As seems to be the case with my holidays at the moment, my trip with Maeve, the girlfriend, to Munich and Bavaria was a success despite God’s best attempts to ruin it. You can’t break me, God – I am Job!
The first day was a good start though as the weather was quite sunny and much better than the Hurricane Günter that we had been expecting. Wandering around Munich’s Old Town it’s obvious that the city goes about things with understated beauty and rarely does seems to beg for your attention and this is definitely not a bad thing. Mainly there’s the ornate town hall in the roomy main square with the longest cuckoo clock routine I’ve ever been lucky enough to walk away from. Other than that it’s generally just full of spread out nice old stuff. It’s the greenery with which Munich excels as a lovely city to be in. We took a two kilometre walk alongside a green coloured river flanked on either side by trees and parks and ended up at the English Gardens – the most well-known park in the city. We stopped for a well-earned refreshment break where I learned that German light beer is actually not that good and it’s the Weissbeer where the action’s at. We barely made a dint into the park but we still encountered a lot more greenery, water features and student-bums sitting around on a Tuesday afternoon that gives you the impression that this city is the ideal place in which to do nothing but piss around in picturesque parks.
We both managed to get ill (in the notoriously malaria ridden region of southern Germany) which meant that the next day was a little more low-key. Off we went to the Deutsches Museum – a massive museum of science and technology – and I remembered after two minutes that I didn’t particularly like either science or technology. The first room contained old electrical conductors and lots of German plaques and was followed by nanotechnology and other stuff and it just reminded me of how my family would hate me for not liking this stuff. There were bits with tunnels and boats that were at least mildly interesting. Wow, did I just describe a museum? Sorry. In the evening, even though I was suffering, on principle I tried to force down a one litre beer at the shamelessly touristy but still awesome Hofbrauhaus beer hall. I failed then I bought a t-shirt which makes me as bad as the little American girls who buy a massive beer take their photos, upload their photo to facebook, give in after two sips and then leave.
The great thing about the Germans is they know how to make things easy and this certainly goes for travelling around. There is a travel pass called the Bayern Pass which gives you unlimited travel in Bavaria for a not so cheap €22 for one person but then peculiarly goes up to only €26 for two people, €30 for three people and so on. So, our plan was to go exploring.
Firstly, we used the Bayern Pass to go to Neuschwanstein Castle – famously the inspiration for the Disney castle – two hours south of Munich. The castle is spectacular and one of the best I’ve been to. It commands great views of the surrounding area and if you want to feel good about yourself you can walk to it up a hill by overtaking the painfully slow horse and carts taking the majority of people up. You can pay to get inside but I’m not a massive fan of castle interiors so we just stayed outside and in the courtyard and this was plenty enough.
Before we left for Germany, I had scoured the internet and found a lovely sounding hotel that boasted views of the castle and I even put in a special request for a castle-facing room. This was exactly what we received but our joy was short-lived as our total view of the castle was obscured by scaffolding that made it look like a block of flats. We heard that there would be scaffolding on a part of the castle but it couldn’t have been aimed so perfectly at our window our room if it was Sauron’s Eye looking for a midget with jewellery. The hotel was unnecessary anyway as the whole town closes at about 8pm (it has no inhabitants) and so there is nothing to do except get attacked by a massive bat whilst you play cards in the TV room. True story.
The next day before going back we decided to go for a boat cruise on nearby Forggensee and despite it being an overcast, quite foggy day, we went for it. I‘d read that the harbour was a twenty minute walk away so in classic tourist fashion we set off with nineteen minutes to spare. Turns out that the walk to the actual jetty takes about thirty minutes. Of course, after missing the cruise, we then missed the bus back to the train station by one minute and ended up hanging around drinking milk pretty much straight from a cow’s udder in a cafe wasting more time. It was getting quite frustrating.
But then we got back on the train and went to Andechs – a hilltop monastery where monks brew their own beer – and this place turned out to my Disneyland. There are four beer gardens so that means it’s possible to do a beer crawl around a monastery and so I was excitable to say the least. I was on the weissbeer and black beer and they were both wonderful whilst Maeve was busy making Schnapps Spritzers. Then food consisted of massive chunks of meat, so I contented myself with a wildebeest’s ankle or some such which made me even more ecstatic. We stayed there until mid-evening and then walked down into the town and visited a bar before bed, finding that even the card game Snap was beyond my capabilities.
On our final day we resolutely intended to eventually get our cruise in on Lake Starnberg – a bigger lake than Forggensee. So we got a bus back to Starnberg and walked down the harbour in plenty of time, waited around for a bit, only to see the harbour master just rub the next cruise off the board – ‘technical difficulties’. Maeve came up with a plan to get the train around to another town and catch the earlier slow-moving cruise – this had become a matter of principle. The walk from the station became a jog and we made it with one minute to spare. No matter, that the heaven’s open just as we boarded. The rain and and ever-moving fog kind of made the cruise all the more interesting though as they shrouded the surrounding mountains in a little bit of mystery and kept the scenery changing.
Despite a few hiccups this was an excellent trip and I will definitely be going back and making more use of the Bayern Pass as there’s lots more to see. I’ll also be finishing a one litre beer so that I can pretend in my heart that I am a real man.