Sorry this post is so overdue, I have been quite busy with traveling and school lately, so I haven’t had much time to blog.
A while ago now, October 25-29th I was able to make it back to Munich with a friend of mine from Georgetown. Now, I know that some of you are probably thinking, “Why go back to Munich??? You already went there for Oktoberfest! And Oktoberfest is the only time someone should go to Munich! Plus there are so many other spots in Europe you could go see!” Welllllllll Yes I was there for Oktoberfest, but while I was there I kept thinking to myself and talking about how I wanted to stay longer, because I felt there was way more to see and do in the city itself, as well as in Bavaria. Sooooo I decided to go back, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
I flew in on Friday, and not long after I got to the city center, I had already found my friend Katie and we had headed to an Augustiner hall. I was happy to go back and have some good Munich beer, but after a couple hours on the plane, at this point I really just wanted some food. One interesting thing to point out is that a Munich beer hall (not sure about the rest of Germany) is different than bars in America, or even pubs in Dublin for that matter, because they only serve one brand of beer. So take for instance the hall on Friday, as an Augustiner hall, it only served beers brewed by the Augustiner brewery. It would be like going to a bar in America that only served Budweiser beers, or a bar that only served Coors. This may seem odd, but when you have beer as good as they do in Munich, it doesn’t really matter. Also, Augustiner is the beer most Munich locals prefer, and considering it competes with five other Munich breweries (Spaten, Lowenbrau, Hofbrau, Hacker-Pschorr and Paulaner) that is a big honor.
On Saturday my friend and I parted ways for our own separate day-trips. I went on a trip to Nuremberg while she went to Salzburg. My day started with a train ride that took about an hour and forty five minutes before we reached Nuremberg, and there is one beautiful thing I noticed about the trains in Germany: people helping people. I noticed this helpfulness when several times a person in a wheel chair was trying to get on the train, everyone (and I mean everyone) around the door, would either help that person on the train, either by offering them a hand or getting their wheelchair or helping in anyway possible. Plus there were other times when someone was trying to navigate a bike through the train (as we were in the bike section of the train) or a stroller, and people always helped out when possible. It was amazing to see how helpful and friendly people were, not because I expected Germany to be unfriendly, but because living in a city so much of the time I’m accustomed to people being either unfriendly or too busy to help.
After arriving and a brief break in the train station we headed to the Nazi rally grounds, and it was incredibly eerie. It is hard to describe how creepy the place is. You can climb up to Hitler’s podium, after seeing the door he would have walked out of, and look around and see the deteriorating stands (which apparently are going to cost 70 million euro to rebuild – but I doubt that will happen, it’s doubtful any company, in particular any German company, will pay for this renovation). The current Nuremberg soccer stadium is close by, meaning whenever fans go to a game there, they always see the old rally grounds (which are now used as a concert venue). From the Rally Grounds we walked over to the unfinished Nazi Congress Hall, which would have been similar to the Rally Grounds, as it too would be a speaking venue for the Nazis, it just would be indoor. The Congress Hall is an incredibly massive building, and it is another testament to the massive buildings the Nazis liked to build.
After all this, our group caught the tram back into the city to head towards the Medieval part of Nuremberg. On our way there we passed a the Bavarian American Hotel, which was actually a building that American troops were living in during the trials and the Allied Occupation of Germany. Still visible on the building is the imprint of where the letters “US Army” used to be, further highlighting Nuremberg’s WWII history.
On our walk to the medieval town we came across the beginnings of Nuremberg’s Christmas Market. Considering how much many Christmas markets in Germany make, and that Nuremberg has one of the largest Christmas markets in Germany, it makes sense that some stalls were already out…in October. Anyways, after walking through these stalls, a farmers market, looking at some beautiful churches, checking out the medieval castle (which is located on a hill overlooking the whole of Nuremberg), and seeing the house of the famed painter Albrecht Durer, a couple from Georgetown DC (small world right?) our guide and I headed out to look at the Courthouse were the Nuremberg trials took place. The important thing to know about this is that the courtroom is still in use, so showing up their for a tour is tough, because if court is in session, you can’t see the courtroom (for obvious reasons). Anyways, the inside of the courtroom was equally eerie, as it has remained largely unchanged since the trials of top ranking nazi officials after the War. A picture of the courtroom is below.
After all this we caught the train back to Munich, where I met up with Katie to go find some food. We decided to seek out the Hofbrauhaus, and given that Katie had already walked by it before I arrived the other day, we were pretty confident we would be able to find it. Turns out we were overconfident in our abilities, because it actually took us a bit of time to find it. We had to check some maps, and we even wandered in the wrong direction for a while. However, eventually we did find it. Another thing you should know about Munich beer hall’s is that you just walk in, and look for a spot, and if you see a spot you check to see if its free and then sit there. So typically you end up sitting next to a bunch of strangers. In a touristy spot like the Hofbrauhaus though, it’s not a big deal. We ended up sitting next to two Polish guys who each drank 6 liters worth of beer, costing them a total of 100 euros ($130) on alcohol alone. I think all the beer helps to explain why they were so funny. I made sure to take a picture just to prove that we made it there!
The next morning we woke up and headed back to the train station to meet up with our group going to Füssen to see Neuschwanstein Castle, which some of you may know better as the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s castle. So now every time you see a Disney film and you see that little Disney castle logo, you can thank the Germans, specifically the Bavarians. Now, Neuschwanstein is located a ways up a mountain, so it’s quite a hike to get to the castle (even for me, we definitely took a break 2/3 of the way up to make the hike easier). But once we got to the Castle itself, it was entirely worth it. The view from Neuschwanstein is absolutely amazing. You look out on green Bavarian pastures, as well as another castle, Hohenschwangau Castle , and even a lake. It is quite simply, stunning. Now Hohenschwangau was the castle of the Bavarian King Maximillian II, Neuschwanstein was the castle started by Maximillian’s son, Ludwig II. The location makes sense, because Ludwig II spent most of his summers in Hohenschwangau, so he would be familiar with the area. Why he wanted to build another castle is beyond me, but he did, and under his rule, Neuschwanstein was his pet project. However, Neuschwanstein was never finished, in fact, only 1/3 of the rooms in the castle are complete. The reason for this was Ludwig II was quite the odd fellow, so much so that eventually his uncle got cops to seize him from his castle in the middle of the night, thus effectively removing him as King. Ludwig was then entrusted to a psychiatrist, and one day when the two were out on a walk, they were both murdered. It’s a mystery to this day exactly what happened.
But that’s enough for the history. Sorry, it’s hard to go to all these places without writing a bit about their history. So after our walk up to the castle we had a brief tour of the interior, it was only thirty minutes, not because it was rushed, but because like I mentioned earlier, most of the rooms in the castle are unfinished, and that is because once Ludwig II was no longer king, construction on the castle ended. The interior was incredibly ornate, and I would post photos, but we weren’t allowed to take any. After all this we proceeded to walk up and behind the castle, to a bridge located over a waterfall, to get a view of the castle. Again, the whole area is just unreal. Anyways, before long we had to head out, and we took the back way down, ie, the way that took us down a rocky ravine. Again, before long we found ourselves on the train back to Munich. A photo from the bridge over the waterfall looking at Neuschwanstein castle is below.
In order to avoid having an outrageously long blogpost, the other two days of activities in Munich will be in the next blogpost.