All joy, no pain
03.15.2010 - 03.19.2010
We arrived in Munich early one morning, threw our bags down, then had a fantastic day in Salzburg, Austria. It was 8pm when we arrived back in Munich. Our hostel here is only about 5 minutes from the train station and is next to three other major youth hostels. After a full day of travel, the hot hot showers managed to rinse the travel off of our bodies. It felt so good to hop into a freshly made bed.
The next morning we woke up early for the *all you can eat* breakfast provided by the hostel. Cat and I interpreted this as *all you can eat for breakfast and steal for lunch*. Shortly after we showered yet again (you can tell that it's Audrey writing the blog 'cos I mention hot showers every other paragraph), we gathered with a few other people from our hostel for a free NewEurope walking tour. It was a blizzard outside so we followed a NewEurope guide through the huge snowflakes to Marianplatz, the center of Munich. NewEurope provides several different types of tours so, after arriving, we were divided into different tour groups. Our tour guide was a Kiwi (from New Zeland) named Harriet. She told us that because of the weather our tour would be a bit shorter but she would compensate with songs and interpretive dance moves for each stop on our expedition. As she guided us through the stops, she dove into the nitty gritty details for each location. It was great to watch her be so funny then become so serious and focused when she was trying to paint pictures in our head of what happened in the not so distant past. Probably my favorite stop on the tour was the Frauenkirche Church. The current Catholic Pope was bishop here for many years. But that is not why it topped my list. When Hitler came to power the Bishops of this church hid religious Jewish relics, knowing that preserving belief and tradition was important no matter what religion it belonged to. The church was severely damaged during allied bombings of WWII. When reconstruction began post war, many Jewish family's donated money to aid in rebuilding. To acknowledge this, there is a plaque hanging on the ceiling of this church with a coat of arms adorned with a menorah and Star of David. It was such an amazing story of unconditional love and religious community.
We loved Harriet so much that when she mentioned that she was the guide for the *Beer Hall Challenge* that night, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to learn more from her. When we finished the tour, I used my amazing map skills to navigate us back to the hostel where Cat and I used the space heater in our room to thaw her frostbitten toes and my severely frozen ass.
At six o'clock that evening we met Harriet and some other travelers at the train station. You may be under the impression that we were just here to booze it up. HOWEVER.....The history of Bavarian beer dates back as early as 800 BC. Because of impure water, Monks began brewing beer to avoid disease and continued because of the many plagues that pestered Europe for many, many centuries. After forking over some dough, the group was instructed to exchange funny drinking stories with one another. Harriet soon returned with our first authentic Bavarian Lager and guided us to the metro. The beauty of Germany is that you can drink in public so, the first beer of the evening was enjoyed en route to our first stop. We then visited three different beer halls. The highlight and main event being the world famous and very old Hofbrauhaus. We had a memorable time bonding with the various challenge contenders from all over the world. After visiting three legendary brewery's, the beer challenge ended at the bar of OUR hostel. We socialized for a little while then realized our room was only a few steps away & bowed out of the challenge gracefully.
The next morning I enjoyed a romantic breakfast for one. Cat was in bed nursing a *splitting headache*. We decided to have a nice quiet day. We found a Cinema that plays movies in English and indulged in Alice in Wonderland 3D. It was a welcomed change of pace followed by naps, showers, dinner and bed again. Because of traveling for almost 3 months, we have vowed to have days like that every once in a while to nurse our bodies and spirits.
New Europe, in addition to providing free walking tours, offers English speaking tours of Munich's main attractions. We decided to join a tour going to Neuschwanstein (New-sch wan-stein) Castle. It was a bit gratifying for me because 7 of my family members have been to Disneyland in the past month and I was beginning to feel jealous. Jealous... hah... I got to see the real life inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's Castle. This castle is located on the German border of the Alps. It was an awesome experience ascending the Alps as our guide Kristen gave us her thoughts on the history of King Ludwig II, his day dreaming childhood, rise to power, imaginative reign of castle building and unfortunate, mysterious death. Cat and I decided to forgo the paid tour and hike up to the Bridge of Mary. It was blocked off for the winter season but Kristen, our guide, told us how to hop over numerous DANGER barricades and inch our way to the picturesque overview of the inspirational castle. The climb was amazing. It overlooked the entire valley below and gave us an exclusive glimpse at the Austrian Alps in the very close distance. The Bridge of Mary has the best view of the Neuschwanstein castle. As we hiked up to it we were aware that it was over 100 years old but we were not informed that it would be wooden and covered in melting snow. Cat and I happy snapped a few pics then got the hell out of there. I was not about to be involved in the demise of the vantage point of Ludwig's masterpiece. Upon return to Munich, Cat and I agreed that doing the tour was a good idea. We learned so much about the history of Bavaria, Ludwig and the amazing construction of this awe inspiring castle.
We arrived back at the hostel just in time for St Patrick's Day's happy hour. The hostel bar was still quiet at this time so we took advantage of it by writing postcards & in our journals. This night there was a large beer festival on the other side of town so, as it got later... women in drundels and men in laderhosen slowly made their way back to the hostel. Cat and I heard our names being called from across the bar. We had crossed paths with two English chaps named James and Andy the night before in the Hostel bar and were so happy that they were still around. We were smitten with their precious thick English accents and their ridiculous sense of humor. The remainder of the night was spent drawing mustaches on each others fingers, Cat drawing a six pack on Andy in permanent marker and us laughing hysterically through it all. It felt so good to get a side ache from constant laughter. We retired for bed after a seize worth evening. We were getting ready for bed when, guess who walks in? Andy and James! They are our roommates. We spent the next 20 minutes laughing with pillows over our faces after seeing Andy, animated six pack and all, prancing around the room in his boxers and mismatched socks. They have informed us that if we do not come to England to see them that they will find us and kidnap us because they adore us so much. As far as men go... if we could combine their crazy personalities with the looks of the stupid hot German that we met in Vienna, we would be set!
On our last morning in Munich we had made arrangements to go to Dachau Concentration Camp. We ate breakfast and got ready with the knowledge that we would soon be on hallowed ground. Our guide for this tour was an American named Sonja. Her father was of Polish decent and her mother was from Norway. She began immersing herself in history only after hearing her father's story of his involvement in WWII as a child. She was extremely knowledgeable about the history not only of the camp but of Adolph Hitler's rise to power. There isn't much to say about Dachau except for I think that it is important to experience it for yourself. I have read and studied about what happened here but until I was able to see it with my own eyes it was just a horrific story from Wikipedia or a history book. Hearing the stories of the liberated survivors and walking where over 200,000 prisoners were interned humbled me and made me so grateful for the blessing of freedom.
Tomorrow we head to Prague, Czech Republic. We'll be dealing with a new language, new currency and a whole different list of beautiful and historic places to see. Prague wasn't on our original itinerary for this trip but after so many people suggesting it, we couldn't pass it up.
I hope that you all are enjoying the blog.
- and Cat*