Friday, March 25, 2011

Road Trip: Part Seven: Germany

The day before was Switzerlandian, Liechtensteinian, and Austrian. This day was Germanian. Specifically Bavarian. 

The car journey to our main attraction for the day was swift and stress-free. The roads were twisty and well-signed, which helped with the fun and the navigation. Once at the main village roundabout, I got out of the car to go to the ticket office, as we had pre-arranged a tour time. After trudging around, sorting out directions and tickets, I headed back to the car. Or where I had told them to "stay". I had wanted Stinky, Binky and Winky to drive up to the closer parking lot, but I couldn't find them! A little miffed that they had moved, paid for parking in the furthest, puddliest lot they could find and left me to the wolves I flounced to the car to make the required clothing changes for a trudge up a hill. Stinky was miffed at my being miffed; Binky and Winky were probably just rolling their eyes in agitation at the ensuing kerfuffle.

Hohenschwangau from below
We had to walk up a forested hillside to reach the tourist attraction. What tourist attraction? The most visited site in Germany. The form on which Disney based his ideal fairy-tale castle. The embodiment in stone of the sweeping romance of Wagner's operas. The one left unfinished by a "crazy" prince, due to his deposition and  his (likely) murder. Neuschwanstein. Ludwig II signed away the sovereignty of Bavaria, ignored the plight of his people, and generally behaved in a spoiled rich-boy manner: all to build pristine domiciles in his image of perfection. Neuschwanstein was basically built because he didn't like Schwanstein (now called Hohenschwangau) as a residence, and saw it only as a summer cottage. 

I'd let the pictures speak for Neuschwanstein - but I can't. Photography was disallowed. Probably so people would buy books at the shop. Matt used his breast pocket and the iPhone to capture some illicit video. And instead of describing it, I've found pictures online to show the interior

Neuschwanstein from the bridge
After our half-hour tour (that was nowhere near as good as the Mont Saint Michel tour), we walked around some of the grounds. There is a bridge spanning a crevasse, that gives an unimpeded view of the castle. We crossed over it, ostensibly to see the castle (but actually to see the fog. All of us then walked a little further along a wooded hiking trail. Until Matt decided that it was too slow and uninteresting, and he headed up a goat path. I followed, you know, to be immediately available as a rescue crew when needed. Other Matt also  followed, and Vicki (again with the intelligence and forethought) waited. After Matt had reached the top (and had been told to "get down from there! There is a memorial cross  for a REASON!"), he and I headed back down a path - away from the cliffside. Other Matt was still hanging around, about 20 meters down from us. Last I checked, he'd curled into the fetal posish, and was scrambling down the way he'd come up, but backwards. I don't think he liked the sight of a crumbling pathway and a several hundred meter fall into rocks and water.  

Neuschwanstein was followed by a car ride along the Romantic Road. Which was a bit crap in winter as most things were closed for the season. Eventually, the car found it's way onto a highway, in the direction of Munich. 

In the car we had decided to stay two nights in Munich, as everyone was a bit tired of the driving. There was no hotel booked, and no map to follow, so the annoying iPhone Nagivator came out. A combination of signs and directions led us to a hotel - which we blew right past in the car. No worries, as the area was chock-a-block of hotels. The first one actually stopped as was right behind the Sankt Paul Church. Since it had an agreeable price, location and room, it was taken. We unloaded the car - which was becoming harder and harder the more crap (sorry! "stuff") acquired - and trudged to the hotel rooms. 

Lucian and Matt
Later that night, Matt and I met up with Lucian, a relative of Matt's through Grandma Joan. Matt is making noises about secondary removed cousins twice again something something. I don't know familial relation terms like that - I don't have double first cousins :-P. Lucian gave us info on the subway, then took us to dinner in a packed brewery/restaurant. The food was excellent and included duck, deer, pork and chicken (from what I remember). The beer was also great - even I managed to drink ¾ of a pint. It was housed in the cellar of a building, with copper stills and biersteins serving as functional decoration (the place was making and serving bier!).  

After dinner, Lucian took us around to see some of the sights of Munich. He took us by the Neues Rathaus with its dancing clock (the Glockenspiel); showed us the uneven towers of the Frauenkirche - of which no building is to be taller than; took us past the Opera building and the ex-Royal Residenz (which was covered in scaffolding which themselves were covered with silk-screened sheets of the facade); through the drunkard-packed Hofbrauhaus with it's locked up personal biersteins; past one of the three city-gates (I want to say Sendlinger Tor, but I could be wrong); and generally around and about the central district. Lucian helpfully explained much about Munich, some of which I think I remember even now.  

Neues Rathaus
Matt and I remembered enough thought to take Vicki and Matt around ourselves. We got a bit lost, but found the recommended shops (such as Manufactum and the neighbouring food emporium) and saw the Glockenspiel dance at noon. Later that night, Lucian collected all four of us, and took us out again! This time for Chinese. Another, different tour ensued. When he took us through the Hofbrauhaus, it was packed with tourists, a band, and the regulars (in traditional Bavarian garb). Somehow, Lucian, Strentse, myself and Vicki (in that order) were invited to sniff snuff. Never Again! Later on (or perhaps beforehand) we passed a memorial to Michael Jackson (in front of the baby-dangling hotel); a different shopping district with police and a brass boar; and into a cafe for a late-night coffee. 

This is your brain on snuff

We left the next morning for a drive straight back to Amsterdam. It was fraught with leaving-things-behind (my hanky :'-/ ), traffic snarls, wrong turns and general "driving sucks" moments. We made it back to A'dam and sat down. Seriously. We were all tired. 

You know what happens after this. Victoria and Matthew look around Amsterdam. Victoria and Matthew pack their bags and take one of ours. Victoria and Matthew are driven to the airport. Victoria and Matthew get on a plane to Montreal and a train to Ottawa. Matt and Liz get to sleep in their own bed! The End. 

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