Saturday, Dec 3rd
A great night’s sleep. We have slayed jet lag and we are kings. Rylan went out to the front desk to inquire about the horse carriage schedule and buy castle tickets, and came back with steaming latte macchiatos for both of us, made by the lady at the front desk. Through our balcony doors we should have been able to see the mountains and a perfect view of Neuschwanstein Castle. A dense fog obscured our view, and all we could see were nearby trees with a thick layer of hoarfrost.
The breakfast. Oh, the breakfast! We had heard about the breakfast buffets and this was no disappointment. Danishes, croissants, whole grain breads. Yogurt parfaits with delicious granola and a wide array of fresh fruit toppings. Omelets and eggs fried on order. Sausage and bacon. Delightful charcuterie boards. Build your own salads of cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, olives, mozzarella, sweet yellow peppers, and smoked salmon, with two flavoured vinegraites. Fresh fruit cups. A variety of juices. Coffee, milchkaffe, espresso, or latte macchiato made fresh on order.
We ate breakfast beside a couple that had been eating at Alpenstuben the night before. Started chatting with them and found out they are from Chicago, and are touring Germany for ten days. Their daughter gifted them this trip for Christmas.
A short walk and by 10 am we were waiting for the horse and carriage in front of Hotel Müller. A crowd had gathered when we heard horses clip clopping up the hill. Several carriages arrived from multiple directions. We clambered aboard and sat in comfort during the 15 minute ride up to Neuschwanstein Castle. Temperatures were just below 0* celsius with humidity around 80%. Trees and shrubbery were thick with hoar frost, while fog muffled every sound. After the carriage ride we had another five minute walk up to the castle gates. We waited in a square courtyard for our tour to begin. The fog was so thick we could not see the top of the turrets even though we were standing at their base. Construction of Neuschwanstein Castle began in 1869. King Ludwig the second had it built for his private residence. In my words, this was a refuge where he could live out his medieval fantasies and imagine himself a hero after having lost a battle against Prussia in 1866.
Tours started every five minutes. At precisely 11 am a chime sounded and we could enter through the iron gates and scan our tickets. We picked up receivers to get the audio tour in English. The tour lasted about 30 min. Enormous hallways with ornate woodwork. Gilded brass chandeliers above our heads. The throne room lined with murals. The scene of Jesus on a throne directly above our heads holding highest precedence. Scenes of the twelve disciples flanking the throne. A scene of the archangel Michael in triumph. Hanging from the ceiling in the throne room were several candelabra large enough to hold a total of 600 candles. We walked through the king’s living quarters. An easy chair that looked decidedly uneasy, and a wash basin large enough to sit in. By the time we had climbed and descended all those many flights of stairs Rylan and his back were more than ready for a break and my Friesen knees were starting to creak. The final room before the exit was the gorgeous, drool worthy castle kitchen. A vision of copper, black metal, and heavy wood slab countertops. Look it up, you dreamers of fine kitchens. One last long walk through a concrete tunnel and we came up out of medieval architecture into the mountain air.
We strolled the five minutes down to wait for the horse and carriage. Rylan ordered a milchkaffee for him (steamed milk in coffee) and a latte macchiato (basically a latte that’s not super sweet by North American standards) for me. We settled in relief onto a hard wooden bench. By this time we were feeling the damp cold deep in our souls. The carriage ride down the mountain was uneventful, other than stopping ⅔ of the way down to trade out the horses for fresh ones. We met a lot of people slogging their way up the road on foot, a good 35 min trek at a pretty steep grade. Back down in Schwangau we slowly walked back to the hotel. Deked into a charming shop with German dolls, cuckoo clocks, and Victiorinox knives. Once again a pinch-me–is-this-real moment as I take in the scene around me, and I respectfully thanked Rylan for having a bad back.
Shortly after 2 pm the VW T Roc pulled out of Schwangau. We looked back for one last glimpse of the Alps but the view was still obscured by fog. We felt them, we touched them, but we could not see them. Took a different route back to Munich. It didn’t take long, the snow disappeared and the country was once again green. Rylan noticed all the buildings with solar on the roofs. I noticed all the ancient houses. White stucco walls with red clay tile roofs. Nothing looks like it was constructed within the last 100 years. Tiny old towns with cars parked parallel to the road in spaces with only inches in front and back. Must research if these vehicles have four wheel steering. How else could they get into the small spaces they do? Rylan got his happy buzz on the Autobahn. The T Roc wouldn't go over 180 km/h. Even so, cars were howling by on the left. Rylan remembered we had four sweet girls at home and brought his speed back down to 140 km/h. The lack of huge SUVs on the roads here is notable. Most vehicles are small. We've seen one pickup. The biggest vehicle on the road was the Mercedes Marco Polo van. Speed zones are radar controlled and traffic seems to strictly adhere, going exactly 60 km/h when posted.
It seemed that getting to downtown Munich was uneventful, but I was pretty sleepy right then. Finding parking was a nightmare. Heavy pedestrian traffic as we neared Marienplatz. Found a row of parked cars along the street and slipped into the one empty spot. High fives all around. We were walking away when Rylan’s killer sixth sense kicked in and he turned around to see a patrol officer standing by our car. From this vantage point we could clearly see the white slips on the hoods of the other cars. He cheerfully asked the officer if this was a great place to park, and if not where then? Back to square one. Finally found an underground parking garage. These are not the details everyone else wants to know about other people’s travel, but I need to convey to you what a large part of our day these small details take up. On foot to Marienplatz Christmas market, we could hear and smell it before we could see it. Christmas music played loudly in English. The smell of bier was heavy in the air, along with the odor of fried dough. Found a booth selling crepes. I ordered mine with lemon sugar, Rylan with cinnamon sugar. I was torn, but I plan to find more crepe cafes. Nutella next time. Every drink to order in the markets came in glass mugs, which would explain why a small coffee cost 5€. The noise, the crowds, and soon we were feeling overstimulated. Found a huge McDonalds bordering the market and it was an experience in itself to find the restroom. It didn’t take long and we were ready to head back to the airport. Returned the car and walked over to our hotel. There was a mini Christmas market just outside the airport terminal, so after settling the luggage into our room we headed back down to find some protein. This time it was bratwurst semmel. Rylan almost ordered the half metre bratwurst but somehow 19.685 inches of bratwurst seemed like a poor choice the night before an eight hour train ride. We watched people skating and curling on the rink in the centre of the market while we chowed. By this time we were exhausted and ready to sleep.
Things I learned today:
It is not uncommon to pay a $0.50 charge to use a public restroom. Often there is an attendant manning a table by the restroom door with a plate for the coins. I found this out after brushing past and enduring more than one dirty look. How have we never heard of this extraordinary custom? May the bathroom attendants of Munich forgive me.
Sirens here go wheeeee-ooooh wheeeee-ooooh. Peppa pig was right.
Drive thru at McDonalds here is called McDrive. Don't laugh.
Update on the keyboard: first of all, the key with the hyphen and underscore that some of you so helpfully pointed out to me does not, in fact, produce a hyphen. Not in combination with any other key and believe me I tried. What I did learn is that if I close my eyes, imagine I'm in Ontario, I can produce a hyphen exactly where it was in my other life. The key showing a hyphen makes a question mark or a backslash. The key showing a question mark to the right of the 0 makes a hyphen or underscore. Things are not always as they seem. I may keep the keyboard.