El blog de Jaizki

17 agosto 2006

Visiting Bavaria - Day 4

This post is the continuation of Visiting Bavaria - Day 3.

Before my visit, Josef sent me by email the preliminary schedule they had prepared, and he asked me if there were anything else I would like to visit. One of my childhood memories are two Mad King Ludwig's Castle ashtrays, my parents brought from a trip to Bavaria. So I answered him that it could be an interesting place to visit.

What I didn't know when I made that suggestion was that Neuschwanstein -that's the name of the castle- is 350 km away from Forchheim. Nevertheless, instead of telling me that it was quite far away, they just added it to Monday schedule, seizing the opportunity to include as well an afternoon visit to Munich.

That Monday, Tobias and Tanja were starting a traineeship in a garage and a travel agency, respectively. Apparently, the worsening of the German labour market has incited young people to spend part of their holidays working without pay in different companies to find their vocation and to improve their employability. The strange thing is that in Spain, with the same unemployment rate, this does not happen. I suppose the reason is that Germany has arrived to the present unemployment rate multiplying by two the previous one, and Spain by dividing it by half.

Ingrid got up very early to say goodbye to her children, but she was still suffering from backache, since the previous day she hurt her back taking a picture. The fact is that she phoned several physiotherapists until she found one who would receive her early in the morning, and by the time Josef and I were finishing breakfast, she was already back and ready for the trip.

So we left Forchheim for Hohenschwangau, the town where the castle is. Josef took advantage of the journey to leave a package at a Siemens office in Augsburg (pictures), and in passing we visit part of the city by car.

Four hours after leaving Forchheim, we arrived at Hohenschwangau (picture). By the way, I could check the architectonic difference between Franconia and that part of Baviera. Whereas in Franconia houses are made of stone with visible painted timber, in the south of Baviera houses are mainly made of timber and, to say everything, they are not as pretty.

It is really incredible the business developed around the castle and the amount of people who visit it. There're several parking lots with a total capacity for several hundreds of cars and buses (picture). According to what I have found on the Internet, the castle receives more than 1.3 million annual visits from all over the world and up to 6,000 daily visits in peak season. Tickets must be bought three hours before the visit. And even if you have previously bought them via Internet, as Josef had done, you have to collect them with some advance.

Taking advantage of the time we had, we went for lunch to one of the restaurants there. Josef recommended me Leberkäse with Kartoffelsalat and mustard (picture). Leberkäse literal translation would be "livercheese", but it contains neither liver nor cheese, it is a typical food from Bavaria with beef, pork, bacon and onions. Kartoffelsalat is a kind of potato salad served cold, too cold for my taste. Anyway, Ingrid and Josef agreed that it was not very good, and they know much more than I do about German cuisine.

However, the most interesting thing was the mixture of languages the restaurant: English, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese… and several more than I was unable to identify. Of course, Spanish and Italian were the most heard languages, as everybody knows we love to show our powerful voice.

After lunch, we went to see Alpsee lake (picture) and later we started the ascent towards Neuschwanstein (pictures), it's a half an hour stroll. When we arrived we could have a look at the castle from the outside and also to the castle courtyard. When we realised that our ticket numbers seemed to be wrong, we went to the information office. Apparently, due to confusion between the name of the town where the castle is and the name of Ludwig's father's castle, both named Hohenschwangau, our tickets were for this castle.

Buying new tickets would have mean waiting three hours, and also forgetting the visit to Munich. So we decided not to visit the interior (pictures), go to the other castle to check if they would let us in despite being late, and go to Munich after that.

Ingrid told me she was glad we were late to see the Rolls-Royce collection at Loizaga Tower when they came to visit Biscay. That made them feel less guilty. I told her that it also worked the other way round, that failure in the German planning, made me feel less guilty of my failures during their visit. In addition, that let me an important pending work to justify a new trip to Bavaria.

In Hohenschwangau castle (pictures), Ingrid managed to get permission to enter with another group. This castle was built in the 12th century but it was destroyed by Napoleon troops in 1806. Maximiliam II of Baviera, Ludwig's father, rebuilt it between 1833 and 1837 as a 19th century neogothic palace. The tour only visits some of the first and second floors rooms; anyway it's interesting to discover the way of life of the kings of that time. By the way, Richard Wagner was lodged in one of those rooms, when Ludwig II became his patron.

After the visit we went to the souvenir store, but nothing caught my eye. In fact, I did not even buy an ashtray to continue the family tradition.

We stopped in a terrace and I had an Eiskaffe (picture) like the one I had taken in Nuremberg on Saturday. Upon finishing it, we took the road to Munich. When arriving, Josef showed me the area constructed for the 1972 Summer Olympics, including the Olympic Stadium (picture).

We parked in Siemens area in the outskirts of Munich and we got to the centre by tube. First thing we visited, and last one related to Siemens, was the Siemens COM headquarters (picture), the Siemens division I was working for when I met Josef.

Close to Residenzstrasse (picture), there are several lively squares interconnected. Perhaps because summer is short in those latitudes, everyone takes advantage of it to go out. From there we went to Marienplatz (pictures). This square is the home to the impressive city hall (picture). Next thing we visited was Marien church (picture), already closed, and from there we went to Neuhauserstrasse, Munich main shopping street, and also the one with the greater pedestrian density. We arrived to the end of the street (picture) and entered Munchen-Karlsplatz (picture) and we returned to Marienplatz using lateral streets.

Thence we entered Viktualienmarkt (pictures), also known as "green market". Originally a farmers' market, it has become a market for gourmets. Unfortunately, the stores were already closed, but even with no people around it was possible to imagine how crowded it can be at peak hour.

As my hosts could not let me leave Munich without visiting an authentic Municher brewery, they took me to a crowded but not especially big one. What they had not told me was that we were having dinner at Hofbräuhaus (pictures), the most famous brewery of Munich, and perhaps also the largest. By the way, Hof prefix means it was supplier of the royal house when Germany was reigned by a Kaiser.

The brewery is really huge (picture), I can not specify its size but I know there were hundreds of tables, a band playing in the middle (picture) and an inner yard (picture) with one hundred tables more. There we got a table next to a group of nice Italian people.

One of the girls in the group was studying German in Munich before the beginning of her German Philology studies in Italy. I was told that Munichers do not speak the most understandable German, that honour belongs to Hannover inhabitants.

Of course, dinner consisted of Bratwurst sausages with Sauerkraut and a one litre Hofbräu beer jar (picture). Someday I will have to return for Oktoberfest, the famous beer festival. By the way, Sauerkraut had nothing to do with the one I had had for lunch the day before.

From Munich we returned to Forchheim, but we arrived very late. As next morning Josef had to take me to Stuttgart airport to take my flight, we went straight to bed.

Continues in Visiting Bavaria - Day 5.

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