A Travellerspoint blog

Fairytale views from Neuschwannstein Castle

sunny 21 °C

"I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others" - King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Foodie moment

Why mess with a good thing, our final night in Germany, we headed to another restaurant owned by our favourite beer, this one named Augustiner Keller. A huge beer hall and outdoor beer garden situated in the centre of Munich, had Oktoberfest not been on at the show grounds nearby I'm sure this place would have been full to the brim. The food was reviewed as excellent - and it really, truly was! I was dying to try a platter of cold meats and cheese so we ordered the Augustiner starter platter with crispy radish, chive bread, home-made Obazda cheese, Regensburg sausage, cold Leberkase (meat loaf), Birnbach salami stick, Lower- Bavarian black smoked ham, Smoked Fish, Emmental and Chiemgau country butter, mini burgers and herb cream cheese, garnished with tomatoes, pickled gherkins and hard boiled egg. Looking back this would have been enough, but Mark always has to have a main course so we compromised with a salad and main to share. Unsuprisingly they both were huge! Tyrolean farmer's salad which is colourful lettuce with bacon, brown bread croutons, mushrooms, parmesan and balsamic dressing and Pepper pork cutlet fried in spicy pepper sauce with natural home made spaetzle (German noodles).

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Cultural moment

Oktoberfest is definitely not a festival purely for tourists. This was particularly relevant at the train station in Munich as hundred of people pored off the regional trains, dressed in their finest lederhosen and dirndl, heading for the festival. People travelled from all parts of Bavaria (and beyond) for a day at Oktoberfest. It truly is an incredibly important tradition for the German people.

Wow moment

The cute little town of Fussen is the home of one of the most spectacular castles in the world, Neuschwannstein Castle. Commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who later became known as Ludwig the Mad, this is a real life example of a true fairytale castle. In fact it is easy to believe the rumours that Neuschwannstein Castle was the inspiration for Walt Disney when creating his Disney logo and world famous Cinderella's castle. A bus ride up the mountain, then a short walk to the castle, makes it clear that not only did Ludwig choose a beautiful design he also chose one of the most stunning locations to build it. The views were amazing; crystal lakes, green fields, rolling mountains - true Bavaria. We didn't go inside the castle due to time restrictions but the views made up for it. I do suggest that you leave Munich early to come out to Fussen (or stay out there for the night), it is a long trip and the time slots for the tickets to go inside sell out fast!

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What we learnt today

Bavaria is stunning! I've been to many beautiful places throughout the trip but the views across countryside Bavaria, outside Munich, are probably some of my favourites. The colours are so vibrant and the villages traditional and cute with their small streets and red roofs. Every now and then you would get a glimpse of a crystal blue lake mirroring a bright blue sky, surrounded by emerald green mountains and fields. I can only imagine how it would look in the winter snow but I'm guessing it would be every bit as impressive. I would definitely like to spend some more time in this area of Germany, driving around and exploring the amazing beauty Bavaria has to offer.

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Posted by travellinglise 03.12.2013 21:01 Archived in Germany Tagged landscapes lakes castles neuschwanstein_castle Comments (0)

Evidence of evil at Dachau

sunny 19 °C
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“Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedom -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way” - Viktor Frankl, Concentration camp survivor and Dachau prisoner.

Foodie moment

A trip to Andechs Monastery & Brewery after our visit to Dachau lightened the mood considerably, but unfortunately had the opposite effect on our stomach. Whilst we have consistently been dumbstruck at the size of meat portions in Czech Republic and Germany, the meal at the monastery was by far the most overwhelmingly big we had come across - and we shared a meal!! Their famous pork knuckles only come in one size and weigh over a kg each (where are these monstrous pigs kept that these knuckles come from?! Or shouldn't I ask....) luckily the women cut ours in half so we could split it! With a side of potato salad and sauerkraut and some pints (no stomach room for steins!) of their locally brewed wheat beer, we were glad it was downhill to the bus meeting point - we just rolled!

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Cultural moment

Whilst Germany are not exactly hiding the atrocities of their past, they are not also not forward in speaking about it. When we mentioned we were going to Dachau, many Germans were quite adamant that we shouldn't go there because it is not a fair reflection on Germany of today. I agree that it must be very hard for young Germans to be living under the shadows of their country's past. We came across many unfair stereotypes of the German people and Germany as a country, and found most of them to be extraordinarily untrue. We met some fantastic young Germans, who were fun, easy going and open minded. However, a past like that cannot be forgotten and ignored and it was good to learn that German schoolchildren regularly attend Dachau and other prison camps to learn about their past, and to help ensure Germany can grow and learn from the experiences.

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Wow moment

Taking a break from the beer halls we decided to learn a little more about the darker side of German history, and join the tour to Dachau concentration camp. From the moment you step through the huge iron gates emblazoned with the German motto "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes you free) you are hit with a feeling of sadness and hopelessness. Most of the actual camp is no longer standing as it was torn down after the war due to being in a state of disrepair. The administration buildings are still standing and they house an extremely detailed museum starting from the rise of the Nazi party through to the end of the war.

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Dachau was one of the first concentration camps built in Germany and was built to house Political prisoners (basically anyone who didn't agree with the Nazi rise to power, or was in the way of their progress). This was then extended to include Jews, ordinary German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries which Germany occupied or invaded. In the twelve years of its existence over 200,000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned here. Although Dachau was not officially an 'extermination camp' there were 31,951 documented deaths during this time, and countless undocumented ones. Deaths occurred due to starvation, beatings, mistreatment, torture and murder by SS guards. All bodies were cremated in the adjoining crematorium (which are still standing), but fortunately (and it is unknown why) the gas chambers in the crematorium were never used for mass extermination. On April 29 1945, American troops liberated the survivors.

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What we learnt today

Words cannot express the atrocity of what occurred in the camps of Germany during WW2. The museum was hard to deal with at some points; with photos and videos (often unseen footage taken by SS Guards) portraying torture, death, medical experiments and human cruelty. Sadly I'm not sure if the world has learnt its lesson from these horrors. Even today the same scenarios are playing out all over the globe - dictators, genocide, prejudice - yet not enough is done to stop it, and (in the case of my country) the innocent victims, in the form of refugees, are ignored and sent away. I just can't imagine how we need any more evidence than what happened in Nazi Germany in order to come to a realisation that hate is a dangerous emotion, and prejudice and bigotry need to be stamped out immediately. Sorry political rant over! :)

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Posted by travellinglise 03.12.2013 04:08 Archived in Germany Tagged dachau Comments (0)

Ein Prosit Zum (A Toast To) Oktoberfest!

sunny 18 °C
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The traditional drinking song of Oktoberfest which is played every 20 minutes all day, every day:
"Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit.
OANS ZWOA DREI! G'SUFFA!"

English translation of Ein Prosit:
"A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times
A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times.
ONE TWO THREE! DRINK UP!"

Foodie moment

Oktoberfest is known a lot more for its beer than its food, but saying that, there is plenty of traditional Bavarian food available at the fest (for a hefty fee). Each tent not only serves beer, but also have hot food available too. However it is common knowledge that people under the influence of beer tend to forget about eating until it is too late. That is where the pretzel girls come in handy. Every few minutes a girl dressed in a Dirndl (traditional dress) comes walking by with a basket full of pretzels, jolting your memory back into gear, reminding you of your need to eat. To say that I had a couple of pretzels during my drinking sessions at the fest would be an understatement.

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Cultural moment

Being at Oktoberfest is simply an awesome experience, one that is enhanced by that fact the nearly every single person is dressed for the occasion in the traditional costumes. These are the Dirndl (a colourful dresses with apron) for women and the Lederhosen (leather overalls) for men. It was fantastic to see that everyone puts in the effort and gets dressed up, making the whole experience a giant dress up party. The one time we went for a short drink without costumes (because we came directly from a day at Dachau) we felt excluded, so we were really happy that we had our costumes for the majority of our time spent there. There are thousands and thousands of costumes available in the city (not cheap, some starting at around 100 euros each!) which really encourages people to get into the occasion and join in the fun. If we ever have a dress up party at home, we at least have some costumes to wear again!

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Wow moment

Imagine a place that is half fairground, half beer festival. A place where everyone is in dressed in bright colours, and some of the best beer in the world is served table at a time in one litre glasses. Where total strangers become best friends, singing and 'prosting' on long wooden tables. A place where women wear curve enhancing dresses, and men dress in leather. A place where the smell of pretzels and roast chicken are permanently in the air. It is the place of dreams, and this place is Oktoberfest in Munich.

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What can I say! It was everything that I had heard it would be and was looking forward to. I have always wanted to go ever since I saw the huge tents full of thousand of people having a great time on a TV documentary. Now we were finally here! The event is held on grounds that have 2 identifiable sections; the main street with the drinking tents (14 large tents that hold 1000s of people each at a time) and the fair ground section with rides and roller coasters. We spent most of our time in the beer tents, our favourite being the Augustiner-Festhalle. It was the first tent we went to on the first day and we were very lucky to get into it only because of Lisa's genius idea...

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We had just missed out on getting into the Schottenhamel tent after lining up for hours in the morning and we had nowhere else to go, because by that stage everything else was full and you will only get served beer if you are sitting at a table in a tent. So Lisa came up with the genius idea to follow a group of local girls that ended up walking around the back of the Augustiner tent and into the back entrance after the front was closed. We got in against all odds and were greeted by a lovely fraulein (beer waitresses that can carry over 20 steins at a time!) that somehow found us 2 seats on a table where we made friends with 2 New Zealanders and 2 Chicagoans and 3 slightly strange Germans. We still had to wait 1 1/2 hours before the beer taps started flowing however, because no beer is allowed to be served until the mayor comes and taps the first keg at 12pm. Once the rocket exploded overhead symbolising the opening of the fest and the brass band did a lap of honour inside the tent, the beer began to flow.

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Over the next 3 days that we visited we drank an average of 4 litres of beer each, our best being 5 litres each over a whole day, enough to put us in a jolly old mood, join in with everyone singing and dancing on the tables and chairs and make friends with total strangers. We visited 4 tents total; Augustiner, Schottenhamel, Löwenbräu and Hofbräu. It was a fantastic experience overall and would love to go again!

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What we learnt today

After a few days at Oktoberfest there is one thing that we all agreed with, there is no possible way that an event of that scale and with that much alcohol could be successfully run in either Australia or the UK. The drinking culture here is completely different. Drinking is not seen simply as a means to get drunk, but enjoyed for other reasons; being social, excuses to eat good food and the great music and atmosphere found in the beer halls. During our time there we saw very little violence, couples arguing or people being sick, and considering the number of people there and the volume of alcohol drunk, that is quite amazing! I don't have the same faith in my fellow country-people to handle their booze in the same way!

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Speaking of the beers, there are 2 sizes in Germany; "One" and "Half". One being 1 litre and half being half a litre. It is not uncommon for the local experts to knock down 10 or more litres of beer in one sitting and continuous visitations to the same beer hall every week over 3 years will earn you a permanent place as a VIP with your picture on the wall and your very own special beer stein locked away waiting for you. Miss one week though, and unfortunately you're back to square one in your quest for beer drinking immortality.

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Posted by travellinglise 21.10.2013 04:56 Archived in Germany Tagged munich oktoberfest Comments (2)

Munchin' in München (Munich)

overcast 15 °C
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"Of one thing there is no doubt: if Paris makes demands of the heart, then Munich makes demands of the stomach" - Rachael Johnson

Foodie moment

At our walking tour guide's recommendation we decided to have dinner at the Augustiner am Platzl restaurant in the city centre. All of the beer houses only serve one brand of beer (this one serving Augustiner beer), and each names their resturant after the beer they serve. This means you have to be careful you find the right restaurant (and give the correct full name if meeting someone there!) or you could end up at any of dozens of 'Augustiner' restaurants around the city. Being a few days before the start of Oktoberfest the place was packed and we had almost given up on the idea of finding a table before I spotted one hidden in a corner and dived on it. The quality of the food was fantastic (as always meat and potato heavy) and the servings huge. We had the Pork Knuckle cooked 2 ways (roasted and pickled) and 1/4 Roast Duck (If that is the size of a quarter duck then I'm scared of the size of German ducks!). Washed down with a couple of half litre glasses of beer we literally rolled out of the place after, Food coma!

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Cultural moment

When you think of Germany, its unfortunately impossible to not think of the World Wars. However, the city of Munich shows very few traces of that terrible time. There are little to no memorials to do with the wars, and those that are around are very hard to find and even recognise that they are memorials. There are still traces of Nazi history if you know what your are looking for. Some people criticise them for ignoring the truth and hiding their history, but they say that large recognisable monuments can become touristy features for the wrong reasons and anyone serious about remembering their history will find the ones that are there. For example, our guide had to point out one piece known as the Golden Path, which is a small path of golden bricks in Viscardigasse street. You wouldn't know it if you were standing on it, but it represents the alternative route that some citizens walked to avoid having to heil a monitored Nazi swastika sign that was on the main corner up ahead. Eventually Viscardigasse street was guarded by a Gestapo guard, and notes would be taken about citizens who walked down it. If you were caught not saluting the Swastika as you passed or intentionally avoiding passing it, you would be punished. This could include being sent to a concentration camp, so taking the street represented by the Golden Path was a incredibly risky choice for those who wanted to maintain a sense of honour and humanity.

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Another sombre place, that not everyone would recognise, is the Odeonsplatz. Here on the steps between the 2 lions is where Hitler gave his most recognisable speeches to the masses. It is exactly the same today as it was then, minus all of the Nazi propaganda and symbolism. It was a very strange feeling standing in the same place where Hitler spread his hatred by giving his frightening screaming speeches.

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Wow moment

The city centre of Munich is a really nice place to walk around. There are traffic free roads for pedestrians and the main squares (Marienplatz being the largest) are joined together by wide streets packed with shops and restaurants. During our walking tour we got to investigate much of the city. The majority of the city has been rebuilt, due to it being all but flattened by Allied bombings during WWII. Much of this has been done by referencing old photographs taken by the Nazi's (which they took as an alternative to showing any weakness to their public by sandbagging buildings or moving artworks to safe places!). Due to the effort put into rebuilding Munich as it was, it still has an old world feel to it. However, you can still see signs of economic crisis after the war in the way that some of the buildings have been rebuilt, examples being that their bricks and columns have been painted on! Our guide brought to our attention that Germany has only recently in the last few years paid off its debts for WWI, let alone WWII. Lucky for them they have big companies such as BMW which helped bring them out of economic ruin, and actually make Bavaria one of the wealthiest regions in the world.

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What we learnt today

In the centre of Marinplatz stands the impressive Old town Hall and in its clock tower is the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel. We arrived in the square just before noon, and noticing the hoards of tourists standing looking up with cameras at the ready, I instantly followed suit. What followed was only beaten in tediousness by the Astronomical clock in Prague and perhaps the light show in Hong Kong. The music in the Rathaus-Glockenspiel started to play..... nothing happened or moved until about 5 minutes of music has occurred. Finally the characters in the Glockenspiel started to move, some turned slowly (apparently dancing?), some moved joltily from one side to the other (apparently joisting?).. this happened for a another 5 minutes or so. At this point I admit, the magic was not working for me, and my back was killing from bending back to film it, so we gave up and left. Apparently we missed the big finale where some sort of bird comes out and makes a noise... hmmm, I think we'll live with the disapointment missing that!!

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Posted by travellinglise 19.10.2013 06:45 Archived in Germany Tagged munich Comments (0)

Pilsen - A Hidden Foodie Haven

rain 9 °C
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"I am not a glutton - I am an explorer of food" - Erma Bombeck

Foodie moment

Although the town of Pilsen did not match with our expectations, the food there blew them out of the water. The brewery company Plzensky Prazdroj own three restaurants in the town of Pilsen. After being recommended one and having a great meal at another we decided to dedicate our anniversary celebrations to trying all three!

Na Spilce Restaurant is situated at the Plzeňský Prazdroj brewery. The restaurant is held in the former fermentation cellar and is the largest pub in Bohemia, seating 550 people. Mark had been eyeing off the Goulash served in bread loaf in a few places, so he ordered that here. This was the only meal we had in this chain of restaurants which was a little disappointing. I ordered the recommended dish from the front of the menu, which was to become a tradition for me in each of the restaurants, and was a sure winner every time. I had Pork cubes roasted with onion and dark beer, křimice cabbage and red cabbage, potato and Bohemian dumplings with onion. The dumplings were the best I had tasted in our whole trip and when the whole meal came to $11 AU total we couldn't complain!!

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Na Parkánu Bar was a recommendation from Trip Advisor and we decided to go here for our 2 yr Anniversary meal. After not being able to reserve a table booking (there was a football match between the local side and Manchester city on so everything was full) we decided to just turn up whilst the match was on (and hence the supporters were at the game) and see if they would slot us in. Sure enough the place was pretty quiet and we were told as long as we left by 10.30 pm when the match ended and the tables were all reserved for post match drinking, we could use a table. We ordered The Brewers Platter (Stewed smoked pork loin end, roast sausage, roast pork, white sausage, mustard, horseradish and spicy cabbage) and a 500g Roasted pork belly on the bone with mustard, pickle, horseradish and spicy cabbage. Typical traditional Czech fare, still sticking with lots of cabbage and pork, but the best cabbage and pork we had had!! We rolled out with very full tummies as the Man City supporters rolled in to celebrate their win.

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Finding no reason to not complete the trifecta we sought out the final restaurant in the chain for lunch the next day. U Salzmannů Restaurant is in the centre of the town of Pilsen and touts itself as the oldest restaurant in Pilsen. Once again the food served up was exceptional and the delicious dark Czech beer made for a great farewell to Pilsen, our unexpected foodie haven! This time we had Honey-glazed pork ribs roasted with onion served with garlic and spicy sauce and Pork tenderloin strips with heavy cream sauce with beer, cheese and spring onion. I could have eaten a tub of the garlic sauce on its own!! These were probably our favourite dishes of our time in Pilsen. Yummy!!!!! (I want it now!)

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Cultural moment

As mentioned earlier there was a Champions league match between Pilsen and Manchester City on whilst we were in town. This meant this otherwise sleepy small town was suddenly full to the brim with loud, excitable Mancunians chanting, drinking and shouting. On the other side though we saw (and heard) very few Pilsen supporters around town before the match. A few small groups walking to the ground and some groups in the pub quietly watching the game while we ate dinner. I'm sure there were plenty of Pilsen supporters at the game but they were either massively outnumbered or significant quieter than their counterparts from England!! I could hazard a guess at which of those scenarios is most likely....

Wow moment

The number one thing to do in Pilsen, and the place that originally put it on the map, is to visit the Pilsner Urquell Brewery. Its is a huge beer factory that has been operating since 1839. Its so large in size that while on the tour we had to catch a bus to get around the brewery grounds. We started our tour in the new part of the factory where the beer is bottled and put into cans and bottles via giant automated machines.

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We then travelled to another part which was the older building (a new multi million euro building is being used now) where they made the beer. In here we got to see the giant copper vats in which the beer is fermented. There was also an interactive museum where we learnt about the processes involved in making the beer.

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Finally we headed into the underground tunnels, which stretched for miles and miles under the brewery and town. Here we were able to see all of the beer fermenting in the traditional wooden barrels, and even got to try some open barrel fermented beer especially brewed for tour groups only. The whole experience was a blast, and learning and seeing the entire beer process was really interesting.

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What we learnt today

Whilst dining at Na Splice we found our new favourite beer. It wasn't the famous Pilsner Urquell lager (which we weren't actually a huge fan of) but instead it was the Velkopopovický Kozel dark beer. It opened my eyes to the 'dark' side of beer and I haven't looked back since!

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Posted by travellinglise 16.10.2013 08:35 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged pilsen plsen pilsner_urquell_brewery Comments (0)

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