“The ticket inspector! Get the ticket out, the inspector’s coming!” exclaimed my 8 year old daughter with a mild degree of panic, induced by travelling in a strange land. I turned around and indeed there was a ticket inspector, chatting to a group of passengers further up the carriage. I opened my bag, removed our ticket and waited for him to arrive.
We were riding through southern Germany on a train from Munich to the small alpine town of Fuessen. After leaving the Bavarian capital, the train initially made swift progress along a mainline, before diverting onto a single track route where the pace was much slower, and the number of stops greater. Even a school had its own station. I joked that there was probably a stop for Farmer Schmidt’s cowshed. Further down the line, we came to a cowshed and lo and behold, the train braked and we came to a halt! There was also a guesthouse next to the station, but even so! This was classic rural Bavaria, with rolling hills and meadows, cows with bells around their necks, the occasional chocolate box chalet and the majestic Alps rising up ahead of us.
We continued our journey with the sound of laughter behind, punctuated with outbreaks of applause. It seemed the inspector was conducting a stand up show. Delighted with his captive audience, he was unstoppable, but only in the verbal sense. He never did reach us to inspect our tickets.
When we arrived in Fuessen, we were a little surprised that it was such a busy and bustling place. Sitting at the junction of two tourist routes – in the middle of the German Alpine Road and at the end of the Romantic Road – it has a pretty town centre, with cobbled streets and brightly coloured mediaeval buildings, overlooked by a castle on a hill. All picture postcard stuff and many a happy hour can be wiled away sitting outside one of the old town’s many cafes, performing the essential cultural task of sampling the local beers. However, the main reason tourists come here is to visit the nearby Neuschwanstein Castle.
Neuschwanstein is the fairytale creation ordered by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. It pays homage to the mediaeval legends to be found in the operas of Richard Wagner and its design inspired Walt Disney’s Castle. We took a bus up to the Marienbruecke, the bridge that spans the Poellat Gorge. From here, there are superb views of the castle, which is a gentle 10 minute walk away. Guided tours are available in multiple languages and there is a jaw dropping vista over the village of Hohenschwangau and Alpsee Lake from the castle itself. Sadly for him, Ludwig never got to enjoy Neuschwanstein as he was declared insane before completion, and it was opened as a tourist attraction to pay off the massive debts incurred during construction. Ironically, it is now the region’s biggest money spinner, attracting more than a million visitors every year.
Neuschwanstein is the “big ticket” day out, but would there be anything else to occupy us for a few days in Fuessen? As it turned out, yes. We enjoyed a pleasant riverside walk to Forggensee and embarked on a boat excursion across the picturesque lake. There is a 30km cycle path around its perimeter which seemed very popular, and many other routes connecting settlements and lakes in the area. We settled for the boat trip, followed by an hour soaking up the views from the shore while our daughter was captivated by the fish swimming by in the clear waters. We didn’t complain as it was so refreshing to see her entertain herself without the internet. After walking back to town on a hot afternoon, my daughter cooled off in the town fountains, which she confused for splash pads.
A worthwhile excursion was our bus trip to the nearby lake at Hopfen-am-See. Hopfensee is a small but charming lake with a promenade all along its north shore, boasting an impressive panorama of the mountains to the south. We hired an electric boat to explore further and spent the afternoon at a beach club where a swim in the cool alpine waters was just what the doctor ordered. The day passed so quickly, and indeed so did our stay. We had no time to ride the cable car to the top of the Tegelberg Mountain, missing some incredible views. We were told by fellow travellers the mountain is popular with both hikers and paragliders. We also missed a number of other lakes in the area, not to mention castles and museums.
On our return journey to Munich, we were taken by surprise as an inspector appeared from nowhere and asked to see our ticket. After a bit of fumbling through papers in our bag, we managed to produce it. She stamped it, thanked us and moved on. We waited for the stand up routine, but alas it never came.
Fuessen is in the Allgau region of Bavaria, about 130kms south west of Munich.
The nearest airport is Memmingen (82kms) although public transport links are far better with Munich, from where there are regular direct trains. If you stay in Fuessen you can get a guestcard which entitles you to free public transport in the local area and discounts on tourist attractions such as Neuschwanstein Castle.
Neuschwanstein has no direct vehicular access and the standard tour involves many steps. People with limited mobility should check ahead before booking tickets. At peak times, it is advisable to reserve tickets in advance. For ticketing details, click here