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Day 9 and 10: Bavaria and Wurttemberg

Saturday morning the 13th was our tour of the royal castles of Ludwig II. I was careful with the itinerary to note that we had to meet the tour at the city Hilton, and RSVP 24 hours ahead of time so they would know we were meeting the tour there. But while the meeting place stuck in my brain, the RSVP did not. The concierge at that hotel scolded us when we arrived, but luckily, some guests of that hotel had already RSVPed. The absurd part was, that RSVP was for a bus ride to the tour's real origin point, the same spot we went for the hop-on, hop-off tour the day before--six subway stops from our hotel. If I'd known about that, we'd have skipped the whole song and dance and had an extra half an hour for breakfast.

The tour took us on a gorgeous ride through the Bavarian countryside. I must say that with the exception of some warm afternoons, the weather so far on this trip has been close to perfect--low 70's and no rain to be seen. The tour took us first to the castle at Linderhof. This is a fairly short tour of a few rooms. The grounds are more extensive, but we had little time to explore them before we had to get back on the bus to head to the small village of Oberammergau. We had 40 minutes for souvenir shopping, but that was from the time the bus pulled up to when it pulled out. Hardly time to browse before you anxiously went looking for where the bus had been moved to.

We moved on from there to the village at the foot of the hill where the castle of Neuschwanstein sits. We were told we had an hour for lunch before we had to start "heading up the hill" for the castle tour. Deborah and I had packed sandwiches made from the extensive breakfast bar offerings at our hotel (honestly, who eats cold cuts, bread, and mustard for breakfast? I think they *want* you to pack tour lunches). This turned out to be a great decision, not for the first time on this trip. We ate lunch nearly two hours before the designated lunch time, and used the "lunch hour" for the shopping they gyped us on earlier.

Then we started up the hill. Did I mention I am not in the shape I used to be? Aerobically, I am fit enough for several kilometers' walk uphill, but my joints are failing fast. I think a little warning about the fitness level required for this tour, as part of its description, might have been in order. Of course, they have horse-drawn carraige rides and taxis that will take you to the top, but the lines are long (the buggy ride is, however, reasonably-priced, as some fellow tourists informed us, and looked like a charming way to get uphill). I might have made time for the buggy ride had I known what the hike was really like. That, however, was just the start. Once you reach the castle grounds, you have to climb stairs to enter the castle, and on the tour, the guide blithely informs you, "Oh, by the way, we have 63 steps to climb to see the next suite." "Oh, now there are 33 more." And what choice do you have, except to bail? Which I wasn't going to do.

This second castle was quite impressive, so I bought a book at the cleverly-located gift shop to learn all the things the guide said I couldn't make out, or that she skipped. At both castles, there is no place to sit as you view the hermetically-cordoned off rooms, so I did my little side steps and marching to keep my back and knees happy. On the bus ride back to Munich, I wriggled in my seat like a child to find new leg positions that would keep my knees from seizing up. When did I grow old? I am not even 50.

Sunday morning we boarded a train for Heidelberg via Stuttgart. One thing on this trip that continues to throw me, although logically it should not, is how we are always addressed casually in Dutch (in Holland) or German, and only spoken to in English after we respond. I think my being thrown has to do with how, in Mexico and Peru, our Caucasian appearance elicited English from waiters and attendants, while here, we blend in with the natives. I would think we'd give off the aura of befuddled tourists, which would prompt an amused query, "German or English?" Of course, like typical Americans, we ventured out on this trip without a basic grasp of Dutch, German, or French. But, as when I lived in Montreal, you learn to read the signs that matter rather quickly, and lose any shyness of querying strangers until one can give you the answer to your question in English.

I asked our travel agent for a layover in Stuttgart because Wurrtemberg is the home of my father's paternal anscestors. They ventured to the new world close to 200 years ago, so we are not entirely sure where they are from. Stuttgart--close enough. The route between Munich and Stuttgart as seen from the train is very industrial, and the open land is terraced farming. The plan for the layover in Stuttgart was to walk from the main train station to a nearby plaza called Schillerplatz. My GPS had putzed out on me at this point, so we had to follow a Google map of the route I had printed at home. Google takes you on the ugliest path possible, down a main driving thoroughfare, but we soon arrived in a park area call Schlossplatz where there was a brass band was playing in a gazebo and families picknicked. We crossed to Schillerplatz, which is bordered by many old buildings, including a 16th-century church. I chose this destination for its proximity to the train station and the old buildings, but also because the square had a statue of a philosopher, Schiller.

We took numerous photos, taking care not to get in the way of the church-goers who had just emerged from Sunday services. Then we returned to Schlossplatz where we ate the now-regular breakfast bar sandwiches and enjoyed the park. We followed a stretch of parkway part of the way back to the train station, then cut over to an open mall that was relatively deserted at Sunday lunchtime. We had a little time to kill before the train to Heidelberg, so we shared a draft beer and a pretzel and wandered around the hauptbahnhof shops. The route between Stuttgart and Heidelberg contains many actual tunnels, and tunnels of trees, and made my ears pop. What land we could see was golden rolling hills, cultivated and dotted with trees.  

Note to self: the nifty plan to walk from the train station to the hotel? Not so nifty. If Google maps says it will take half an hour, it will take me an hour. Not to mention that without GPS, we were see stuck on corners more than once wondering which direction to go. I had a printed Google map, but many streets in this town have no street signs. Once upon a time, GPS was just the kindness of the locals. And so it remains today.   We found our hotel eventually. It is old and charming and in the thick of things. Easy to find interesting restaurants and photo ops here. Convenience shops open on a Sunday night? Not so much.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 15th, 2013 02:18 pm (UTC)
I would love to see Neuschwanstein castle.
Jul. 17th, 2013 06:27 am (UTC)
I have photos of the outside, but photography was not permitted inside either castle. The interior of Neuschwanstein was much more interesting, although both were way overdone for mid-19th century style and politics. And I tend to like Gothic, Byzantine, and Romanesque design styles.
Jul. 17th, 2013 04:16 pm (UTC)
I do as well. I'm not surprised at the no photo rule. that seems par for the course
Jul. 17th, 2013 06:36 pm (UTC)
Deb was able to take photos on of previous trip in the late 70s.
Jul. 17th, 2013 09:02 pm (UTC)
ah, well that's cool. Usually you hear 'flash photography damages the paintings' or 'it's a security risk.' the cynic in me thinks it's a way to insure we'll buy their photo book
Jul. 18th, 2013 05:04 am (UTC)
Actually, I'm convinced that's the reason.
Jul. 19th, 2013 03:43 am (UTC)
it's the one that makes the most sense
Jul. 15th, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC)
The Germans ought to do something about the street signs. I can't tell you how many times I had a German stop and ask me for directions. Of course, I could only shrug and mumble in German I wasn't from there.
Jul. 17th, 2013 06:51 am (UTC)
And Germans are supposed to be so practical and with an engineering state of mind!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )