Liechtenstein & Munich
Trip Start Jul 05, 2008
25Trip End Aug 17, 2008
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Tour: "Morning stop in Vaduz, capital of the pocket-sized Principality of Liechtenstein. Next is a panoramic drive through the Bavarian Alps, with picture stops at Mad King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein Castle and the Passion Play town of Oberammergau. On arrival in Munich an orientation tour of major landmarks: Olympic Stadium, 305 metres (1,000-foot-high) Television Tower, and 17th-century Nymphenburg Palace. How about a stein of beer at the Hofbrauhaus tonight?"
Back in the coach today for a full-on day of driving - poor Pino! Luckily my high-school Italian is coming in handy and Pino and I joke like old friends. He's an incredible driver, he's been within centimetres of obstacles and completely sure he would make it (he was right), hairpin bends, cobblestone roads, etc., all this in a massive bus!
Despite Nik's (tour guide) assurances that Liechtenstein was just a toilet stop, I was actually really interested in seeing this principality. After my European Business unit at uni, I'm aware that Liechtenstein has more companies registered than citizens, and that post office boxes is a major industry! I ran as far as I could get within the allotted time towards the post office for a photo. Unfortunately I couldn't get that far, so instead I bought a post card from a small shop and raced back towards the coach. If you're only two minutes early you're already too late with this tour!
I was disappointed at the (lack of) time alloted to see 'Mad' King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein Castle. It's a major Bavarian landmark and an incredible sight, and we only had an hour! The information desk at the base thought that an hour and 20 minutes would have got us up there and down again, without going inside, so we asked for an extra 20 minutes, but it could not be squeezed in. Apparently, the idea of this particular stop was that we were supposed to eat at the cafe furthest away from the castle, then browse the gift shop before getting back on the bus? Which is not my idea of visiting somewhere.
Kim and I decided we would give it our best shot. We bought bus tickets to the top but had to pull out because as the minutes ticked by, the chance of getting back in time turned from slim to none. So there was nothing for it but to run as far as we could up the mountain ourselves! (My calves are killing me now, but it was worth the try!) We got to the last checkpoint, and could see some of the outside, but didn't make it. We completely skipped lunch, but did make it back to the bus in time.
Next stop was at Geschenke, the site of the nine-yearly Passion Play (the next I think is 2011) performed ritually as thanks for sparing the town from the Black Plague.
Arriving in Munich that afternoon, we did a bus tour of the Nymphenberg Palace, built by a king for his queen upon presenting him with a male heir, and dedicated to Flora and her nymphs (I'm not really up-to-speed on my mythology, I'll have to learn more). Munich was also the site of the 1972 Olympics and associated murders, and also the BMW headquarters and museum. I would have loved more time to go in there and look around - it was a very futuristic looking building!
We paused at the Central Square to watch the Glokenspiel and mechanical dancers and jousting knights at 5pm. Then we paid 19 Euros for an 'optional excursion' that consisted of our Tour Guide to point us in the direction of a beer hall in Munich - probably not a good investment as beer halls in Munich are like grains of sand on a beach... there are plenty of them! We had 45 minutes to down a massive stein at Hofbräuhaus before being herded back on the coach.
Six of us - Mel, Matt, Gordon, Jarred and Kate - decided to skip the included dinner at the hotel and head back into town. We asked the hotel staff how to get there and it was actually surprisingly easy to get there given all the signage was in German!
We had more steins of beer, the saltiest and largest pretzels you have ever seen and a band playing music - fantastic! It was very hot in there too - must be great for business but hard on the poor waitresses who were carrying 8 or more of these steins at once (at over two kilos each!).
The tricky part came in returning back to the hotel. Key learnings - the subway is more complicated when:
a) there are more options for the lines the trains run on; and
b) you've had two steins.
I almost rolled an ankle too on a gutter I didn't see while trying to understand the German signage, but luckily saved that particular injury by falling. A grazed knee is far less inconvenient!
Eventually we made it back to the hotel for some short zzz before the next morning's early wake up call.