Words cannot describe my trip to Munich, Germany, though I’ll try in this post. The delicious Bavarian food and beer, beauty, and history left me speechless (which is not an easy task!) Also, I finally found a country that matches my personality: rule-following, punctual, bicycle friendly, and unlimited supply of some of my favorites – soft pretzels and wheat beer.
As soon as we arrived, we ventured to the beautiful Marienplatz, the city’s main square since the 12th century. On one side of the plaza is the massive, medieval-looking, city hall made of stone, garnished with several life-size figurines, gargoyle-d façade, and intricate detail. On another side of the plaza is the old city hall and clock tower, which looked exactly as you would imagine an old German building would look like – golden, crisscross designs on top of white stone, outlined with dark brown wood, reddish-orange roof, and pale green steeples. On the other sides of the plaza were several restaurants with outdoor patios. In the middle was a mesmerizing monument topped with a golden statue of the Virgin Mary. We decided to have lunch, which of course consisted of pretzels, sausages, sauerkraut, and beer, right there in the plaza. It was at that point that we realized how quiet the city was. I have never been in such a quiet city, especially compared to the honking, constant construction, and liveliness in Madrid. After lunch, we explored the city, walked through the Viktualienmarkt, admired St. Peter’s church and tower, and had drinks at a rooftop bar. As I used to frequent the Pittsburgh Hofbrauhaus with friends and have a beer pitcher and stein from the former Cleveland Hofbrauhaus, a gift from my father, I told my friend that we had to go to the original Hofbrauhaus. It was packed as you can imagine, but we found some space in between two friends and a couple from other German cities. The fact that we were able to communicate reminded me of one of the reasons I wanted to teach English. Thanks to the beer, friendly atmosphere, and our out-going personalities, by the end of the night, we were all friends. My pictures from Munich can be found here.
The next day, we embarked on a journey to the magical, fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration of Walt Disney’s castles, built on top of a cliff, at the foot of the Alps overlooking the Hohenschwangau valley. After a two-hour train ride through the Bavarian country-side, a bus from the town of Fussen to the little village of Hohenschwangau, and then another bus from the main street of the village to a pathway that led to the castle, we were finally almost there. Following other tourists, we stumbled upon this rickety bridge built hundreds of feet over a waterfall. A little paranoid, we walked over the wood planks of the bridge, bumping into several tourists, for a stunning view of the castle. We continued to follow others over the bridge and, assuming this was the way to the castle, we began to hike up a steep mountain (mind you, we were not appropriately dressed). After hiking up the steep hill, we discovered that this was another look out point of the castle and actually further away from where we needed to go. As we only had 20 minutes until our castle tour time, we rushed to climb down the mountain (not very gracefully) and ran over the bridge and onto the correct path to the castle. Thankfully, we made it with a couple minutes to spare. The inside of the castle was just as enchanting, if not more, than the outside. Each room was majestically decorated with several life-size murals depicting various scenes of saints, angels, and characters from the King’s favorite operas. After the tour, we were able to go on the top of the two story balcony. The view from the balcony was one of the most magnificent ones I have ever seen. My eyes gazed from the sun shining in the bright blue sky with whisked white clouds to the snow-covered Alps, to the green hills, that led to the deep blue water of the Alpsee lake. It is such a shame that the castle is unfinished, and it was only lived in for about 100 days due to the King’s “mysterious” death. It is an intriguing castle and historical story. Well worth the visit. Click here to see pictures of the castle and surrounding areas.
Our final day in the city, my friend and I got onto another train to the town of Dachau. From the train station, we had a 10-minute bus ride to the first permanent concentration camp in Germany. Words cannot explain this experience. Everything about the place was off, including the eerie-looking trees that lined the 17 rows of where barracks use to stand. It was surreal to walk through the gate marked with “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work sets you free). Our tour guide, who was one of the best, walked us through the registration and cleansing areas, bunker (as they actually had a prison onsite,) the courtyard where they would have several daily role calls, and a replica of what the barracks looked like through three different time periods in which it was operating and showed the progression of overcrowding. Afterwards, we walked passed where the rows of bunkers were to the cremation area, which included the former crematorium, gas chamber, and newer and bigger crematorium to keep up with the deaths. I learned so much and will never forget the experience.
Although the Munich trip was definitely worth it, squeezing it in during my only free time of the week to sleep, do errands, relax, and lesson plan really put a hindrance on the following week. I do not have my next trip booked yet, but I have a few ideas brewing. Until next time – hasta luego!