Hello Walt

Trip Start Feb 04, 2007
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Trip End Mar 09, 2008


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Flag of Germany  ,
Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fussen is your stock standard fairytale location. Not a pebble out of place, barely a local in 20th century attire, never a foot put wrong. It is completely in keeping that this was the basis for Walt Disney building his own little world, with an architectural centrepiece drawn from the main castle here, Schloss Neuschwanstein.

The Schloss literally is the original Disney castle, and its brilliant design is fed by its dazzling locale. Its only a local bus ride and a short walk up a hill from Fussen and always forming a centrepiece to the horizon when you walk around town.

With so many kings and princes in Germany sharing a very small pool of names (Frederick, Ludwig etc) as well as numbers (Ludwig II, III and so on), it has become the practice to give them also a descriptor. And our architect and project manager in this instance as come to be known, slightly unfairly, as Mad King Ludwig. 

While Mad at the time, it is Ludwig who has bestowed a grand legacy of tourism for the Bavarian German peoples. He has palaces both hither and thither, and he built in a style that makes me think 'this is what Liberace's house must be like'. Many would be inclined to question the scale of investment in so remote a location. And while the prince could never have foreseen that so many would queue to pay nine euro to see his sometime home (so many they have a ticket system that calls you by number for your allocated time in the inner sanctum), I am of the opinion he was all the while giggling about the fortune to be made from the uniquely German phenomenon of charging anywhere up to a euro just to spend a penny.

This has been a uniquely German phenomenon, and one I truly despise. Even McDonalds in its yearning to fit in - lets sell beer in Spain, McSamarais in Thailand (I know) and McOllebollen in the Netherlands - have shrugged their shoulders and put a coinslot on the lavatory doors.

The castle lives for European military historians something of a failure and an anomaly. Mad King Ludwig who built it only ever lived there for a few months, and it serves no strategic purpose other than being in a nice resorty kind of area with good views - the modern equivalent of needing to invade the Maldives. In the long run he is a genius though, as the tourist throngs attest.

The walk through the forest to reach its doors is naturally beautiful. As well as the natural spectacle I found myself equally taken by the reams of disconsulate youngsters who were becoming aware of the magnitude of their parents' deception. For some months prior, it would appear, little tykes were seeing the animated Disney logo with the star tracing a perfect arc over the fairytale castle and hearing their parents' voices promising a visit. For them at least, this would not prove to be the happiest place on earth.

For me, it is.

The opening page of the menu of our home restaurant in downtown Fussen advises that, for Germans, lunch is the main meal of the day. It should, for the sake of everyone's fitness and wellbeing, advise that lunch should be the Germans' only meal of the day. I am yet to have dinner here solely as a result of the magnitude of each days' lunch. 

Towers of sauerkraut, feet of sausages, buckets of potatoes: these are the measurements used in a Bavarian cookbook.

Adding to this, our waitress has been a kindly woman who I will charitably suggest is in her late 40's. Helga looks to have eaten her way through the entire menu and demolished enough steins to leave her sleeping on the cobbles a few too many nights, leaving her with a merrily worn and scraped complexion. We reached the common judgment that while for the other staff what they wear is a uniform, for Helga its just casual day wear which she woke up in wherever she awoke that morning. I can't tell you how happy she was to find tourists polishing their plates and asking for the dessert menu: I was on full alert for my cheeks being pinched as the good boy who ate all his sauerkraut.

Walking off the afternoon's consumption, I have found myself amazed that in a non theme park environment that every other house and shop has a dazzlingly detailed fresco lovingly painted on it. Attached information boards indicate many of these go back to the 15th century. For all those who hate painting the house or even just paying to have it done, just imagine living here and practically needing to call in Rembrandt just to get the gutters done.

It was Claudine's idea to come here. I think she tried to deceive me with some Disney Channel sleight of hand to get me in. But the only tantrum I'm throwing is that we are not staying longer.


* * *

Füssen is a small border town on the edge of Austria, Switzerland and Germany.  It is a tiny little place perfect for hiking, eating and drinking and definitely a great spot for us to have visited.  It´s bordertown nature means that it has a little bit of everything.  Lots of Wiener schnitzels on offer, the scenic Swiss Alps peeping above every little frescoed building and you can´t move for the amount of lederhosen on offer.

I love visiting small towns which are a little bit off the beaten track.  Füssen, I have since learned is definitely NOT off the beaten track as it is walking distance from Neuschwanstein castle (and the Hoheschanghau castle district) and therefore attracts about 10 million new day-tripping tourists every day. [For some reason, 90% of these tourists come from mainland China].  It is also the beginning of Romantische Strasse (The Romantic Road) a strip of fairy tale villages and medieval towns littered up a long road criss-crossing Bavaria.  And to think I thought it would be `just a nice little town´.

On the first day we wandered around the town following the ooompa loompa sounds to stumble into their regular Sunday night free concert in the square at the St Mang monastery.  This was about a 35 piece band with an orchestra in an elaborate German uniform with a conductor from the US.  It was complete with authentic, oversized German pipe instruments.  (They sounded great, but not too sure what they were).  Hanging colourful flowerpots, medieval baroque frescoes on ceilings and walls of the monastery and an open cobbled courtyard.  How could you get more Germanic than this.

Around the next corner an Oktoberfest (of sorts) was in full swing.  We never actually figured out whether something special was happening or whether this was just ´Sunday´ night.  Rows of rectangular tables had been set up in an orderly fashion in a separate square where buxom wenches clad in traditional German dress were struggling under the weight of the numerous giant beers being served to the heaving throes.  And yes, some of the guests were even wearing lederhosen.  Go figure?  It just didn´t look like it was set up "for the tourists" as it looked like a very local crowd as illustrated by the largeish protuding bellies and the bushy moustaches.  [And this was just the ladies].

Füssen is a gorgeous little place to stay and now that I have been there and read all the tourist literature, I have learned that it typifies Bavaria.  If this is what Bavaria is like then I never want to leave.
 
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