Friday, September 7, 2007

Bavarian Castles!

Heather---This may have been our longest day of the trip. We got up way too early, so as to finish breakfast and take the train to Munich. Breakfast at the hotel was very German and very good. Let's see if I can remember some of what was in the buffet... 3 or 4 breads, 3 or 4 cereals, 3 or 4 yogurts, several fruits, several vegetables (such as tomatos and peppers), cheeses, and of course the hot stuff like eggs, bacon and sausage. And don't forget milk, coffee, tea, and 3 juices. Whew! We sure couldn't complain about the food here!

Anyway, after breakfast, we all scrambled to make the 1/2 mile walk to the train station (in the rain, of course - it never stopped raining while we were in Germany). Our train got us to Munich just in time to meet the tour bus that would take us into Bavaria for the day. Only, we couldn't find the Hertie store where we were supposed to meet. The next day, we found that the Hertie store was actually a HUGE upscale department store right in the Munich station. Only, the Munich station was also HUGE and everything was in German. So we got lost. And then we got misdirected by another tour bus driver (perhaps he didn't like us using the competition?). The end result was all of us being soaking wet and running like crazy to the tour bus when we finally spotted it. We collapsed into our seats on the bus and tried to dry out our coats and scarves.

(Raquelle's comment ~ The instructions had informed us cheerfully that you could see the Hertie store immediately upon leaving the train station. However, the delicious little piece of information that they left off was that there is, uh, more than one exit to the train station. As in, out to different streets. Ach---pffft! Vat for you need to know such useless information!! Everyvon know vere da Hertie schtore is!!!

When we finally spotted it, Dad took off running to catch the bus. I ran too. We came up puffing and panting and gesticulated wildly that the rest of the family was coming. "You haf time, you haf time," the guide assured us. Whew!!! I had been praying hard!!)

Heather---We never really met the other people on the tour bus, but we did have fun watching a family from Dubai who sat in front of us. A mama, papa, three little kids and an older girl who may have been a sister of the mama or an eldest daughter. They wore the short shoulder-length burkas, but had very nice outfits otherwise and heavy eye makeup. (The ladies did, that is) Their littlest daughter was about 18 months old and a real charmer. She and Raquelle particularly had fun interacting over the back of the seat!

At first, we were afraid we wouldn't be able to see anything because of the rain. But after a while, we got into some beautiful countryside and we could see it just fine. Rolling hills covered with green meadows, dark trees and picturesque farm buildings... and the Alps hovering just at the edge. Our bus tour guide (named Charlie) said the really bad weather had happened the day before, hence, the early snow on the mountains. Really stunning scenery.

Our first stop was an Linderhoff Castle. Our group trekked through a wooded path in the pouring rain and sleet and freezing wind - yikes!

(Raquelle's comment ~ Our guide, Charlie, was quite a character. He gave us specific instructions about where to group and how we would proceed. He was German, but spoke fluent English and Spanish. "Now, you are Charlie's babies," he explained. "All Charlie babies meet in front of the store. I know a gute place vere you can be out of the rain. Remember, you are on a gray line bus. Charlie babies. Gray line bus. Charlie babies. I get tickets for all of you. When you get your ticket you slide it in--so--and then back out--so. No in and------hhhbbbmmyggrreniiinnggggg...." he made a horrible grimace as if the ticket was stuck in a machine.

We all had to insert our tickets into little turnstiles to get in. And obediently put it in--so--and back out---so.)

Heather---We finally thankfully regrouped inside the castle, which was a small "retreat" built by a Bavarian king. He was a great admirer of the French "sun king" and the castle was dedicated to Louis XIV. It was absolutely COVERED with gold, gilt, and jewels. Very baroque and roccoc. The funny thing was that the castle was so small, it seemed a little much. His "hall of mirrors" was a very cute imitation of the one at Versailles. And he had even achieved an infinity effect in one corner of the room. Over all, we were very impressed with the vast quantity of ornate ornamentation at Linderhoff.

(Raquelle's comment ~ Heather is not exaggerating--There was gold carvings and gilt ALL over EVERY room. You might expect it in one or two rooms but the whole thing--wow! And there were other fascinating things--two enormous (3 ft high) porcelain peacocks, used to indicate that the king was in residence, a porcelain mirror frame that framed a HUGE mirror and was all different was amazing.)

Heather---Another trek through the rain to the bus, and another half hour spent trying to dry our coats. Then we arrived at a cute, touristy Bavarian village and everyone got to go shopping for an hour. Raquelle and I had wanted to find some mementos of Germany, so that was great for us! Raquelle bought a lovely little music box and some carved wooden Christmas ornaments and I bought some ornaments and some Austrian crystal earrings.

(Raquelle's comment ~ The village was everything you'd picture a German village to be--quaint houses, little gardens, old-fashioned fonts on the signs. We also passed several painted houses that had scenes of Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood.)

Heather--Then it was back to the bus for another scenic trip, this time actually in the mountains. We finally pulled up at a small village at the foot of a mountain. First item to take care of was lunch and there was a beautiful restaurant right there. The inside was full of wooden paneling and carvings and all the windows had gorgeous views of the Alps. Our windows looked out at the mountainside which had the Neuschwanstein Castle. It looked like a fairy tale castle with the clouds feathering around it and clouds of rain occasionally obscuring it.

(Raquelle's comments ~ lunch was very hearty German food. Most of us ordered sausages and mashed potatoes. It was still so cold and raining that we decided hot chocolate was absolutely in order. So we ordered mugs and slurped the dark, rich liquid and felt very German.)

Heather---After lunch, and a short debate over whether to take a horse-drawn carriage to the top of the mountain, we headed outside. Turns out the carriage line was so long that we wouldn't be able to be back at the bus in time. So we hiked up the mountain instead. (Charlie told us that it would be a 25-minute walk--"And by that I mean normal walking, not a Speedy Gonzales or the Roadrunner!!!" It was raining (of course!) but fortunately not too hard. We got lots of pictures.

The castle itself was all that we'd hoped for. Full of lovely paintings, gilt, towers and turrets, ramparts and all that good castle-ish stuff. We had to rush the last few rooms because we were running out of time. (The tour guide spoke English, of course, but had a harsh accent, beginning each room's spiel with, "Laties and chentlemen...") Our last stop was a ladies room. The line, of course, was long. And just as we got in line, a MAN showed up in the ladies room and calmly started servicing the place! He wouldn't let any of us use it, as he leisurely refilled toilet paper, emptied the trash and scrubbed the toilets. And he couldn't do it one stall at a time--of course not. He performed each task on all three and then went back to start the next task. Unfortunately, some of us had to go, so we stayed in line. When we finally all got out of there, we were REALLY late and had to trot all the way down the mountain (in the pouring rain, of course!).

Then the final leg of our trip back through more countryside. Mom and Dad slept most of the way and Grandma and Gramps chatted about the scenery. Raquelle played with her little friend" in the seat in front of us.

(Raquelle's comments ~ Just for some color commentary....the Dubai family in front of us were sort of entertaining, although they eventually became annoying. The chief perpetrator was a little boy, about seven, named Ali. Ali had no regard for any rules and his parents would do little more than say, "ALI!!!" He refused to wear a seatbelt. Charlie the guide instructed the children to wear the belts at the beginning of the trip and delighted the children by glowering fiercly and talking about how he intended to eat them, drawing his finger suggestively across his throat, if they failed to wear their belts.

Towards the end of the day, Ali and his little sister couldn't handle the belts anymore. So they began boinking all over the place. And having noise contests. And fighting over bags of chips. And squalling and shrieking. The parents smiled benignly, unperturbed. Finally Charlie had pity on all of us.

"Now look," he said wearily. "You sit here." He put Ali firmly into the seat and buckled his belt. "I take this bag of chips away--you are making a mess everywhere. You stay put and do not fight with your sister."

Awed, Ali subdued his behavior somewhat, although he still took his belt off several more times and had to have Charlie fasten it several more times before the trip was over.)

Heather---Dad got a restaurant recommendation from our bus driver and we ended up eating at a restaurant right across from the Residenz (a Bavarian palace/museum). So we felt quite classy and upscale. It was good, hearty German food again. And we were amused to see that one of the wall decorations was a sheet music copy of the Missouri Waltz--spelled "Der Missouri Waltzer" of course.

Then another dash through the rain to our station two blocks away, a 20 minute train ride back to the hotel, and a final two-block sprint. We returned soaked, tired and highly pleased with our day!

No comments: