November 26, 2014

Bavarian Cheese Farm.





After visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, our wonderful day in Bavaria continued with lunch on a cheese farm, mere feet away from the cows that produced the milk for the cheese we enjoyed.  It is one of those experiences that you try to emphasize the magic of, but fall short in every attempt.  Words cannot adequately convey just how lovely it is to take in an experience like this... the fresh air, the little goats playing merrily with small bells on, the breeze.... the countryside!  Sometimes I wonder if it all really happened?  I guess it did because I have photographic evidence.  I am SO glad we were there on such a lovely spring day.  The sky was bright blue and the weather ideal.  I think this really added to the magic, because an overcast and cold day just wouldn't have been quite the same.



^Doesn't this look like a Windows default background?

We went into the cheese shop (Schönegger Käse-Alm) and picked up lots of fresh cheese, bread, and homemade butter.  Oh and of course a cold beer, because when you are on vacation in Germany, that is what you do!


After picking up the lunch, we sat down with our new friends and enjoyed the plates overlooking the countryside.


Our group is sitting at the second table from the right.  The perfect size!  The entire day massive tour buses drove around the area, and we were grateful for a much more intimate experience.  We truly formed some great friendships with the group!


After eating we had some time to enjoy the area.  I really could have stayed there all day, but the few hours we had were perfect.


The animals were all super sweet and happy, but the little goats stole my heart.  They had little bells on and were leaping in the air playing with each other!  So joyful.

 

Just look at this goat trying to say hello to me!  It was cuteness overload.  The entire setting.  Bavarian cheese farm = success.

November 20, 2014

Neuschwanstein Castle.



Neuschwanstein castle (also known as the 'Disney castle') is absolutely gorgeous if you catch it on the right day.  I am *so* thankful we lucked out on a nice spring day.  Before visiting the actual castle we took a bus up the steep hillside and walked to the Marienbrücke viewing bridge.

Supposedly this bridge is 100% safe, but I swear my knees were shaking.  Heights aren't exactly my thing, especially combined with a large crowd.  (And this was off season!)  At one point a large dog even pushed past me!  What?!  I would be petrified to take Zora on the bridge.

 

Here is a view of the bridge as seen from the castle, so you can get an idea of where all the iconic Neuschwanstein photos come from.



I was super glad we got the bridge out of the way first.  I love the photos we got, so it was well worth it!  It would be lovely to see it covered in snow someday.



Next we had a tour of the castle.  Please note, tours are scheduled/booked ahead of time, so you cannot show up and get a tour without a specific time slot.  They are very adamant about this!  Also, no photography is allowed inside the castle, which is kind of a bummer.

 

You cannot fully understand Neuschwanstein without some background on its creator, Ludwig II.  Ludwig II basically made this castle as an homage to Richard Wagner (he was essentially a super fan of his operas).  He even designed the castle with places for musical performances.  It is actually a fairly recent building, constructed in the late 1800's.  Ludwig II was a recluse, but sort of a genius, and put all kinds of different touches on the inside.  If you can imagine a style of art, it is probably in there.  He also used a swan motif, and my personal favorite, he constructed a cave complete with a rainbow machine.

A rainbow machine?  Yep.  He actually loved science and technology and his interest in them resulted in many advancements throughout Bavaria.  So although he was deemed the "mad king" and was certainly eccentric, he did a lot for the area.  There was a lot of controversy from the costs of his projects and castles, but today they bring in a lot of income to Bavaria.  When he died in 1868, the castle remained unfinished, but was opened to the public.  I should also note that his death was under very mysterious circumstances.  He was found in  Lake Starnberg, and his death was ruled a drowning suicide, but no water was found in his lungs.  Very strange.

All this to say, this isn't your traditional castle.  Ludwig's story is the most interesting part about Neuschwanstein.  It is definitely more about him and less about the actual castle!

There was one balcony of the castle we were allowed to take photos from.  Thew views?  Well... just have a look...



So there you have it.  Bavaria is for lovers.  And eccentrics.  And the dreamers. ;)


And slightly crazy people. ;)

November 16, 2014

The Bavarian Countryside.

Time to move outside of Munich to the beautiful Bavarian countryside.  It is sort of unreal and fairy tale-like, while also being a super easy day trip from Munich. We traveled on parts of the Romantic Road, and even the Autobahn!  Each turn was more enchanting than the next.

I want to share this special day over my next few posts.  We took a small group tour and had a FANTASTIC group that we still keep in touch with.  That made it all the better.  Our tour guide Andy worked really hard to make our day special, and even ended up hanging out with us in a beer garden in Munich (off duty) well into the evening  (More on that coming!)  First, here are some photos of the countryside from throughout the day so you can get an idea of how magical it really is!


Our guide, Andy, took us off the beaten path into small towns, and drove us by the animals and roadside alters.  He knew some of the animals by name.  So many happy horses, donkeys, cows, and goats.

 
^Above (right) is a common countryside alter.  Andy said they are made to give thanks, or if the owners are praying for something specific, like a child or fertility.  There were so many alters, ranging from humble and small to large and ornate on every property.  You could tell they were made with lots of love and attention to detail.

 
 

I know this sounds too good to be true, but there is a town with fairy tales painted on the houses that he also took us through...


We also visited many gorgeous churches (inside and out) throughout the day.





Andy timed the day perfectly so we could catch the monks at the monastery below singing their half hour of hymns.  Before entering, he told us it would be a great time to reflect on our day.  We were tired, and not that excited if I'm being honest (it was a LONG day), but after we entered everything changed.  The most gorgeous singing I've heard in my entire life echoed beautifully through the monastery.  It was an incredibly touching and special moment for everyone; we were speechless walking back to our van.


The day included many other highlights, such as a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle that I can't wait to share!  I just wanted to focus on the beauty of Germany first, and the special day we had taking in some of Bavaria's beauty.