Tuesday, December 28, 2010

13 Dec 2010 @ Munich

-4 C to -6 C
An icy scene at the train station

Jetlagged, I woke at an unearthly hour to see everything outside the window covered with a layer of white snow. Yippee ! Happiness! At last, a white winter and many more to come.
The train platform where we waited to board the train. Brrrr...

Today being a Monday, most museums are closed except for Neuschwantein Castle in Hohenswangau. We were supposed to take the 6.51 am ALEX train from track ( gleis 19 ) to Buchloe and then change to another train to Fussen. The night before, we had bought the tickets from DB automatic machines ( 46 euro per person, one way ) at Munich HBF . All my great plans did not cater for a train delay ( 1 hour ) departing from Munich, causing us to miss the connecting train to Fussen.
This is what we saw all the way to Buchloe / Fussen
Second class comes with unassigned cabins on ALX trains

8am, ALX rolled off from the tracks at Munich HBF. For one hour, we admired the snowy landscape from our little private train compartment. At Buchloe, it was another 1 hour wait for the Fussen bound train. While waiting, we practiced buying the Bayern ticket ( partner, day, 29 e )  at the machine, which covers our bus fare to Hohenschwangau and back to Munich.
At  every tourist spot, even in winter, we are comforted by the presence of hotel cafes

We reached Fussen at 11 am, hungry and angry. There was no restaurant in sight, so we hopped up the bus outside the station bound for the Hohenschwangau , just like the hoards of tourists. From now onwards, we used the Bayern ticket that covers every means of transport in Bavaria, except for the horse ride up the castle.

But of course, we settled the most important issue of the hour : lunch. At café of Muller hotel, we had sandwiches and drinks ( 35 e), quite a princely sum for a simple meal.
Neuschwantein Castle ("Noy-Swan-Styne") looks lifted from a postcard

While Pat and H took photos of the  castle, I purchased tickets at the Hohenschwangau ticket office, the only point of sale. I chose an English tour, 1.50 pm, which cost 9e for adults, free for H since she is at the cutoff age of 14 years.
It is not cute looking at the rear of these beasts when you can smell them too !

The horse carriage up the castle starts from the far end of Muller hotel, locatable  by the smell of horse urine. It  costs us 6 e uphill, expensive but necessary for a novel way to travel. The alternative, not available in winter, was by coach which will end at the Marienbrucke - Neuschwanstein's lookout point, and then a 600m climb to the castle. No other option, the three of us sat behind the beasts, steaming from their labor as they  snorted and ambled uphill, farting with every strain. The horse rider made token rebukes every time the horses did that but I guess the beasts got to do what the beasts got to do.
Glorious weather made possible by the sun : over Neuschwanstein Castle
A Christmas story:light beyond the shadow

Another 50 m on foot and we were finally there ! It was another hour's wait ( we had queue numbers depending on the language of the tour ), unless we opted for the German or Japanese tour ( unbelievable amount of Japanese tourists ! ). Time was not wasted as we snapped pictures of the valley and lake, glistening in snow and sun drenched from the early afternoon sun. The scenery looks like it is lifted out of a drawing, surreal and out of this world. The little houses, dusted with snow down Fussen town sparkled in the early afternoon from the south. North of the castle, the fetching alpine lake, Ammersee shimmered like a crystal crusted sea, very picturesque and tranquil.
Your tour schedule is displayed here, depending on when you bought the tour and what language. We waited for 1 hour.
View from the castle.

The castle tour was interesting, but claustrophobic with many steps to climb and small rooms where we had history / opera lessons.  H benefited most because most of the castle's designs have to do with king Ludwig's opera friend, Richard Wagner's influence. Many German legends were painted on walls.

The tour lasted 30 minutes. By then, we were four hours behind schedule. We rode the horse carriage down , this time at a reduced rate of 3 euro. Then it was back to Fussenbahnhof on the 3.40 pm bus.
Shopping area near Fussen bahnhof.

Luck was not on our side that day. The 4 pm train to Munich was cancelled with the next available train coming in at 5 pm. Making full use of the waiting meanwhile, we posted a couple of Christmas cards to friends overseas and ourselves, a trend we started in Taiwan.

5pm. It looked as if the entire  population of  Fussen has congregated at the Fussen platform. It was a very long ride to Munich and didn't help that S bahn trains in Munich and beyond were not operating, due to a rail accident. For the first time, we used the U bahn to get to Universitat, where the National Bibliothek is located.
One of 4 statues adorning the entrance of the National Bilbiothek

7 pm, long dark and disoriented, we search for the library. The biblothek is a massive place, with academic materials of all disciplines and journals dating back to the last 10 years for materials concerning science and medicine. Reference book on church organization, literature, music and social studies stretched from one end of the library to the other, at least a football field long!  

There was nothing much in the way of fiction. 10 pm. We made our way back but not before devouring down a very late but hearty dinner at Ali Baba Rest, 2 shops away from Conrad. The kebabs turned out to be the best we ever had for the entire trip.
Kebab here is one of the best ever eaten. Near Conrad Hotel de Ville.

6 hours lost just because of one train delay today meant that we have to give Residenze museum a miss. Which is a sad thing because we are beginning to like Munich. Maybe there will be another time.

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