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Neuschwanstein Castle
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Beer gardens and castles: a week in Bavaria

Last updated 9 November 2020

We are only in Germany for a week, staying in Munich with my cousin. Staying with family is different from renting an apartment in the city centre. Being in a house again is wonderful, and we’re surrounded by residential streets with houses and lawns. We don’t hear traffic throughout the day, there’s no street cleaners in the early mornings, and no church bells ringing through the night. It’s just peaceful and quiet.

Of course, staying in a suburb means we don’t have everything on our doorstep, but it’s easy to use the metro to get everywhere we need to go. We make our way to the city centre a few times and discover that Munich reminds us a little of Salzburg. The old town is small, but nicely laid out, and we do the obligatory visits to the major sites. We spend a pleasant afternoon visiting the English Garden, watching people swimming in the river and ending up in the beer garden.

Matt’s falls in love with the beer garden concept (not to mention 1-litre steins and giant pretzels) and we visit a few of them, eating more meat than we have in a long time. In a restaurant in town, I order tongue and potato salad and I’m surprised when a whole tongue arrives, floating in a bowl of broth. For some reason, I had expected a few thin slices on a plate of salad. Another day, I accidentally buy Mettbrötchen, thinking it’s salami. The raw pork mince is a shock and after that I’m more careful about asking questions about what I’m ordering.

We also take some day trips out of the city. I insist on visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, the castle that inspired the palace in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Not quite sure of where to go, we follow the other tourists through train stations and up the hill to the castle. We take the photos from the bridge and tour the castle, but pretty, the castle isn’t the highlight of the trip. Instead, I linger at the viewpoints from the mountain, with the lakes and Schloss Hohenschwangau in the distance.

Leaving the castle, we take our time in the little town of Füssen, a couple of kilometres away from the castle, which was quaint and touristy, but lovely and charming too. We have drinks in the afternoon sun and find an Indian restaurant for dinner, our first in Europe. We leave when dark clouds mass above us, and spend the train journey chatting to a Canadian cyclist, with thunder booming around us. By the time we arrive back in Munich, it’s dark and wet and we’re soaked and laughing by the time we get home.

One quiet day, having lunch in a beer garden near my cousin’s house, we hear a commotion from the river. We spot a raft carrying a brass band is floating downstream, and we head to the bridge to see what’s happening. More rafts follow, filled with people laughing, singing and drinking beer. It turns out this is a team building activity for workplaces – they build the raft, then sail it down the river. The children wave and laugh at the people floating by and we spend an entertaining half an hour watching them.

Before we leave, we visit Dachau, the former concentration camp in Munich. We sign up to the guided tour at the camp, which is only a few euros each. We don’t have particularly high hopes, but we find it fascinating. Our guide is both an academic and a former NATO officer and he volunteers as a tour guide at the camp. He brings the site to life, with anecdotes, snippets of history and occasional titbits from his experience. We learn a lot. I feel like I’ve gained a greater understanding for a very important, and very difficult, time in history, and I appreciate that. We don’t take any photos, even though they’re allowed; it doesn’t feel appropriate.

We enjoy our brief stay in Bavaria. Having being spent some time in Austria, being surrounded by German doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming. There seem to be quite a few rules, although we aren’t quite sure what they are, which makes us feel a bit unsettled at times.

We see some beautiful scenery, mostly lakes and mountains, and we meet a couple of interesting people. Wherever we go, though, we we’re surprised and amused to see so many people wearing lederhosen, dirndl and Bayern Munich shirts. Somehow, we hadn’t been expecting that, but it definitely adds to the experience. While a week isn’t enough to get to know Germany, we definitely find some of the flavour of Bavaria.

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