4 Exercises for the Eyes to Avoid Wrinkles

This is a set of 4 exercises to help avoid eye wrinkles.

I found these exercises in a book from 1972 called “Secrets of Natural Beauty” by Virginia Castleton Thomas. I think it’s a classic amongst my parents’ generation (my parents would have been 11 when this was published, so maybe a classic amongst people a bit older), because when I cleared their houses after their deaths last year, both my mother and my father had a copy of this book on their bookshelf. I have, however, re-written the description of these exercises so that this post is more readable as the phrasing was a bit old-fashioned.

1. To remove eye tension and strengthen the eye muscles: Sit upright and extend your right arm directly in front of you. Point forward with your index finger and focus on it with your eyes, then move the finger very slowly to the right, until your arm has moved so far that you can hardly focus on it any more, then bring the arm back to centre, slowly, still focusing on the finger. Repeat the exercise using your left arm, but this time, move the arm to the left instead of the right.

2. Keeping your head still, raise your arm upwards to the limit of your vision. Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly drop your arm until it’s at the lower end of your vision range. Start by doing this once per day, but after you have done them for a few days, start building repetitions until you are doing a few reps each time.

3. Open your eyes wide and visualize a large-faced clock with the numbers painted just at the edge of your vision. Start at twelve o’clock and very slowly, without moving your head, move your eyes to one o’clock and on around in a clockwise direction, pausing briefly at each (visualized) number before moving onto the next one. After returning to twelve o’clock, repeat the exercise anticlockwise, moving the eyes from twelve to eleven, and so on.

4. Rolling the head without moving the shoulders is a good exercise for improved vision. This movement relaxes the eyes and reduces deepening wrinkles due to eye strain. Learning to do a loose head roll not only improves the vision by increasing circulation to the optic nerves, but can also relax the entire upper body. Personally I find the head roll very comforting and relaxing – it reminds me of yoga and gymnastics lessons at primary school. Do be aware that it’s best to avoid rolling your head backwards as this has been said to be dangerous (I’m not sure if this is a myth but I avoid it just in case, as I was told it during warm-ups by instructors of five or six different physical activities).

I tried these exercises out last night, and I don’t think I look any younger but the head roll was, as I predicted, very relaxing. The eye exercises made both my eyes ache slightly when I moved my eyes from 1 to 2 and from 11 to 10, so I think that might be an area of muscle weakness that I need to work on.

Virginia also writes:
“In addition to exercises for toning eye muscles, there are additional helps to control the marring of skin tissue by wrinkles, dark circles and frown lines. Learn to express your thought without grimacing. Many people are inclined to punctuate, describe or apologize for the contents of their speech by clown-like expressions.
The face should not be used to explain verbal expression. Well-chosen words will convey your meaning and be more appreciated without distracting facial expressions. Frowns, narrowing of the eyes and other manifestations of uncertainty do not present either a pretty or helpful picture. Use adequate speech and save your face.
That is not to say one should not have any expression at all. But these expressions should be relaxed, and show the more pleasant aspects of one’s personality. Laugh lines seldom seem to distress their owners as much as frown lines or wrinkles caused by squinting or habitually downturned lips. Laugh lines add animation to the face. However, the quick to laugh personality often pays for charm with crinkle lines around the lips.” (Secrets of Natural Beauty, 1972, page 133)

It sort of reads like she’s a slightly bossy teacher at a finishing-school trying to impress upon her charges the importance of understated expressions. I’m not sure I agree with the way she’s written it but the fact still remains that OTT expressions will age your face too soon, and apparently this has been known since at least the early 1970s. One thing I will point out is the women who were in their twenties in the 1960s and 1970s seem to have all stopped ageing around their late forties and early fifties, so they probably know what they’re talking about when it comes to beauty. While I couldn’t find any information on the internet about Virginia Castleton Thomas (and the book sadly appears to be out of print), it does say on the back cover that she was a beauty editor, and the introductory chapter shows that she has done a lot of research to find the beauty formulas she presents in this book, so I think she knows what she’s talking about. I will be writing more about this book, and the recipes for home-made cosmetics, as I try them out.

katie sun bathes
Katie had this natural beauty thing down so well that we didn’t know she was 7, we thought she was 2! Imma do what she did for my beauty routine – only use my paws to clean my face, eat everything in sight, especially if it is a plant, and spend lots of time in the sun with my Dearest.

What do you think of these facial exercises?  Would you do them?  Let me know in the comments!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Seasons: Spring

In direct contrast to Autumn, Spring as an emotion is a feeling of growth, of change, of refreshment, when I look on the whole world with new eyes.  Everything is growing, and the detritus of the old world is consumed by rebirth:

DSCF4248.JPG
Lichen on a rock, Fort William, Scotland.

From the Weekly Photo Challenge found here: Seasons I decided this picture best represented Spring as a reflection of the inner landscape.

Three Classic Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Hairstyles

Today’s video is a hair tutorial showing how to do three classic Lara Croft hairstyles from the video game and film franchise Tomb Raider.
In this video, I show you how I did the original video game bobble braid, how I did the pigtail bobble braids from the first level of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (and those Irish levels from Tomb Raider: Chronicles) and how I did the Angelina Jolie French Braid (with my short hair…) from the first film.  Which one’s your favourite?  I love the French braid in the middle best, and I think the pigtails didn’t suit my angular features at all!

Lara Croft Tomb Raider cosplay fancy dress tutorial hair
The title card from today’s Lara Croft hair tutorial video.

Also after a lot of thought about my longer-term Youtube plan I have decided to drop back to one video a week rather than two, now that my backlog of finished videos have all made it onto Youtube. I had a period of time at the start of the year when I was very active at making videos and I wanted them to all get onto Youtube sooner, so I’ve been updating twice a week since the New Year, but now I’m back to my usual update schedule of one video a week.
I had so much fun doing this video and when I recorded the shower scene at the end I just couldn’t stop giggling, I had to re-take it about 12 times with the shower door open and my tripod half in the bath and my bathroom floor got soaked!! It was one of those “THIS is why I make Youtube videos” moments.

You can watch the latest video here

I’ve also changed my update day to Thursday because I think it’s going to work better with the rest of my schedule.
I’ve also stopped embedding my videos onto WordPress because I want to keep track of how many views they’re getting and I can’t tell if anyone’s clicking the play button or not on here; if no-one’s actually watching my videos when I link them on WordPress, there’s probably a better thing I could use a full day’s post for. It’s still one click to get it to play, and it’s still going to take pretty much the same time to load, it’s just now it takes you to Youtube when you click the link so you can do Youtubey things.

When I see other people link their videos in WordPress I always prefer to go to Youtube to watch the video so I can like the video over there and comment on it. Let me know if you preferred it when the videos were embedded in WordPress or whether you like the new system better!

I know I haven’t written a beauty post in a little while but don’t worry, I’ve got some doozys* coming up in the near future that I’m so excited to share with you!!

* What’s the plural here?  Is it doozies or doozys?  They both look wrong.

Which Easter Eggs are Vegan 2016

UPDATED: CLICK HERE FOR 2017 Easter Eggs in the UK!

As promised, the 2016 edition of Which Easter Eggs Are Vegan (UK and USA):  I went to all the supermarkets in my town to see which ones carried dairy-free vegan easter eggs, and which eggs were actually dairy free and vegan, then I checked out Amazon.com to help out my American Vegan and Dairy Free readers too, so there should be something here for most dairy-free people.

Sainsbury’s:

Sainsbury’s had an excellent selection of vegan Easter eggs for 2016:

The Moo Free Egg is 100% vegan and available in Sainsbury’s:

The moo free vegan egg is available in Sainsbury's
The Moo Free vegan Egg

This interesting new addition to the range of dairy free vegan eggs is by a brand called Celtic (did they do Scheese??) and is also available in Sainsbury’s:

Dairy free vegan Easter egg Celtic Sainsburys
I haven’t seen this Celtic vegan egg before 2016.

Longtime entry Caramel Choices Easter Egg by Choices is a very sweet, very tasty dairy free and vegan egg that’s a favourite with children. It tastes like Thornton’s Special Toffee Egg (but vegan) although the chocolate is a little softer. Available at Sainsbury’s.  I have three of these ready for Easter, it’s my favourite!

Choices vegan Easter egg
Caramel Choices vegan Easter egg

The Choices dairy free vegan chocolate Easter bunny, at £1 each, comes in “milk” chocolate flavour or white chocolate flavour, but is still dairy free and vegan.  Available at Sainsbury’s and Tesco:

Choices vegan Easter egg bunny
The Choices chocolate vegan Easter bunnies.

Sainsbury’s have done their own dairy free and vegan eggs again this year.  This one is fantastic (I had one last year) – it’s a vegan white chocolate egg that’s dairy and wheat and gluten free and vegan so it covers all bases.  I love white chocolate eggs and there’s so few vegan ones on the market, so this is one of my favourites:

Sainsburys vegan Easter egg
Sainsbury’s white choc vegan egg.

This is the larger of Sainsbury’s two dairy free, gluten free and vegan eggs on offer this year: This one is dark chocolate flavour and comes with little chocolate discs.  If you’re a vegan dark chocolate fan this one’s for you.

One of Sainsbury's two dairy free, gluten free and vegan eggs on offer this year: This one is
Sainsbury’s dairy free Vegan gluten free Easter egg.

Tesco:

Moving on to Tesco, who had a very good selection last year, we also have the following dairy free and vegan Easter eggs:

The Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Egg (the one that looks exactly like this with the gold on it) is dairy free and vegan. This egg is quite luxurious and would make an excellent gift for a dairy free or vegan adult who likes dark chocolate, but a child would probably want something a little sweeter:

Tesco finest 74 Ecuadorian Easter egg vegan dairy free
The Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Egg is vegan.
Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Easter egg
The ingredients for the Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Easter egg. That’s “cocoa butter” not “butter” (despite some companies getting these confused when they label food for some reason).

The Green and Black’s Dark 70% chocolate egg is vegan and dairy free in 2016. Green and Black’s can be very inconsistent with whether they put milk in their food or not. One minute their chocolate is reasonably vegan, then the next minute it’s full of horrible milk, as I’m sure we all know, so don’t rely on this for checking if they’re still vegan in 2017!

Green and Blacks chocolate Easter egg vegan
The Green and Black’s Dark 70% chocolate egg is vegan in 2016.
The 2016 ingredients for the Green and Black's 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Easter Egg.
The 2016 ingredients for the Green and Black’s 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Easter Egg.

The Green and Black’s mint chocolate egg is also dairy free and vegan this year.  All the Green and Black’s say “not suitable for milk allergy” but I have an allergy and my only problem is that their chocolate doesn’t taste very nice, it’s never made me ill though:

The 2016 ingredients for the Green and Black's 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Easter Egg mint.
The Green and Black’s mint chocolate egg.

The Lindt DARK chocolate bunny with the brown ribbon is vegan 2 years in a row!  I am most excited about this positive move by Lindt to enable those of us who are dairy free to enjoy their chocolate.  Their chocolate is so nice!

Lindt Bunny Vegan
The Lindt DARK chocolate bunny is vegan.

The ingredients for the Lindt dark chocolate Easter gold bunny are here:

Lindt Bunny Vegan Ingredients
The ingredients.

My local Tesco’s Free From section surprised me two holiday seasons in a row – they didn’t have dairy free and vegan chocolate Advent calendars before Christmas and now they don’t have any Free From dairy free chocolate Easter eggs to choose from, good thing they make up for it with all their vegan dark chocolate egg offerings, but the only vegan Easter chocolate that Tesco sell that children would enjoy is the Lindt gold bunny and the little Choices bunnies, so if you’re shopping for vegan children or children with a milk allergy, Sainsbury’s is far and away the best place to get some proper Free From eggs.  Tesco’s selection is better for adults who like dark chocolate, so do check the preferences of your vegan or milk allergy sufferer before assuming they will like something just because it’s dairy free.  I think the vegan Kinnerton dairy free egg has been withdrawn this year because nowhere has it on sale and it used to be the most popular one for shops to stock (I’m sort of glad, I’m sick to death of getting that flipping egg from everyone year after year).  Morrisons were the most disappointing, for the fifth year in a row, they had absolutely nothing in the vegan or dairy free Easter egg department, not even the Green and Blacks or Lindt ones, and while they’ve expanded their dairy free area of the Free From section recently to move with the times and nearly catch up with… um… every other supermarket in Britain… they still have a long way to go before I can confidently get rid of my car and just use the local Morrisons for my dairy free and vegan shopping.

The Supermarket Shelf Hall Of Shame:  NOT VEGAN OR DAIRY FREE:

To follow are a list of eggs that looked like they might be dairy free or vegan but definitely aren’t.  Please don’t buy these for someone who doesn’t have milk or milk products:

After Eight Easter Egg not vegan
NOT VEGAN The After Eight Easter Egg contains milk.
The Lindt Excellence dark chocolate 70% cocoa egg contains milk.
NOT VEGAN: The Lindt Excellence dark chocolate 70% cocoa Easter egg contains milk.
Nestle Black Magic Easter egg NOT VEGAN 2016
NOT VEGAN: Did anyone really expect Nestle to come up with a dairy free egg for 2016? Well they didn’t. Again. But it looks like it might be vegan, so I included it in the hall of shame. I think Nestle might be the only chocolate company I know of who have never even tried to make a dairy free chocolate bar (even Cadbury’s trialled it with Bournville).

Cadbury’s also have nothing vegan or dairy free again this year, but I don’t mind too much because I can’t stand their chocolate. The vegan After Eight mint chocolate bunnies we saw last year (that I bought about 5 of at £1 each) also seem to have disappeared this year which is a shame because they were fabulous. If you see them please let me know where in the comments!

Dairy Free And Vegan Eggs on Amazon:

For my American readers, I’ve taken a look through Amazon and come up with a list of the best dairy free vegan Easter eggs available in 2016.  There are a couple I excluded because they were too expensive to be even vaguely reasonable for what they were.  I was surprised that there wasn’t the vast selection I was expecting:

Moo Free Cheeky Orange Vegan Easter Egg This one is $17.00 (plus $5.99 shipping) so comes in a little on the expensive side but I included it because it’s the only orange flavoured one.  This one is dairy free and suitable for vegans.

Moo Free Bunnycomb Free From Vegan Easter Egg At $13.00 (plus $5.99 shipping) it’s a little cheaper, but the cost of shipping is quite high again.  As the name implies, it’s dairy free and suitable for vegans.

Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate Eggs in a Gift Boxes 36 Blue Foil Wrapped Eggs (Pack of 2) These are $21 but they do qualify for free shipping AND you get a two pack for the $21 (which is a total of 36 foil wrapped eggs).  They are organic dark chocolate and suitable for vegans.

Cream Veggs Milk Free, Nut Free Vegan Easter Cream Filled Eggs These are $16.95 plus $6 shipping, but you do get 6 eggs so if you’re getting something for a family of vegans, dairy and nut allergy sufferers, or if you want all the kids to have the same as each other, this is a pretty good choice and since they’re cream-filled (I’m assuming dairy free cream, otherwise this is a really stupid item with misleading labelling), it’s something a little different to the usual hollow eggs.

Montezumas Chocolate Dark Choc Bunnies 90g This is a $17.82 (plus $5.99 shipping) 90g pack of 8 mini chocolate bunnies that are dairy free, organic and vegan. Interestingly the description says these are made in West Sussex (UK) but I’ve never heard of them so I don’t think they’re a very big company – perhaps one day these will find their way onto English supermarket shelves too!

Bonnie the Milkless Bunny Rabbit, Milk Free, Nut Free Vegan Candy Okay this one’s not an egg, it’s an Easter bunny, but it’s so freaking adorable and at $14.95 it’s one of the cheaper options to feed your vegan tasty dairy free chocolate at Easter!

And finally:

If you’re new to veganism or recently been diagnosed with a milk allergy (or recently met someone you’re buying for) you should be aware that these eggs will sell out fast!  I have already (time of writing is February 2016) got my Lindt dark chocolate bunny, and am getting my Sainsbury’s eggs this week so I don’t miss out, because Easter is a very special time of year for me and my bunnies, and I totally missed out on Christmas due to being critically ill so I’m looking forward to opening my tasty eggs on Easter day which means getting them early.  Please store them in a cool, dry place so they don’t go bad or melt, dairy free chocolate is still chocolate and it will melt in warm temperatures/direct sunlight!

I am an Amazon associate. This article contains affiliate links, which means if you buy from Amazon I get some of their profits. This helps me have time to do the painstaking research that goes into producing this content.

While these eggs are suitable for lactose intolerance, A1 casein intolerance and milk allergy sufferers, as well as most people living a milk-free life, not all of these eggs are suitable for all people whose medical conditions mean they avoid milk, not because they contain milk (they absolutely are 100% vegan except the three clearly labelled in the hall of shame) – but some people also have to avoid all of a specific type of sugar as well e.g. with a disaccharide intolerance. If you want to know more about the seven different types of milk-related allergies and intolerances, see my article here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Seasons (Autumn)

This week’s photo challenge is to do with seasons; seasons as a reflection of your inner landscape.  I am thinking I’d like to do one for each season, but today I feel Autumn.
Being born in November, I guess I’m more prone to feeling Autumn than most people – the feeling that summer is over and winter is coming, and all you can do is watch as the temperature goes down and the wildlife runs for cover from the blizzards.  I think this picture sums it up, as the rabbit stares out at the dwindling stalks of grass:

autumn bunny
Fifer, Taken in October 2015.  Taken with Sigma 18-250mm lens.

Here’s where I found the weekly photo challenge: Seasons

Cute baby bunny Timmy plays with ball.

My latest Youtube video is here and I also need some photography advice.

Petit bébé lapin “Timmy” joue avec le ballon.

Piccolo coniglietto “Timmy” gioca con la palla.

Whichever language you speak, it’s freaking adorable (also I feel so proud I translated the title and description into French and Italian for Youtube)!  Enjoy cute bunny video (sorry about the wobble):

By the way (and this is why I tagged photography, sorry if that’s going to annoy people I promise I don’t usually do this), does anyone have any tips for photographing fast moving objects that startle if you move too close??  Any tips at all even if they seem obvious?  I find it hard to get my focus etc sorted before the rabbit moves again and he’s so movable!  And when he moves, the light levels change from where he was to where he is, and then I need to change all the settings on my camera by which time he’s moved again!  What do other people do?

I got featured in the Rose Chat Podcast!

Remember the article about roses in Aberdeen?

yellow rose
The Yellow Rose of Aberdeen…

Well a very nice chap asked me to read it out for a podcast, so I did, and since then he’s done a lot of work getting it ready and it’s now available to listen to here:

Podcast about the roses in Aberdeen

So, y’know, you could go and listen, or something? 🙂

It’s particularly pertinent today because I’m just getting started on my applications for master’s degrees for the September intake, and I’ve got Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen) and Edinburgh Napier University at the top of my shortlist.

Photography 101: How to set up a shot

“To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk.”
– Edward Weston

These is my easy method for setting up a shot with a DSLR camera, there’s no “rules” here about what should be in the photo itself, because rules are subjective when it comes to photography.  I have been ill with man-flu for the past couple of days and am still burning through tissues at a fair rate of knots, so I’m going to keep this article very short and sweet.  It’s aimed at people who have just bought their first DSLR and perhaps don’t know how to set up a shot so it comes out really well (without resorting to the automatic settings).  Why bother?  Because if you take a decent picture on the spot, then you don’t have to waste any time messing around with photo-editing software when you get home:

1. Identify what you want to take a picture of.

2. Find the landscape (if it’s a picture with a landscape). Usually but not always a horizontal line between land and sky. If you have a diagonal landscape e.g. in the Scottish Highlands, set your camera up using the upward lines from buildings.  If you have a tripod you can just use its spirit level.

3. Identify light levels and do a test shot (snap a quick pic to check whether it all looks ok).

4. Fix ISO (you want it at the lowest number you can set it to without getting a black photo back).

5. Fix aperture (a low number brightens the picture if it’s too dark, and vice versa).

6. If picture is still too dark, slow down your shutter speed until you get a bright enough picture.  1/8 is the lowest number this should be unless you’re doing a “long exposure” shot.  If you’ve got to take it below 1/8 to get a bright enough picture of a non-moving subject, or a landscape, then increase the ISO.  If there’s anything moving in the picture, you probably don’t want to go beyond 1/80 shutter speed because the moving object will start to blur; in this case, increase the ISO to get a brighter picture instead.

7. If picture is too bright, increase your shutter speed to darken the picture.

8. Zoom (if your lens does this) if you need to. This might change the aperture as some lenses (my Sigma 18-250mm does this) make the picture noticeably darker as they zoom in on something.

9. Focus using the manual focus ring (or autofocus).  On most cameras you need to flip the switch from “AF” to “MF” to manually focus.  This switch is generally on the lens.

10. Take at least two pictures just in case one doesn’t come out right. Check the first one in the viewfinder to make sure you’re satisfied, if not, repeat steps 2-10 until you’re happy with the result.

11. If all your pictures are coming out too dark and you’ve tried everything else, increase the ISO as a last resort.  I will talk about ISO in more detail in a future article because it’s important to know when NOT to change it.

There are exceptions to all of these rules, and after the first couple of thousand photos, you will start to develop the judgement to know instinctively what to do with your camera in specific situations.

Did I miss anything?  Let me know in the comments!

Two Unbelievable German Fairytale Castles.

By all accounts, Ludwig II was a mad king.  Of course, madness is subjective, but most people agree that it’s a bit off the wall to build yourself a fantastic fairytale castle, then spend your kingdom’s vast fortune to build another one across the way, just so you have something nice to look at from your own, fabulous castle.  It’s even more ridiculous to hear that Ludwig II married a girl, then moved her into the other castle.  I’m sure that made for interesting sex, sending a messenger on the forty minute walk to ask: “Your castle or mine?” Only to receive a reply, eighty minutes later: “Oh, not tonight darling, I have a headache.”  May as well save oneself the effort and grab a villager instead.  Perhaps this explains why Hohenschwangau castle (often mistakenly called Hohenschwanstein castle) was quite near to the village of Schwangau and Neuschwanstein castle was way off in the distance.  Old Mrs Ludwig II couldn’t exactly complain if she couldn’t see anything that her husband was doing.  Perhaps if Henry VIII had adopted this two-castles-on-two-mountainsides approach, he could have saved himself all the nuisance of having to dispose of unwanted wives after the warranty period.

But he didn’t think of it.

In Britain, we never really consider Henry VIII a mad king, perhaps because he knew which end the crown was supposed to go on, and didn’t roam Buckingham Palace in his nightwear, and anyway, when he was compared to Charles I (who was so despotic, he caused the only English civil war) or George III (who figuratively wore his underpants on his head), he gets a free pass.  I think it comes down to the fact that, historically, we have tended to respect the institution of marriage a little too much.  Henry VIII was married to each of the six women who he wronged, but that’s fine because he married them.  If, as a bachelor, he had treated just one of those women properly but not married her, that would have been a scandal.  But beheading two wives?  That was reasonable, because he was married to them at the time.  I think the other reason we don’t remember any of our kings as properly, truly mad (rather than just bloody stupid), is because we’ve never had a proper despot on the throne.  Add to that the fact that we still have a monarchy and the Germans don’t, and it’s perhaps easier to see why the Germans embrace the madness of their erstwhile monarchy and open it up for tourists to see at low low prices (Austria’s got the market pretty well cornered on this too, but I’ll come to that in another article).

Ludwig II is suggested to have schizotypal personality disorder for which there is evidence from his autopsy – he died in 1886 under highly mysterious circumstances the day after he was dethroned for extremely paranoid behavior.  Fascinatingly, he was claimed to have drowned and it was recorded as a suicide, but he was known to be a good swimmer and there was no water in his lungs.  Add to that the further mystery that his psychiatric doctor was with him at the time – and the doctor was found dead with head and neck wounds and markings concurrent with strangulation.

There are plenty of things in Germany which are spectacular, or ludicrous, or despotic, but nothing in Germany is quite as spectacularly, ludicrously, despotically fabulous as the twin castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein.  We were so taken by them that we actually went to see them twice.

The drive was painful in both directions due to bad traffic around Munich.  We parked in Fussen for a breather and that was when we saw the first of the two castles.  I’ve been told by quite a few people that Schloss Hohenschwangau is supposed to be the best one, but Schloss Neuschwanstein was the first one I saw and it captured my imagination far more.  It was fit for a princess.  It looked like a Disney castle.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a castle that was quite so… well… castley.  If someone distilled pure essence of castle and made a castle out of it, Neuschwanstein would be the result.  This castle belonged to every Disney Princess who ever lived.

Neuschwanstein castle, Schwangau, Germany.
Neuschwanstein castle, Schwangau, Germany; taken from Fussen.
Neuschwanstein castle, Schwangau, Germany.
Neuschwanstein as seen from Schwangau.

We didn’t go inside either castle because (on the way to Salzburg) by the time we’d fought our way through traffic they were both closed for the day.  The same thing happened when we drove here on the way back from Rome, so I’ve not seen first-hand what they look like inside, but when they look like this from the outside, I can’t wait until we actually get to go in.  Photography is not allowed inside the castles.

Castle Hohenschwanstein, Schwangau, Germany, August 2014.
Castle Hohenschwangau, aka Hohenschwanstein, Schwangau, Germany, Taken August 2014.

The castles look even better in real life and I think they were well worth the  effort of driving here even though we didn’t go inside – I don’t think there’s anything like them to be found side-by-side like this anywhere else in the world.

Make it Happen:

There’s two parts to this – getting to Schwangau and then getting to the actual castles.  Once you’re in Schwangau the rest is pretty damn easy (as long as you DON’T mistakenly go to SCHWANAU which is 3 HOURS AWAY from where the fairytale castles are).

Getting to Schwangau:

  1. Fly to Munich airport then hire a car, accommodation is best in Fussen which also has a much better selection of restaurants and bars than Schwangau.
  2. Drive straight to Schwangau from your home address – this is what I did, it took two full driving days and one overnight stay in a layby in central Germany to get here after 5pm from the North of England.
  3. By public transport it’s really sketchy, which is why I never got here on my Interrail trip – basically Schwangau is a little bit remote and doesn’t have it’s own train station.  There is a direct train from Munich to Fussen which takes 2 hours 6 minutes, then you’re on your own to get to Schwangau (Google says it’s a 45 minute walk or a 12 minute cycle – so if you’re reasonably fit and mobile you can probably walk it in under 30 minutes; it wasn’t far at all by car), but if you’re willing to get a taxi this is another option from Fussen.  I can’t find bus info.

Getting to the Castles from Schwangau:

  1. Hohenschwangau is a very easy stroll from the centre of Schwangau.
  2. Neuschwanstein is slightly less accessible, you can take a 45 minute walk if you’re feeling sporty.
  3. The more common option to get to Neuschwanstein is to take the tourist buses (run by private companies) which costs about E2.60 there and back again.  I think there’s still some walking involved and the buses are unsuitable for disabled people due to the terrain between where the bus stops and getting into the castle.
  4. The most awesome option by far to get to Neuschwanstein is to take a horse drawn carriage, at E6 there and E3 back again.  There is a 15 minute uphill walk from where the carriage drops you off.  If you’re feeling especially fancy, you can also ride in a carriage to Hohenschwangau castle for E4.50 there and E2 back again.
  5. Entrance to the two castles on a twin ticket was 9am-6pm (summer) or 10am-4pm (winter) and cost E12 each or E23 for a combined ticket.  For more information click here.

Disabled, Wheelchair and Pushchair Access:
You can’t drive to the entrances, the closest parking is in Schwangau village centre which costs about E5, or there’s free parking even further down the hill in two large lay-bys. Neuschwanstein appears to sadly be generally unsuitable for wheelchair users or people with mobility-related disabilities due to its design (although some people have had success getting around, I think this has to be taken as the exception; if you’re planning a trip for a busload of pensioners, you’ll have to give Neuschwanstein a miss, but if you push your own wheelchair and you’ve got someone to help out on the hilly bits, you will be able to get around enough to see some of Neuschwanstein). Pushchairs can get to Neuschwanstein but if you’re not reasonably fit you will be utterly shattered afterwards.  If you have an invisible disability such as CFS or MS you may have extreme difficulty with Neuschwanstein because the bus queues are a lot of standing around waiting and the walk is hilly with no real breaks; if you’re having a low-energy day, I’d skip Neuschwanstein and go for Hohenschwangau instead.  Hohenschwangau on the other hand appears to be reasonably accessible if you can make it up the much gentler hill to the entrance (but if in doubt, double check this when you buy tickets, because everyone’s level of ability is different) and pushchairs are no problem at Hohenschwangau.  Everything I saw of both castles and Schwangau village was hills rather than steps.

For accommodation I strongly suggest you avoid the expensive hotels of Schwangau and instead stay in the beautiful large village of Fussen, as there is much more choice, it’s a bigger town and there’s lots of cheaper options and more amenities.  If arriving by train, staying in Fussen will also break up the journey a bit.  I found the absolute best selection of accommodation from Booking.com but do book early as it’s a popular but relatively undeveloped area, and when we were travelling to Schwangau/Fussen from Rome, I tried to book us a hotel for 2 days ahead but the cheapest options that were left started at 150 Euros which was out of my price range (this was September prices).  By contrast, there are currently options for mid-August available starting at £43 for two people, which is obviously a significant saving.  By comparison, for the same example date (12-13th August) hotels in Schwangau start at £93 per night for mid-August if you book now.

Has anyone else been to see these fabulous castles?  Let me know what you thought in the comments.

If you’re looking for more info on disabled access of major tourist destinations, I’ve also written about which parts of Rome were wheelchair accessible.

More info about ticketing etc here.

This article contains affiliate links, it doesn’t affect the prices you pay for anything, and if you choose to book accommodation from links on this page it just means I can buy food and petrol and all that lovely stuff (which gives me more time to write articles like this one).

The REAL Issues Affecting REAL Space Princesses: Part 2

So in today’s episode, The REAL Issues Affecting REAL Space Princesses Part 2, Princess Leia expresses her dissatisfaction with the fact that Akbar got her line:
It’s a trap!

Just a little something to brighten your Monday morning, it IS safe for work. 🙂