This year, for the first time in a decade, one in five said they had no holiday planned yet. When asked why, the main issue was security – which they rated as more important than weather or value for money. The research also predicts that 2016 will see one in three Germans taking their main holiday at home – a proportion not seen for decades.
The drive to Fuessen takes two glorious hours, and reveals a handsome Altstadt – old town – protected by a riverside fortress. Townhouses the colours of cream and honey decorate a lattice of cobbled lanes beneath steeply-raked roofs. In a cavern-like tavern where dirndls and lederhosen are compulsory (for the staff at least), each guest gets a bib, a tankard of beer and a plate of pork knuckle so generous that eating it almost requires a military campaign. But the town’s main draw is its role is as base camp for the campest castle in Christendom: Neuschwanstein.
The hilltop citadel, built for Ludwig II of Bavaria, is the most recognisable castle in Europe. You’ll probably have seen its playful twirls of towers and turrets decorating a postcard, a tourist brochure or a guidebook cover. And if you haven’t? Well, one word sums it up: Disneyesque. Walt himself chose Neuschwanstein as the model for the Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and copies of it decorate theme parks from Florida to Japan. Even early on a Sunday morning in late March, the queues of eager visitors are formidable.
Crowd-control techniques borrowed from theme parks get tourists flowing through a complex designed not by architects, but by theatrical set designers who shared Ludwig’s obsession with Wagnerian opera and medieval knights. The king dreamed of a castle where he could “breathe the air of heaven” – but the breathtaking scale and intricacy of his vision took Bavaria close to bankruptcy. So 15 years after work began at Neuschwanstein, and before all his grandiose plans were fulfilled, the state’s political leaders had the King of Bavaria declared insane. He had lived for less than six months in the castle, in a bedroom that feels like a Byzantine chapel – with cherubs and starlight to lull a weary monarch to sleep.
Shortly afterwards, the beautiful dreamer died in mysterious circumstances – along with his doctor. Just seven weeks later, Neuschwanstein opened as a tourist attraction – in spite of the king’s description of it as “holy and unapproachable”. Since then Ludwig’s artistic extravagance has repaid the taxpayers many times over. Bavarian tourism, with the castle as its beacon, reached a record 34 million visitors last year.
With such man-made marvels and natural good looks close by, German travellers are choosing to stay at home at a time of instability abroad. But if the nation that has always been at the forefront of tourism has passed the point of “peak Wanderlust,” other countries will suffer.
The traditional trade arrangement has been: the Germans make plenty of money exporting great cars, then they export themselves on foreign holidays to spend that cash. Now, it seems, they plan to spend more time at home with their Schlosses. And as I watched the spires of Neuschwanstein melt into the Alpine mist, I could understand why.
Article from: BBC