Monday, September 22, 2008

A Sunday Like No Other: lots of Bavarian history and beer

What a wild day! I can’t believe it’s the same day as this morning. We woke up at Schlossrestaurant this morning under soft white duvets and a princess-y canopy bed. Rich went down the mountain to Schwangau to pickup our castle tour tickets and I got dressed for the day at 7:30am. When Rich got back we enjoyed a yummy breakfast in the restaurant area downstairs where we could look right up at the towers of Neuschwanstein.

May I just insert here how much I enjoy the breakfast? In the US, continental breakfast seems like a rip-off, but here, when you get fresh cold cuts, rich cheese and mild yougurt, fantastic breads of all kinds, juice, tea, it just totally hits the spot! I’ve enjoyed kiwis and kumquats and grapes every morning, too, and this breakfast has definitely fueled my rigorous “vacation”days! I used to think I was weird for eating sandwiches and fruit for breakfast, and now I know it’s just the European in me.

So after breakfast, we went down into Schwangau and hiked up the other hill to the other castle, Hohenschwangau. We learned in our tours today that these castles aren’t nearly as old as we thought—Neunschwanstein is barely 100 year old, and was only 1/3 finshed. Parts of Hohenschwangau have been around since the 900’s, though, because it was the fortress of the knights of Schwangau. Later, the Bavarian royals took it as their vacation home away from Munich. King Maximillian especially enjoyed hunting deer in the alps, so he made it his home away from home. In fact, his wife lived there full-time because she wasn’t a fan of Munich. They had two sons, Otto and Ludwig, whogrew up there.

Hohenschwangau looks just like the medieval castles you draw or make out of cardboard. It has the towers and the court yard and fountains and the square-zig-zaggy walls all around the tops of things. The walls are pale yellow (like my bedroom) stucco and the roofs are red tiles, and there is a giant swan on the very top.

King Maximmillian died when Ludwig was 18, so Ludwig became King at a very young age. He was once engaged but never married, he was eccentric (and spent his family’s fortune), and obsessed with Richard Wagner and his operas. The Bavarian tour guide would not affirm that Ludwig was mad or homosexual, but you can see why that’s the general diagnosis. He drowned in a lake when he was only in his 40’s, and all work on his three castles ceased because of the great debt he ran up. Even though Neuschwanstein as never finished inside, it’s still amazing to behold.

After our Hohenschwangau tour, we took a bus around Alpsee (the big blue lake) up to Mary’s Bridge,which overlooks a waterfall and stream, and Neuschwanstein. Then we hiked down to take our tour of the castle. It was CRAZY—I never realized that the whole thing was built in honor of Wagner! Every room is themed aound an opera, and the walls have murals with scenes from operas. There is even a man-made cave/hallway that came from one of Wagner’s operas. There are also swans in every room, of course, because this region of Bavaria is all about swans (we saw some gliding along the Alpsee). It was gorgeous and definitely mad.

We ate a quick lunch at a biergarten—I had currywurst and potato salad and Rich had yummy brats and pomme-frittes with paprika. We bought a few souvenirs (and wore our favorites all day—rich got a green wool Bavarian hat and I got a pretty fine woolen fringed scarf—and they kept us warm!) and headed up the romantic road to Munich.

Munich is pretty run down and it’s hard to get around—it took us forever to drop off our rental car and the train station (the hauptbahnhof) and make our way over to Oktoberfest, but we made it. It’s just a silly carnival, like a spoof on Bavaria—beer, pretzels, lederhosen, oompah bands, just as you’d expect. The beer halls are like giant, insane frat parties, and there’s a million of them. We didn’t stay long, and we took a rest in St. Paul’s basilica on the way back to the bahnhof because, afterall, it is the Sabbath! The fest is right next to the basilica and I thought about how much Jesus appreciates what’s going on next door. Ha.

So now we are in the first class lounge at DeutcheBahn waiting for our night train to Paris. Once again, I look like a drowned rat from sweating and being out in the wind all day. But it’s nice to site in the quiet and blog, and watch the crowds and trains below, and be waited on by this nice waiter who keeps bringing me drinks (he thought I’d need a coffee after being at Octoberfest). My Richard is across from me writing postcards and being a cutie. He ‘s my hero…what a great adventure he has planned for us!

I will have to write later in more detail about our dinner in Austria last night at hotel Maximillian and how the owner reminded me of Shawna Smith, and how totally beautiful the alps were. Now it’s timeto catch a train! Auf Weidersein!

Okay, so we drove a gorgeous 15 miles or so to Reutte Austria from Fussen/Schwangau. We went mostly to get our laundry one, but also to say we’e been to Austria (and the hills are indeed alive with the sound of music—if I lived there, I would be an innkeeper/ shepherdess, and I would spin around on green hillsides, singing at the top of my lungs, too—how could I help it?). We ended up eating dinner at the Hotel Maximillian and it was easily the best meal of the trip so far! Those Alpen-folk are aas serious about their meet as we Montanans! Rich had a grill sampler with amazing beef steak, pork chop, and turkey cooked on the fire, plus pomme frittes and pumpkin soup. I chose the marinatedd pork steak with field greens salad and roasted veggies (Potatoes, carrots, zucchini, onions, green beans—a deliciou, gourmet version of Sunday dinner!). We’d planned to have dessert, but the dinner was enough. The laundry came out great and the people at the hotel were amazingly friendly. If you are going to the Alps, consider Hotel Maximillian in Reutte! Also, in the evening all the sheep and goat ae herded down fom the hills and right through town by dudes in full-on lederhosen—you can’t beat THAT.