I decided to bring my 8-year-old son, Oliver, in the last edition of the Bavarian Castles trip. At this point, the kid had one long-haul Expat Club trip under his belt, so I felt confident I could bring him to one more.
The Bavarian Castles trip is one of those trips that are suitable for kids. Now, how appropriate is it, really? Well, let’s hear it from him directly.
“Are we there yet?”
Oh child, why are you doing this to me? He asked that question roughly 30 minutes after the bus left from Schuman. So we’re not even out of Brussels, and this kid is already asking that question no parent wants to hear during a long drive.
-“Sweetheart, I told you this is a very long trip. It’s going to take at least 6 hours to the next stop.”
It doesn’t, but you have to exaggerate to get the point across and lower expectations.
-“It’s ok, mama. This is a really good bus. I like it.”
Thank goodness. The rest of the ride went relatively smoothly, but then again, I came prepared. Aside from clothes and toiletries, I packed snacks, puzzle books, mobile devices (and power banks), and even a small pillow and blanket.
“The freaky painting”
Our first palace was Wurzburg Residence, and there was immediate backlash from the child.
-“Why can’t I take pictures? It’s not fair.” (cue in the whiniest voice you can possibly imagine).
Oliver enjoys taking pictures, so Wurzburg Residence gets minus points from a kid’s perspective. Luckily, there are a few things that manage to get his attention.
On the main staircase, you will find an enormous ceiling fresco (which we’ll later find out is the largest in the world) made by Venetian painter Giovanni Tiepolo.
The massive size and the 3D elements are a hit with the kid. It helps that one of the characters in the fresco’s scene appears to be “following” your gaze as you move along this hall.
The exterior gardens of Wurzburg Residence were the perfect backdrop for Mr. Oliver.
-“Mama, wait, I have to take a selfie.”
Ok, Wurzburg Residence, you redeemed yourself with your stunning exteriors.
“I know a lot about this fortress”
All of a sudden, this kid became an expert in fortresses the moment we reach the Marienberg Fortress, also located in the city of Wurzburg.
It turns out this little man had been learning all about castles and fortresses in school. So the fortified architecture of Marienberg was precisely everything he had read about or discussed in class.
Plus points for mama for taking him on this trip.
“This is the best hotel EVER”
Look, Oliver is 8-years-old; therefore, his standards with regards to hotel rooms are not always what an adult would find desirable for a hotel room.
That said, our hotel in Munich, the Ibis Styles, was clean, comfortable, and a very suitable place to rest after a long day of touring the sights of Bavaria.
Lots of other hotels would fit this criterion. But do they have a cloud-shaped bed? Probably not!
“My favorite castle is the one where you can take pictures”
This was a difficult one to narrow down because we had visited two royal residences where it was allowed to take pictures.
The first one was Nymphenburg Palace, the birthplace of King Ludwig II and the summer residence of the House of Wittelsbach, former rulers of Bavaria.
One of the first things you get to experience is the Marble Hall, which one of the most stunning rooms you’ll visit (and compared to the next palaces we’ll visit, one of the most “understated”).
The other option came the day after when we visited the Munich Residence, the largest city palace in all of Germany. This was the official seat of the Wittelsbach and one of those places that could take you days to discover fully.
There are a lot of great picture moments here!
All I had to do was browse through my pictures (and his pictures) to find out which one.
Nymphenburg, you win.
“My favorite castle is also the one with all the gold”
Oliver doesn’t seem to understand the plural of “favorite” at this point, and he also seems to enjoy confusing his poor mother.
By now, we have visited two of Ludwig II’s greatest extravagances. One is Herrenchiemsee Palace, one of Ludwig’s last building projects that remained unfinished. The palace was supposed to be a copy of the Palace of Versailles. He was a huge fan of the Sun King, Louis XIV. The other palace is Linderhof, a much smaller project he did get to finish. Maybe because it was a smaller construction, he managed to lavish with all that money could buy.
This needed further investigation.
-“Yeah, the one with all the gold. It has all these mirrors that look at the other mirrors, so it looks like a thousand lamps.”
Both these palaces try to create this effect. Other residences we explore in this trip try to create the illusion of a larger room with mirrors.
-“The one with the magic table, mama!”
Ok, got it. He’s talking about Linderhof. Ludwig II was such a loner; he had a table with a dumbwaiter mechanism so he could dine without disturbances. His staff would bring up the table with his meals, and lower it when finished.
“Oh my god, there is so much poop”
As soon as you ask Oliver about his last “castles trip,” this is the first thing that comes up. And that first statement gets all his relatives horrified.
-“What do you mean with that, Oliver?”
-“So there’s a castle on a huge mountain, and you have to go all the way up there, and there are these horses, and they poop a lot, and the cars go over the poop and the then it’s everywhere. So gross.”
Translation: You can walk up the hill to go all the way up to Neuschwanstein Castle by foot, or grab a very convenient horse-drawn carriage. Horses sometimes relieve themselves on the road. Then the carriage proceeds to run over their droppings.
-“That doesn’t sound very good! But was the castle nice?”
-“Yeah, that was a nice castle. But then when you go down, there are these black rocks on the hill, only they are not rocks, they are poop because I saw the horse pooping there, and then you come close because it’s so black and IT’S FLIES.”
The bottom line is, the castle was nice, but the horses and the poop everywhere vastly more entertaining.
Sorry, King Ludwig!
If you ask my child, he’ll tell you he loved the trip. If you ask me, his mother, I would also tell you the trip was very successful, and I enjoyed it very much.
Oliver is at that particular age where, when you ask something, he’ll either give you no information or too much, so getting his opinions sometimes required a lot of questions.
The more you ask, the more fun tidbits come to light to help you understand how he truly felt.
But the poop thing always comes first!