Monday, May 23, 2011

Europe Vacation, Part 8: Munich

We ended our vacation in Munich. We were there for three days and each day we took a side trip out of the city.

When we arrived, we headed to our hotel – it was the nicest one yet (with amazing breakfasts). Then we took a walk down to Marienplatz – it was the weekend so there were people everywhere…it was pretty hard to walk through.

We went to the beer and Oktoberfest museum – it was pretty disappointing – everything was in German. So after that disappointment, we caught a train to Herrsching and then took a nice hike over to Andechs Monastery.

The beer at Andechs was great (particularly after such a long, hot hike) and we had pretty good (but bad for us) food – pork, potato salad, sauerkraut, and apple strudel.

The next day we had a wonderful walking tour of the city with our Scottish tour guide. We got to see the glockenspiel, various churches, the new synagogue, and a lot of Third Reich points of interest.

In the afternoon, we took the train to Dachau concentration camp. Although it was not a very large camp, it was used as a model camp – the SS trained here. April 29th was Liberation Day so there were a lot of memorial flowers.

As you can expect, it was a very depressing site but it added a very personal aspect to the war and the horrors of the camps. We toured the museum, the roll call area, the bunkhouses, religious memorials, the incinerators, and the gas chambers (which were never used). We didn’t get to spend enough time at Dachau – we stayed until closing but there was so much to read – a tour is definitely recommended.

When we got back into the city, we went to St. Peter’s to climb the bell tower. The views from the top were great with a bird’s eye view of the city. We could see Olympic park and the Alps in the background. There were 306 steps to get to the top – we felt quite out of shape!

On our last day of vacation we took a guided tour of Neuschwanstein – this is the castle built by “Mad” King Ludwig that Walt Disney used as a model for Cinderella’s Castle. The tour we took was informative but we didn’t feel like we got our money’s worth.

When we arrived in Fussen, we ate lunch by the Alp Lake (with a nice view of his boyhood home) and then hiked up the hill to Mary’s Bridge for a beautiful view of the castle. After taking a lot of pictures, we finally went for a tour of the interior.

Our tour guide in the castle was incredibly odd – he was very flaky and frail – I felt like I could break him in two. Even his manner of speaking and gesturing was starting to make people feel a little weird.

Only a third of the castle was finished before the king died but each room that was complete was so ornate – it took 14 wood workers 4 years just to complete his bedroom. We’ll just say that he was a patron of the arts and didn’t like the ladies (extremely flamboyant).

After the castle tour, we hiked down the gorge trail – it was very nice and peaceful (not like the very touristy town). The train ride back was enjoyable as we talked with some of the people that went on the tour with us.

When we arrived back in Munich we had to do what everyone does in Munich – go to the beer hall. We went to the Hofbrauhaus for good beer and food. We ended up sitting right near the oompa band and got to hear some good accordion music for our last night.

The next morning we took train to the airport and after much security screening we were on our way back home. We arrived home very late after a train ride, bus ride, and brisk walk.

We had a wonderful vacation – unfortunately it’s time to go back to reality and start working on the house again.

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