So we left Prague, and the Czech Republic behind us (and the train made it this time!) for the spoils of Munich (passing back through Dresden, to minimize our ticket cost, and maximize our use of the Eurail pass).
Straight out, Munich is a lovely city – beer halls, parks & gardens, old buildings, and lovely people (well almost all of them – we will get to this later).
Our first night in Munich consisted of us checking into our accommodation, about 5 min walk from the station, then heading out for a bite to eat and something to drink. Walking the streets for the first time, not knowing were we were going it wasn't long, literally 2 minutes, before we stumbled on our first Munich beer hall... We need look no further.
So dinner consisted of a shared plate of mozzarella and tomato salad, and a few beers, followed by a shared plate of farm style chicken and pommies (chips) and the ultimate Munich style beer – 1 Mass – the 1 liter stein.
The beer hall had the obligatory screening of the Euro Cup (Russia v Spain) which made for a great atmosphere.
The following day (yes, we didn't drink too much!) we jumped on a free bike tour of Munich. This took us around many of the sights, including... yes a beer garden.
At the start of the tour, the guide was looking for a volunteer – and then I got that feeling... he's going to pick me! And he did. I was the lucky 'volunteer'. I was given the job of 'bringing up the rear'. I had to make sure that we left no one behind, and that the group didn't straggle – as they often can with people taking photos, etc. I was given authority – although this was somewhat diminished by my new name, 'Ass Man'.
On the tour we ventured through the main park area of Munich, which is loved and adored by the locals – and by none more than the local nudists (yes it is legal to be nude in the middle of Munich!).
The park featured as one of our stops, and being a warm day, there were plenty of people about – and one in particular (a nudist), who our guide dubbed 'Tripod', and we soon found out why! He was not shy of tourists, and actually appeared to enjoy the tourist presence, in amongst his odd 10m jog (for no apparent reason), or throw of the frisby (to himself). Needless to say we quickly moved on before he became any more friendly.
The park is also the home to the Munich river surfers. The river that flows through the park was altered artificially by US solders after the war to entertain themselves. The river was temporarily stopped, and a large piece of concrete put in place to cause a large pressure wave in the river – which provides quite good surfing. It was pretty amazing to see people jumping in on the wave one after another surfing it, and bailing to let the next on.
Once the tour finished, I relinquished my authority (and my nick name), and we headed out to explore more of Munich on our own – first stop the market to pick up some local food for lunch (bread, dip, pickled octopus, olives, tomato and mozzarella salad, and strawberries). We managed to entertain ourselves for the rest of the day – ending up at the famous Hofbrauhaus beer hall, where we indulged in a few beers to end the day.
The following day was a somewhat more sombre affair – we took a tour out to Dachau where the first Nazi concentration camp was located. The tour was a pretty sobering experience, and really told a strong story. While Dachau was not an actual 'death camp', in the same sense that Auschwitz was, many thousands of people did die there – mainly through disease, undernourishment, overwork, suicide, or a combination of many other factors.
One of the most amazing pieces of information we were told on the tour that helped to cement how bad conditions would have been was in regard to the camp population size. The camp was originally built and designed to hold 2,500 people – however when it was liberated at the end of the war, over 30,000 people were found in the camp.
Dachau was the first concentration camp – it was the model for all others. It was located just out of Munich, as Munich was the center of all things Nazi – it was where the Nazi party began, and where Hitler first started his political (for want of a better word) career.
Dachau has now been converted into a museum and memorial ground to both survivors and those who died.
Later that afternoon we began planing for our exit from Munich, and Germany the following day – we were headed for Salzburg, Austria, although there was a dilemma... We had just realised that the Neuschwanstein castle (the one Disney modeled their snow white castle on) was in German, and just over 2 hours from Munich!
What to do... We were pretty exhausted after a couple of big days on the run. If we were to get to Neuschwanstein it would mean we would have a very long and tight schedule for the next day in order to see the castle and get to Salzburg (the complete opposite direction).
After much deliberation, we eventually came to the decision not to go – we were too exhausted... 10min later though... we though 'were here now. Lets get some value out of this Eurail ticket'. So we were off – the decision was final, and the following schedule locked in:
- 05.50: leave Munich by train to Fussen (the closest train station to the castle)
- 08.00: Arrive in Fussen and catch a bus to the town at the base of the hill where the castles were
- 08:30: Buy tickets to the castle tour (start 9.45am). Wander around the town and other castle for a while
- 09.00: Catch a horse drawn carriage up the hill to the Neuschwanstein castle
- 09.45: Start the castle tour
- 10.30: Rip round the remainder of the castle quickly, before quickly trying to get back down the mountain to catch the bus back to Fussen – which we missed, and through our original schedule out!
- 11.15: Catch the next bus back to Fussen
- 12.05: Catch the train from Fussen back to Munich
- 14.17: Arrive in Munich. Sprint to our lockers and get our packs. We had 5 minutes to catch the next train to Salzburg
- 14.22: The train to Salzburg pulls out of Munich Hbf – with us aboard!
- 16:45: Arrive in Salzburg!
We had made it. While it was a bloody long day, we had managed to cram a lot in, and it was defiantly worth making the effort to see the castles – they look like they are straight out of a fairy tail!