We queued up for the horse-drawn carriage ride up to Neuschwanstein, the Big Kahuna of Bavarian castles, perhaps even of castles generally.
In hopes of conveying the grandeur of Ludwig II's fantasy schloss to an American audience, the guidebooks invariably mention that it was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland. It's a bit like trying to pump up Paris by calling it "the Bucharest of the West." Neuschwanstein is the real thing.
Still, the castle was clearly an exercise in wispy nostalgia at the time it was built (1868-86), and Ludwig II probably would have gotten along fine with Walt Disney. As it was, he hired a theatrical set designer (rather than a traditional architect) to give Neuschwanstein its medieval-romantic-operatic vibe. Call him crazy, the dude knew how to do castles.