Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Day Two in Germany

The plan for the day was to travel the 290 miles South of Koln to the city of München(Munich), walk around and explore the city and head out to the tiny village of Füssen near the Germany-Austria border.

We planned to take the Intercity Express (ICE) train out of Koln early in the morning and reach Munich by 10am. And we made it, in spite of being half-asleep. The train speed through towns and we slept.

First job in Munich was to locate the storage area and store our suitcase so that we can walk around the city in peace. Munich is the third largest city in Germany and the home of the famed Oktoberfest. As with any modern large city, Munich has an uptown with steel and glass buildings towering the skyline but it was not our plan to explore the modern architecture, so we headed out to the crowded city center - inner city - Marienplatz. It is home to Munich's Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus) and the Neues Rathaus.

The walk to Marienplatz from the rail station is around 15-20 minutes, with amazing sights along the way and well worth it. We were there when there was a local political meeting happening so it was quite crowded and cops all around and stuff. The important points of interest along the walk to Marienplatz include the Stachus (Karlsplatz), Rathaus-Glockenspiel (considered the most famous in the world), Frauenkirche and the Viktualienmarkt (marketplace).

We spend quite sometime, people watching and sampling the local delicacies. We found a cute bakery that served hot-fresh-out-of-the-oven Bavarian style rolls and pizza and went crazy with the choices offered. One thing we realized here is that soda is cheaper than water. So we stuck to soda and just walked in circles for hours taking pictures and exclaiming over sights. We were like children at a toyshop, every building said a story, and had so much detail. It was so easy to fall in love with the city.

At 12 noon everyday, the Glockenspiel springs into action. By 11.30, people mainly tourists were lining up around the plaza for a good view. R set up his camera with his telescopic lens and we were able to view the action clearly and capture some good pictures. It was like the old cartoons we used to see as kids, elves and men dressed up in the vivid red shirts and knickers, waving hands and dancing in a circle. A tip here is don't get stressed out that the action will stop, the Glockenspiel rotates for quite a while and in fact we walked away while it was still moving.

Our plan was to take the 3.30 train to Füssen and we slowly made our way back to the station. We did some shopping, picked up local baked delights and fruits for the train journey. We made it to the station in time, picked our suitcase and got into the train. Unlike the trains we have traveled so far, this was a "local" train, which just meant, it was more like our Indian trains. Slow, basic amenities and stopping at all villages.

The train was mostly empty and was frequented by locals mainly. Most of the time, we enjoyed the coach to ourselves and were exclaiming over the beauty around us. Since the train was empty, we streched out legs in the seat in front of us and the ticket checker got pissed off at us and probably bashed at inconsiderate tourists in German. Not knowing a language is bliss at times!

The world around us was so different and beautiful. As we left the crowded cities and moved into the countryside. It was rolling green grasslands, the tall Alps in the background, doted by cute homes and cows. Soon we were in Fussen.

We had booked a room at Suzanne's Bed and Breakfast. The place was recommended by Rick Steves again. It was a splurge for us considering our budget. So we choose their cheapest attic room for a couple of nights. Though the place was highly recommended by Rick Steves, we read mixed reviews, mainly about Suzanne herself. But we went ahead with it, as it was close to the railway station.

The walk from the railway station to Suzanne's was about 3-5 minutes and located admist so much beauty. Our attic room was basic with two single beds and a shower stall where R had to sit and bend to prevent bumping. But the room was absolutely comfy and the views were divine. Since we were in the attic, we were cut off from the rest of the crowd so we enjoyed our peace and quiet.

The main idea for us staying in Fussen and not Munich was to visit the famous Disney-inspiration, Neuschwanstein Castle also known as the Mad King Ludwig's castle. We had booked the first tour of the castle at around 8am online based on numerous suggestions read online. But Suzanne serves breakfast at 7.45am and we had to skip either the breakfast or the castle trip. So she went ahead and called the castle people and rescheduled our whole tour and it was really nice of her.

We rested for a while and then went to explore the town. The town actually is quite small and can be explored easily. The town goes to sleep early and make sure you hit the restaurants early if you want to grab a bite. We wandered around aimlessly browsing through shops and found a quaint Italian place to have dinner. It was one of those cafes on the town center and we sat there eating and watching people.

Back at our room, we slept watching the stars shine over the alps. Beautiful and romantic! Everything we wanted the holiday to be!

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