Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Chronicles of Christmas: A Non-German Speaking Austrian and the Fairytale Castle

The Chronicles of Christmas:
A Non-German Speaking Austrian
The Fairytale Castle

So much for posting once a week! To be fair I was busy running around to all sorts of places and didn't really have much time to post, but mostly I was just being the same old lazy shit that I always am...sorry! But I am here now, which is all that matters! :)

When we last saw our daring adventurer, she had just left the glorious city of London to catch a plane to Munich, Germany. What happened next, captivated reader? Did our spontaneous heroine have her plane collide with a savage seagull? Did a terrible storm appear and shatter the aircraft to smithereens? Or did a black hole materialize and suck her into another dimension entirely? Stay Tuned!

Okay nothing dramatic ensued on my flight...but it was a slightly less enjoyable trip if I must say. I ended up stuck next to a wailing baby who found joy in screaming her (or his) woes right into my ear which wasn't exactly my idea of stimulating conversation.

Why is it that I have such terrible luck in airports/flights? I am either body searched at security or stuck next to the colic child. Thankfully the flight was only a couple of hours, because any longer and I would have punched a baby...literally. Okay, probably not...I would have just had a massive migraine.

As soon as I got off the plane, collected my bag and headed towards the trains I was in a world of confusion. As it wholeheartedly suggests, Germany is very German (the language...duh!). Which would seem to be an obvious observation to a normal person but it had me slightly taken aback by the fact that EVERYTHING was in German. Even in the Airport. I mean, there were absolutely no English signs! At least none that I could see (and keep in mind it was quite late at night and I was tired). This is where I started to get incredibly frustrated at my father for never teaching me German as a child (as I would never have had this problem if he did. Heres looking at you dad!).

This language barrier was decidedly worse since there wasn't anybody who could help direct my way as it was late at night and we were the last flight arriving (for at least a couple of hours). I had to find my way to the Munich City Centre by just pure luck...which we all know how well I do on those odds!

So I am in line trying to buy a ticket from the machine and after a few minutes of utter confusion I purchased a ticket that I THINK took me to the city centre. (I don't actually know as it was all in german and thus read like gibberish to me)

By the way, is it just me or does the German language sound very aggressive and hostile most of the time? I mean, take the expression Pass Auf! which means Watch Out!...but it sounds like telling a person off (buzz off!), not being overly cautious and concerned. But that is just my opinion...

It also didn't help that I had just arrived to Munich and already had an encounter with an angry German man. He was yelling in increasing volume at the ticket machine but for all I know he could have very well been praising it, you never know with this crazy German language. Although in this particular guy's case I think the fact that he was repeatedly hitting the thing and shouting really loudly gave away the idea that something wasn't quite right.

Anyway, after running around like a chicken with my head cut off I eventually found my way to the central station. Thankfully my hostel was only a 10 minute walk from the station because I was in no mood to navigate the tram and wasn't exactly keen on forking the money over for a taxi.

When I checked into the hostel and got my room key I was told that my room was on the 6th floor...oh and the elevator was broken. Brilliant! Just what I needed after a long and tiresome day. So I ended up lugging my backpack all the way up the stairs and as soon as I reached my room, I made my bed quickly and crashed.

The next morning I woke up early, took a shower and headed down to reception. I had originally planned to go to Neuschwanstein Castle all by myself, and had even wrote down a detailed plan of how to get there. But when I came across a flyer by the hostel reception desk that informed me of a tour leading to the castle that happened to be cheaper than I originally planned, I jumped at the chance. Might as well save a couple bucks and actually get to the destination! Made sense to me.

So I am on the train heading to Füssen in Southwest Bavaria and as we are passing through the alps there is one guy who is taking a picture every three seconds out of the window of the train. I know that this may be your first time seeing snow buddy, which is exciting don't get me wrong, but you aren't going to get a good picture with the glare of the windows so I don't know why you keep trying. I wanted to smack him over the head because it was really annoying having an arm reached across me every few seconds. I don't think he understood the concept of personal space because he was oblivious to the fact that he was consistently invading mine.

After the 2 hour train ride (which felt a lot longer than most) we got to Füssen station and had to take a 5-10 minute bus ride to the village of Hohenschwangau where the castles are.

There are two castles in Schwangau: Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. To understand a bit about each castle you need to look back at the late King of Bavaria, Ludwig II's, life. So here is a little history lesson for you to enjoy!

King Ludwig II, otherwise known as the Swan King, grew up in Schwangau with his parents, Maximilian II of Bavaria and Princess Marie of Prussia, and a younger brother named Otto.

Ludwig lived in Hohenschwangau castle for most of his life (which is this yellow gothic-style castle situated in the Alps near the Schwansee - which means 'Swan Lake'). His parents were very neglectful, rarely affectionate and believed that over-indulgence wasn't orderly. This, however, only applied to their sons lives and not their possessions as they dazzled their castle in gold and expensive embellishments. As a result, Ludwig and Otto grew up fairly malnourished and lived a very sheltered life, having only themselves for company at most times.

Without the love and attention one requires, Ludwig grew up to be a reclusive young man who found comfort through dreaming. The Castle he grew up in displayed glorious paintings and artwork of old German folklore, myths and legends that ignited his obsession for the past and captivated his vivid imagination. These romanticized images of medieval life provided the perfect escape from the conventions of court life.

Hohenschwangau Castle
Ludwig was a huge fan of music and had a particular passion for composer Richard Wagner's classical pieces. It was at Munich's Theatre and Opera House that Ludwig first witnessed Wagner's opera Lohengrin, and from then on he fell in love with the rest of Wagner's classical pieces.

When Maximilian II passed away, Ludwig (at the age of 18) was required to take up the throne, even though he was reluctant. He had no interest in public and political affairs, and only cared about manifesting his passion - music and art.

He loved his music so much that one of his first actions as King was to invite Wagner for dinner. Even with the large age-gap between the two (Ludwig was 18 and Wagner was 50), they actually became really close friends and Ludwig confided to Richard whenever he had a problem (much to his ministers disapproval).

I am going to skip a lot of political crap now and skip ahead to the main focus: Neuschwanstein Castle. If you want to find out more about his rein, then google it. It is actually quite fascinating! I just don't have time to write an essay on his life story and frankly, I couldn't care less at this point.

Both Ludwig and Richard shared a love of excess, beauty, romance, and a world built on heroic scale, and he used these passions to inspire his ultimate creation: Neuschwanstein Castle.

He loved the idea of romance and legends so much that he wanted to build the ultimate fairytale castle; something that was taken from his dreams.

He hired people who designed theatre and opera sets to draw up the plans for the castle instead of regular architects because he loved the idea of making a show come to life, bordering on dreams and reality, and he wanted that to be reflected in the castle.

Some say he was borderline psychotic when it came to designing the castle and wanted to change the plans every couple of days, so this made it very difficult to build. As a result of his constantly changing mind, it took over two decades for the castle to be completed and over 2-3 hundred workers a day, and even still it isn't fully perfected to this day.

He spent so much time creating this particular castle that he didn't really focus on furnishing it as much and only ended up living in the castle for 172 days before he passed away. This is why the tour of the castle isn't really worth it because it is a rushed 30 minute guided tour and there isn't that much to see (although there are some exquisite paintings lining the walls and the throne room is definitely a sight to see). But the real beauty is the architecture.

I decided to skip the tour of the inside of the castle and went to Marien Brücke (Queen Mary's Bridge) instead where I was promised a breathtaking postcard-worthy view of the castle. Since it was snowing in Schwangau, they had closed up access to the trail as it was icy and dangerous but that didn't stop people from jumping the fence and going anyway. It was actually hilarious to see all the people slipping on the ice. In fact, that alone was better than a stupid tour!

I only fell once but of course it was when some attractive army men were passing by...bloody typical. Oh well, I've accepted my misfortune with luck and I am moving on.

When I got to the bridge the view was absolutely phenomenal. Honestly, it made the crazy trek and embarrassing slip all worth it. I took this amazing panoramic photo of the castle just to show you how stunning it was.

After many, many, many selfies and pictures of the castle, I continued onto the other side to see if the pathway led anywhere else and stopped after I realized that as the path grew narrower, there was no longer any handrails and it was right on the edge of a steep cliff. Also it was very icy. It took one look down to send me right back in the other direction because I did not have a death wish!

When I got back to the castle I met back up with the rest of the tour and we gathered for drinks in a cafe in town.

I had met three other Canadians and a Swede during the tour and after we returned to Munich we all went to a traditional German beer hall for some grub and a pint later on at night.

The dinner was delicious and the beer hit the spot. The service was...okay I am not going to go there because it makes me fume just thinking about it, but the fact was: our waiter was a dick and frankly he does not deserve any more of my time.

When I got back to the hostel I crashed as soon as I hit the bed and the next morning I was off to Vienna, Austria!

Munich, you were pretty fantastic and I am actually sad that I didn't spend a little more time there...maybe next time :) But for all of you who have the chance to visit Munich I strongly recommend taking the trip to Hohenschwangau to visit the castles. It is a long journey and the trek up the hill to the castle is a pain, but it is seriously worth it!

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