Two continents down, one to go! We sadly bid farewell to Africa after some R&R in Johannesburg (seriously, we didn't do one touristy thing. We hung out with a friend, did some shopping and went for coffee). We were also meeting Will's sister Fi in Munich so, as I said to my friend Tara at the time, finally I had someone to tell my travel stories to without them saying, "Yes, I know, I was there. And you made that last part up." Hooray!
Now I love Germany. I love that I can almost understand what is going on (due to my small amount of German). I love the architecture. I love the history. I think the people are delightful. Here's some of what we did in Munich.
When you're in Europe there are a couple of things you have to do. You have to go to the churches and you have to go to palaces. Munich comes down more on the palaces side of things so we did the Residenz, a mostly rococo-style palace in central Munich. If you're not sure what a rococo-style palace is, imagine this.... start with a very Scandinavian room - all white walls and minimal furniture and what not. Fill some large toothpaste tubes with gold paint and give them to some small children and let them run wild squeezing the gold onto everything in the room. Then put some paintings of naked allegorical women on the ceiling (it's okay for them to be naked because they're allegorical you see). Done! It's a little over the top for my taste.
We also went to Schloss Nymphenburg (Nymphenburg Palace) where the most interesting room was the Gallery of Beauties created by King Ludwig I. The official line (straight from the Bavarian Palace Department) is that King Ludwig commissioned an artist to just generally paint beautiful women. The unofficial line is that the paintings were King Ludwig's old-school version of a skanky Facebook page where you post photos of people you've slept with. And that there are hundreds more hidden in a basement somewhere and only the 35 most beautiful on display. Charming.
Munich's most famous sight is the Glockenspiel, a clock in the town hall. It goes off every hour and plays music and some figures dance and some knights on horses joust (and the Bavarian knight wins every single time!) and we were told that tourists have voted it the second most disappointing tourist attraction in Europe (we saw the first a little later in the trip). I say the key to enjoying the Glockenspiel is really, really low expectations. Then you can't go wrong!
Will and Fi's cousin Christa also lives in Munich (although she has now moved to Switzerland) because she is a viola player and plays in really impressive European orchestras. So we caught up with her while she was still in Munich. We went with her to the Hofbrauhaus, a beer hall, which is an essential German experience. We all ordered food that involved some combination of meat and potatoes, because that's what they sell, and beer of course. There was a football (yes, soccer) match on that day that Bayern Munchen (the local team) was playing in so the mood was rowdy to say the least. Everyone sits at big communal tables and talks to everyone else. It's huge and there is an oom-pa-pa band that plays traditional music and some of the songs evidently have actions because all of a sudden in the middle of things everyone would stop talking, starting shouting/singing and swaying and swinging their beer steins around and then they would drink, and then they would go back to whatever they were saying before. Fun times.
This is the castle that Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle is based on and I have wanted to go for a long time. I almost made it in 2010 but then my passport got stolen on the train and I had to make an emergency trip to Berlin to get a new one... but that's another story! So finally I was headed to Fussen (which, delightfully, means feet - ah the Germans and their quirky town names!) to see Neuschwanstein. When we first caught sight of it through the trees, I'll admit, I thought is seemed a little small - because doesn't every tourist thing we build up in our heads seem smaller when we actually get there? And it certainly is a compact little castle, but I'll tell you what, the interiors are probably some of the best I've seen. Unfortunately for you, one cannot take photos inside (copyright issues apparently *shakes fist at Disney*) so you won't get to see the interiors in this post, but I highly recommend a Google Image search when you have an idle moment. Let me break it down for you somewhat. Mad King Ludwig (who may or may not have actually been mad) was obsessed with a few things - the operas of Richard Wagner, the Crusader Knights and swans being some of them. So any room that doesn't have massive murals depicting scenes from a Wagner opera have stylised paintings of Knights Templar or somebody. And there are swans everywhere. In the carvings, the door handles are shaped like swans, there are giant ceramic swans, they're in the tapestries. It's like Where's Wally for bird lovers. The only problem is that in order to deal with the vast numbers of tourists they get, everyone has to go in on a timed ticket and stay with their tour group and you get rushed through at such a rate that you don't really get to pause and appreciate the general awesomeness. Still, better than not seeing it at all. Schloss Newschwanstein - life achievement unlocked!
|The Science Museum - apparently Will was excited enough about this to include a picture...|
|In the Munich Residenz|
|An example from the Gallery of Beauties|
|A quiet drink in the Ratskeller (Town Hall Cellar, nothing to do with actual rats)|
|The view from Neuschwanstein|