Over Christmas, the weather in Europe was just a bit awful, with plenty of snow and plenty of travel messes. Once things calmed down a bit in Southern Germany, we opted to take the New! and Improved! car out for a drive and see what fun there was to be had. While the plan was to visit the lovely Hohenzollern Castle, our first stop was a spontaneous break at Gummib√§rland, where one can buy reduced price, presumably imperfect candy, including naked lady “Playboy” gummies. While the options seemed endless, there are really only a finite amount of empty calories one should really purchase, so after a quick break we were back on the road and headed to the castle:

In my opinion, Hohenzollern certainly takes the cake for first impressions. Set in the middle of large, snow-covered fields, on top of a solitary, forested hill, the castle is beautifully formidable and certainly striking. I imagine in the summer, the narrow, winding road is quite a bit busier, but on a gray December Saturday, we had it mostly to ourselves.

Rather than waiting for the shuttle, we opted to walk up from the parking lot, which was both beautiful and slightly stupid. The first quarter was an unending, steep stairway and perhaps in the summer would be nice, but with six inches of unshoveled snow to hike through, was instead a bit treacherous. And seeing as we were the only ones walking on the designated trail, rather than on the road, had we all tumbled over the edge, I doubt we would have been found. Nonetheless, we persevered and enjoyed the snowy forest all to ourselves.

Upon arrival, we found ourselves sharing the wintery castle grounds with approximately 40 people. There are certainly benefits to off-season travel. Unfortunately, we arrived after the English tours had finished for the day, but we were able to join up with a German tour and borrow some English tour books. While this was the first castle visit for the parents, Chad and I had already seen Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau, and we knew right away, Hohenzollern was far better than either. Granted, Hohenzollern had been furnished and refinished in 1952 versus the mid 19th century for Hohenschwangau, but the beautiful decor, furniture and (most importantly for me) a small, slow-paced tour group made it quite a bit more fun. Not to mention, the history includes an epic battle between brothers and a royal line that still exists today.

Following the guided tour, we were allowed to wander about the treasury, which included suits of armor, fancy clothes, and jewels (or at least replicas). As is usual in the German castles, no pictures are allowed inside and even Google and Bing failed to find me much more than this so you’ll just have to imagine the fancy-ness of it all.

Outside though, they had a few decorations up and with the last bit of sunlight, we wandered around the grounds before wisely choosing to take the shuttle back down.

For me, Hohenzollern Castle has been the most enjoyable castle to visit, as it seems less restrictive and less touristy than any of Ludwig’s, Munich’s Residenz or even Sigmaringen (which came later in the trip). And since most of them have been rebuilt at least once or twice, if you’re going to see something that’s not original, it might as well be the one with the best remodel…

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