Oh what a weekend! A rainy, expensive weekend, but all in all, I had a good time.
First of all, a quick thanks to Pamela for letting us shack up with her on Wednesday night, as well as taking us to the bar/cafe to meet the Canadians and her friend Stephanie. It was also at this bar (Spectre? Splenda? Something with an S, anyway) that I voluntarily ordered a Weißbier (wheat beer) and I LIKED it! Then I ordered a Kirschbier (beer flavored with cherry), which came in a .5l glass and resulted in my having the brilliant idea to blow up the double-wide air mattress by hand. Or mouth, or whatever. Surprisingly, it only took about 30-45 minutes for the three of us to manage it, and no one passed out, so yay!
When we got to Munich on Thursday, it was raining. Set the trend for the weekend, it did. But we made it to our hostel (run by some nuns, very nice, very clean) and decided to venture out into the city. Our first stop was the Alte Pinakothek, which houses European art from the 14th - 18th centuries. Bridget was quite excited to see Albrecht Dürer's famous "Self-Portrait," and if you ask her, I'm sure she'll sing the Monty Python song about him! Naturally Lucas Cranach was there as well, woohoo! But all in all, this type of art isn't my thing. I'm better at making comments about all of the different paintings of Jesus and other random Renaissance themes than appreciating the art in itself.
After the snarkiness, we tried to go to the Hofbräuhaus, but it was PACKED, owing to the fact that it was indeed a holiday in Germany, and it was pouring rain. So we decided, what could we possibly want when it's cold and rainy? Ice cream! Again, shot down. In defeat, we trudged back to the train station for some food (Bridget and Pamela had some really awful looking sandwiches, but I got an okay cheeseburger for the same price. Ha ha, suckers!) and went back to the hostel to dry out. The Empire Strikes Back was on tv, which was convenient, as I had watched A New Hope last weekend at Bridget's, so we watched that and Bridget explained it to us. But given my habit of channel-surfing, I switched in the commerical breaks and discovered a Robbie Williams concert on tv, so we watched the end of that before finishing Star Wars. Then the circus was on, and I stayed up til the wee small hours of the morning to finish reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Excellent book. Excellent.
Friday was the day I was most excited about. A two-hour train ride to Füssen to see Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, two of the castles from King Ludwig II. We met a couple of Americans at the train station -- Jeremy and Ally from Seattle, who are on a 6-week European whirlwind tour. If you ever find my blog, guys, then hi! Hope you are having fun in Switzerland! In line to buy our tickets to the castles, I randomly saw two of the students from Wisconsin! (Okay, I knew they were going to Munich this weekend, but I didn't know that they were going to the castles, nor did I know that they'd be in the queue no more than ten people in front of us!) Hohenschwangau is the castle that Ludwig's father, Maximillian, had restored after its destruction by Napoleon. Interesting facts about it: the servants weren't allowed to be seen by the King or Queen, so they had to climb through walls to light the stoves. One of Wagner's pianos is located there. When Maximillian was king, the ceiling of the bedroom was painted to look like the daytime sky, but once Ludwig took over, he had it painted to look like the nighttime sky, complete with a moon and holes for stars to be lit by oil lamps from above. It was also in line for Hohenschwangau that we met Steve, a college student from New York who is traveling for a few weeks after studying in Barcelona this past semester. Hi Steve! You can read more about Hohenschwangau here.
Now on to the absolute highlight of the trip: Neuschwanstein!! I am still amazed that we were (or, I was) able to hike up the mountain without falling down or passing out or something equally as tragic. ("American Tourists Tragically Killed After Slipping on Horse Poo and Being Trampled by Carriage") We caught up with Steve on the hike -- a projected 40 minute climb gives people time to chat -- but it was more than worth it. Even the views around the castle are incredible and I can't wait to get my pictures back! We headed into the castle where we were awestruck. Even the servants' quarters are worth more than my life. It's impossible to fully describe how amazing it is -- the throne-less Throne Room, the cave (yes, he had a CAVE built in his castle!), the concert hall. Ludwig didn't want the castle for himself, but wanted to dedicate it to Wagner's operas, so most of the completed rooms are full of paintings and tapestries that depict scenes from his work. Also interestingly, the castle was never completed; construction stopped after Ludwig mysteriously died in 1886, after living in the castle for only 172 days.
Then, at Pamela's insistence, we did some horizontal walking up a bit more mountain to get to the Marienbrücke behind Neuschwanstein. I say horizontal walking because that part of the mountain was so steep and I was hunched over so far that I felt like I was walking parallel to the pavement. Which, I probably was. Pamela was right, though -- the view was well worth it. Despite the rain, that is, which made the metal bridge with wooden planks slightly slippery and more than a little bouncy. Wow, my heartbeat sped up just writing about it! After taking pictures that won't show just how high we were, we headed down the mountain and back to the bus which would take us back to the train station.
On the train (after Jeremy inadvertently walked into the women's bathroom -- for the second time!), we heard a tour guide finishing up the story of Ludwig's death. Was it murder/suicide, murder and then the extermination of a witness? We will never know. But the tour guide (I call him Crazy Ed, for reasons which shall soon become clear) must have noticed that we were paying attention to his story, because once he was finished, he came over to chat with us, but ignored Ally and Jeremy (as Ally says, nothing repels a man more than another man!). All fine and dandy til he blatantly asked us, "So, what are you girls up to this evening?" Which, okay, could you have been any more obvious about trying to pick us up? No thanks, British dude who is at least 12 years older than we are. And then, I was in his line of sight for the rest of the train and I'd randomly catch his eye which, while slightly flattering, I found more creepy.
After the train ride, we tried to go back to the Hofbräuhaus (shot down again!) and settled on a "typisch Deutsch" restaurant on the Marienplatz, where I had a beer with my meal and enjoyed it! I am growing as a person :) Then after watching the Glockenspiel carry the Munich children off to bed, we headed to McDonald's for some ice cream. Yum!
Saturday morning, miraculously, it wasn't raining! So we hit the Frauenkirche, where we saw the "footprint of the devil," a plaque from when Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was Archbishop, and the supposed tomb of Ludwig II. After some expensive ice cream, it came time to go to the Neue Pinakothek, which houses art from the 19th-20th centuries. Saw the super famous painting of Goethe (we sent a postcard of it to DB), Impressionists, Van Gogh, "Monkeys Judging Art" (we sent a postcard of THAT to Dr. Bennett). I enjoyed this museum much more than the Alte, to be truthful.
Then we walked around (in the rain, of course), til we got hungry. Indian food was on the menu, woohoo! I had a delightful dish with chicken and spinach, and Pamela tried Indian food for the first time, and all was right with the world. Til I fell asleep at 10. And was awoken in the middle of a dream about car insurance so I could actually get ready for bed instead of sleeping in my clothes. So after I went back to bed, I had a dream about Crazy Ed, in which he told me his name was Ed. But his name isn't Ed. Or at least, if it is, he never told me it was. So yeah, Indian food + wheat beer = CRAZY DREAMS!
All in all, I had a good time in Munich. Crazy expensive, crazy wet, but crazy fun. I'd go back!!