Tag Archives: camping car

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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oh yes we did

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Let’s put it this way – it’s a 1987, that goes about 80km max (50mph) up hills, it has no power steering, and the steering wheel is as big as a large pizza.  I am in love.

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dig it

While I was shopping at the Monoprix the other day, I happened upon a very large display of this:

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It is sun cream (like sun screen), but it has absolutely no SPF in it.  It’s actually for bronzing, rather than for trying not to get burned.  Yet another sign that France is stuck in the 1970s.  Not sure what the skin cancer rates are here, but I almost feel like I should get out my 8-track and put on some Steppenwolf just to fit in. So right after I wrote that, I googled Steppenwolf and found out that they are still on tour, more than 40 years since they took their first magic carpet ride.  If you happen to be near the following cities, you may want to check out how time has treated them.

  • Hot Springs, AR
  • Durant, OK
  • Toronto, ONT
  • Shawnee, OK
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL

Despite the fact that there is no apparent fear of skin cancer here, I actually love the “stuck in time culture” that exists, which centers around enjoying life right now, rather than waiting for an undetermined time, like retirement or a better job.

As far as I can tell, part of this appreciation of life is trip taking and there is no better way to see this than with the Euro “camping car” culture.  In the US it seems that people work all of their lives and then plan to buy an RV upon retirement to finally take some time off and enjoy life. Here, people have camping cars when they are young and when they retire they move to a beach town and sit down.  I kind of like that plan.

To clarify, the main difference between a European camping car and an American RV, is, not surprisingly, size.  Camping cars here are usually like the smallest possible version of the American RV – either that or something not much bigger than some American cars, like VW busses, which are still as popular as ever.  The other main difference is that camping cars are driven by hipsters and RVs are driven by, well, the less young crowd.

I know for a fact that the VW bus is well-loved in French culture because the movie Little Miss Sunshine plays on repeat on French TV.  I’m fairly certain that the French don’t understand any of the humor of the movie, but I know they love the bus.  True story: A French person recently said to me, “It must be so hard in the US for young kids because they are all forced to compete in those,…….what are they called………..beauty pageants?” I could not make this stuff up.

All of this camping car culture has gotten me looking on Ebay for a good VW bus. I’m thinking that we might have to take the initiative and revive the Euro camping car movement in the US.  Even if we don’t exactly fit the Euro hipster profile, I know that at least I will fit in driving a VW bus in the US because my hair will be down to my ass unless I suck it up and get a haircut.  If you know of any solid VW busses for sale in the US, let me know.  Or better yet, buy one of your own so that you can join the camping car caravan.  Can you dig it?  I knew that you could.