Friday, June 5, 2015

travels | germany & austria | part 1

Snapshots and stories from Germany:

Our first stop. directly after an overnight flight into Munich, was to the concentration camp Dachau.  I don't recommend that.  But since we had to drive into the city and it was on the way and on our schedule for the week, we stopped.  I have one photo, taken inside of the Jewish memorial, the lighting was beautiful, but really, the whole place was desolate and depressing and I was happy to leave.

Continuing on, we stopped at the BMW museum!  It came highly recommended and didn't disappoint!  Chock full of vintage BMW cars, convertibles, motorcycles and airplane parts. And currently, a special exhibit of Mini Cooper.  I was ready to pull out my credit card for one of those babies!

After a wonderful night of sleep we wandered into the old part of Munich.  To get the full "German Breakfast Experience", we were told to eat the white sausage.  The heart of the city also hosts a Glockenspiel that performs every morning at 11am performance.  We found a cafe with a great view and sat down to order our breakfast!  The sausages came out in a white ceramic urn filled with steaming water to keep them hot while we ate.  Pretzels and grainy mustard rounded out this complete breakfast. Wheaties are overrated.

The Glockenspiel as seen from the top of one of the churches.  We hiked up hundreds of stairs, single file, but the view was wonderful.  I always love getting a birds eye view of large cities.  Rooftops, gardens and seeing the bustle from above.  It's even better when you spy a farmers marked only a few blocks away. Munich is a particularly old city, just look at that architecture!

Our afternoon was spent wandering through the Residenz Munchen (the German Palace).  It started to rain and was perfect timing for leisurely roaming through the rooms and apartments.  One of my favorite things to do is to soak it all in, imagining what it must have been like to live here everyday.  And you look at little closer at the woodwork and start to see doors, and wonder where they go.  We met the most perfect southern belle one morning while leaving our hotel in Austria, and as we swapped travel stories, she mentioned that every time she walks into a large estate or castle, she just sighs and couldn't feel more at home.  Yes.  Her parting words to us, I will treasure forever, because they made me laugh, and because I understand completely "Y'all, its yours and mine". 

I loved the moody artwork, the gilt frame and the use of green in this room.  The color scheme was so inspiring to me.  Goes to prove my point that "all greens go together"!

One of my biggest dreams was to see Neuschwanstein Castle.  High up in the Bavarian Alps, this was King Ludwig II's fairytale castle.  In my imagination the castle was tucked away from civilization.  I was so surprised and delighted to find that it stands guard over the picturesque village of Hohenschwangu.  The meaning is "high swan county" and named after the swans that could be found on the mountain lakes and ponds.  Two castles are here, the original (pictured above) was build as a summer residence for King Maximilian and his family (Ludwig's father).  After his death, King Ludwig, wanting a monument of his own, built Neuschwanstein "New Swan on the Rock".  It took him 17 years to complete and he only lived there only for a minute before his country had him declared insane and he mysteriously died. 

Hiking up the winding pathway to Neuschwanstein...

Once you reach the castle at the top, the massive wooden doors and a courtyard greet you.  Part of the magic disappears here because you are forced into a line and hundreds of people are waiting to get int.  For the castle being so massive, our tour only lasted about 20 minutes.  Oh how I would have loved to have a unguided tour around the place!  I wonder what the application process is to work here???

I found that I loved Hohenschwangu even better than Neuschwanstein.  Shocker!  The original castle, although overwhelming and regal, was surprisingly comfortable.  The rooms were wood paneled and warm, staircases and hallways narrow and the rooms you could tell had been lived in. 

Swans were throughout the entire place.  Golly, I love a good family motif!

Swans.  Everywhere.

How tiny Neuschwanstein looks from the garden of the other castle!

There wasn't a bad view in this village.  And may was the perfect time of year to visit, the forests were so very lush!  Everything was green!

Eating breakfast in Europe is my most favorite thing.  Give me a hotel breakfast and a castle and I'm the happiest girl in the world.

On the border of Germany and Austria is the town of Bertchesgarten.  Most famous for being used as one of Hitler's lairs and home of the Eagles Nest.  We had a brilliant three hour tour that took us all over the mountain side, showing us what was once a Nazi hot spot and now is reclaimed forest.  Both the museum and the tour guide did a great job of giving the historical significance of a place like this and also giving fair a solid look at how much harm socialism can cause.

The mountain held several miles worth of tunnels and bunkers.

This was taken inside of Hitler's private elevator.  It's polished brass and still in perfect working condition.  It took forever to get all the way to Eagles Nest.  When they say top of the mountain, they really mean it.  Two bus rides and an elevator later, you find yourself inside of an unassuming building.  On a clear day you can see the mountains and even Salzburg in the distance, not on the day of our visit.  But it was so much easier to focus on the history and I learned a ton!

Once you arrive at the top, the actual Eagles Nest isn't much to see.  It's a restaurant now.  All of the fixtures are original, including this red marble fireplace.  You can see that it has been chipped away, our boys did that during the war.  Never underestimate American GI's and their love of a good souvenir! 

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