Monday, July 21, 2014

Neuschwanstein Castle

We started the day bright and early, returning to Mikes Bikes for our day trip to the castle! With about 40 others, we boarded a bus to get an introduction by none other than Mike himself! I thought this was a nice touch, as was the video of our tour guide on the way down, explaining tons of info about Ludwig II and his mysterious death. On the way there, we were warned of the bad weather that was coming our way. The guides proposed that we could go on a modified tour of a second castle, or continue with the regular plan and bike through the rain before going to the castle. Given that my leg feels better on a bike than walking, I pleaded with Jamie to stick with the bike ride. Wide eyed and reluctant, she somehow agreed. We got off the bus and were hit with freezing rain. Mounting my bike, I experienced some PTSD from a bike trip my Dad dragged Brandon and I on in Alaska. Determined to cross the Canadian border by a fourth(fifth?) mode of transportation he made us go with him on a crazy bike ride. We were dropped at the top of a huge mountain, given suits to wear over our 8 layers already on our bodies, and went speeding down a hill in hail, snow, and rain. I SWORE after this, NEVER AGAIN. Yet, here I was, in my already soaked jean shorts, knees shaking, toes and fingers completely without circulation, on a damn bike. However, this time, on my own dime and my own will, I was determined to do this and enjoy it. This castle was one of the things I was most excited for, and even if it was surrounded by clouds and I couldn't feel my feet, by god, I was going to enjoy it. I heard a little Steve voice, "what do Alloys do? They tough it out!". Making the most of it, I bonded with another guy in the group over the lack of blood in our fingers(I wish I was kidding haha but hey us Raynauds folks gotta stick together) and learned their entire group was from VMI and almost all from my area, which was a weird slice of home. It actually was very peaceful and beautiful despite the bad weather. On a pretty day, I bet this is one of the greatest excursions in all of Europe! 
View of the second castle from the bike ride! 

After our bike ride, we stopped for lunch in a little local restaurant. As it turns out, our tour guide is a part of the international magician circle or something of that sort and was INCREDIBLE. He started with one of the top 10 tricks in the world (the only card trick in that listing) as decided by this magic association, apparently a trick Churchill stopped a meeting to see. He executed it flawlessly. I was blown away. it was by far the best trick I've seen. This continued for another half hour at least and was so entertaining. 

After that, we finally went to tour the castle. It was so cold we spent our free time in the bathroom warming up with the hand dryer. seriously. But it was actually hilarious. This was quite the bonding experience, as we made some friends from Florida, Arizona, and Australia! Two of them were part of a program called busabout which seemed so cool, definitely want to do that at some point. We then went to the castle which was as beautiful inside as it was out! 

Coming home, I learned the chores side of backpacking. We put newspaper in our shoes, washed our clothes in the sink, waited for the dryer at the hostel, tried to figure out our tickets, etc. but still, gotta keep up that attitude of gratitude! Still rather be here than anywhere else!

For dinner, Jamie and I tried Ocui, which is essentially German Vapiano with an Asian station. Our noodle bowls and coconut soup were perfect for a rainy night. From there, we finally made it to the famous beer garden Hofbrauhaus. While it was looked a lot like any restaurant in Prague and smelled a lot like a frat house. I'm starting to realize that going to the really tacky things "because I should" never brings me as much joy as finding something authentic. But, I'm not much of a liter beer drinker/pork knuckle eater anyway, so for that, it served it's purpose as seeing "culture" even if it was over the top. 

Regardless, I had SO much fun today and am beyond happy I finally saw Neuschwanstein castle!

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