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picking flowers in schwangau valley

I keep this photo of Tiny Traveler walking through a pasture in schwangau, Bavaria on my laptop’s desktop. The messy hair and girly sundress and the way she’s too caught up in her flower picking to care about the camera capture her personality and her age when it was taken.  But mostly  I love it because it captured  of one of those rare family vacation days where everything turned out the way we hoped it would.

The field is in Schwangau, a loose cluster of farm houses, grazing fields, small hotels, souvenir shops and bike baths that sit in an Alpine valley below Neuschwanstein, the fairy tale castle King Ludwig II built in the 1800s and that was the inspiration for the castle you see at Walt Disney World. (You can read about Munich and watch a video, too.)

We traveled here when I was pregnant, and the first time I felt Tiny Traveler kick was in the warm (not hot) sauna in our hotel’s spa. So when we decided to return to Bavaria with her as a preschooler, we knew we wanted to go back to Schwangau.

Our Best Anniversary Ever Was In Schwangau: Here’s Why

Revisiting a Favorite Destination With Kids

the hotel Ruebezahl

I thought I wanted to return so we could wow our princess-crazed 3YO with a real and quite picturesque castle. I concede I also wanted to show her the Hotel Ruebezahl, the location of that first kick. But as we made our way through the Bavarian countryside in the late afternoon and I took in the stoney, angular alps, the green grazing fields studded with cows, the farmhouses and small inns and the cycling tourists with their maps and backpacks, I realized that I wanted to come back because Schwangau is pretty and tranquil and kind of magical. I love it and I wanted Tiny Traveler to love it, too.

Taking Time Out To Celebrate

cows in schwangau valley

The day we visited happened to be our wedding anniversary. A detail we only remembered as we pulled into town later than we’d hoped after a longer drive than we’d planned.  Despite an out-of-the-way locale and both Rich and I forgetting its name, we easily found the Ruebezahl. The only room  left was huge, with a muralled bathroom and soaking tub and a balcony overlooking farms and the castle. They offered us a break and it was our anniversary, so we took it.

Our child intuited, in the way kids do, that both the place and the evening were special, and by the time we’d settled our bags and set out to explore, she was excited. We did pretty much the same thing we had the first time around and took a stroll across the  grazing meadows that make up the center of “town.” She reveled in the wide open space, running circles through the grass, giggling and demanding that we chase her, picking flowers for our anniversary, and mooing to the cows we passed.

We walked back to the hotel in the twilight,through Bavarian mountain air so light and clear it almost sparkled. Rich and I enjoyed our version of an elegant German dinner —a bottle of dry Riesling and upscale renditions of dishes like creamy, speck-studded kasespatzle (tiny noodles covered in cheese). Tiny Traveler enjoyed her own version of a fancy dinner—plain wiener schnitzle and ice cream with M&Ms in a bowl shaped like a clown face.

After dinner we went back to our roomy room so TT could bathe (or maybe swim) in our deep soaking tub. After she went to sleep we kicked back on the balcony, finishing off the wine with a fairy tale castle lit up in the distance and just-picked wildflowers in a glass on the dresser.

Visiting the Fairy Tale Castle

biking to neuschwanstein
neuschwanstein castle

The next day we borrowed two of the hotel’s bikes and set off across the fields singing “Do Re Me” from the Sound of Music (how could we resist?). We took a horse-drawn wagon up to the castle, snapped the obligatory photos, took the tour —Tiny Traverler was fascinated by the epic murals and  impressed by Ludwig’s  gilded bedroom — and bought the obligatory souvenir snow globe.  But that was mere icing on cake.

My vivid memories of Schwangau are not of King Ludwig and his perfect palace, though that’s what draws thousands of tourists every summer. It’s the lush open meadows, crisp Alpine air, wild flowers, a favorite hotel we hope to return to, and a few hours on a summer evening that turned out just right.

We don’t have a Schwangau moment every day when we’re on vacation (believe me, we don’t), but the possibility stumbling onto one every so often is why our family travels.

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We took our daughter to Schwangau so she could see the fairy-tale castle Neuschwanstein. We almost forgot it was our wedding anniversary, too. Here's how it turned out to be our favorite anniversary celebration yet. #schwangau #kids #family #anniversary #celebration

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