Exploring Bavaria

If you’ve read Ray’s post on our Audi A3 (who we have lovingly named Liesel), then you already know we have managed to work our way out of Munich and into the south of Germany – the province known as Bavaria.  Bavaria is everything that you would imagine it should be – every stereotypical house, hat, beer stein or lederhosen that you can imagine legitimately originates from this region.  So much so that if feels as if this look is only for show and tourist satisfaction (except that the buildings are all over 100 or 200 years old….)

We set out on the Autobahn, driving stupid speeds towards the south.  Regardless of our speedy entrance to the province, this began the half of our trip that has been designed for a slower pace of life and relaxation and that is FANTASTIC.  It has combined everything I love about road trips (the freedom to take a left turn, try going off the beaten path and being on the open road) with what I love about international travel (ie: seeing new cultures and historical places).  So me and Ray are equally in heaven as we venture into this new phase of travel.  We had a jam packed list of things we wanted to see, but it took 2 hours to get out of Munich, and so we started slashing our itinerary to suit our day – which sat just fine with us.  So while the Sylvenstein Bridge will have to be saved for a future trip, we did manage to see a few Bavarian gems with lots of time to enjoy them.  We started the day at the Ettal Abbey – home to a large group of Bavarian Monks.  The courtyard to this Abbey is outstanding!  So much so that I had to create a video instead of a picture, just to give you a fuller picture of what it is like standing in the middle of the courtyard.  The only part of the Abbey we are allowed into is the Chapel, which is equally stunning.  Surrounded by the Alps, up in the mountain, this is a perfect place for quiet and contemplation, which is exactly what we did while visiting, taking the time to listen to the silence, say a prayer, and light a candle.

<<I can’t seem to get my iPad to imbed the YouTube Video – so click here to see the 360 degree view >>

We went from the Abbey to the small town of Obergammerau – a town famous for holding a huge city wide Passion play (though not this year).  Normally the town is jam packed with those who make the pilgrimage to watch a reinactmant at Easter time, but this being an off year for the play allowed us to visit the town with just us and the locals.  We had a wonderful lunch and, most importantly, went to a German candy shop.  Now, normally I wouldn’t take the time to list every store I wandered into (I’m a sucker for a souvenir – I love having my home filled with items that remind me of my travels!) but I found the most extraordinary childhood memory in this store – the tongue candy!!!  When I was 11 years old me and my cousin Amanda went to Holland with my grandparents.  My Opa, working for a Dutch importing company, took us to this warehouse and let us pick out a tub of candy.  Amanda picked out this tub of sour candy’s shaped like, well, tongues (at least that is how we viewed them).  Every year after that my grandparents would go back to Holland and ask if we wanted anything and we’d say “TONGUE CANDIES!” But they were unable to find them.  But then, here, in a small Bavarian village, almost 20 years later, i found them.  I FOUND THEM!!!!  And I bought them.  A LOT OF THEM.  (Ray had to tell me to stop.  Then I doubled my load, and he shook his head).  This MADE MY DAY.  It’s a story that only have sentimental value to me and probably Amanda – but I was so incredibly happy about this.  Ahhhh….. *insert big smiles*  Of course we also bought a hand carved Christmas ornament (wood carvings is what the town is also famous for) and Ray found his Bavarian Beer Stein!!!  (one of his two “I wants” from Germany).  And of course he tried on some great hats!

After lunch we headed to the Linderhof Palace – one of the many insane Castles/Palaces built by Mad King Ludwig.  He lived there by himself (with his servants only) for the 8 years leading up to this death.  While in the spring the gardens are filled with beautiful flowers and waterfalls cascading down the mountain, in the snow, everything was covered up, so that was too bad.  But we toured the house itself, and it was pretty outrageous.  Ludwig lived upstairs only and the main staircase was for him alone.  His servants rarely interacted with him.  In fact, there was a hole in the floor in the dining room that would open up so they would arrange the entire diner table (as in the TABLE plus food, candles, etc) and then open up the upstairs floor and wheel up the whole table for him, instead of bringing things into the room themselves.  The whole house is filled with gold on the walls and beautiful chandeliers (one with 208 candles).  The entire house is as it was, with the exception of the drapes, which had been restored.  But the best part is, everything in the house, from the vases, to colours, to paintings, to statues to art….ALL OF IT….is based on Versailles and Louis XIV, XV and XVI.  If this was the 21st century, we would just call him a geek obsessed with a French culture.  And he was.  OBSESSED.  Paintings of the kings, mimicry of their bedrooms, portraits of Madame de Pompadour, Marie Antoinette and a few other mistresses are on the ceilings and pictures of the various Louis’s fill the walls of the Palace.  Everything mimicked the style of Versailles.  He was obsessed.  I’m curious to see if this trend is similar in Neuschwanstein – the Sleeping Beauty Castle also built by Ludwig (which I can see right outside my window as I write this).

Because our tour of Linderhof went longer than anticipated, we decided to skip Zugspitze (no need to rush a good thing) and began our journey to our hotel.  The GPS in Liesel (which pops out of the dash, and has a touch pad that you can write on, and is 3D, and also in the dash for Ray, and has bluetooth, and autorecognizes my iPhone, and many many other cool things) took us on a beautiful route via Austria – so we crossed the border and travelled through the Tirol region towards our destination.  Of course, the view of the Alps was so stunning I had to manually remind myself to breathe, and frequently had to pick my jaw up off the floor.  I have seen the Rockies in all their glory, but truly felt like they didn’t compare to this view.  We pulled over once so I could try getting my first picture of the view – but it doesn’t begin to do it justice.

When we crossed back over the border into Germany, we immediately came across Lechfall – a destination on my photography hitlist.  The waterfall was way greener and much larger than I had imagined.  Ray didn’t like the high walkway (that was a tad shakey) above the Lech river, but I could have stood their all day. I took about 20-30 minutes of photos before the cold started setting in and Ray was getting impatient (not with me – just wanting to get back to Liesel).

By the time we finished at Lechfall we were adequately exhausted, so we headed to our hotel in Hohenschwangau – Hotel Alpenstuben.  It’s off season, so the hotel is mostly empty, which is nice.  Our room has a balcony with a view of Schloss Neuschwanstein – the big attraction in the town – and the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.  We had a nice leisurely dinner, spent sometime blogging, curled up with a good book and enjoyed the views. This was part of the relaxation that we desperately needed from this trip, and was SO nice to have a quiet evening.  But I still had enough time to shoot a photo of the castle from the balcony.  It’s the first of what I am sure will be many to come.

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