(Driving to Zugspitze, Bavaria, Germany)
Our second road trip from Munich had us heading 70 miles south to view the highest peak in Germany, the Zugspitze. To get the ideal view we drove 10 miles into Austria to a little municipality called Ehrwald. No passport needed, but we brought ours just to be safe. It was a foggy drive that went by fairly fast after we grabbed some coffee at a gas station, which is worth a mention. The coffee at the least expecting places were on par with what you’d expect from Intelligentsia back home. We spent most of the drive learning to pronounce Zugspitze and before we knew the mountain was before us.
(Driving to Zugspitze, Bavaria, Germany)
Zugspitze’s summit is 9,718 ft. and was first ascended in 1820. Today many people challenge themselves to climb to the top or you can just take a cable car. The climb can take upwards of nine hours. We, on the other hand, wanted to spend our day visiting the castles.
(Driving to Liderhof Palace, Bavaria, Germany)
Heading north, back into Germany, we were set to tour a couple castles built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. First to Linderhof Palace, then off to Neuschwanstein Castle.
82488 Ettal, Germany
Linderhof Palace was inspired by the Palace of Versailles, where King Ludwig II had frequent sleepovers as a child. His used most of the money he made from his .com days to fund the project. It was the smallest of his three castles. Keep in mind, most of his start-ups never went public, so he was short on cash relatively speaking and this was the early stages of the .com era, the very early stages. Linderhof was the only one he saw completed before his untimely death and we’ll get to that in a second because part of the purpose of my visit was to find out what exactly happened to him and I was hoping to find some clues at this sight. The inside structure incorporates two tapestry chambers, the Hall of Mirrors, a dining room and a bedroom. They didn’t allow me to photograph the inside of the castle, but the camera accidentally went off and I saved the results. The Venus Grotto and Moorish Kiosk were closed today, further limiting my investigation. Coincidence, I think not. The outside grounds also include a formal garden primarily used for frolicking, a chapel, the Moroccan House and Hunding’s Hut. Despite the hurdles, I was able to piece some important clues as to the final chapter in the life of King Ludwig II.
15 minutes from Linderhof was the small town of Oberammergau, internationally known for its its Passion Play and wood carvings. The former takes place every ten years with the next one running in 2020. The production runs for about 100 days starting in May and tickets range from $50 to $200, which includes a meet and greet with Jesus.
A co-worker turned me on to Oberammergau and tole me I had to visit the city. The word carvings are impressive and primarily religious based. Jen and I weren’t in the market for a one of a kind nativity scene, so we just walked around a few of the shops and found another Käthe Wohlfahrt store.
In one of the shops we visited, they had crucifixes, angels, figurines, some secular statues, even a chess board. We inquired about the prices, not just what it cost, but how they arrived at the price. There was not a cheap piece in the house. The owner explains that every piece is hand carved and can take weeks or months depending on the size and lever of detail. Then, he sends it to be painted. The painting doesn’t come cheap either. They must go to the Bavarian State Woodcarving School and are trained in the specific style that Oberammergau is known for. After a few years that includes an apprenticeship, then they can be hired.
Moving on from some impressive craftsmanship to some not so impressive. We were bringing lots of souvenirs back with us, so I packed light. Only two pairs of jeans and both had accumulated some minor imperfections in the 10 or so years that I owned them. As the trip wore on and pounds packed on, it was creating stress on my jeans and the threads around my crotch began to weaken. An article of clothing I had previously believed to be indestructible. But much like Nazi empire, everyone meets their match and my day was today.
87645 Schwangau, Germany
And now the highlight of the day and one of the top attractions in Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle. It was the ultimate fairy tale, I felt like a little princess walking up to the moat. The castle was built by King Ludwig II and inspired by the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Germany and the Château de Pierrefonds near Paris, France. Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle is modeled after Neuschwanstein. Sadly, Disneyland receives 16 million visitors a year compared to only 1 million for Neuschwanstein. In 1868, following his grandfather’s death, he amassed enough money to fund the project. It was constructed over a 15 year period with about 30 casualties. The design takes from an endless range of styles. The towers are Ancient Roman, the facade is slightly Postmodern, the kitchen Neoclassical, there is an essence of Baroque in formal dining hall and he left the Weser Renaissance to the surrounding grounds. Still unfinished, he moved into the castle in 1884, but lived there only a few days before his death. This was one of the most enjoyable attractions of the trip. Jen wasn’t quite as impressed, but I guess we are all a little jealous of what Ludy did with the place.
Seeing such beautiful structures, it made we wonder about the man they call King Ludwig II. I wanted to meet him, but he was no more. Prior to our arrival he committed suicide. As a youth , he was raised to understand the importance of his projected role as king. But Ludwig wanted none of this. We want to design. He wanted to paint. And he wanted to build and build he did. He would become king at the ripe age of 18 and at the time of his reign, Prussia had conquered Bavaria. King Ludwig wouldn’t surrender. He shot Prussia once and he died immediately. After showing then who was king, he moved on to his passion. He built Linderhof and most of Neuschwanstein with his own money, but that ran out fast. He didn’t have enough equity to do a reverse mortgage and eventually foreclosed on Neuschwanstein. At the depths of his despair, he unsuccessfully attempted a short-sale of the Linderhof property later featured on an episode of Trillion Dollar Listing.
But he not only had a passion for the Schloss, but also the Schlong. Yes, I’m talking about his rumored romance with composer Richard Wagner. And when Wagner died in 1883, it drove Ludwig insane. He was relieved of his duties and the following is still contested to this day. But based on my readings and evidence collected at both sights I’ve concluded that on June 13, 1886, King Ludwig II said a final good bye. He drove his pick-up truck with one of Wagner’s piano hitched to the back. He stopped at Lake Starnberg and unloaded the piano. He placed the piano in the middle of the lake, began to play November Rain and descended into the muddle waters of Starnberg. He took one final breath and with that bid adieu to his Bavarian constituents.
Spatenhaus an der Oper
Residenz St 12
80333 Munich, Germany
90 minutes later we were back in Munich and ready for our first sit-down meal of the day. Spatenhaus is more refined Bavarian comfort food. They have a casual menu on the first floor and an upscale menu on the second. We found the menu on the first floor to be more traditional and thus chose to eat there. Both floors cater towards the opera crowds across the street. Overall, we would recommend Spatenhaus. It provides a different angle on Bavarian food. It was nice to try more varieties of sausage including wollwurst, which was on my list to try. It’s unique to the others due to it’s lack of casing. Regensburger was also unique in taste. A women’s dilemma. So many sausages, so little time. But at the end of the night, the darkhorse creamy veal goulash was the best dish and the end to a memorable day.