But, anyway, I digress. When we traveled to Germany in 2014, it was as much to Paul’s excitement as my own- the Guetter’s have a long German history and his mother and family actually lived there for a few years in the 70s. Embarking on this trip, I was looking forward to finally seeing what this beautiful country had to offer. We were prepared with many tips and advice from Paul’s uncle Ronald Koehler, who visited Germany on almost a yearly basis – but the number one destination we all agreed must be visited (aside from Oktoberfest in Munich, of course) was castle Neuschwanstein, which is located outside the small village of Hohenschwangau in the Bavarian Alps. We planned the trip so that our visit to the castle would coincide with our second wedding anniversary.
Seriously, if you’ve never visited Schloss (meaning castle) Neuschwanstein – GO. Famously, it is the castle from which Walt Disney drew his inspiration to create Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland. It is situated high above the village, in the mountains, and is truly one of the most iconic castles in the world. This magical place not only met, but far exceeded my expectations. Rarely I come across a place that does this. Usually I find we, as humans, have a tendency to build an idea up in our heads, and let preconceived notions take away from the actual experience. But this was not the case here. Though the story of King Ludwig, the mastermind behind Schloss Neuschwanstein, is a bit of a depressing one (look it up, he wasn’t known as the mad King Ludwig for nothing), the feeling his beautiful castle and surrounding forest invokes is anything but – it’s magical and fantastical and invigorating just to be there. After hiking the steep climb to the castle, discussing feelings of nostalgia for the fairy tales of our youth, we embarked on a castle tour, and, well, we will let some pictures speak for themselves…
Beautiful as they are, pictures of this castle and the surrounding mountains do not do it justice, despite Paul’s expert photography. After the tour, we continued exploring the region by setting off on the hike to the Marienbrucke, (a bridge spanning a massive gorge) in hopes of finding the perfect viewing spot for photos of the castle. We did find many gorgeous vistas along the way, and climbed thousands of feet, literally into the clouds, above the castle below, but never managed to quite find that spot where we could get a full frontal photo of the castle. After hiking for hours through the Alps, we came to the conclusion these images we’ve seen before (like below) must have been taken from a helicopter in the air, or perhaps the Tegelberg cable car that ascends a neighboring mountain. Nonetheless, it was one of the most mystical, magical and beautiful hikes I have ever been on, and I can hardly wait until we can return for another taste of the Alps. After a long and physically exhausting day of hiking and touring the region, we celebrated our anniversary over an authentic dinner and a few glasses of German riesling at the Hotel Muller in the village.
Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by the natural beauty throughout all of Germany, and I know Paul felt the same way. From Munich to our drive south to Bavaria, through our journey north up the Romantische strasse (which translates to the romantic road), and the few days we spent along the Rhine River, I felt that magical feeling across the entire country. I am not exaggerating when I say my Christmas spirit was completely revitalized upon visiting Germany – and we were there in October! If you’ve never been to Germany this might not make sense, but Christmas markets were everywhere and when you walk into one, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is, or how old you are, you feel like a child on Christmas morning all over again – and that feeling has stuck with me during the holidays ever since. This is why I love traveling. You broaden your horizons, and expand your perceptions, and learn new information, and take new experiences back with you – thoughts and feelings and memories that will stay with you – and shape the person you continue to grow to be, long after the trip has ended. But, through it all, I can tell you that the best part of this entire experience was sharing it with Paul, and spending our anniversary in a literal fairy tale in the mountains. It was, and still is, one of my most favorite memories.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about the other person behind all of this, the other half of wanderlife, as he may not be getting his fair share of attention on this blog so far. All of this would mean nothing without him. Traveling together, as a couple, to far away places and to not so far away places – and ultimately through our every day – is what this, what life, is all about. As I’ve mentioned before, I did my fair share of traveling alone before I met Paul. And as amazing as those experiences were, in the end, I found them to be beautifully lonely. I met so many wonderful people on the road, people I would form deep connections with in a short period of time, only to find that our paths could only cross for so long; it was an endless stream of hellos and goodbyes. And as much as I loved it, I’ll admit I wanted to find someone to share it with permanently. I wanted to stop saying goodbye to the people I cared about. I am so grateful to have met Paul and that we have the opportunity to share these experiences together. Despite the fact that our lives are now more sedentary, and we’ve settled down permanently in one place and only get a handful of experiences abroad per year, I wouldn’t trade even a second of it for my ‘old life’. For it doesn’t matter whether we are in a magical castle in the Alps, or a cloud forest in Costa Rica, or our favorite vineyard on the North Fork, or our living room eating pizza – in the wise words of Dave Matthews, ‘it’s not where you are but who you are with that really matters’. For what is the purpose of life if not love? So do not forget, my friends, that this is a story about our journey together, and even though I am the one writing, he is there every step of the way, the silent photographer behind my words, and for that I am completely thankful every single day.