A Travellerspoint blog

January 2012

Christmas Time in Europe

A brief foray into the Munich Christmas scene, and an even quicker stop-by Austria

To top off my travels in 2011 I headed to Germany and Austria for a weekend getaway with two girl friends of mine. Early Saturday morning, roughly 3 am, I woke up to catch the cab we'd ordered to the airport. Our flight left Ankara at 6:15 a.m. and arrived shortly thereafter in Munich. Although exhausted upon arrival we collected our goods and set off in search of our hotel. Unfortunately, it was quite a quest. It involved the metro, which came with its own perils thanks to a system which couldn't have been more illogical if it had been created by my sister while in Amsterdam, a bus, and then a short walk. On the journey I called my friend Jonathan who had agreed to meet up with us and even take us on a day trip. He had said he'd be at the hotel at 11 am, so I was intent on not keeping him waiting. I'm slightly obsessive with punctuality, as anyone who knows me can attest to. We arrived at 10.55, and the room was not ready. Jonathan came and Eilidh and I decided to leave with him as Amy said she didn't mind waiting until the room was ready, leaving our things and grabbing the key. She didn't want to take a day trip with us, as her intention for this trip was to shop at the Christmas markets. So, we set off leaving Amy behind in Munich and ventured off toward Neuschwanstein Castle.

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The drive itself was really pretty, and we had wet snow along the way. We chatted and listened to a variety of music, including German rap, which I don't plan on ever listening to again by choice. Just as we were worrying that we'd be late for picking up our tickets the castle emerged from the fog of the mountain and we drove our way up to it. It was almost as though it were a beacon of light in the mist. We collected our tickets (for the tour) and debated whether to eat, walk up to the castle or take a bus. In the end we chose to walk, which was an excellent idea. The castle itself is interesting because it was built in the late 1800s by King Ludwig II, who happened to be quite an eccentric fellow. He had spent time at nearby Hohenschwangau castle growing up, which wasn't nearly as whimsical. Upon reaching the castle at the top of the hill, it instantly reminded me of Beauty and the Beast. Supposedly, this castle was the inspiration for Disney on a number of occasions - I can believe it. Once we entered, especially, I could see how Disney had taken from the castle. There was one room in particular, which was where concerts and performances were to be held, that had a backdrop behind the stage which looked exactly like a scene out of Bambi. It was uncanny. The roof in that room was gorgeous, because it was lined with wooden squares that were all engraved. It was gorgeous, but not overdone. The rest of the castle, however, was extreme and mostly in a tacky way. It was filled with fake gems, as he'd run out of money, and also an excessive amount of patterns and images that just didn't match. I'm no interior decorator, but clearly neither was he. One interesting point is that he had designed the castle to be based on Wagner's works, whom he admired greatly. All in all, the highlights of the interior of the castle for me were his bedroom, which wasn't too large but was filled with the most intricate wooden items and designs; as well as an indoor cave. He had actually had a cave built into his home! When I have my castle built there's no question that I'm also creating an indoor cave-like den, minus the bats of course. All he needed was a waterfall and talking rabbits and it really would have been complete. Instead of rabbits, he had a minor fixation with swans, which were hidden away subtly all over the place. Not my first pick of bird, but then again I'm not a 19th century Bavarian king.

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After finishing the castle tour I was hungry and tired to the point of not being able to concentrate or walk well, and the others were in a similar state so we found a nearby restaurant and set up camp. I had the most delicious salmon pizza - quite surprising, as I've never thought of those two as coming together, or as particularly German. I also had my first Gluhwein. The first of many... We sat, and chatted and really enjoyed having the opportunity to relax and also discuss the mysterious death of Ludwig. We looked around at the buildings a bit, which were absolutely adorable. Afterwards, we left for Austria. Since we were so close to the border, and Eilidh had lived in and loved Austria we thought it would be worth a visit. I was really pushing for it as I'd never been there before. We were worried about timing, because we didn't want to be away from Amy for so long, but all in all everything worked out fine. We took a really beautiful route to get there, and an even more spectacular route out (through the Alps). We visited a town called Reutt (I believe). It was small, and one of the highlights for me was that as soon as we left the car I saw a car with a Canadian sticker so I posed for a photo not realizing there was a man in the driver seat, and his brother-in-law came out of the bank as I was posing. He inquired into my actions, and I explained my desire to be close to my people. He smiled and backed off. Shortly thereafter we spotted the Kapadokya Supermarket. Clearly, we thought, they wouldn't have much Turkish food, it would just be a cup or two of ayran and maybe some halva. We continued on our way and went to a cafe. We sat, chatted and savoured the delicious cappucinos and Austrian desserts (amazing!). One of the highlights for me was when Eilidh (who speaks German) asked the girl working there for a dessert "bir tane cikolata mit Baileys". I started laughing and repeated her order, but Eilidh was unfazed as was the girl working there. I explained that typically Austrians don't speak Turkish to my knowledge, and as luck would have it, our server was Turkish/Austrian and had been unfazed because she understood it all. Afterwards, we took off and stopped in the supermarket just for the hell of it. As it happens, it was stocked with all Turkish food. It was unimaginable the amount of specialty goods they had there. I had a brief conversation with the employee in Turkish who told me there were thousands of Turks living in this tiny town. We then drove back to the city through the most gorgeous mountains, and beside a beautiful lake - there was a lot of precipitation but that was no problem for Jonathan who was a pro driver throughout the whole journey.

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We headed back to the city and met Amy at the Christmas Markets. She had had a wonderful, full day of shopping. The only problem had been the rain, which meant that her shoes and socks were sopping wet. We immediately found a restaurant, where she was able to rest for a bit. Eilidh and I had the most delicious soup, with chestnuts and goat cheese. We all laughed and ate and basically couldn't believe that we were in Munich for a weekend. After dinner we went off in search of Gluhwein, but unfortunately the stalls had stopped serving it so we found an Australian bar where we each ordered a glass. It was, however, far too crowded for our liking and I didn't appreciate having someone bump into me and spill my drink, so we took off.
We then found another bar, where we sat at a long table and chatted. It turns out that the men across from us were Italian so we struck up conversation with them (Eilidh had also lived in Italy and speaks Italian). I attempted to speak and learn Italian, but it ended up coming out mostly as a distorted version of Spanish. Either way we communicated well enough to enjoy ourselves.

As luck would have it, that night was the last that it was legal to drink on public transportation in Munich so a ton of teenagers had decided to throw parties all over the metros. This resulted in the metros being shut down and police slowly coming in to monitor the state of things. I found it fairly entertaining, but it was getting late so we couldn't join in. We listened to the chanting and then headed out as the cops seemed to be getting increasingly angrier. We caught a cab, which took us to another metro stop (which we assumed would be working). The driver was, of course, of Turkish descent. He was young and rambunctious. He kept asking what we were up to that night, and where we had gone the night prior. He wanted to know all about our "disco mishko" experiences. We gave him nothing. After realizing that the next subway stop also wasn't functioning we caught another cab. This man wasn't nearly as pleased with us, as we had no address or directions to get back to the hotel. He drove to the area and basically we caught a break because we had caught the bus earlier and I vaguely remembered which street to turn down and then we spotted the hotel. All in all, it was quite a jam-packed 22 hours. To top off the hectic day and our arrival at our far-off hotel, I ended up semi-sleeping on a broken cot.

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The next day, we started off with a delicious breakfast at the hotel. I particularly liked the cake. You can't go wrong with German pastries, that's for sure. I had enough gingerbread, chocolate and just general dough-related product that the next few days my stomach was not too pleased with me. After breakfast we collected our things and headed to the city. Walking around with a massive backpack all day wasn't the best idea, but there was no other choice really because the hotel was out of the way and we wanted as much time as possible in the Christmas markets. It turned out to be a funny blessing in a way, because I had borrowed Cynthia's backpack so there was an Acadian flag sewed on, and a woman noticed it and asked me about it. It sparked a conversation with a group of Canadians who live in Munich and own a Canadian cafe. I was able to inquire into working situations in Munich and so on... Anyway, the markets were beautiful. They were lined with really pretty tree branches, and lights and everyone just looked incredibly happy to be there. The wine probably helped that. We arrived at the markets, grabbed Gluhwein and watched a little automated puppet show on the top of a church building. We had a great day together. We wandered, looked at different crafts, ate delicious cookies and took some funny photos. I had developed a habit the night before of asking Germans, "vo is die parti?" and other related phrases, but on Sunday I decided to be calm and just smile instead. I think my friends appreciated my calm demeanor. Eilidh, on the other hand, got into a bit of trouble with a Santa Claus for taking his photo but not realizing that she needed to pay. I had also taken a photo, but darted off to the side.

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We had a great day, and then sadly had to head back to the airport for our return to reality. Jonathan came to meet Eilidh and I, as Amy was shopping when he had his break (from work - at the airport). We walked, drank more Gluhwein and then parted ways. Amy had a glitch with the technology at the self-check-in and then Eilidh had a problem with "bulky" luggage for some reason, but all problems were quickly solved and we headed to the gate. We flew without event and returned back to a very cold Ankara, Turkey. A month later I'm not entirely certain that weekend really happened... I think a repeat is in order, just to be sure.

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Posted by madrugada 08:22 Archived in Germany Tagged gluhwein Comments (0)

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