A Rainy Day in Small-Town Germany

Trip Start Aug 20, 2012
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Trip End Sep 24, 2012


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Flag of Germany  , Bayern,
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Today we had planned to visit the Zugspitze, Germany's highest peak, but mother nature had other plans. It's been a dreary and rainy day, with almost no visibility on the mountain. Luckily, tomorrow they're calling for sun and clear skies, so we'll aim to visit it in the morning before moving on to our next destination.

With not a lot planned for the day, we slept a bit later and had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. As with our room, the breakfast is also the best of the trip so far. The hotel also runs an amazing pastry shop next door (even having served Austria's royalty), so the pastries and breads are fantastic. Yes, they also had pretzels, and no, we won't be discussing how many I had today (as further proof of my addiction, though, I considered smuggling out pretzels from the breakfast buffet to snack on later; in the end I decided it wasn't the classiest move). They had mini apple and cherry strudels, which are the best I've ever had. The pastry was absolutely perfect, so flaky, and just the right amount of fruit filling. They also had tons of other great food: Salamis and cheeses; granola with all kinds of toppings; American breakfast with bacon, eggs and sausage; and even a chocolate fondue fountain with strawberries.

We spent a good part of the day exploring the town of Fussen, once again using our guidebook's handy self-guided tour. The town was actually much bigger than I thought it was. There are some nice pedestrian-only shopping streets, as well as the quaint and quiet back lanes. The typical Bavarian architecture of the buildings is very charming too. We walked from one end of town to the other where the river Lech runs. This was an important part of the town's trade hundreds of years ago. The river's a beautiful shade of blue, as we saw when we passed by on the bus to the castles yesterday; but even on a rainy day it was nice to walk by the river on the tree-lined lane.

We walked back into town and visited the Fussen Heritage Museum, which has been converted from the old Benedictine monastery. The museum, while not the most fascinating, did keep us warm and dry, and somewhat entertained for a while. The museum takes you through the development of the town, especially some of its past industries like textiles, rope-making, and lute/violin-building. Most interesting though were the remnants of the old monastery. There was an excavated portion of the old cloister, revealing ancient frescoes. There was also a small chapel with its "Dance of Death" painting. Apparently these were quite common in the 15th and 16th century. This one was painted after the town was devastated by the plague and depicts 20 different social classes all doing their dance with the grim reaper. Above the painting is the inscription, "You can say yes or no, but you must ultimately dance with death". My favorite room was definitely the library. It was a beautiful room with an opening in the floor that connected to the former dining hall below. Above was an ornate cupola and the book shelves soared up to the ceiling. It was a lovely space.

Continuing to work our way through town, we also made an extended stop to visit the town castle up on the hill (referred to as the "High Castle"). While no furnishings or really any decor remain on the interior, it has been converted to an art museum with art from the region. You can also walk along its outer defense wall where we got some great views of the town through the openings. The castle's most striking feature is its exterior which makes use of illusionist paintings. These were elements painted on the exterior to make the castle appear more ornate than it actually was (like additional brick work or stonework around windows), all by using tricks of perspective. This technique is unique to German late-gothic architecture.

We spent most of the afternoon at the hotel, having seen the town and with the weather still being gloomy. In the evening we had massages booked at the hotel's spa, which was a nice, relaxing treat after all the walking we've done in the past few weeks. To cap off the night we sampled some cake from the pasty shop downstairs. This cake is special because it's the same one the Empress of Austria used to order and it's still made to her exact specifications. It was chocolate with layers of cream in between - a royal finish to our day.
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