Garmisch-Partenkirchenand the Castle Region
The next day was primarily traveling. We were up early and had time for a Sunday morning bike ride along the river in Salzburg, the town was very peaceful and even the air seemed to have a calming effect. Afterward, we made our way to the train. The journey was about five hours in total with a quick layover in Innsbruck. We had first class seats and access to the OBB Club. (Thank you, wifey! More gummy bears and nuts for us.) The trip itself was beautiful, winding through the valleys and along the steep cliffs. We arrived in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the early evening and we walked around a bit and had dinner. It was a pretty low key evening as most of the stuff in town was closed and we had to be up early for our Bavarian castle tour the next morning.
The morning began with a picturesque breakfast at our place. We went down stairs and the sun was peeking through the door and there was a spread of meats, cheeses, rolls, fruit, and sweets. We ate outside on the little patio and our amazing hostess, Monika, brought us tea and a crepe. It was a great way to start a perfect day.
We walked to pick up the car and Lindsay opted for the stick shift (because it was cheaper!). It was a challenge getting up the parking ramp, but once she did, she was a pro. We began an incredibly scenic drive through Bavaria and arrived at the castles. They were majestic looking from the lake view. It was like looking up at a painting.
The weather was perfect. Big white clouds in the sky, warmth from the sun and fresh air made the experience that much more enjoyable. We had an amazing lunch at King Ludwig's and made our way to Hohenschwangau, the first castle of the day. After the tour, we were able to wander the grounds and eventually walked back down and ventured (meaning we hiked about a half hour straight uphill) to the next castle Neuschwanstein. It was even more extravagant then the first castle and the history of the castle was quite amazing. It turned out King Ludwig only lived in the castle for 172 days before he was declared “mentally unfit” and mysteriously drowned three days later in a lake with his psychiatrist. To this day, no one knows if it was suicide or murder.
After his death, construction was halted and almost immediately the castle became a museum. There are two whole floors of the castle that weren’t even finished. There were some amazing artifacts in the castle and the one I found the most fascinating was the king's bed. It took fourteen craftsman seven years to carve a Gothic style church into the top of the four post bed. Insane! All the rooms that were completed were beautiful. King Ludwig was obsessed with Richard Wagner, so many of the rooms have intricate painting depicting different opera’s that he had written. Lindsay's favorite was the grand hall where they held musical performances. The chandelier and unique ceiling made it fit for a king. I also found the throne room to be amazing. A four ton brass chandelier and marble staircase leading to the throne were incredible feats for the time. The interesting thing was that there wasn't an actual throne because it had not been completed before King Ludwig died.
After the tour, we did a "short" hike to get the classic view of the castle. We arrived at a bridge jammed packed with tourists and Lindsay almost tossed an Asian guy off the side. Don’t ask. She also noticed people past the bridge looking down on the castle from a steep, rocky vantage point. So, we began a rather difficult hike upward. Eventually, we were alone with a spectacular view of the castle and the amazing landscape and a bit of breathing room from the other tourists. Carefully, we made our way down and opted for the bus ride back to the parking lot. We were tired and the bus ride was a nice recharge.
At this point, the weather was even more perfect as the sun got lower and showered an orange glow over the landscape. We drove the Romantic Road back to town with a few stops for photo ops and a place where Lindsay could dip her feet in the lake. It was the most scenic drive I have ever been on.
Exhausted and hungry we dropped off the car and had an amazing dinner. Mmmmm…pork loin with apples & cabbage and dumplings. After dinner, we sucked it up and wanted one more beer. We went into another place and sat at a bar where we met Brian and Sarah. They were Americans currently living in Slovenia, but on business in Garmisch. Brian was in the military and is in training to be an American Military Attaché. They were incredibly nice and it was fascinating to hear about his job. We even joined them at a large table while they had their dinner.
The next morning, we had another delightful breakfast. We decided to ditch the rental car and get bikes for the day. The rental guy was a classic biker guy who resembled a young Dolf Lundgren. He gave us good directions, but failed to warn us how difficult the ride would end up being. We road through the valley for awhile and it began to rain. Eventually, it was so hard we had to take shelter in a wood chip hut. It was actually pretty cool.
When the rain let up, we continued our journey to Zugspitze (the highest peak in Germany). After some trying times on the trail, we (finally) arrived at Eibesee where we bought our extremely expensive (and overpriced) tickets up to the Zugspitze.
The cable car ride up was gorgeous until we got near the top and all we could see is a light shade of grey due to being stuck in a cloud. We had lunch atop the mountain and I was let down (grouchy) that we made it all the way up (and paid good money for it, too) and weren't going to see anything.
In any event, I took a scary hike to the actual summit. Lindsay stayed back to take a photo of me. I could have been four feet off the ground, but in reality it was 2950 meters high. Once I returned, we decided to go back down. We had already scanned our ticket to the cable car when I noticed some mountains through the window. I thought it was a reflection of one of the many panoramic images inside, but then realized it was clearing. We were technically stuck because we already scanned our ticket and walked through the turnstile. After some convincing, we jumped back over and went back outside and it was like heaven's gate had opened. Rolling white clouds, sun light, and an incredible landscape on all sides. We even could see the lake at the bottom of the mountain. I was giddy with excitement. Eventually, we took the train through the mountain to get back to our bikes.
From there, it was a much easier coast back to town – all downhill. It rained a bit, but not enough to slow us down. We even saw a light rainbow in the valley. The ride was gorgeous and we made it back to town in time to return our bikes then walked to dinner. We went Italian this time and had an amazing pizza and a calzone. Grabbed one more for the ditch at Pub 33 and walked back home.
Relaxation and sleepy time.
Final stop, Munich.