Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beer, pretzels, beer, mustard, lederhosen, beer, and dirndls...and more beer

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This past weekend my husband had a holiday (in May!  In Germany!  Shocker!  Having a holiday in May in Germany is like saying it's likely to rain in Seattle.)  We left Saturday morning and traveled by train to Füssen.  What a gorgeous ride it was on our last leg!  You just looked out the windows and felt like you were Heidi!  Füssen is in Bavaria which is southern Germany and the area where most of America's ideas about Germany come from here--beer, pretzels, beer, mustard, lederhosen, beer, and dirndls...and more beer!

After dropping our luggage off at our pension, we took a bus to Reutte, Austria which is just over the border.  This area has the ruins of the Ehrenberg castle.  We set out on a hike to get to that little thing we could say way in the distance at the top of that mountain...Those of you that know me well know that the only reason I accomplished this task was because my wonderful light of my life husband asked me to.  (There's the secret to getting what you want, folks!)  It was a particularly hot day in general, but it seemed even worse to a couple of people who hadn't really seen weather above 65 in awhile and had become accustomed to cloudy and rainy days.  My best guess is that it was 85 degrees.  After some wandering, we finally got close enough to try to figure out how to get up the mountain to it.  A nicely cooked German man (did I mention how hot and sunny it was?) gave us some confusing directions (in German) that we tried to understand.  My husband went with it and we figured the shortest distance between two point is a straight line so up the nearly vertical hillside we went.  Wow.  Eventually we found our way to the path we should have been on all along and got all the way up to these ruins.  If you have ever been there, you might appreciate what we went through.  At any rate, the view was gorgeous and worth it and walking around the ruins was so interesting.  We celebrated our success with a Ritter Sport :-)

This is the view from the ground up to where we hiked.
After we made our way down and back into the town, we had dinner at a restaurant I had spotted earlier.  It had a great outdoor seating area that was quite romantic and nice now that the temperature had come down.  We enjoyed some nice Italian food (Austria is the closest to Italy we will probably get while we are here) and then found ourselves some great gelato.  This was the first place we've ever found a server generous with the amount and light in the price.  Very nice.  We took a taxi back to Füssen (a bit pricier than we expected--check on this if you want to try).

Sunday morning we rented bikes from our pension owners and biked over to one of the most famous castles in the world, Neuschwanstein.  (This is the castle I posted last week.)  It is said to be a big inspiration for the Disney Cinderella castle.  It is located just "across the street" from Hohenschwangau, which is the original castle at that site.  The area has really capitalized on this tourist attraction and it feels a bit like Disneyland.  It really is such a beautiful area and I'd love to build my own little place.  My only disappointment was that parts of Neuschwanstein were covered in scaffolding :-(

From there we rode our bikes to Tegelberg, which is something of a fun-park in the valley near the castles.  We both had a ride on the "luge" and then had a snack of weisswurst, pretzel, and beer.  My husband even had mustard!  (This is our exchange while we are here--I have to have beer and he has to have mustard!)  Next we rode our bikes to a lake nearby and then to another that was mostly dried up--no idea why.  Brice was tired at this point so he took a little nap in the grass while I read a book on my iPod.  Beautiful day and not quite as warm as the day before.  On our way back to Füssen we stopped for apple cake and a German form of cheesecake (it's good, but no comparison to NY style).  After returning to the pension we had a short Skype visit with my husband's family since his brother and grandmother were both at his parents'.  Then we found a restaurant with "traditional" Bavarian fare and enjoyed a beef roll, pork roast, potato dumpling, and sauerkraut.  Yum.  I took up drinking radler at this occasion so that my husband would have more fun.  (Radler is a mix of lemonade and beer that helps ease wine-drinking wives kids into drinking beer.)  After the obligatory gelato stop, we headed back to get some sleep.

In the morning we took the train to Munich.  Since the following day was the holiday, things had begun to get interesting.  We took a quick swing through the Cathedral of St. Paul and the fairgrounds where Oktoberfest is held each year.  (A spring festival was going on, but hadn't really gotten up and running for the day.)  We headed back to the city centre and walked through Frauenkirche and enjoyed the glockenspiel in the town square before grabbing some lunch.  We met up with another New Europe tour for a few hours and learned a bit about Munich's history with a heavy emphasis on the first half of the 1900s.  Afterwards we headed to the English Garden, the largest municipal park in the world, and watched some surfers.  Pretty cool, huh?

Then we walked to the Chinese Tower and sat in a biergarten, drinking beer (and radler!) while women passed in dirndls.  We didn't get a pretzel, but they were almost a foot wide at this place--they were serious.  After a break at our hostel, we found dinner at a recommended beer hall.  There was a definite atmosphere to the place that I wasn't sure was normal or inflated by the holiday.  Lots of Italians on holiday, too.

We had a lazy morning on Tuesday and headed by train out to Dachau, the first concentration camp established and the model for all others there on.  There is a lot of information to read and a guide isn't necessary, but I think I may have enjoyed one.  It was just one of those times where you had to wait hours for one in English.  We've been told all school children in Germany are required to visit a concentration camp and I saw how valuable it is.  It is not really a fun thing to do, but it is a good thing to do.  We paused among the rows and rows of foundations to say a prayer.

We headed back Tuesday afternoon very pleased with the trip.  Great weather and no real hiccups in our plans this time.  Our next trip will be for the next May holiday and that will be Dresden, Leipzig, and Prague.

The rest of the pictures from the trip can be found here: Bavaria

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