I promised adventure, didn’t I? From Wednesday to Sunday, Chris of Maras and Belgium fame and I made another international excursion. Home base this time was Munich, but we made a couple of side trips as well. Experiences are broken into categories for your reading pleasure. Pictures are up if you are so inclined to check them out.
On the flight from IST to MUN, Chris sat next to a young couple coming back from working in Kenya for the year. They were from different parts of Bavaria, so they were able to impart a lot of important knowledge. For days when trains were needed, we could get a two person ticket and travel anywhere in Bavaria from 9am to 3am and save all the money. Most of our transportation was taken care of by the subway. Our AirBnB was just two stops from the central station. Tickets were on the honor system, and it’s possible we weren’t so honorable a couple days. We used the trains for our side trips. They were relatively new and at times disconcertingly quiet.
Our full day in Munich was the only really rainy day. Salzburg was the warmest and there wasn’t a single drop. It was rainy the morning of the castle day, but it actually got pretty nice during the walk up and it only started sprinkling right before we went inside for our tour.
For breakfast, we went to the grocery store next to the apartment and grabbed a couple pastries and some juice for the road. I think the most expensive day was €3.80 for both of us. On Sunday the store was closed but we went to the bakery a few buildings over and bought fancier versions of the previous days’ pastries for less than €7.
Dinner the first night was at Mr Pancake. The menu offered different style pancakes from around Europe or very thick American style pancakes with a strange variety of toppings. Mine had sausage, pickles, and a spiral of ketchup. There was a Chipotle-esque but also not at all the same burrito place across the street from our apartment. We ate there the second night. The veggies combination was eggplant, peppers, onions, zuchinni, and noted not-vegetable pineapple. We are at an organic pizza place in Salzburg and each got one of the day’s specials, white asparagus.
I had two traditional German meals. The first was cheese spaetzle, which was sort of like gnocchi mac and cheese. The second was potato soup with a hotdog placed on top and fried sausages on top of sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. We had Arabic food one night. I got an okra and tomato dish that I’ve been served as a side in Turkey, but this time it was on top of Basmati rice. On the last night we had Vietnamese food. The restaurant had a deal that you could order any main dish and then add a drink, an appetizer, and dessert, for just €8 more, so you know we went for the three courses.
We arrived to our AirBnB just before 4 in the afternoon. After freshening up, we made our first subway trip to Marienplatz. The square is famous for its golden statue of Mary, New Town Hall, and Old Town Hall, which is actually newer than New Town Hall because it was rebuilt after the war. Around the corner was the Viktualalienmarkt, where I discovered I own a flower stand. There is a pole in the middle of the market with painted pictures of what can be found in the market, carrying the practice of traditional community markets.
Thursday was our full day in Munich. We went to Olympia Park and walked around the greens, and then we went to BMW World. There was a museum in the BMW building around the corner, but this was free and had the newest and developing models on display. The next stop was to an art museum. There were four right next to each other but after reading reviews we decided the Neue Pinakothek would be our best bet. However, the ticket agent told us we could get the single entry for €10 or the combination ticket to all four for €12. After going through the Nueu (New) and seeing Cezanne’s, Monet’s, Manet’s, and Van Gogh’s, including one of his four sunflower paintings, we went to the Alte (Old) and de Moderne (Modern) museums too.
After lunch we went on a self-directed architectural sightseeing tour, visiting a bunch of old churches. The insides of these were much more ornately decorated than Belgium’s and there was less of a focus on stained glass. We walked through the city’s most famous beer garden, BLANK, looked at more buildings, and then toured Hofgarten during a break in the rain. Later in the evening, we walked through the English Garden, which was a large park. Just like in Belgium, it stayed light out until past nine, so we had plenty of daylight in which to conduct our excursions.
On Friday we made a jaunt over to Austria. We left home an hour earlier than we planned and were able to get a train leaving ten minutes after we bought our tickets. The ride was less than two hours and we were in the city before 11. I was disappointed that there was no Passport Control so I didn’t get to add a new stamp to my passport.
Before leaving the Salzburg station we stopped at Information to get a map and recommendations. The first stop was a semi-cool looking building, but we weren’t really sure why the woman told us to go there. Looking closer at the map, we realized there was an unassuming entrance that led to a very colorful garden. (After checking on Trip Advisor I now know this was called the Mirabell Palace and Gardens). After being relatively successful at getting off pictures without tour groups in the foreground, we walked a few streets back to St Sebastian’s Cemetary.
We had lunch and then used a foot bridge, the sides covered in locks, to cross the river. To the right, there was a place called The Lift, which is a museum but also an elevator to the top of a cliff to a great spot for getting pictures of the whole city. Next, we walked to the Old Town and went through a market before hoping around to several churches.
We split a chocolate covered pretzel to give us energy for the very uphill walk to the fortress. Inside, we walked around the compound and imagined how difficult it would be to get from place to place with armor on. Some of the inside of the fortress was open, and there were several spots that afforded panoramic views of the city and the fields and mountains beyond.
After the fortress we took a bus to Hellbrunn Castle. We saw online that it was also home to a water garden, and we arrived a few minutes before the last trick fountain show of the day. We weren’t really sure what we were paying for, but it turned out to be an awesome 45 minute tour of the old Archbishop’s garden that held multiple trick fountains. We were pretty good at spotting the hidden spigots so we stayed dry until the sort of sprinkler gauntlet at the end, and it was funny watching the same people get sprayed over and over.
On Saturday we took the train to Neuschwanstein Castle. You’ve seen it, it’s the white spire-y castle on the side of a green mountain that served as Walt Disney’s inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
Visiting the castle takes a lot of planning. It’s best to buy tickets in advance as lines can get really long. We got our tickets before the trip even started and knew to arrive over an hour before our tour time. When we went to collect our tickets, we found out that what we thought was our tour time was actually the pick up your ticket time, so we had an extra hour on our hands. This gave us plenty of time to eat and poke through the gift shops before walking up the mountain. The bridge where you take the famous pictures of the whole castle from afar was unfortunately under construction.
We first passed Hohenschwangau Castle, where King Ludwig II spent his childhood. He had Neuschwanstein built as a space for operas to be put on. Each completed room with the exception of the throne room had scenes from a different opera. The castle’s exterior was designed by a painter, not an architect. Construction began in 1869 and ended in 1886 when the king died. Only 1/3 of the rooms were completed, and the concert room was finished just days before the king died. No further work was done and the castle was open to the public a few weeks later.
We got up to the castle well before our tour time, so we had lots of time to walk all around and take pictures. It is very important to be on time for your tour. If you do not walk through the gates before the next time comes up 5 minutes later, they do not let you in. We were first in line for our slot and stayed up front for the whole tour, where I learned all the cool stuff from the above paragraph.
The castle day was a nice change of pace. We just had that one main attraction that was a big time commitment, so we weren’t running all over from place to place like the previous days. I’m glad we got to see and do all that we did, but it certainly made for a tiring trip!