Sam accomplishing his walk to Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria | Sam Smith
Mastering Mountains Along King Ludwig's Way
Everyone has their own reasons for choosing to go on an active holiday in Europe. Some prefer walking or cycling as a means to truly appreciate a country, others get a great sense of achievement from completing a trail. For Sam Smith, a New Zealander diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a walking holiday was something even more special.
Hello, fellow active travellers! Allow me, Sam Smith, to take you on an exhilarating journey through the beautiful countryside, charming towns, and fairytale forests of the Bavarian landscape.
But first, let's start with some context, shall we? In 2015, I was diagnosed with MS and lost the ability to walk. With the help of my doctors and family, I regained my mobility, but long distances were always a challenge.
However, before I could begin the trek, I had to wait for a wee little global pandemic to blow over. It did, and finally, on June 8th, 2023, I flew into Munich with my wife Meg to begin my quest.
We took the train to Starnberg and started King Ludwig's Way. The walk traced the life and death of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, starting from the point where his body was found in Lake Starnberg.
With Meg by my side, we set off along the shores of the lake, getting our first glimpses of Bavarian nature, sprinkled with lavish lakeside mansions. We returned to our comfortable hotel to prepare for the big day ahead.
The next morning, we indulged in a delicious German breakfast and continued our journey towards Diesen. We wandered through enchanting forests, quaint Bavarian towns, and picturesque fields, passing churches, a dam, and stunning landscapes under the bright blue sky. We even stumbled upon what we thought was a church, but it turned out to be the most beautiful derelict prison I had ever seen.
The lunch stop in Andechs treated us to amazing pork and potato dumplings, sauerkraut, and the best cola we have ever tasted – maybe because we had earned it with our walking. We visited the church atop the hill before descending to the Hersching ferry, where I enjoyed a delightful ice cream treat called spaghetti Eis. The ferry ride was calm, and we arrived at our hotel in Diesen, exploring the town before retiring for the night.
The following day, we embarked on the longest stretch of the journey, covering 27 kilometres to reach Hohenpeisenberg. We passed stunning churches, summer fields, and only a few other walkers along the way. The tracks were all ours. Shaded by fairytale forests and passing numerous shrines, we arrived for lunch in Wessobrun only to find the town closed—no lunch for my hungry tum. Luckily, however, we had packed enough snacks and found a sports field with a tap to refill our water bottles.
The afternoon led us through towering forestry blocks and up to the summit of Hohenpeisenberg, where we discovered a truly Bavarian restaurant with breathtaking alpine views. I couldn't resist ordering Schnitzel for mains and Apfel Strudel for dessert before descending the mountain and finding our accommodation for a good night's sleep.
The next day, we embarked on the shortest but most technical leg of the journey, walking through a gorge often referred to as the "Grand Canyon of Germany." We traversed wooden bridges, climbed soggy steps, and ventured through Jurassic vegetation, thoroughly enjoying the experience.
After lunch by the river, we emerged from the gorge, strolled through more charming country towns, and reached Rottenbuch for the night. We stayed in a cosy room at someone's house, had dinner at a nearby restaurant, and slept soundly after walking nearly 100 kilometres in just a few days.
My feet were tired and blistered, but my legs, body and mind were still strong. With another fulfilling German breakfast, we set off for Trachgau. We visited a stunning church before immersing ourselves in the picturesque German countryside once more. The weather remained perfect throughout the journey, and we sang songs from The Sound of Music as we walked through forests and meadows.
Accompanied by the tinkling of cowbells, we arrived at Weiskirche, another remarkable church, where we stopped for lunch. Afterwards, we followed the valley, sharing the road with cyclists, until we reached our accommodation with a welcoming swimming pool and a stunning view of the Alps. Dinner featured a plate of cheese spaetzle before we retired for the night, content and satisfied.
The final day of walking arrived, and we were thrilled to finally see Schloss Neuschwanstein in the distance. The finish line. We approached, passing through villages, crossing rivers, and admiring alpine lakes while paragliders soared above us. We also realized that June 13th, the day of our visit, marked the 137th anniversary of King Ludwig II's death, adding a coincidental significance to our journey's end.
We knew we were approaching a tourist hot spot as the number of German accents dipped away as the tourist voices increased. The last climb was demanding, but we persevered until we reached our destination.
And there it stood, magnificent and awe-inspiring. We stood in the shadow of Schloss Neuschwanstein, gazing out over the Bavarian plains that had been our footpath over the past week. I real felt a sense of accomplishment. A lazy comedian with MS, once unable to walk across a room, had traversed 120 kilometres to witness one of the world's architectural wonders.
I cannot recommend the experience enough—every sight, smell, sound, taste, and feeling was incredible.
Thank you, Mastering Mountains
, for giving me the grant that made this dream a reality. I am eternally grateful. A huge thanks to UTracks and the World Expeditions Travel Group
for their support also.
>> If you wish to help other people like me achieve their dreams, please consider donating
to Mastering Mountains.
Have you been inspired by Sam Smith's Traveller Tale? Let us know in the comment section below.