Monday, July 28, 2008

Germany Trip Report, part V.

Thursday, 2 August, 2007

This morning we enjoyed a surprisingly decent breakfast at our hotel (perhaps it is difficult to mess up cold cuts and pastries) before heading over to the Konigsschlosser (King’s Castles).

There are two castles in this area that are situated on neighboring hills. Hohenschwangau is yellow and smaller and sits quietly below the grand Neuschwanstein, which was the inspiration for the Disneyland castle. Hohenschwangau served as a hunting lodge and summer vacation home for Ludwig II’s family when he was a boy in the mid 1800’s.

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We had reserved tickets in advance to tour both castles, so we picked up our tickets, bypassing an already lengthy line of people without reservations, and walked up to Hohenschwangau.

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Our tour there began at 10:15 and was quite good. We had an interesting guide who shared lots of good facts and stories about Ludwig and his family as we went from room to room. This tour lasted about a half an hour, and then we caught a bus up the hill to Neuschwanstein.

Our tour there wasn’t scheduled to start until 12:15 so we had time to walk up to the Marienbrucke (Mary’s Bridge) which spans a gorge above the castle and affords a gorgeous view.

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Looking back up at the Marienbruck where we were just a few minutes ago.

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Our guide for the Neuschwanstein was not very entertaining and shared very little information about the rooms we saw. Fortunately for us there was an American teenager in our group who lived in the area and had explored the castle several times with more effusive guides, and he supplemented our official tour. Ludwig spent most of his adult life constructing Neuschwanstein at great personal expense, and he died at age 41 with only a third of the interior complete after having spent only 172 days in the castle. There are some fascinating photos at the end of the tour that show phases of construction of the castle.

We exited Neuschwanstein to find heavy drizzle outside which quickly deteriorated into a steady shower.

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The rain made the steep road down the mountain somewhat slick so we elected to take a path through the woods instead.

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This was actually quite pretty and peaceful, and we had good protection from the rain until we emerged below into a heavy downpour and discovered we were quite far from where we had parked our car.

The rain negated our plans for an afternoon alpine luge adventure, so we set off for Munich around 2. The route from Schwangau to Munich is about half country road and half highway. Robert thinks that the autobahn is a marvelous and efficient system, and I have been impressed with how well he keeps up with the German drivers. It is a good thing he is driving instead of me.

We arrived at the Hotel Jedermann around 3:30, checked into our room, finding it clean and adequate with a nice, if small, modern bathroom, and then left to explore Munich.

I knew from my research that our hotel was located outside the city center (we needed a place that had accommodations for overnight parking), but I was disappointed at how far it really was. It took us a good 25 minutes walking through a somewhat seedy part of town near the train station to reach the pedestrian area that marks the historic part of Munich. The street by our hotel was very crowded, with a large population of Turkish immigrants (it felt a bit like a scene from Harry Potter with all the black robes), and the crowds became even thicker as we merged with all the tourists in the pedestrian zone. It seemed to me to be a combination of Naples, Italy and New York’s Canal Street, two of my least favorite places.

We trudged on, arriving at the Marienplatz, the historic town square, at 4:50. I remembered the Marienplatz and its glockenspiel show fondly from my visit with my family in 1980, and I looked forward to showing it to Dorothy. The glockenspiel in the tower of the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) is a cuckoo-clock like display of dancing figures that come to life three times a day (11:00, noon and 5:00). As we walked into the square, I was sorely disappointed to see the entire Neues Rathaus covered in scaffolding with only a small cut-out allowance for the Glockenspiel.

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When 5:00 rang, only the bottom row of figures turned around and a little owl hooted; the rest of the moving parts appeared to be “under construction.”

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We found the streets away from the Marienplatz to be more pleasant and less crowded so we wandered around them for a while. We stopped in a few shops and bought some souvenirs.

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We then went to the famous Hofbrauhaus, where I hoped that a large stein of beer would boost my faltering spirits.

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The Hofbrauhaus was lively and bustling with tourists. We located an empty table in the large main hall and sat down and ordered some beer and soft pretzels. I actually don’t even like beer, so I tried a Radler which is half Sprite and half beer, and I found it to be pretty decent.

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At the table behind us were several older German men dressed in lederhosen (Bavarian leather shorts and embroidered suspenders) and feathered hats. On the other side of us was a large group of rowdy and somewhat obnoxious American college students, and across the aisle sat an enormous gathering of Japanese businessmen. A short distance away an oompah band entertained the crowd with its polka music. It was quite an eclectic scene!

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Dots loved every bit of it, so we ended up ordering dinner and staying for a while. The food and service were surprisingly good, though our standards may not have been too high after the previous evening’s meal.

The Hofbrauhaus experience somewhat salvaged our evening, but overall I was disappointed that I elected to spend a night in Munich.


Liz Harrell said...

Hello! Sound of Music anyone? :) I realize it's Germany and not Austria, but still. I might pass out if I saw castles like these. :)

rkamper said...

When you get back, think about checking out our cuckoo clocks at You will probably find that it is cheaper to buy an original Black Forest Clock back in the States because of the exchange rate and VAT.

Anonymous said...

Love the photos on here. They're just lovely! I've never been to Germany, but I'm thinking I should put it on my list ...