A week in Munich, Germany for work made for a great excuse to plan a little European adventure. Since my airfare was covered it was just a matter of arranging lodging, transportation and food. And what better way to travel Europe than with a group of friends? After my business in Munich ended, Col, Lisa, Jeanne and Jeramy flew over and met me for a week of hopping from Bavaria to Vienna to Prague.
I’ve been to Germany twice before, but never to the southern part of the country. The differences between Munich and the more central and northern cities is stark. While much of Munich was rebuilt after the war, the buildings were mostly fashioned to resemble their destroyed predecessors, so the city maintains the charm that makes it a truly special place.
Everyone arrived on a Saturday morning, and after showers and a change of clothes from their very long travel day (actually days), we headed out to explore Munich beyond the restaurants I’d seen over the past week. The weather was amazing, and as we wandered a large city park we noticed a lot of people out enjoying one of the first warm Spring weekends. I mean…really enjoying it. To say we saw some interesting German sausages is an understatement. Europe cracks me up. We spent the rest of the day sampling beer and just soaking up the local vibe before heading to the apartment we had booked for the three nights in town.
Our second day was a bit more adventurous. Wanting to get out of the city centre, we rented a car headed south to experience some outdoor fun. The Zugspitze is the tallest peak in Germany (almost 3,000 meters) and from it you can see into Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. We drove to the town of Garmisch (I made sure to take our little rental Opel over 100 MPH on the Autobahn) to start our ascent to the peak via a historic cog-wheel train and gondola.
At the first “plateau” lies a restaurant and bar serving several ski lifts and jumping off points to various runs. Up the hill a ways is a small church, and during the winter an outdoor bar and an igloo “hotel.” If we had the time and money (about $200 per person per night) a night in the igloo would have been fun.
I’m not a fan of cable-car/gondola contraptions, but I have to admit the views from the car taking us to the peak were amazing. At the top we had some great views and watched as a storm started rolling in. After a few quick photos (including one where we all “straddled” the border between Germany and Austria) we decided it was best to take the long gondola straight down to the mountain base. We had heard stories of tourists getting “stranded” at the peak when storms come in and make the gondolas unusable.
Even though it was getting late, we decided to try to get over to see the Neuschwanstein Castle. The drive was beautiful, crossing in and out of Austria on the way. We arrived too late, as the road to the castle is closed and the busses had stopped running. It wasn’t too big a disappointment because the castle is almost completely covered in scaffolding and wrapping as a part of a restoration continuing through 2012. So, we didn’t miss much. We were able to walk up to see Hohenschwangau Castle overlooking the village, but it was also closed and we didn’t get to see inside.
Our long adventure day got even longer when we decided to find a monastery Lisa read about and have dinner there. The monks supposedly brew amazing beer, so we made the effort to track the place down. Several wrong turns and getting lost (even with a GPS) and we finally found the road leading to the monastery. Earlier we had seen a sign warning of frogs. We thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. The entire road was covered in giant frogs. It was like a game of dodgeball trying not to run them over…and I’m sure I killed a few dozen anyway. We made it to the monastery just before closing and were warmly welcomed and fed. The food and drink lived up to the hype.
Our last day in Munich was spent sightseeing, hanging out and drinking beer. Overall our three days in Bavaria were great, and we enjoyed good food, drink and weather. Next stop…Vienna.
Here is the entire photoset: Munich, Germany – March 2012