to craft.
The history of both these castles, from the mysterious death of Neuschwanstein’s builder, King Ludwig II, to the Nazi occupation, is fascinating and so too is the architecture and artwork within and without their walls. And since the castles are set at the base of the Bavarian Alps there are plenty of beautiful trails to hike, up mountains and around majestic mountain lakes. As well as the most “traditional” wonder this is probably the most expensive sight, but the castles (just make sure you visit Hohenschwangau before Neuschwanstein) are well worth the hefty 11 euro entrance fee (each) and cheap accommodations in Füssen make it viable for a budget traveler.
In my Seven Wonders I’ve taken you around Europe. And told you about a road, a small walking park and a river (among others). So some of you might be wondering (ha!), “just what does this kid think wonder means?” I don’t want to get bogged down in the philosophies and semantics of “wonder” right now; there are whole books on the subject (shout out to Professor Jones if she ever reads this). I’ll simply say that a wonder is a place or thing that moves you in a positive way. These seven places are spots around Europe that moved me on an emotional level. And I hope that you might not have heard of some of them before. If you’ve already traveled to some of these places and had similarly awesome experiences tell me about it, I’d love to hear! And if you’re strapping up your bag for your first trip, good luck! I hope you have a chance to check out a couple of these wonders and stumble across some hidden gems of your own.