Thursday, October 6, 2011

Garmisch, Neuschwanstein Castle, and tiny towns in between

Hotel in Garmisch

Cameras strapped around our necks by day and kickin it with locals by night, Tres and I always manage to find a way around places the most fun way possible. In the daytime on vacation, you can find us snapping hundreds of pictures elbow to elbow with people whose zipcodes are miles away, just like ours. But at night, we are likely to end up with a friend or two, preferably whose zip code is right where they are sitting. We love locals!

Day number three, we hit up the tourist traps (which are most of the time reason for going on vacations in the first place... take that, Anthony Bourdain, you douche), and by night we were at a local hotspot. Neuschwanstein Castle was our tourism outing for the day, and like I mentioned, it was more than worth it.

Eating halfway up the castle... me wanting Tres food. Nothing new here.

I'm no historian, but I learned enough about King Ludwig to be pretty certain we would have been big buds back in the day. I am referring to BEFORE he went crazy and AFTER he built those two splindid castles. Attending a party on that mountain top in that lux would have been quite fabulous. Probably more fabulous than I would technically be invited to, but since he no longer exists, I can dream!

Castle tour down, I conquered my fear by walking across (umm... a fourth of the way across) Mary's Bridge. Tres talked me into it and the view was worth it, so close to tears I did it. We had another tourist take our picture, and I watched in horror as she climbed on top of a step on the bridge and leaned over backwards to get our picture "Just right." Nu uh, no mam... I almost had a heart attack for the gal, and at the time almost told her I could do without the picture. But wow... it really turned out to be one of the best from the trip. Thanks, brave lady for risking your life.

The "near death" picture. Oh, so worth it!

After picture snapping with the best of em, we hopped back in the family truckster and headed to the brewery we heard about right outside of Garmisch. Technology took over with the German GPS, and soon enough, we were on the top of a mountain where the "main road" ran out. Confused and about to be on our way down, we were still asking ourselves where the heck the brewery was. Out of no where, a man with an ax appeared. No big deal. We were a family of five on top of a mountain the in middle of Germany, and a stranger with an ax (and very thick beard, might I add), was walking towards our car. This could have very easily been the scene from a sick horror movie, but luckily the guy was extremely nice and gave us correct directions. In English? Nope. Thank goodness my family understands and speaks decent German.

The brewery turned out to be in a quaint little village that you can just vision the perfect Christmas ever taking place there. Beautiful cobblestone streets, tiny shops, interesting restaurants with little bistro tables set up outside. It was divine! As was the beer tasting. We tried them all and had a blast doing so.

Another car ride later, we were back at the hotel, and me, Tres, and my brother were on our way to dinner by foot. It was late, and at this time of night, we questioned any restaurant being open. But there's always a Local, isn't there? I say Local not in description of a person but as a restaurant. Maybe "Cheers" would better describe what I'm talking about. You know, a place..... "Where everybody knows your naaaaame... and they're always glad you caaaame!" The bar we came across was called Local, which funny enough, back home in Memphis, our favorite restaurant/bar is also called Local. We did not walk but RAN in the door.

The inside was better than the out... 80's music playing, people speaking both German AND English, and the best smell of burger I smelled since our layover before leaving the states. And the smell proved itself. Those burgers were so good we were back two other times on the trip for more! We met a few folks, discovering the restaurant was owned by an Irish family. And I thought a hamburger was an American food. English, German, Irish... who cares. If I go back to Garmisch, I'm immediately stopping there for lunch or dinner. YUM!

Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein

Did you know that in one day you can see four countries?! Here in the U.S., it's difficult to see four states in one day, but in Europe, you can see it all!

So on, day number FOUR, we went for FOUR, taking a FOUR-country tour: Germany (of course), Austria, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein. While it was a blessing and a blast to see a little bit of all these places, I would have liked to spend more time in each of them.

Switzerland is hands-down the most beautiful place I have ever seen in Europe, and I hear the food in Austria could make a Victoria's Secret model want to eat, so the little time we spent in these two places was a tad disappointing, but I don't think I would ever make an entire trip out of them either. So, all-in-all, it worked out for the best!

Our tour guide was hilarious, and the best part is... she had no idea how funny she was. She was old, grumpy, smoked about 10 packs of cigs in the 12 hours we were with her, and told the best stories in the heaviest German accent. If only I could type the pronunciation, you all would be laughing as much as we did!

My favorite snack when traveling through Europe (pretzel, butter, and salami...yum!) And so German!
Real Swiss beer
Her response after a near-death, extremely terrifying experience on the top of a mountain we asked her to take us to the top of was: "You VANTED it.... HAHAHAHAHA!!!" I can still hear the cackle... makes me laugh every time I think about it. And I can't forget to mention, her idea of German people's everyday way of living: "It's just a VAY of life!"
Enjoy the pictures... Switzerland is magical.

Lunch in Lichtenstein
My lunch... white fish, risotto, with a tomato basil sauce

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dachau & Munich, Germany

Pictures tell a thousand words. Sure, what a way to start off my next blog post about Germany with a cliché. But in this case, a cliché, and the pictures of course, are the only way to describe both Dachau and Munich. It’s been three months since I was miles over the Atlantic, and on any trip with a significant amount of time passed, it’s easy to forget in details. Until you look at pictures.
We started our first full day with the family off in “the family truckster.” You will hear me refer to the family truckster on more account than one. .. more like every post, but it was a big part of our trip because we spent a lot of time in there. Dad driving, mom in the passender side, and me in the back-middle with a husband on one side and a brother on the other, driving across the great country of Germany. Believe me, if there’s a city or town in south Germany you are wondering if we saw, WE SAW IT. No doubt.

A little over an hour of the first day, and the family truckster had us from Garmisch to Dachau. The experience of walking through and collecting images of a true concentration camp is more than words can say. And that’s where the pictures come in. Shock, sorrow, fury, disbelief are only a few of what one feels when visiting such wretched grounds, but history is history and we got to see it up close and personal.
It’s impossible for me to ever visit a piece of history and not daydream about what happened right where I am standing. I nearly get in a trance trying to imagine actual people – not characters – that experienced the “stories” I have grown up hearing my entire life in history class, through books, and in movies. Visiting Dachau may have been as real as it could get.
After such despair, we needed a little pep in our step, and Munich was just the right stop. A big city with beer and good food, and Tres and I were in our element. The old buildings, beauty, and traditional German food of the city were added bonuses. We walked around, drank beer on the streets, and ate brats and sauerkraut like we belonged there. The wake up call was in the first restaurant we showed up at where English was very limited. Thank goodness for dad and brother. Did I mention they speak German? Yes, pop is pretty fluent, as he lived there for several years and brother is not so bad himself, as he’s taken classes and the time to learn. I will tell you, nothing feels more uncomfortable than not knowing a language in a huge city.

Later that afternoon with several beers thrown back, there was only one place we hadn’t been: Hofbrauhaus. No crazy people or tents lining the streets needed… for fun gal like me, I may as well had been at Octoberfest! And when the music started playing, the people got a little louder, and the waiter brought me a beer in a glass almost big enough to wear as a hat, my October party pants were on… right in the middle of June!

Dare you ask my favorite city in Germany? I think you know the answer. And if we ever go back to Germany, the arrival letters will go from FRA to MUC!