Category Archives: camping

Neuschwanstein Castle

Following this blog must be a very frustrating experience.  I taunt you with sporadic posts about the many stories I have to tell you…………….and then I wait months to tell them to you. How annoying. Luckily the readership of this blog is so small that I am only annoying a small percentage of the world.  I’m truly sorry that you happen to be in that small percentage.

You may be happy to know that just because the blog has been silent, doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on. Au contraire! In fact, there are lots of things going on – so many in fact, that it’s hard to make the time to write it all down. You can sleep well tonight knowing that the story engine of my mind is chugging along. Or you can punch your computer knowing that the story engine is chugging and yet I give you nothing. It’s your choice completely.

Now back to the regularly scheduled programming.

Here is a story that I started writing months ago for you:

As we were travelling around Germany in the camping car this past summer, we had very little idea of where we would end up each night. However, after our stop at the nudie camp, we knew that there was nearly nothing we couldn’t handle.

One place that received glowing recommendations from a few friends was Neuschwanstein Castle, so we decided to point the bus in that direction. However, after a few nights on the road, we came to a couple of realizations:

Realization #1: The camping car is actually more like a clown car, since once you stop and unpack it, the stuff seems to literally explode out of the car. While we were driving, things seemed to fit neatly in their places, but once we stopped, the campsite became littered with tables, chairs, shoes, dirty laundry and wet towels, just so we could uncover our sleeping spaces for the night.

Realization #2: Once you have unpacked your clown car, you spend the rest of the time avoiding repacking it until you are ready to drive it away for good. That meant that we quickly started to adjust our camping car strategy from just driving around looking for random campsites, to driving around looking for random campsites that were within walking distance of something that we wanted to see. And that is how we ended up hiking to Neuschwanstein Castle rather than driving up to it.

When we arrived in the small town named Schwangau closest to the castle, we found a campsite within walking distance of the castle and managed to secure the last available spot. I’m pretty sure I even did a fist pump for joy when I emerged from the office with the site map aiming us toward the spot. And I may have even smirked a little bit as I walked past the line of camping cars also trying to get a space in this camping area.  I’m just glad those people in line didn’t witness the smirk getting wiped off my face by the realization that our campsite was located directly above the dumpster, which made things……um………….ripe when the wind was blowing in a certain direction.  Still, the stink was a small price to pay for the fact that everyone was wearing clothing at this campsite.

We figured out that a hike to the castle from our campsite would be about 12k (roughly 7.5 miles) one way and since we had completely the Rando with minimal drama, we imagined that the walk to Neuschwanstein Castle wouldn’t be so bad. Additionally, Map Man (aka Tim), found us a route up the back side of the giant mountain to the castle, so we wouldn’t have to go on the average road where all the normal people walk. It’s clear that being normal is something we try to avoid.

The next morning, we got up at the crack of dumpster stink, to start our journey. We packed a lunch, filled up our water bottles and started off. The first 5 miles went fine as we hiked through farm land with cute German cows all over the landscape. We thought we were home free when we finally arrived at the base of the mountain, since we could see the castle perched on top and we knew in less than a couple of miles we’d be there.

That’s when Owen noticed a sign at the base of the mountain, which read, “Ticket Office” with an arrow pointing the other way. He pointed it out to me saying, “Don’t you think we should go that way? It says that the Ticket Office is over there.”

The logic of following clear signage always seems so mundane, doesn’t it?  Where is the adventure in that?  Instead, I said, “We don’t need to go to the Ticket Office. We’ll just buy our tickets at the top.”

What happened next is best described in pictures:

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We climbed up and up on a thin metal bridge bolted to the side of a giant wall of boulders.  It was high.  There was a rushing river below.  It seemed to take forever.  Owen realized he had a slight fear of heights.  This was not a great moment.  Eamon, however, loved every minute of being very close to death.

When we got to the top, we were treated with amazing views like this:

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And we got to see the castle looming above us as we sat down to eat our picnic lunch, feeling smug that we had walked 12k with nary a whine, we overcame a death-defying metal bridge trek, and we finally made it to the top.

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Except then Tim noticed a sign that said “No Admittance to the Castle Without Tickets.”  No problem.  There was surely a ticket booth at the top, no?  I mean, what kind of country would be so organized that all the tickets would be sold in only one place?

Did I mention, we were traveling in GERMANY?  Did I also mention that GERMANY is bailing out multiple European countries from debt because of its extremely ORGANIZED and well run government?

Here’s a story shocker:  THE TICKET BOOTH WAS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE MOUNTAIN!  AND I KNOW THAT WHEN I TYPE IN ALL CAPS LIKE THIS, IT SEEMS LIKE I’M YELLING!  BECAUSE I AM!

In fact, the ticket booth is right at the bottom of the hill on the front side where all the “normal” people walk up.

Dear reader, could you have anticipated that ending?  I sincerely hope not because that would mean that my common sense is virtually non-exsistant.  And a parent with no common sense is………….well, actually, I’m pretty sure that’s called “reality TV.”

In case you were wondering, a giant pack of gummy bears makes a walk down a giant mountain much easier.

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And when you get to the bottom and find out that the tickets are sold out for that day, there is nothing like a game of German mini-golf to appease your utterly frustrated children.  The cigarette butts under the score card just add some additional spice to the flavor of the day.

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ps- You’ll be happy to know we made it in to the castle the next day.  That time, we left the clown car at the campsite and took the town bus.

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a new way to play badminton

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When we got the VW bus this past spring, our main goal was to drive around and see lots of cool things, but I also had one other goal – not to break down in the van.  I really wanted to give my kids some cool memories, but there are some memories that I’d like to avoid.  Like the ‘breaking down in the middle of the night on a dark scary road,’ kind of memory.  Trust me.  I am living proof that those memories do not leave you.

In any case, I had high hopes for our van and our big summer trip and although we had a rough idea of where we wanted to go (Germany, Austria, Switzerland?, Liechtenstein?), we never came up with a detailed plan.  We planned to make a detailed plan, but that really never happened and since we had taken the van on a weekend camping trip at the start of the summer, we had some idea of how camp sites worked in Europe.  We booked places to stay for only the first two nights and then we just decided to wing it, since, as far as we could tell, there were campsites all over the place.

Our ‘fly by the seat of our pants’ plan seemed to be going well for the first part of the first week.  Not only did we hit upon some outstanding campsites, but we got some amazing spots within those campsites.  This was the point in the trip when we started to get cocky.  Our luck had been so good, we started to feel like we were invincible.  {cue the suspenseful music}

Then one day, we took a particularly long time sightseeing and ended up getting a late start on our way to our next campsite.  When we finally arrived at that campsite, there was a huge sign notifying us that all the spots were taken.  At that point I could hear fear start to creep into Owen’s voice when he questioned me about where we would stay that night.  I reminded him of my ‘one star camping area crisis plan’ which meant staying in the parking lot of the closest McDonalds.  For some reason my camping crisis plan did nothing to easy his mind.

So we drove on and about 10 minutes down the road, the same thing happened again.  The campsite was full.  As I was trying to come up with a plan (or at least find the nearest McDonald’s), the oil light came on in the van and a loud beeping sound started.  If you didn’t know this already, there is nothing like the beeping sound of an engine failure to create chaos in the mind of a nine-year-old boy who is prone to melodrama.  As Tim pulled the van over, Owen screamed, “WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE VAN?  AND WHERE ARE WE GOING TO STAY TONIGHT?  YOU GUYS ARE THE ADULTS!  AREN’T YOU SUPPOSED TO HAVE ALL OF THIS STUFF FIGURED OUT?”

If I were telling you this in person, I would stop at this point in the story for a long pause…………………………..and with a straight face I would say, “Poor little dude.  He still hasn’t figured out that he has parents who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing.”

While Tim was dealing with the beeping noise in the van, I started frantically calling campsites in the local area to try to find a spot.  After about 10 minutes, we had solved both crises.  The oil light was off and we had a reservation at a small campsite about 15 minutes away.

We finally pulled into the small campsite up in the mountains and it was one of the nicest we had seen to date.  Green grass under the camping cars (not rocks) and a relaxed atmosphere.  With a sense of smug satisfaction, I said to Owen, “See your parents CAN figure things out, after all.”

The woman at the desk told us to pull the camping car in, get set up and then come to check in at the desk.  After set up, I was on my way back to the desk  when I happened to notice a man walking by to wash his dishes in a very skimpy towel, but I didn’t think too much of it.  Once I arrived at the desk, the woman started telling me about the campsite and where everything was located.  That’s when she said, “So since we’re a naturist camp, the first half hour of swim is the pool is with no clothing and the second half is with clothing.”

And my response was, “This camp is a whaaaa………………….t?”

In case you happen to be as slow to recognize reality as I am, the term ‘naturist’ is the modern-day term for ‘nudie’.  I had booked my family at a nudie camp.  It turns out that there was a large nudie section and a smaller non-nudie section.  Luckily for us (read: me), our camping car was parked in the non-nudie section, but directly facing the nudie section.

When I got back to the camping car, the boys were hurriedly putting on their bathing suits for a dip in the pool.  Trying to sound cheerful, I started the following conversation:

Me:  Guess what, guys?  We’re actually staying in a nudie camp, so if you want to go swimming right now, you won’t need those bathing suits!

Owen:  Did you say, nudie?  Like ‘no clothes,’ nudie?

Me:  Yes, a nudie camp means wearing no clothes.

Owen:  Wow!  Cool!  Can we stay another night?  Can you even do things like play badminton naked?

Me:  Yes, in a nudie camp you can play badminton naked.

Owen:  I want to play badminton naked!

Me:  Do you really want to play badminton naked?

Owen:  Well………….ok, maybe not totally naked.  I know where I want to go – I want to go to an ‘undie camp’ where we can do everything in our undies.

Me:  Owen, you already live in an undie camp – it’s call our house.

While the boys went swimming (at the non-nudie time), I poured myself a tall beer and sat facing the gate of the nudie section, marveling at how uniformly tan everyone looked walking in and out.  Then my mind wandered to the wide range of activities that you do while camping and the health and safely implications of doing those same things while naked.  Then I poured myself another beer.

Just the thought of playing badminton naked makes me shudder.

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