Monday, August 3, 2015

Auf Wiedersehen, Munich!

Munich is relatively small, so I was originally planning on taking the train over to Salzburg for the third day, but I decided to stay in Munich as I hadn't seen as much as I had hoped on the day I arrived. The weather had massively improved and no rain or snow was in sight, so I got my day pack ready and headed out back to Marienplatz to see the glockenspiel at the Rathaus play.



The glockenspiel plays twice a day, and it recalls a wedding that took place back in 1568. It takes a while to get going, but if you're patient, you can see the wedding procession, the joust, the coopers' dance, and the rooster crow.

I took a stroll over to the Asam Church, which is a Rococo church built by two sibling architects. The church functioned as a showpiece for all the things you could order from their firm, and it's pretty intense.



I especially liked the gold grim reaper caught in the act of cutting the thread of life. Who knew he used gold scissors.


It's a bit of a shock walking back outside with the bright light, and if you look to your right, you can see the city walls!


I turned left and walked towards Frauenkirche. The church is easy to spot due to its twin domes, and the interior is surprising modern since much of the church was destroyed during World War II. It was a nice rest for my eyes after Asamkirche!


There's a neat little detail you may miss if you're not looking for it. There are tiny painted men who helped construct the church decorating the tops of the columns playing peekaboo.


I also really admired the beautiful metal work surrounding the perimeter of the pews.


Just nearby is the St. Michael's Church, a Renaissance building with a beautiful yet not overly ornate interior.






There's a crypt below, containing the Wittelsbach royal tombs, including the king that built Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, but unfortunately, it was closed.

I next paid a visit to the famous Dallmayr deli, which is similar to the food hall at Harrods. There were loads of delicious goodies to be had! 

Even an in house coffee roasting bar with beans stored in large porcelain urns!

It was getting on lunch time, so I decided to visit a restaurant that J and his officemates had gone their first night, the Spatenhaus Beer Hall, which serves some damn good Bavarian food. I'm not quite sure what I ordered, but it was definitely meat based, brown, and delicious. I don't really mind eating alone, and it was nice to sit down and rest my feet and read through the guidebook for a bit.

After ingesting copious amounts of meat, I ducked into the nearby Residenz Museum, which is the former royal palace for the Wittelsbachs. It was just in the nick of time too, as it started to rain. The Museum is split into three sections, the Treasury, the private apartments and the Cuvillies Theatre. I wanted to visit all three, but I opted for just the Treasury and the Apartments in the time I had left before the museum closed.


The treasury is pretty freaking amazing, and I spent a good chunk of my time oohing and aahing over all the beautiful things. I probably could've stayed in there forever, just drooling and wiping my chin for hours on end.





But it was time to visit the apartments, which weren't too shabby.


Let's just say that restraint wasn't exactly the royals' strong suit.





I  made it out of the museum just as it was closing, which gave me just enough time to nip back over to the Hofbrauhaus to take some snaps and pick up some souvenirs for the beer drinkers in my life.






It was pretty much the perfect end to my Bavarian holiday, and I was ready to go back home to London and spend some time with J and the cats.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Castles in Bavaria

I wasn't quite sure what Munich had to offer when I decided to tag along on J's work trip, but I was pretty stoked to find out that Bavaria is castle country! I never say no to castles, and I booked myself on a bus tour to see Linderhof Castle, the village of Oberammergau, and the mother of them all, Neuschwanstein Castle.

I thought I woke up in plenty of time to get to the meeting point at Hauptbahnhof, but I didn't realise that there was a transport strike that had started that morning. The concierge informed me that it would be impossible to get a cab with the strike combined with the rainy weather, so I decided to chance it by heading to the rail station to see if any trains were running. 

I ran into Marienplatz station and managed to buy a ticket, but it all went downhill from there. The station is positively ginormous, and I couldn't find any signs anywhere directing me to the right platform. Luckily, a very kind man took pity on me and asked me if I was lost. He directed me to the proper platform and I hopped on a train and got off at Hauptbahnhof.

I had even more trouble this time, because it can be quite difficult to orient yourself indoors, especially since Hauptbahnhof is even bigger than Marienplatz station. I just followed the exit signs and prayed that I would pop out of the right exit. Of course I didn't so I got to wander about the streets until I finally arrived at the right exit barely in the nick of time. I was a sweaty, panicky mess by the time I got there, and it turned out that I needn't have freaked out so much since more than a few people turned up late due to the strike. Sigh.

We finally got going on our epic bus adventure with our first destination being Linderhof Castle. It was built by Mad King Ludwig, and it's billed as a mini-Versailles. The king was a major francophile, and he built the castle in the Baroque and Rococo fashion in homage to King Louis XIV. You can view the palace by guided tour only, and photos are strictly forbidden. Sad. But believe me when I tell you that the place is dripping in gilt and fleur-de-lis and swans.


King Ludwig didn't much like people so he had this dining table that would disappear into the floor and drop down into the kitchen. The servants would set the table and then crank it back up so it would magically appear back in Ludwig's dining room, laden with food and flowers. I honestly don't think that idea is half bad. Most other castles I've visited had their kitchens very far away from their dining hall, which meant that most of the food would be cold by the time it finally arrived. Quite clever, this king.

The stop was a short one, which meant that we didn't have much time to explore the grounds after the tour. I was a bit bummed out by that, but the pouring rain meant that most people were glad to climb back into the bus rather than wander around outdoors.



Our next stop was another quick one at Oberammergau, a very cute village that's famous for its painted houses and the Passion Play. The play is performed every ten years and all the villagers act in the play. 


It was raining buckets and getting downright freezing so a lot of people opted to just stay on the bus while the sillier of us climbed off and ran around town. We had to be quick about it, but I got to see a fair share of the beautiful painted houses and the carved woodwork that the area is also famous for. 









It wasn't nearly enough time to properly see the town, but it was still better than nothing. Everyone was muttering under their breath about how cold they were, and the bus rolled out of town and on our way to Neuschwanstein. I was busy reading my guidebook as our tour guide chuckled about the snow over the PA system. I looked out the window, and my eyes nearly fell out of my head to see that it was snowing! I was freezing, but I had bundled up and brought gloves and I felt sorry for some people who had showed up in a t-shirt and shorts! 

We finally arrived at Neuschwanstein safely in spite of the snow, and the weather had returned to freezing rain by the time we unloaded from the bus. Everyone gets dropped off in the small village at the base, and I popped into a hotel bistro to grab a very crappy and expensive sandwich and wolfed it down while I figured out how I would get up to the top of the mountain. I didn't want to ride the horse carriage, since I feel bad for the poor horses, and the queue for the minibus was ridiculously long. I opted to just hike my way up on my own, and I decided to go to Mariensbruck first, the bridge overlooking Neuschwanstein castle, for the epic view and then head down to the castle for the guided tour. 

I was frigid with cold at the beginning of my hike, but I started shedding layers as I warmed up throughout my hike. It took a good forty minutes and more than a few horses passed me by. I was so glad J wasn't with me. He would've kicked my butt for not just waiting for the minibus! I was pretty tired by the time I got to Mariensbruck, but the view was definitely worth it. The cold weather made for a pretty atmospheric view with the castle sitting in a nest of clouds.


I enjoyed the view for a bit and then started making my way down to the castle itself. Along the way, I got some great views of Hohenswangau castle.


And of Neuschwanstein as well.


I made it to the castle in plenty of time for my guided tour to start, and I had a chance to take a look around the exterior of the castle before heading inside, where photography is forbidden.



Unfortunately, King Ludwig never got the chance to finish this castle, so there's not much to see inside since only a handful of rooms were ever completed. It's still worth taking a look, but I think the real beauty of the castle is on the outside. 

I hiked back down into the village, where I got one last look at Neuschwanstein.


I had a few minutes to kill before our bus was scheduled to leave so I popped into a nearby souvenir store and loaded up on some uniquely German Christmas ornaments.

We had a long ride ahead of us back to Munich, and I think I must've nodded off a few times. I was starving and tired by the time our bus pulled up to our drop off point, and I trudged back to the hotel in the rain. It was an epic day of sightseeing but the weather was so completely miserable the entire time that I was exhausted and chilled to the bone by the time I got back to my room. I had never been so glad to get my wet things off, showered, and tucked into bed in my warm pyjamas. I ordered room service, pretty much licked the plate clean, and that was all she wrote.