We arrived in Munich just the day after some explosions hit a bus carrying the Dortmund football team, potentially due to that when we arrived at the airport just as we entering the main area of the airport I was stopped by two undercover officers, who had several questions for me (not Danielle though!), thankfully my answers didn’t raise any issues and I was allowed through!
One of the reasons for choosing Munich was the proximity to the Neuschwanstein Castle. Like Amsterdam, Instagram had provided some of the inspiration, while a mate – Rich, who had completed a European tour of castles before now provided further recommendation.
Being a local
After arriving at the hotel, a Marriott and very different from the A-Train, we were keen to acquire a rental car for the trip to the castles. Capitalising on this opportunity to use my German, I fluently asked the guy at the rental desk “Sprechen sie Englisch?”, “Yep, how can I help?” came back the equally fluent answer. Look at me already conversing in German. Unfortunately, without realizing, our trip had coincided with the Easter weekend meaning the rental places we looked at had no cars available.
Our first evening we had tickets to a gig to see William McCarthy, the lead singer gone solo, of one of my favorite bands the Augustines. His music as ever was great but an unexpected bonus was the stories he interspersed throughout the gig, seemingly true but sounding very far-fetched!
Exploring the city
Munich generally felt very modern, and lacked some of the character of Amsterdam. However, it felt as though the more you dug beneath the surface the more you could find, one example was the Asam Church, a very innocuous looking church door leading to an incredible interior.
We also explored the English Garden, a large park with some great scenery, also apparently including one of the largest beer gardens – usually very bustling at the weekends and Oktoberfest. When we visited it felt like a ghost town however! In contrast to the rest of the garden, what was popular was an area that has a man-made river, The Eisbach, which has become a popular surfing spot. We hung here for a bit and watched the surfers – given a wetsuit and board I may have been tempted to jump in!
I’ll cover the food and drink in more detail in a future post, but we explored a few of the beer halls and took an excellent walking food tour. After that food tour we had headed to the Olympic Park, similar to the English Garden the park was somewhat deserted – though not helped by the change in weather – we had been lucky upto this point but the forecast was not great for the rest of the trip.
Similar to Amsterdam we also ventured out of the city in our explorations. The castles were our final adventure of the whole trip but before that we took a train to Salzburg. The train ticket was incredibly trip, a “Bayern” ticket costing about 30 euro return for both of us.
At Salzburg, we took a funicular railway up to the top of the fortress and took a wander around some of the buildings, including a bizarre puppet museum, and enjoyed a fantastic panorama from the top looking out over the rest of the city.
The castles on the final day were one of the highlights of the trip. Given we didn’t acquire a rental car we had found a Grey Line coach tour which took us to not only Neuschwanstein but also King Ludwig’s castle – Linderhof (trying hard not to confuse the spelling with Man Utd’s new defender) and a quaint little village called Oberammergau – where all us tourists piled out and into gift shops.
We had a fantastic tour guide but less than fantastic weather with heavy rain eventually turning to snow! The palace was incredibly over-the-top and exquisite. We didn’t have long to explore the palace aside from the guided tour but given the heavy rain it wasn’t a problem – still enough time to get a few photos of the outside – in brighter weather may have wanted more time to explore the grounds.
We had several hours at Neuschwanstein and we got lunch here before taking a crazy bus ride to the top of the hill. At lunch I successfully-ish ordered two teas. The request for “Zwei tee bitte” was met with a question back in German. Translating for Danielle, I had taken it to mean “do you want milk?”. As the German sever interrupted, it became clear why my answer to him ‘Ja’ hadn’t made much sense- the actual question had been “what sort of tea do you want?”.
The outside of the castle was the most impressive feature, although the inside was still impressive in itself. But the rugged situation was made even more picturesque as we came out at the end of the tour to a castle enveloped in falling snow. As we settled back into the coach with a beer, and looked out the window it felt the rental car situation had worked out for the better!
There was much to enjoy about the Munich leg, even if we could probably have spent less time in the city itself, individual parts of it – the gig, food+drink and castles stood out as some of the highlights of the overall trip.