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Alpsee, Bavaria, Germany

Also known as: Lake Alpsee

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Map: Alpsee, Bavaria, Germany

Beautiful Lake Alpsee in the Bavarian Alps is widely regarded as one of Germany's most picturesque vistas. The lake lies beneath Hohenschwangau Castle, the childhood home of King Ludwig II, among some of the most lovely peaks in southern Bavaria. The castle was built by King Maximilian II on the remains of a former ruined fortress; it is questionable whether the site was chosen for its defense capabilities or its gorgeous view overlooking Alpsee. Sheltered by the surrounding mountains, the surface of Alpsee regularly maintains a glass-like surface which reflects the castle and the surrounding Alps in stunning reproduction. Native swans are often the only movement seen on the water, which remains so clear that observers can usually see the lake bottom near shore. The summer residence of Bavarian royalty, King Ludwig II and his brother (later King Otto) learned to swim here. Many happy hours were spent tramping the pathway around the lakeshore, now protected as a nature preserve, and the paths in the surrounding forest. The lake is owned by the Bavarian Palace Department which manages tourism to the two famous castles and the Museum of the Bavarian Kings in the small village of Hohenschwangau.

Pristine Alpsee is seldom the reason visitors travel here; many do not even know of the lake's existence until they see it from above while touring Hohenschwangau Castle. There is no harbor at Alpsee-only a small boat dock where tourists may rent a rowboat for a day. No motors are allowed on the lake except by permit from the Bavarian Palace Department. Only paddling is allowed. Even with over 300,000 visitors a year touring the castle itself, Alpsee remains quiet and often deserted except for occasional hikers on the circling pathway. This view no doubt encouraged the future King Ludwig II's love of beautiful architecture placed in spectacular natural surroundings. Although subject to strange behaviors and often reclusive, Ludwig II supervised the building of Neuschwanstein Castle nearby as a personal retreat and as a tribute to the operas of Richard Wagner. Neuschwanstein is familiar to children the world over as it was the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Built on the ruins of two former fortresses, Neuschwanstein overlooks his childhood home of Hohenschwangau Castle, the small village of Hohenschwangau, and Lake Alpsee.

Neuschwanstein Castle is likely the most visited tourist destination in Bavaria, with more than a million visitors annually. The Bavarian kings and the fairytale surroundings
created a need for a fourth destination in the area of Hohenschwangau: the Museum of the Bavarian Kings. Here visitors can learn of the history and the royal intrigues surrounding the castles and immediate vicinity. A self-paced audio tour is available in several languages. It is strongly suggested that visitors learn the background of the castles before scheduling the fast-paced tours, as the knowledge will add considerably to the tour experience. Because castle tours are so popular, ticket-holders must attend during the assigned time-slot. A wait of several hours would not be uncommon, so many visitors take this opportunity to walk some of the hiking paths surrounding Alpsee.

The Alpsee area is positioned at the southern end of what American soldiers named the Romantic Road after the end of WWII. The 200-mile stretch from Wurzburg in Bavaria's north to Fussen near the Austrian border is dotted with picturesque and historical locations, and well-supplied with guest houses, hotels and restaurants serving traditional fare. There is one elegant hotel positioned right at the lake. This makes the Alpsee area a rewarding destination for a leisurely Bavarian holiday.

Plenty of other attractions draw holiday-goers to the Alpsee area: nearby the Ettaler Forest offers hiking paths and nature observation in a long-undisturbed natural hardwood area. The 32-square-mile state forest has no settlement within it and was once owned by the Ettal Monastery. The Village of Fussen is less than five miles from Hohenschwangau, a delightful little 700-year-old town with a number of unusual shops selling things like wood carvings and individual designer fare. The Museum der Stadt Fussen tells the history of this village dating back to the Roman era and features such exhibits as a monks' library and a performance hall plus some unusual paintings. About 35 miles to the west, Germany's longest Alpine Coaster draws the younger crowd. This 9,000-foot dry toboggan run will get the adrenaline pumping for the adventurous set. Other commercial activities in the area include tree-top rope gyms, children's rides and activities and ski slopes and cable car rides. These activity parks are located near the Greater Alpsee Lake in Immenstadt-a separate lake entirely. The backdrop for all of these activities are the majestic Bavarian Alps.

Although there are a number of hotels, private rentals and guest houses which offer lodgings near Alpsee, there are no campgrounds listed locally. Just over the border in Austria, however, there are a number of caravanning sites. The delightful inns and other lodgings in the area will make every visitor feel welcome while imparting the ambiance of a Bavarian holiday to all. Come, visit the castles, the shops and the delightful serenity of Alpsee. Enjoy trekking the 75 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails in the immediate area. Enjoy watching the swans feed at dawn. You will be refreshed, rejuvenated and ready for life's challenges. Lake Alpsee is that kind of place.

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