Switzerland, Germany & Austria: Das Good!

After five days galavanting around Germany, Switzerland and a snippet or two of Austria, we came back to Scotland reminding ourselves that the people here do speak English and we could stop over pronunciating our words. We could also eat vegetables again. The Germans believe in a meat-and-potatoes diet and nothing more. Starch overload... somebody get me a carrot!

But all kidding aside, the husband and I got to take in some breathtaking views of Germany, some elaborate Swiss banks and cuckoo clocks and a foggy, hazy view of the Alps along with the Disney-inspiring structure, Neuschwanstein Castle. Piqued your interest, have I? Grab another cuppa (Scottish "slang" for a mug of tea or coffee) because more of our "Texas Tales from Europe" are coming 'atcha!

It took about six hours for us to get from Aberdeen to Zurich, and it was late night and raining when we arrived. We easily grabbed a taxi from the airport to our overnight digs at the Leoneck Hotel, which was decorated in an odd combination of cow themes. But our room was plenty big enough (UK and European hotel rooms run notoriously small) and we dropped off our bags then went for a walk in search of the city and dinner. We took in a few sparkling nighttime views from a bridge near the rail station and stopped in at Mickey D's for some food. Sometimes, when all else fails (or is already closed), you come to appreciate the consistency of the familiar American Golden Arches.

rainy arrival in zurich

dinner a la mcdonalds

our cow-themed hotel

Our next day I was up and ready to go explore Zurich! I've been looking forward to visiting Switzerland for a long, long time. One large hot tea and a blueberry muffin at Starbucks later, we were headed for Bahnhofstrasse, the main shopping street in town and also home to the headquarters of Switzerland's two largest banks, the famed Fraumünster church (more on that later) and yummy chocolated-lined shelves at the delicious Confiserie Sprungli chocolate shop and cafe.

We browsed a couple stores, took a bunch of pictures and stopped for some truffles du jour at Confiserie. Then we headed into the Fraumünster since I wanted to see the gorgeous stained glass windows created by 20th century legendary artist Marc Chagall. They did not disappoint - they were beautiful! The church is one of three main cathedrals in the city of Zurich and was founded way back in 853. The actual building that stands now was created in the late 1800s, I believe. There are five breathtaking Chagall stained glass windows in the choir, each depicting a different theme and specific color. Of course, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the church but I managed to get a pretty dang good secret snapshot of three of the windows! From left to right, they depict Jacob, Christ and Zion.

After a tasty local Italian lunch (and much needed beer break), we wandered over to the edge of Lake Zurich for some pictures and nature watching. There were tons of swans and beautiful mallard ducks swimming around everywhere. Two odd looking duck-creatures in some sort of funny mating ritual captivated our attention for a good 20 minutes. They chased and swam around after each other, diving underwater like little torpedos, then would come face to face and spread out their neck feathers and shake their little heads at each other!

That afternoon we managed to find the Hertz office and retrieve our rent car - a giant upgrade from the little Nissan Micra we're used to driving in Aberdeen! It was an actual SUV! Once we were loaded up, we set out for Oberstaufen, Germany and enjoyed such gorgeous scenery along the way. Our hotel in Oberstaufen was actually a resort, but we stopped so many times on the road for pictures and a little sightseeing that we didn't end up with a ton of time to enjoy our place. We did find yet another good Italian place for dinner in a small town nearby, but luckily they had some native Germany dishes as well. I had some of the most delicious salmon and we tried out some new beers as well.

stopped for a drink and a snack at this charming cafe in constance

drive-by scenery

the alps!!

the view behind our resort hotel in oberstaufen

It was an early rise the next morning to give us enough time to make breakfast in the adorable hotel restaurant, pack and load and get back on the road. This time the highlight was to see the Neuschwanstein Castle, which provided the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle. It was absolutely breathtaking, perched high in the rocky cliffs. Your Wikipedia facts: Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner. The palace was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, but it was opened to the paying public immediately after his death in 1886. Since then over 60 million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle. More than 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. The palace has appeared prominently in several movies and was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.

We opted not to go in for a tour but rather admire it from the ground below, becoming only mildly distracted by some highflying gliders who were partaking in the Hang Gliding World Championships 2010. Uh, that would be kind of a big deal. There was a festival of some sort set up just down the ride to celebrate the competition so we stopped off to check it out, and ended up riding a toboggan down the hillside. Who said we aren't a fun bunch? Hang gliders sure are.

Our next overnight stop was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This little resort town, right near the Austrian border, was, as its name suggests, formerly two separate cities. A little history nugget for you, courtesy of Wikipedia: Garmisch and Partenkirchen remained separate until their respective mayors were forced by Adolf Hitler to combine the two market towns in 1935 in anticipation of the 1936 Winter Olympic games. Today, the united town is casually (but incorrectly) referred to as Garmisch, much to the dismay of Partenkirchen's residents. Most visitors will notice the slightly more modern feel of Garmisch while the fresco-filled, cobblestoned streets of Partenkirchen offer a glimpse into times past. Early mornings and late afternoons in pleasant weather often find local traffic stopped while the dairy cows are herded to and from the nearby mountain meadows.

the view from our hotel window

streets of partenkirchen

The streets of Partenkirchen are charming, indeed, with beautifully decorated buildings. But there was hardly a person in site as Mike and I went for a stroll. We stopped in what was probably the only busy bar (and by busy, I mean more than 1 person not counting the bartender), grabbed a beer and found out from the locals that there was a festival going on in Garmisch that evening. Of course we had to check it out, which ended up being a great time and we spent our night sipping local German brews, sampling Bratwurst, flan and mojitos (from now on, I'll leave those to Mexico!) and enjoying some live music. I felt very German! Our taxi driver was also kind enough to drive us by the old Olympic stadium; it's really amazing to think about the many memories made there back in 1936. Apparently Garmisch-Partenkirchen has put in a bid for the 2018 Olympics, to be supported by surrounding cities Munich and Schönau am Königsee. (There are only two other competing bids coming from France and South Korea, supposedly making up the lowest number of Winter Olympics bids since 1988.)

eating up the festival in garmisch

the 1936 olympic stadium

We were up and at 'em the following morning to make it to Munich in time to return our rent car and explore the city before night fell. We checked into the Marriott, which was the most "Americanized" and modernized hotel we've stayed in our entire time abroad. Thank Heaven for USA-inspired digs. The weather had graced us with bearable temperatures and even some sun, so we enjoyed perusing the city which included an overabundance of Bavarian pretzels, beersteins and architecture. We landed in Marienplatz square, a central city spot in Munich, marked by the stately New Town Hall, built in the late 1800s and explemifying the typical Gothic Revival architecture which dominates so much of Europe. Here, we watched the building's Rathaus-Glockenspiel chime the five o'clock hour. The Glockenspeil is a two-story clock of sorts equipped with 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures that rotate as the bell dongs out the time. Each half of the "clock" tells a story, the top portion depicting the marriage of the local Duke Wilhelm V, who also founded the world famous Hofbräuhaus.

st. michael's cathedral in munich

After a sun-drenched meal of beef noodle soup and salad and a couple beers and one dessert stop at the Ratskeller restaurant (underground eatery beneath the New Town Hall), we stopped back by the hotel to freshen up then headed to said Hofbräuhaus for dinner. Another two-story creation, the brewery was inititally established in 1589 and serves up a storied past which you can read about in detail here should you wish. We drank litres of their dark ale and ate to our heart's content while special performers entertained diners with everything from traditional German dancing to playing "Appalachian Spring" on the ricola trumpets! (Actually, it's really called an alphorn. See more here.)

hofbrauhaus large white building on left

inside the old restaurant brewery

Before we left the following morning I got in a bit of shopping and a little more people watching... there's nothing that quites makes your day like seeing a grown man in lederhosen (leather pants) at 10:30 in the am. In fact, there's actually nothing at all like seeing Munich, Germany at 10:30am on a Monday morning. Or Zurich, Switzerland three days before that.  Or flying back to your "home" in Aberdeen, Scotland. Funny how something that once seemed so foreign can become much less strange over time. Speaking of less strange, I'm off to find me some vegetables for dinner. Not all things familiar need stick around...

1 comment:

  1. Awesome tour!!! Well worth waiting for, my dear!! I smiled as I read 'grab a cuppa' because as soon as I noticed you had a new post...that's exactly waht I did! Poured me a nice tall glass of iced tea and settled down for the tour in words and pictures! Thanks for taking your readers along with you in your travels!


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