A very busy break

My Master’s program had the month of February off for a break. We could either choose to complete our final exams at the beginning of the month or at the end. Thankfully, I finished all my exams and projects at the beginning so I had the whole month to “relax.” Some of my girl friends and I signed up for a Zumba class for the month through our University’s athletics department. I still don’t know much German, but it really didn’t matter. We danced our hearts out, though not so skillfully, to fun Latin music. We had such a great time sweating off calories that we’re all planning on signing up for a whole semester’s worth of Zumba. The girls and I have been enjoying our break time. I invited them over for “Galentine’s Day” and they’ve hosted some fun dinners too.

Other than hanging with the girls, I’ve been preparing for my parents’ visit! It was their first time here and first time to meet the Fohringers. In addition to hanging out with Reini’s parents, I kept my family very busy touring the highlights of the area. They flew into Munich so we started their tour there. We checked off a few items from their guidebook (Hofbräuhaus, Glockenspiel, Nymphenberg Palace, and their Olympic park). My mom and dad realized pretty early on that the German they learned as children wasn’t coming back to them after the years of nonuse. Luckily we had Reini’s help for the tricky parts. We were able to find some really nice restaurants online and ate very well while we were there. (A tip for the foodies out there, Hofbräuhaus is to be enjoyed for the atmosphere and not necessarily for its gastronomy) My dad learned about the panorama feature on his new iPhone and had fun using it at all the pretty sights!

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More info about their trip will follow in a later post!

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Munich

DSCN5165Because my flight back home was out of the Munich airport, Reini and I decided to spend some time in Munich. We enjoyed walking through the city, though we got caught in some rain. The weather was also gray and misty the last time I was in Munich. The Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) still drew in tons of visitors. We walked through a market. I almost made us stop by one of the bäckerei stalls for a pastry, but I knew it would get soggy. 😦 Eventually we made our way to dinner. We decided on an Italian place that apparently had been featured in a local newspaper. It was owned and operated by Italians so it was 100% authentic. I had to remember back to my Italian language classes to decode the menu. After dinner we wandered around and, of course, found our way to the Hofbrauhaus! 

We didn’t have time to do everything we wanted in Munich, we did enjoy stop off before I flew back home. I guess I’ll just have to go back again!

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Grand finale

Another great breakfast started my day. There weren’t bacon and eggs, but I still enjoyed it. I got another crusty bread roll covered in seeds and nuts, and plopped a cheese and chives mixture on top. Yum! Then I checked out of the hotel, had them store my bag, and then ran out to the buses for a hop on, hop off tour of Munich. I took the grand circle tour which took me all through the city center as well as some super special places a bit further out. I was most excited to see the Schloß Nymphenburg castle. It was huge and had beautiful yellow homes surrounding it in a semi-circle which housed the king’s servants. The servants were living rather posh lives, if you ask me. I also got to see the Munich Olympic grounds as well as the great big BMW world. BMW, Bavarian Motor Works, is kind of a huge deal in Germany, especially Munich. I ended hopping off at Marienplatz to watch the Glockenspiel’s noon show. There were a whole lot of people standing underneath the Rathaus’s clock tower with cameras in hand.

Immediately after that, I ran back to the hotel to pick up my bag and then ran over to the airport bus. The bus was perfectly on time and took me right to where I needed in the air port. Super convienant. I then stopped for lunch at the air port, just outside of my gate. I guess I was in the area with all italian flights, so of course the restaurant serving this area is Italian. I just didn’t feel like walking around anymore, so I ordered a panini and a pretzel.
And now my flight is delayed and that is why I’m uploading all of my blog entries. Thank goodness for free internet! I promise pictures and videos are coming soon because words are just boring. Also, please ignore any typos. Typing up long entries via cell phone is bound to result in some misspelled words.

Magical castles

View outside the bus window

I woke up nice and early again today to get onto the bus going to the Neuschwanstein castle. Breakfast was extra delicious today. I found the scrambled eggs and bacon! Great way to start the day, if you ask me. Then I walked over to the buses. This particular tour is extra popular. Pretty much every tour group in Munich goes to Neuschwanstein, but the company I chose takes us also to the Linderhof castle and another cute town, too. So this tour company had 2 double decker buses for Neuschwanstein! One of the buses was a “multilingual bus”, giving the tour in about a dozen languages. The other bus was dedicated to just English and German. I’ll let you figure of which one I took!
On our way through the city, we passed the site of the Oktoberfest. It was pretty huge this year. Our guide told us there were 7 million visitors! That’s a lot of money flowing into Munich in just 3 short weeks!

Linderhof's front yard

The ride southwest to the Linderhof castle was beautiful. It a little foggy because the sun hadn’t cleared it out yet. But the misty appearance of the thick, autumn leaved forests flanking the autobahn was so mysterious! We drove through the town of Obermau which was a very authentic alpine village located in the valley of what our guide claimed to be the highest mountain in Germany. There was a glacier on the top that our guide said was melting. Still, however, you can go skiing there year round. The little buildings had painted facades and were adorable. Then she pointed out the monastery which brews a lot of beer and makes cheese. Got to keep the monks happy somehow!

Linderhof Castle

We finally got to the Linderhof castle. This was the only castle that King Ludwig actually saw the completion of. He was called both the crazy king and the fairytale king. He spent a lot of money creating castles in which he could hide from the rest of the world. Linderhof was modeled after the palace of Versailles, just on a smaller scale. Versailles was a working political building, whereas Linderhof was just to be a private residence. We got to the palace by taking a 5 minute walk along paths surrounded by trees. It was really easy to identify when we got to the palace. It was shining white and glittering gold.

Back yard gardens of Linderhof

There were an elaborate series of fountains in both the front and rear of the building. Inside (sadly I couldn’t take pictures), everything was gilded. There must have been an enormous amount of gold leaf in there. Ludwig really liked peacocks, so of course he had a few life-sized statues in there. He supposedly put them outside the from doors whenever he was inside. One really cool part was the dining room in which he designed the table to be raised and lowered so his servants could serve him, but he wouldn’t have to see them. Talk about antisocial. Our time at Linderhof was rather short, but our tour inside was only a half hour since the place is rather small.

My family has/had one of these! The propellers at the top spin when votive candles are lit beneath

We then boarded the bus and headed out to the little town of Oberammergau for a shopping stop. I found a little Lutheran church and wandered through he yellowing and orange trees. This region is known for their handicrafts – mainly carved wood, so of course I had to pick up a couple of wood carved ornaments 🙂 To get from Oberammergau we room the “romantic road”, called such because its lined countryside home to beautiful little churches and many pastures.

Neuschwanstein Castle tucked in the Alps

We drove through the romantic road and then the Neuschwanstein castle came into view. To call it magical would be an understatement. This place is, afterall, where Sleeping Beauty’s castle was modeled after. Our guide picked up our tickets so we could go on a guided tour through the castle, then we went to lunch. Our guide reserved a bunch of tables at a restaurant at the bottom of the hill that the castle stood atop. I had kartoffelsuppa (potato soup) and some side of sausage, which ended up being a high class hot dog. I sat with a couple of other women who were travelling on their own today – one from Singapore and the other from France. Both came to Munich for business purposes but decided to make the most of their stay and visit the beautiful castles. After lunch our guide scheduled a bus to come pick us up to take us up the hill to the castle.

Our noble steeds waiting to take us to the castle gates

We, however, got out of the restaurant right on time (which is late in Germany) and missed the bus. Luckily, another option up the hill besides walking, is a 6 euro horse drawn carriage! So of course we took that. The driver was so cute and talked to me in German. I just replied with “ja” and lots of smiles. We got to the top, and the castle was so pretty up close. It also provided us with some spectaclular views of the surrounding bavarian region. Crazy King Ludwig really knew how to pick some good real estate! The inside of the castle had a different kind of opulence from the Linderhof castle. It was filled with dark wood carvings and giant gold, crown-shaped chandeliers filled with gems. It really was fit for a king. After our tour was done, we ran over to the Marienbrüche which is the bridge that gives the very best views of the castle.

Magical castle

This rather small bridge was crammed full of people taking pictures. I was afraid that its far less than modern construction would not hold up under the immense weight, but it was fine. We took some wonderful pictures, then headed back down the mountain. we got on the bus back to Munich. We had a short delay from a farmer leading his cows to cross the street, but made it back safely. The currywusts in the train station were calling my name, so that was my dinner! Yum!

Bretzels, bier, und Hofbrau

Snowy Alps

The journey here was pretty exciting. I woke up, bright and early at 7 am to do my packing and to finish my politics essay… I left the apartment with loads of time to spare because I wasn’t very trusting of the public transportation. I got to the air port about 2.5 hours early, read my kindle and got a slice of pizza from a restaurant. The plane came a little late (im sure the Germans were not happy about that) but all went well. I took a flight with a German air line company (Lufthansa) and it was fantastic. The seats seemed roomier, and I had plenty of leg room. I was hoping to get to sit next to some Germans, but I ended up with an American couple instead. Two of the best parts of the flight were the snack and the views. Snack time came around and the flight attendant gave everyone a mini loaf of bread. They were cold and I thought mine was frozen in the middle until I bit down and discovered that there was a ribbon of butter in the middle! Oh how I’ve missed butter! Italy only uses olive oil. So glad for Germany! Also, flying across the alps provides mesmorizing views. The mountains were even peaked with snow! What a dream. I can hear the hills singing already!

Just landed and I’m so impressed with germany. This air port is a pretty big one. But I had absolutely no troubles getting out of the building or finding where my bus was. And I was even more impressed that the bus ran exactly on time. Right at 15:20 we pulled out of the terminal lot. I think I picked a good bus too. There are only Germans on here 🙂 Also, thanks expedia, you gave me a good rate. Also, on this bus, about 7 out of 20 passengers have light red hair. I’m at home!

My hotel room, for those of you who are curious

When I got off the bus and arrived at the train station, I wandered around the area for a bit. I ended up finding a tourist information place at the station and got a few brochures for fun things going on in Munich. I made my way to my hotel very easily and checked in. I’m staying at the Arthotel which is such a cool place. It’s decorated in all styles of art, a different style per floor. I just happen to be staying on the graffiti floor. I was a little bummed I wasn’t on the Bavarian floor, but the graffiti floor is excellent. I’m on the top floor so the street noise is a bit quieter. My room is lovely. Huge for European standards. I have a nice leather couch and 2 beds to choose from. The best part, however, is the tv! This is the first time I’ve had tv in English since leaving home in August. There’s only one English channel, but it’s CNN so I can’t complain.
Once I got to my room, I had to start flipping through the brochures I had collected to find a good tour for the night – one that included food. I had looked up a good tour online earlier, but I did not quiet have enough time to make that one. So, I picked a different that advertised it was a Food and Beer tour. I picked it for 2 main reasons: it included a dinner of Bavarian staples and it would take us to the Hofbrauhaus. Very important things to do while in Munich. At about 5:30 I headed over to the tour office and bought my ticket for the 6:00 tour. It ended up being a nice and small group. I was the only female, and there were 5 men. One was from Scotland, 3 were friends from Sweden, and one was American. Our British tour guide greeted us with some Augustinian beers that we sipped outside the office which was convienently located inside the main train station.

Our tour took us through Marienplatz in the evening

We then took the U bahn to get to Marienplatz where we stopped for the beer museum and little restaurant where we sampled 3 different beers and had pretzels. It was a fun restaurant that was pretty crowded, but our guide had a table reserved for us. A lady brought out our beer samples wearing a dirndle. So fun! The men all made fun of me for not finishing my beer, but hey! I’m just not built to be able to drink all that and still enjoy the city as I should! Though the beer was good, my favorite part about the stop was the pretzel! Funny, right? Well you come to Germany and you’ll fall in love with the pretzels, too! Anyway, so our guide took us up to the museum which was in the upper floors of the building where the restaurant was. It was a super cute building. After that part, we took a tram over to our restaurant which was called something like the Hofbrau Kuche. Those Hofbrau people are all over the city! This restaurant was so fun! All of Munich smells good. Just walking down the street, you will be greeted with smells of wonderfully simmering foods. This restaurant was just a mega concentration of smells. Oh so good! So then we ordered beers. The men each ordered one maß and I just ordered a small lightly colored (not caloricly, I learned) Hofbrau beer. Then our food came out. Our waitor plopped down a huge spread of food on top of two maß Hofbrau beer mugs, layed out on a tree. A large log. Haha it was just amazing! There were wonderful sausages of all types and cheeses (oh how I loved the cheese!). And pretzels were also served (yum!). I spread some of the fresh butter on a roll of bread and it was wunderbar. After our bellies were thoroughly happy, we left and headed out for the star of the show – the Hofbrauhaus! Our tour guide left us here and told us just to go and have fun! So I spent the rest of the evening chatting with my new friends and listening to the oompah band 🙂 the Hofbrauhaus was so fun. People really do get up and sing songs (I recognized a few from my time at the fake Hofbrauhaus in Williamsburg).

Me with two of the men's beers. I promise I never even attempted to drink one of those giants!

Waitresses carry huge amounts of beer all at once. They must have huge arms. Others walk by tables selling pretzels and gingerbread hearts. I, of course, just had to buy one. It says something about love on it written in icing, fitting for its heart shape. We made friends with everyone around us, pretty much. Europeans love practicing English when they’ve had a lot of beer in their bellies. It was just too fun! Once the guys had their fill of beer, we walked around as we tried to make our way back to the train station. They were looking for another bar to go to, so I left them to go to back to my hotel. I had to wake early in the morning for Salzburg!

Castles

Back when the USA was having it’s civil war, Bavaria’s king was causing some troubles for his part of Germany as well. He was spending the region into mega debt to pay for one of his hobbies – castles. Luckily, today those castles have brought Bavaria tons of money through tourism. I saw 2 of his 3 famous castles today: Linderhof and Neuschwanstein. They put Disney World to shame. Cinderella would be very jealous of King Ludwig II’s magical castles.

Vaterland

I have made it safely to Germany! It’s really wonderful here. I’m pretty sure my mouh was wide open when I was riding the bus from the airport to the center of town. I picked a tour to go on tonight that was based on Bavarian food and beer. I ended up spending the evening at the Hofbrauhaus with my new friends.
I don’t have a computer here and only have spotty Internet, so this is as much of a post as you’ll be getting until I get back to Florence and do a thorough recap.
Anyway, Salzburg is tomorrow and I’m so incredibly excited. Those hills better be alive with some good music!