Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 2: A'castling we will go!

After falling into bed and giving in to the sleepies after that very long first day, we woke up (mostly) refreshed on Monday and ready for some monastery and castle explorations. Between navigating the tiny, tiny bathroom and utilizing the hall mirror as makeup central, we managed to get ourselves together and downstairs for some breakfast. Breakfast, also known as the kickoff festivity for the Nutella Indulgence of 2009. Thank goodness for pictures on packaging, otherwise we might have opened up a lot of single-serving spreadable meat goo. Ick. Spreadable chocolatey-hazelnutty goodness is much, much better. I had some every day for breakfast the rest of the trip - hooray! There's nothing like starting the day with chocolate. Oh, and if you try to stir it into coffee, it doesn't completely melt into it the way we thought it would...gets kinda grainy and provides a somewhat unappealing visual, but the taste, as always, is impeccable. Oh, and why does the European breakfast offering resemble an American lunch counter? Plates o' deli slices and cheese, all the better to make a breakfast sandwich with, I suppose. I'm getting off track here with this Nutella and general food babbling.

Megan came into town and met us for our S-Bahn ride down to the end of the S-5 line, dropping us off in Herrsching. Before getting on that train, though, you can bet we explored the vending machine offerings in the station...and I found myself a tasty can of Slap, a vanilla coffee beverage that I hope refers to the kick of caffeine you get from it rather than actually supporting physical violence. However, the rest of the trip we did go the physical violence route and threaten each other with a "vanilla slap" if anyone got out of line. Yes, most of those were directed at Trinity. I digress again. From Herrsching we opted for the bus ride up to the monastery in Andechs where the monks are supposed to make some pretty awesome beer. Sadly, we didn't encounter any actual monks (I'm not sure why I was so keen on getting in a monk sighting, anyway), but there were some nuns in the church when we went in - works for me in establishing it as a legit religious place. The monastery, church, and brewery have been hanging out on a mountain of sorts above the eastern shore of Lake Ammersee in the middle of upper Bavaria's five-lakes region since the middle ages, of course with a little modernization applied here and there. We had some gorgeous views and some pretty tasty monk beer to go with those views in a rather quaint little biergarten. Oh, and what goes better with beer than a giant, tasty pretzel and loads of spicy mustard? They are excellent companions. This may take the title of my favorite beer from our trip - of course, I wasn't beered out at this point, and we did enjoy it outside in a fantastic setting...but the Andechser Weissbier Hefetrüb is one tasty brew. Of course, after drinking a large beer in the AM hours, you feel compelled to take silly pictures with some rock statues on your way back to the bus stop.

After a short wait for the bus, we zoomed back into Munich to catch a regional train to Schwangau, because today, besides being awesome-monk-beer day, is also...CASTLE DAY!!! Trinity had two requests for this trip (really, that was all...just the two. Well, I suppose "not too much time staring at art" does qualify as a third request) - beer and castles. I wholeheartedly supported both of those requests, and I was extremely pumped about castle day. I mean, I grew up with a poster of Neuschwanstein in my bedroom. And now I get to see it for reals. How cool is that??

After rolling through some rather picturesque Bavarian countryside, our train arrived in Füssen, and then it was time to hop on a bus that would deposit us in Schwangau, aka castle central. We picked up our tickets to tour both Hohenschwangau, the summer getaway for the ruling Bavarians, and Neuschwanstein, the never-completed fantasy castle of King Ludwig II (you know, the mad, crazy one). First stop was a wee bit of a hike up to Hohenschwangau, the smaller of the two, where our English audioguide coupled with a multi-lingual human tour guide took us through most of the castle. No pictures allowed in either of the castles, so we had to settle for a lot of exterior shots, which isn't really a problem at all since the whole area is just freakin' gorgeous. Highlights? Oh, the "hanky-panky" staircase leading from the king's room on one floor to the queen's on another. One guy on our tour was especially amused by that. After making our way through Hohenschwangau, we had a bit of a break before our designated tour time of Neuschwanstein, which was good because we were in desperate need of provisions. And by provisions I mean an assortment of currywurst, wiener schnitzel, jägerschnitzel, spätzle, and bier bier bier! German food is not especially photogenic given its generally neutral color scheme and multiple shades of brown, but it sure is tasty. And hearty. And filling. After our food stop, it was time to catch one more bus to haul us up a mountain to take in Neuschwanstein. We're talking twisty-curvy up up up on this bus ride, folks.

The castle was absolutely gorgeous. Ludwig had a bit of a thing for Richard Wagner, and the castle was basically built to worship his various operatic works. I mean, Ludwig specifically had a performance hall built in the castle for the performance of Wagner's works. Oh, and no audioguide for this one. For this one we had Benjamin, an endearing little tour guide who took great delight in delivering his carefully rehearsed tour information, complete with precise gestures and well-timed smiles that took over his entire face. He was just too cute when he attempted jokes. We knew they were jokes because he would pause, stretch into that slow smile for at least five seconds, and then move on with his repertoire. He was a wealth of knowledge, though, and moved us through both completed and unfinished sections of the castle. The level of detail throughout is just amazing - I personally prefer a little bit less going on with my decor scheme, but they really knew how to go all out.

Oh, and remember that winding path we took up the mountain? Well, we missed the last bus down, so it was time to wind ourselves down the mountain, hopefully without hurting ourselves or even any of the slugs we passed along the way. Hiking adventures in the Bavarian forest! Ok, ok, we had a path and even some stairs along the way, so it wasn't that ridiculous, but still - I think this may have been the day where we actually had enough physical activity to burn off all of those beer calories.

Fortunately, we did catch the last bus out of Füssen, make our way to the train station, and head back into Munich for the night. Trinity, just a reminder than "Munich" and "München" are the same place. Oh, and there's nothing like one more beer to cap off CASTLE DAY with a great night view of the town hall at the Marienplatz.

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