20 June 2009

On the Way to Meet Crazy Ludwig

There once was a king
He was as crazy as can be
A fancy castle he wanted
A fancy castle he got
The Germans wanted him gone
A drowning is what he got

That is Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the most picturesque, photographed buildings in the world. The princess castles at the Disney theme parks are based on this castle. In comparison, the Disney castles look like the outhouse for Neuschwanstein. We figured before our departure from Germany to ???, it would be a perfect day to visit the Castle.

We got up early this morning to get breakfast at out hotel as well as a little surprise. The little surprise was that our breakfast cost 17 Euro per person. Some surprise. This meal of ours immediately vaulted itself to first place in the contest for most costly meal on the trip. This also meant it was back to sandwich meat and bread for lunch. The bread was taken from breakfast, so we showed them. Not really.

Afterwards, we took a series of trains to Fussen, gateway to the castle. Once there it was a quick bus to the base of the mountain the castle is on, then a thirty minute hike to the top. Once up there we had about two hours to kill before our scheduled tour time. We occupied that by going higher in the mountain to overlook the castle. At first there were a huge amount of tourists, and then less and less the further we went up. Finally I reached the peak (not the top one, that was too far!) after a hard climb up. My reward was a nice view that I didn’t have to share with anyone. It would have been even better if it were fall, and if the castle wasn’t being renovated. I got the picture though and it was nice.

The inside of the castle was impressive as well, as it was something only a crazy man could do. King Ludwig had a fascination with Swans and you could see them painted, sculptured and drawn all throughout the castle. All in all it was quite picturesque and while a little bit touristy, very much enjoyable.

Rather than take the bus back to Fussen, we decided to walk our way back. This walk, while four miles long, took us past many sights that only the locals see. This included Swan Lake plus many amazing views. I would come back to Fussen just for the hiking it was that beautiful.

That takes us up to now. Right now Kristen and I are travelling first class, on a train back to Munich. Outside are a bunch of country houses as well as too many cows to count. It’s a nice relaxing ride, perfect after a long day hiking and sightseeing.

Right after I wrote that, a roving band of Germans came through our car. It was a bachelor party. Apparently in Germany there is a tradition that the groom has to walk around like a beer vendor at a baseball game. Instead of beer he has to sell all sorts of alcohol, trinkets and other junk. He’s not allowed to stop until everything is sold. Kristen and I took pity on him and bought a small soccer ball in appreciation for the unique experience. They were all pretty amusing.

Tomorrow is Kristen’s birthday, so we will be some place special. Actually it’s some place neither of us has ever been. Amsterdam.

Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland. For now.

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The Longest Day

Wow. We are both immensely tired tonight. This is account of starting our day at 2:30am. Silly me, when I had booked our flight I saw that it left Istanbul at 6am and thought nothing of it. Thought nothing of getting up at 2:30, thought nothing of catching the shuttle at 3:00, thought nothing of arriving at the airport two hours early at 4am, evidently I didn’t think of a lot. While it was rough getting from flight to flight we finally got to our hotel here in Munich at 1:30pm or 2:30pm Istanbul time.

Normally I don’t talk too much about hotels; however this one deserves a special mention. The brand is called NH Hotel and they are nice. First of all, we are paying 49 Euro per night which is phenomenal for an expensive place like Munich. Next, the room is modern and well put together. The best part however is the size of the room. This place is huge. It has a kitchen with a bar, as well as separate bedroom and shower. Plus there are two TVs. Great place and too bad we’re not staying more than one night.

After getting cleaned up we headed off to Munich’s Marienplatz to check out the old town here. My initial impression of Munich is that it is pretty awesome. For getting majorly blown away in World War II, it has done a phenomenal job of rebuilding itself in the best way it once was.

The only unfortunate part of checking out Munich today was that it was pretty rainy, so I wasn’t able to take as many pictures as I wanted.

Our first stop was the Englischer Garten which is a huge park/garden as the name suggest. Before we got there we took time to watch the river surfers who were taking advantage of the strong “surf” due to the rains. And yes, I did say river surfers who brave the strong river currents and surf. For those in San Diego it is like the wave house in Mission Bay.

After that we walked around the city checking out the palaces and other architectural highlights of Munich. We got to see numerous castles, hundred plus year old architecture and more. One of my favorites was Asam Church. Inside it was breathtaking and slightly scary. It appeared this church was designed during the gothic period, so not only was there Jesus and all the other usual suspects, but different things such as skulls, skeletons and even a baby throwing up a sunbeam.

Once finished there we went on a quest to find the one place we had to eat in Munich, the Hofbrauhaus. Once we found it we strolled in to find the expected pomp and circumstance for a place like this. The band was playing loudly, the tourist and locals were trying to outdo one another for drunkenness and we had to find food. After asking a local person how to order, he suggested the “crispy pig knuckle”, a Munich specialty. We got this and it was good. Imagine a piece of slow roasted pork about the size of a softball. I’ve learned that Germans know how prepare a pig.

After dinner we booked it back to our hotel. It was a long day that started early and we had to prepared for another long day down to the Neuschwanstein Castle.

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