Bavaria: the Kentucky of Europa.
Posted on 13 July, 2011
This was my first Eurotrip alone, and this was also the first time I’ve landed in Flughafen Muenchen and been able to stay longer than a couple hours for a layover. In fact, this time, I got to stay for close to six hours in Flughafen Muenchen (otherwise known as Munich Airport) while figuring out how to tell my parents at 3AM that my card had been denied and that I had practically no money, a one-way train ticket, and close to 80lbs worth of luggage (for anyone who doesn’t know how much music anthologies weigh, feel free to come try on my music bag).
So the good news was I was in Europe; the bad news was, despite my best thorough planning efforts, something still went wrong.
In the end, thanks to the kindness of an Albanian woman giving me ten Euro and a Siberan woman giving me her sandwich and granola bar for lunch, I managed to reach my parents via skype who, through the wonders of Western Union, wired me 199 euro—plenty to get around Munich for three days.
Here is a map of Munich’s train system. For those who find the London Underground overwhelming, I recommend going to Munich with a friend. Even the locals here aren’t always 100% sure on the right route, as demonstrated by an elderly couple having a heated argument on the S-1. But really, it does get easier, and the public transit in Munich hands down is the best public transit I’ve ever experienced. A three day pass for 19,90 euro will get you everywhere you need to go.
Hostels have a bad rap in the States, and they shouldn’t. The general impression of a hostel in Europe is one that’s dirty, possibly in a sketchy part of town, and tends to have creepers lurking around. This is not the case at all with hostels in Bavaria, particularly Munich. The hostel experience can be a great one—firstly, because it’s cheap, but secondly (and more importantly), you meet a lot of different people. And it’s reassuring that even if you do come alone to a foreign country, it doesn’t mean you have to be a solitary explorer. After such a stressful morning, this was a great comfort to me, and I put my social skills to work (thank you, Centre College, for reassuring me that yes, I can make friends).
I teamed up with a Cannuck, an Australian, and a guy from Oregon that night in order to try and attend a live outside concert by the Munich philharmoniker—unfortunately, the rain (and HAIL!) managed to put a damper on those plans (pun totally intended). So, instead, we did the next very European thing to do—we watched the womens’ World Cup and drank a lot of beer. Fact: did not think France had it in ‘em to beat England. That was a bit odd.
Seeing and exploring Munich and Bavaria was not what I expected on a couple levels. There was a lot I wanted to do in three days, but that just wasn’t enough time to see everything. Nevertheless, what I did experience reminded me a lot Kentucky, of all things. Bavaria has substantial agriculture, and so when one drives outside of Munich, there are rolling hills and fields with a lot of cattle and horses (and some sheep!). And booze is a primary attraction for their city (much like Bourbon is for Kentucky). Additionally, Munich has a similar feeling to Louisville. It is a big city, yes, but a very welcoming city with a lot of attractions. The people I encountered in Munich were also exceptionally nice and willing to chat, beit in English or in German.
I tried to practice my German as much as possible, and at first, even when I addressed a person in German, they would respond back in English. Gradually, though, more people began conversing with me in German. Unlike the French, the Germans are delighted when you try to speak their language.
After considering my options given money and time, I decided to go–with two of my Hostel comrades– visit two Schlössern (castles/palaces) of Ludwig II of Bavaria. Ludwig was a pretty cool dude, albeit he really idolized the French, especially Louis the XIV and Louis the XV. This was very apparent in the architecture and decor of Linderhof. It was about as close as one could get to experiencing France/French history without actually being in France. The swan was Ludwig’s leitmotif (remember that keyword, y’all?), and it was prevalent throughout the small yet ornate schloss. The gardens, too, were exceptional. A lot of classical influences with golden sculptures of Aphrodite and Athena, and the mountain-scape in the background just made for some breath-taking photos (see slideshow).
The second schloss was Neuschwanstein, aka the Cinderella castle, aka the castle that the Disney logo is based on. Our tour guide for the trip was not the greatest–my best guess is she hadn’t been anticipating giving the tour on the English bus, so our info was limited and repetitive. After getting off the bus, we went off to find lunch and beer (which, yes, one can drink happily with every meal). I had schnitzel for the first time ever, and it was delicious. Crispy, flavorful, wonderful with the giant .5 Liter Weiss Bier. The drink sizes here are insane in comparison to the US. One can get a half liter for simply a couple euros. Beer is basically what Bourbon is to Kentucky.
Here’s another big similarity Bavaria-Kentucky similarity–Das Wetter aka the weather. One minute, it will be lovely with the sun shining and the sky perfectly clear. Give it ten minutes and then there’s a tropical downpour. I got to experience this sudden change in weather every day I was in Bavaria, and while Kentucky weather should have prepared me for it, a rain jacket simply wasn’t enough. On the day we visited Neuschwanstein, the rain hit hard and fast–and of course, it would hit as we had a 20 minute walk up a hill to get to the castle. I think “sewer rat” would be an accurate description to how I looked by the time I got up to the castle.
The castle itself truly was like something out of cinderella. The highlight for me was probably the singers’ hall at the top of the castle that depicted scenes from Wagner’s opera. Ludwig loved Wagner, and he was big on having musical performances, so he made sure there was an appropriate hall (with awesome acoustics) for such. Talk about a view!
After touring the castle, we set out to then to walk a bridge that overlooked the castle from above–yes, the inspiration for Disney is clear. The bridge itself was incredibly narrow overhanging the gorge; I was amazed it held as many tourists as it did. By the time we made our way down the hill (much easier than up) and onto the bus, it was nap time.
That night–after watching the USA women totally dominate Brazil after some horrendous faking and fouling–
we went out to hostels closer to the Hauptbanhof (main train station) and partied like we were still in college. Oh wait–oh no. No, I’m not in college any more. Shooby-doo. Regardless, I would like to thank the Irish contingency from Belfast for funding my night. It was quite a mix of people from France, Germany, Ireland, and the USA, and pool was the game of choice for the night.
The next day I returned to the airport to meet up with the other singers in the program and take a bus to Salzburg. It’s surprisingly easy to spot singers, and I couldn’t tell you precisely why. Might be how much they project their voices. Might be their swag. We all sort of just came together at the airport and went from there.