It is a good day’s train ride from Berlin to Munich (you can do it faster, but we opted for the cheapie tickets) but when you’re on holiday, lazy days like this are a bit of a godsend. Ending up in one of the single seats, I spent my time peering into other people’s backyards (I love this about train journeys), watching the ever-changing scenery, catching up on sleep, and confirming once and for all that the mad journey from Amsterdam to Hamburg had indeed killed my phone (something to do with power surges, the braking system in the train, overloaded lines…honestly, I didn’t care how; I was just rather distraught it had). Not having any more stops in the adventure long enough to get the thing tended to and being too tight to buy a new one, I limped on without any means of telling the time in the middle of the night, communicating with the outside world without borrowing someone else’s device and, worst of all, keeping up my Candy Crush prowess. Of course, I suffered in silence when the rest of my companions relaxed after a long days sightseeing with a couple of rounds of this addictive game!
Our knowledge of our destination prior to visiting was pretty scant. It had been included in our tour mainly because of its proximity to Dachau Concentration Camp, something The Farmer in particular had wanted to see. We knew it has a foehn wind similar to Christchurch’s famous Nor’Wester, is the venue for the Oktoberfest (not really a drawcard for us, but each to their own), and the older Homesteader’s remembered the 1972 Summer Olympics, but that was about it.
It certainly got off to a very favourable start, due to our happy choice of dinner venue: Cafe Amadeus. The lady who welcomed us was also the chef and waitress. Jog-trotting from table to bar to table to “backstage” (where her energetic pounding of our schnitzel order had the bottles in the bar teetered on their shelves) and back, her smile was always beacon-bright. All the way from New Zealand after the ‘fest?! Not normal. Stuffed with good food and more than a little wine, we teetered back up the road to our accommodation feeling the world was pretty wonderful.
Our choice of venues tested this feeling to its limits the next day. Dividing into two groups, we decided to sign up for a couple of local-led tours.
The Farmer, Princess and Goat Herd headed North West via train and bus to soberly explore the original Nazi Concentration Camp: the place where they ironed out the all the glitches. In Dachau, the engineer among us found herself admiring the meticulous planning and orderly systems only to be brought up short by the repulsive thought that it was fellow human beings this factory was processing; The Farmer, a definite seeing-is-believing type, now knows his truth, and The Princess was astounded by the just-another-tourist-spot attitude of some visitors (the witnessed selfie-on-the-bunks shook her world).
Our group chose to take no photos; to them it just didn’t seem right.
The remaining Homesteaders had scratched their heads as to how to spend the day. Farm Girl was very keen on a flying border-hop trip to Salzberg to partake of the Sound of Music tour, but we could find none happy to run for just the three of us, and we ended up getting fast-talked into a trip to Neuschwanstein, the dream castle of (Mad) King Ludwig II and the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
The first hint we would not be back in time to greet the others when they returned at 2pm was the two and a half hour train journey we embarked on in the company of our colourful tour guide, three Irish sisters, and Greg from Oregon. The train journey was spent learning about King Ludwig II and his crazy ways, Bavaria and her history, and swapping that weird traveller small-talk you become so proficient in (“…oh, but the sunset over Angkor Wat was to die for!”).
The train took us as far as Fussen, where we boarded a bus to the tiny village Hohenschwangau. Spirits revived by a curry worst and a bowl of fries, we paid the two euro each to catch a lift to the top of the hill.
Apparently the first thing you must do when visiting Schloss Neuschwanstein (because it’s actually not a castle) is stand on Marienbrucke (Queen Mary’s Bridge)
so we quickly headed for the schloss
The internet is full of people absolutely raving about this place; the beauty, opulence and splendor. We found it a little sad. There is no doubting the lavishness of the inside (which you are banned from photographing) but I found the actual story of King Ludwig II, who really didn’t like crowds or parties, never actually stayed in the place, and was just a bit of a misfit who wanted to impress his hero Richard Wagner, kind of took away from it all. Admittedly, I’m not really one for being rushed past gilded this and Byzantine that, but I left the tour (through a Gift Shop with by far the most tat of the entire Grand Tour) feeling really sorry for poor Ludwig – and even more off Wagner who dropped him like a hot Dampfnudel when the money dried up.
Neuschwanstein turned on all it’s beauty as we left, catching the last rays of the sun
but by far my favourite bits of the tour were looking out from the castle over the Alpsee and surrounding lakes, listening to the cowbells, and exploring Fussen old town whilst waiting for our homebound train.
Day one in Munich – a definite case of Beauty and the Beast.