The Completed Palace and A Walk In The Rain- Schloss Linderhof, Germany

Linderhof Palace, located near Ettal, was the only one of the three palaces commissioned to be built by Bavarian King Ludwig II that he lived to see completed. Ironically, it was the least crowded of the three, at least as far as Julia and I experienced. That, combined with it’s gorgeous beauty and the immense fun we had wandering around the park made it our favorite of all three even if it was softly raining the whole time we were there.

After leaving Füssen, we made the relatively short drive here, winding our way through rolling green hills and red-orange dotted mountains in the background, autumn colors painting the whole landscape in lovely shades. Immediately as we pulled into the half empty parking lot, we know the experience here would be different than at the other two castles we had visited so far.

The architectural queues that signify it’s Versaille inspiration are less overt here than at Herrenchiemsee. Though Ludwigs deep admiration (what some would call obsession) with the French Sun-King are still very present here, in general everything feels more…private and intimate. This probably has to do with the size, as Linderhof is the smallest of the three palaces but maybe also with the fact this is the one he spent most of his adult life in, as a retreat from the world he didn’t quite wish to be a part of.

Same as with the other castles we visited, you can only go inside with a guided 30 minute tour and taking photos of the interior is strictly prohibited. Once again though, we lucked out with a relatively small group that day and we had a chance to linger a bit longer in the rooms and really look at all the exquisite details in each. This virtual tour of the palace is pretty neat at giving you a good idea of what we saw inside, though of course the feeling of almost being overwhelmed by the grandeur is hard to replicate (I highly suggest you google the search term “Porcelain chandelier Ludwig” and see what I mean)  .

Once we were were done with the tour we headed back out and while we saw plenty of people head back out to the parking lot, probably because of the sprinkling rain, we stayed behind to wander around some more. Statues, fountains, pergolas, majolica vases- it seemed every time we rounded a corner or took a step to the side, there was yet more to see. And since it was at the end of the day we had most areas almost all to ourselves to lean in closer to all the little details, to fall further into the lull of this fairytale like landscape.

Eventually though, the rain went from a light drizzle to something more persistent and with closing hour approaching fast, we made one final photographic effort and climbed up the stairs facing the palace to have a chance to look out over it all. Rain falling down over us and our hands cupping our cameras to keep the droplets away from the lens we stood there, legs more than a little tired from all the walking we had done that day and just…took it all in. Perhaps summertime would have been a nice time to visit, weather-wise, but looking a the brilliant riot of colors that fall had brought to the landscape, I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful time to have been given the chance to come here.

As we made our way slowly back to Julias van I knew it was going to take me a while to actually well and truly believe that I had visited a place like this. I’ve said it numerous times in the posts i’ve written about this trip but, that feeling of being somewhere else- in a fairytale or in a whole other world- its hard to shake off when you visit places like this. This would turn out to be the last of King Ludwigs II’s castles we would visit, as the weather took a turn for the worse the next day but having this be the last one I got to visit, there were no regrets whatsoever lingering in my mind when I departed Germany two days later. Besides, getting a a chance to explore a rainy picturesque Mittenwald and learn more about the Partenkirchen side of Garmich-Partenkirchen the next, it more than made up for missing anything.

~m

 

An Enchanting Bavarian Town and Some Schneeballen- Füssen, Germany

Have you ever been inside a fairytale? Walked the streets of a town or city that you felt would fit so neatly right into the stories spun by Disney or Miyazaki? Füssen was this for me and the word enchanting wouldn’t even begin to describe it.

Located just north of the Austria border and just a short distance away from not one, not two but three castles( Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau and even Linderhof are easily accessible from here), a beautiful picturesque lake (Alpsee) and many (many) historic sites, museums and churches to be seen, Füssen certainly deserves more than the few hours Julia and I spent there that afternoon we visited.

After leaving the madhouse that was the Neuschwanstein Castle we headed back here to tuck in somewhere for lunch and then make our way to Linderhof Palace. We found easy parking just off the city center and then picked a direction to start walking towards in the hopes it would lead us to good food.

We got a bit sidetracked of course because I was like a wide eyed child as soon as we had emerged into the town itself- the beautiful bright colors of the buildings, all the interesting small shops tucked in neatly next to each other, even the people walking around added to the magical touch of it all.

Italian food made by Germans- a novelty I hadn’t expected to encounter. After wandering around for a bit we spotted a place with plenty of happy customers eating outside and figured hey, Italian sounds nice. If you’re curious if I ever actually tried traditional Bavarian cuisine on this trip btw, let me go ahead and sate that curiosity by saying I definitely didn’t- but in my defense my own native German friend wasn’t too keen on it either so we decided to save that experience for the next trip.

The food we DID have here was actually pretty good and we finished up our meal happily stuffed and ready to make our way back to the car and head off to Linderhof. But then we got sidetracked- this time by Julia! She had remembered a place from a previous visit that sold a special type of pastry and was determined we should find it so I could sample the goods there. I was more than happy to go on this adventure that might possible end with me eating something delicious.

The shop was found and the restraint exercised because as much as I wanted to buy one schneeballen of each flavor (and they had so many tempting flavors) I still had a week left on my trip and unless I wanted to lug around a suitcase full of these, only buying a few was the best plan. And what are schneeballen? In English you would call them snowballs, they’re made from short crust pastry and then rolled over toppings like caramel or chocolate and they taste heavenly. Also, they keep for a rather long time as I found out when I experimented with bringing some home with me. I brought 3 home for the bf and they tasted almost as good as the day I bought them.

All in all Füssen was a lovely town to have been able to stop in and i’m so beyond happy and greatful that Julia and I missed our turn while navigating to Neuschwanstien and I really hope I can come back one day for a longer stay.

~m

The Neuschwanstien Adventure- Schwangau, Germany

After leaving the beyond idyllic town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Julia and I embarked on a quick hour and a half roadtrip to see our second Ludwig II castle, Neuschwanstein. This is the one castle I had heard of before doing any research into where I wanted to visit, as it’s about the most famous of all German castles and arguably the most beautiful. Something I didn’t know before we went is that it’s also one the most visited tourist destinations in all of Europe, which makes sense of course, given it’s accessibility and beauty.

The skies were a clear brilliant blue and I enjoyed the views on the drive- the rolling hills, lush green farms and small towns just off the main highway almost begging for us to stop in and explore them. Finally though, the road curved just right and off in the distance, nestled right into the hills, we spotted the castle.

A 19th century romanesque revival palace constructed for a king who could be best and most kindly described as a social recluse, it was built in homage to the operas of composer Richard Wagner. Neuschwanstein was still incomplete when the king died in 1886 however, and in total he only slept 11 nights there. As the official tourist website for the castle states “the shy king had built the castle in order to withdraw from public life – now vast numbers of people came to view his private refuge. ”  To say there’s something deeply and almost sadly ironic about this would be an understatement.

After catching this glimpse of the castle so near and yet still so far away Julia and I continued on our way and then we ended up missing our turn and would up driving into the outskirts of Füssen, which turned out to be a lucky break as a I had no idea the town was there, nor that it would be so immediately interesting to me. As we made the necessary u-turn to get back on the right route I turned to Julia and said, “We really should see if we can find the time to come back here after we tour the castle, or at the very least stop in for lunch.” She readily agreed and all was well, even as we got behind a long – extremely long- line of cars that were all apparently going the same way as us.

By the time we made it up to the general parking lot at the bottom of the hill from where the castle is situated, we realized that perhaps spending our morning exploring Garmich-Partenkirchen had been a bad call and we should have gotten here earlier. Tour bus after tour bus lined up 6 deep and more people walking around trying to either buy tour tickets, start their walk up the hill to the castle or board a bus than I had seen at any of all the other places I had been to so far. Both Julia and I were caught off guard and we both expressed some version of “holy crap” as we tried to navigate our way to a parking spot.

So here’s something I rarely talk about in my blog posts- heck something I don’t even really talk about in my everyday life- which is the fun fact that I have occasional bouts of sensory overload coupled with social anxiety. As you can maybe imagine, traveling, especially to extremely crowded or busy places… well it can honestly wreak hell on my nerves. I can handle it well enough after years of forced practice and in general, unless you know me pretty intimately, you would just think i’m a bit tense and maybe not having the greatest time. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy traveling in cities or to tourist attractions, just that I need to be prepared in advance for the amount of energy i’ll need to have to find it in myself not to get overwhelmed by everything and everyone.

I work really hard to make sure there’s nothing ever standing in the way of the things I want to do- whether thats time, money or even myself- but of course the other side of that is also knowing when something isn’t quite worth the effort. If I had been by myself I would probably have taken one look at this crowded parking lot and flashed a cheery peace sign as I departed to calmer pastures but since I was with someone else, I took a deep breath and grabbed that extra cord of determination I keep stored at the bottom of my chest for emergencies and did my best to put on a happy face.
Thankfully however, neither of these were necessary as Julia was of the same opinion that really, this didn’t look like it would that much fun. So we talked it over for a bit and came to the decision that we would book it out of that madhouse, head to Füssen for lunch and then go to Linderhof Palace and maybe come back to Neuschwanstien the next day.

We got a bit turned around as we attempted to make our way out back to Füssen and ended up on some quiet roads that provided some really wonderful (and much more solitary) views of the castle and the surrounding hills and really, that just made us feel even better about our decision.

Things to think about if you decide to make the trip out here:
Just like all the other Ludwig II castles, you can only enter to visit with a tour, and these tours only last 30 minuets. The tickets cost $19 per person and while you can buy them when you arrive, it’s best to reserve ahead of time as they do sell out. Like I mentioned above, it’s an extremely popular destination and it’s probably best to try and make it as early as possible, though tours don’t start until 9am during the summer hours and 10am in the winter. And last but not least, photography is not allowed inside the castle.

On our way back from Füssen (which i’ll cover in the next post), as we headed to Linderhof Palace, we spotted a road that wound it’s way to a very picturesque church so we of course made a quick little detour to snap a couple of photos and check out some pumpkins being sold by the roadside that I had become intensely interested in. The skies had turned grey over the course of the past few hours we had been here but the wind was only a little crisp and with no rain immediately visible on the horizon, we headed on our way to the final Ludwig II castle on our Bavarian agenda.

~m

The Best Views in Town, Courtesy of a Local- Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

The best place to start this post is to state outright and without reservations- I love cows and sheeps. Not in a weird or creepy way, just in a very appreciative I-spent-the-first-decade-of-my-life-in-NYC-and-then-the-next-one-in-suburbia so whenever I’m in what can be constituted as the “countryside”, I get overly excited to see them.

Overly excited to the point where I will point them out when I see them- almost every single time. So by the third day of my stay in Germany with Julia she was very used to this and that morning before we headed out to Neuschwanstein castle she took me on a quick tour to the Garmisch part of her home town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen (located about an hour outside of Munich) and started it off with a view that included not only the tallest mountain in Germany, Zugspitze, but also had amazing views of some happy cows grazing in the fields. Needless to say, it was the perfect way to start the day.

After this we drove back into town and found a good parking spot to go on a quick walking tour of some of her favorite places.

We stopped in first at the Parish Church Of St. Martin, which was completely empty that morning and provided an interesting contrast to the vivid colors of that part of town. I wouldn’t call the atmosphere somber though, maybe more just appropriately pious? In any case it’s a beautiful town church and I’d highly recommend stopping in if you’re in the area.

We didn’t wander too far as we still had plans to travel out to Neuschwanstein Castle but that mornings walk provided an over abundance of postcard worthy views and I left with the impression that Garmisch-Partenkirchen was really and truly like somewhere out of a fairytale. Every curve of the road, every street seemed to be filled with charm, color and culture to the point where I almost didn’t want to leave.

(We would be back later that day of course and do some more exploring as well as visit the Partenkirchen part of town the next day but more on that in a later post. )

~m

A Bavarian Versaille and A Monastery on A Lake- Herrenchiemsee, Germany

The day started out rainy, which was a slight bummer considering we planned to be out and walking around that day. Determined to not let it put too much of a dampener on the day, Julia grabbed her very cute umbrella with cats on it and I grabbed the one I had bought that had it’s own cats and dogs design (this goes toshould show you, more than anything probably, why we get along so well) and we headed out to make the hour and half drive to Prien am Chiemsee where we would board the ferry that would take us to Herreninsel where our final destination,Neues Schloss Herrenchiemsee was located on.

If you’re not familiar with Bavarian history or King Ludwig II then all those names up there might have thrown you for a loop and to be honest, just a couple of months before I took this trip I would also have been itching with curiosity. Thankfully not only did I do some research to make sure I knew where I wanted to visit while in this part of Germany, I also had a fantastically nice and knowledgeable local Bavarian friend with me who was more than up for trying to visit all the castles that King Ludwig II had commissioned to be built between the years of 1869 and 1886. These include Schloss Neuschwanstein, Linderhof Palace and the one we were there to see that day, Herrenchiemsee. 

Sprinkling rain and cloudy skies were definetly not going to stop me from going to see a real- life Bavarian palace and so we happily bought our tickets for the ferry and took the short trip over to the island while making idle plans for the rest of the days I would be there. Once we disembarked, we showed our pre bought tickets (Julia had purchased us tickets that granted entrance to all three castles for one fixed price, a genius move) at the desk and reserved our spots for the next the guided tour. Its a bit of a walk from where the ferry drops you off to where the palace is situated but eventually we found ourselves coming out from the forest that lines the trail to look upon what we had all come here to see.

Just by looking at the front of this beautifully grand building- never mind the fountains that encircle the front- you can easily get an idea of what the king was going for. As quotes from the official tourist info website state (seriously this website is great if you’re planning a visit):

“King Ludwig II’s original idea was to have a copy of Versailles Palace built on the Herreninsel as a “Temple of Fame” in honour of the Sun King Louis XIV of France.”

One thing to note, if you do plan to visit, is that you can only go inside by a guided half hour tour. Also, photography is strictly prohibited inside. As much research as I had done on where I wanted to visit, I had apparently missed this rather important bit of information and was subsequently more than a little saddened at not being able to 1. Tour the palace more freely and 2. Photograph any part of the interior.

The tour itself was really informative and fun though, and as a bonus our group was pretty small as it was the English language tour and the majority of the tourists here were German speaking, so it was a more intimate experience. It’s hard to describe the opulence of the palace, mainly because the word “opulent” seems lacking- enchantingly lavish is perhaps a better descriptor. From the entrance staircase that seems to fairly shine with a fairytale sort of grandeur to rooms covered in the kind of craftsmanship that has you leaning forward just to get a better look to a copy of the Versailles Hall of Mirrors, it almost leaves your heart aching at all the beauty you wish you could linger around.

Thirty minutes is all you’re given however, and after the tour was done we headed back to the front of the palace where we had lunch at the cafeteria thats just off the lobby and decided on the rest of our plans. The tickets we had bought back at the ferry point allowed us to not only visit the island the castle was on but to also take a trip to Frauenchiemsee (also know as Fraueninsel) where a monastery is located. And of course, if you’ve been reading any of my last few posts, you know if there’s a monastery or church nearby , Julia and I will probably go visit it.

The rain let up for a while as we explored this smaller island and there was a bit of a surreal-ness to the experience of coming from one of the most ornately decorated palaces i’d ever seen to a quiet and almost homely island that was centered around a monastery. Also, we got a bit of a kick out of being probably the youngest people touring the island who weren’t there with their parents- the average age of most tourist we saw seemed to be fixed firmly at around 50, and we had this fun moment where we looked at each other like, “wow, we really are very nerdy people aren’t we?“.

Our feet were pretty tired from the walking we had down around the other island and we weren’t too keen on exploring the museum here, mostly because all the placards were in German and my reading comprehension in anything other than English, Spanish or Italian is not so great. The area is full of beautiful houses and gardens though, and being a car-free island we had a nice time just leisurely taking a walk around the winding paths before heading back to the ferry docking point.

Hands cold and feet a little sore we headed back to the mainland on our last ferry ride of the day, talking about all that we had seen and making plans for the rest of the day- which included heading back to her apartment to pack an overnight back as we would be going to stay in her hometown of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, to make our trips to the next two castles a little bit easier and also so I could finally meet her bunny rabbits (yes you read that right, it’s not a typo). As we drove back the way we had come, the large lake fading in the distance behind us, I really wondered what the other castle we had yet to visit would have in store for us.

~m