As we left Prague to drive to Munich and Bohemia turned into Bavaria, the scenery became more and more beautiful. It was my second time in Munich but first in ten years and the last time I was here was for Oktoberfest which means I didn’t see too much aside from the obvious beer tents. This time it was the first stop on a whirlwind road trip across the Alps of 4 different countries. The first thing I saw on the drive in was the new Allianz Arena where Bayern Munich now plays and just down the road was the Olympic Stadium where they used to play, a lot can change in ten years. My three friends and I then headed to the Hofbrauhaus for some amazing liters and food. The staple wiener schnitzel, bratwurst and gigantic pretzels stuffed us up before the liters of amazing German beer washed it down. If you’ve ever been to Germany and have eaten the food and drank the beer, you know it’s going to be an early night as it’s so filling and makes you tired from the outset. It was in fact that which was nice because it allowed us to get an early start on day 2 of the road trip.
Yesterday, we left Munich and headed straight south to the Bavarian Alps and the amazing resorts town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The 1100 year old towns themselves were separate communities until the mayors of Garmisch and Partenkirchen were forced by Adolf Hitler to combine the two in 1935 in anticipation of the 1936 Winter Olympic games. The towns remain united and are casually known as Garmisch much to the dismay of the residents of Partenkirchen. Garmisch is a favorite of Germans on holiday and one of Hitlers favorite spots to vacation. Additionally, as I said, it was the host city for the 1936 Winter Olympics, which if you know me-you’ll know how cool I think that is. Garmisch is also due to host the 2011 Alpine World Skiing Championships and will be bidding for the 2018 Winter Olympics. It is also the home of composer Richard Strauss.
Garmisch was a gorgeous little town with all the usual ammenities of a ski resort town but in a very German way. The outdoor cafes were more like beer halls and the architecture was distinctly Bavarian. The little streets were charming and the food we ate for lunch was phenomenal, I had some type of weird goulash with potato noodles-fantastic.
We then beelined it for a town called Füssen, which is the gateway to Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the 20 finalists for the new seven wonders of the world and in fact the only one of the 20 finalists that I had not previiously been to. I was pretty stoked and Neuschwanstein Castle did not disappoint. After an amazing drive through the Alps and back into South Bavaria, we arrived and walked up the 30 minutes or so up to the castle avoiding horse shit the whole way up the hill. Horse drawn carriages are the only other way up the hill but apparently they forget to put those shit catchers behind the horses so it really stinks but hey what can you do?!
Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th-century Bavarian palace on a scenic and rugged hill near Hohenschwangau and Füssen in southwest Bavaria. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner, the King’s inspiring muse. Although public photography of the interior is not permitted, it is the most photographed building in Germany and is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.
Ludwig did not allow visitors to his castles, but after his death in 1886 the castle was opened to the public (in part due to the need to pay off the debts Ludwig incurred financing its construction). Since that time over 50 million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle. About 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. The palace has appeared in several movies including one of my favorites, Spaceballs, and was the inspiration for the Magic Kingdom Castle at Disneyland.
Neuschwanstein Castle was gorgeous and the interior was much better than I expected. It is full of incredible murals and tapestries and the woodwork and columns are amazing to see. The guided tour we took was worth the price of admission and it was quick, which is the way good tours should be so you don’t get bored. The castle itself from the outside was amazing to see and the actual location on the cliff was pretty amazing as well. The surrounding river and waterfalls made for a fairytale kind of place which is how they try to market it. The only bad part was that a whole side, in fact the most and best photographed part, was behind scaffolding and made for poor views especially from the adjacent bridge. The main views by the way, the ones that they market the place with, are only available from helicopter and are slightly misleading. Nonetheless, it was a really great place to see and I am very pleased with the time we spent there and that I have now completed all 20 finalists for the new seven wonders.
After Neuschwanstein Castle we made out way west to Vaduz, Liechtenstein after passing through some truly amazing Alpine scenery through Austria. Additionally, there are so many tunnels to pass through along this road including a 16km (10 mile) tunnel that seemingly went on forever. The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine microstate in Western Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and by Austria to the east.
Liechtenstein is the smallest German-speaking country in the world. It is a constitutional monarchy that’s shockingly divided into 11 municipalities. Its capital is of course Vaduz. Much of Liechtenstein’s terrain is mountainous, making it a winter sports destination. The country has a strong financial sector and has been identified as a tax haven and certainly a great place to launder money. It is a member of the European Free Trade Agreement but Liechtenstein is not part of the European Union and has shown no interest in joining, much like Switzerland.
After finally arriving in Vaduz, which is my second time in Vaduz, the first just being a drive through on a bus from Zurich, we had some awesome pizza and a few Liechtenstein beers and passed out pretty early as today will be a long day. I am at breakfast now in the hotel overlooking the amazing Alps and looking forward to seeing Vaduz Castle where the multi-billionaire Prince of Liechtenstien lives and then heading south into Switzerland seeing the resort towns of Davos and St. Moritz. And the road trip rolls on…