As a way of throwing money away this seemed to be a particularly pointless exercise. We were standing at the foot of the Tegelberg mountain in southern Germany and staring up at a solid ceiling of cloud. It hung stubbornly around 500m above us and showed no sign of clearing. Yet for some reason we happily handed over €23 for the dubious privilege of taking the cable car up into the blind mist. More reckless still, we bought a one-way ticket, determined to complete the hike down the mountain that we had planned the evening before for what had seemed an adventurous way of reaching the world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle (think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Disneyland castles).
Sometimes our blind leaps of faith are rewarded handsomely and this proved to be one of those lucky moments. For a minute or so in the cable car we had doubted our sanity. As we climbed into the cloud we were plunged into a fog that stopped us from even seeing the overhead cables a few metres in front. And then as if by magic, just as the cable car slowed down on its approach to its destination, the hazy sun made its way through the thick mist.
After only a minute’s walk uphill from the cable car station, we were standing in bright sunshine. Below us a blanket of fluffy cotton wool spread out across the valley from which we had just emerged, as if we were in the first few minutes of a flight and had just broken through into the brightness above the clouds. Our gamble had paid off.
For the next two hours we followed a well-marked path that would its way around the peaks, rewarding us around every turn with views of majestic Alpine peaks above and slowly scattering clouds below. We had shared the cable car with a dozen or so other hardy souls and the maze of trails at the summit had quickly scattered us across the Alpine landscape, leaving us alone to find our way down. It’s hard to orientate yourself without a reference point on the ground below and we were happy to see the regular signposts pointing us toward the refuge at Bleckenau, where we could join the road down to the valley bottom.
As we slowly descended through the mist and approached the tourist hub of Hohenschwangau we encountered an increasing number of hikers. Soon enough we stood within the throng of other tourists and looked out over Neuschwanstein Castle from the dramatic viewpoint of the Marienbrücke (Mary’s bridge), which swings (quite literally) above a deep gorge at the back of the castle.
Thousands of visitors come to Neuschwanstein Castle every day and spend at least a few hours in the shops and cafes nearby. Relatively few make the journey up the mountain behind the castle to explore the spectacular scenery above. If you’re visiting the area I would highly recommend allowing time to head up the mountain and see the castle from another perspective. And don’t be put off by the clouds – they might just provide you with an unforgettable view.
Andy is a very talented freelance writer who blogs about his journeys, toilets and many other things at 501 Places.