This is the second version of this blog post.
I had to scrap the first version because I wrote it just after coming back from dinner with Nina and upon sleeping on it, I opted to put up a more … um … sober version. Enjoy.
The German leg of our trip started at the Munich airport. We picked up a rental car – a Peugeot, much to Nina’s satisfaction – and decided to forgo Munich for a more pastoral setting.
I’m not a city person, which isn’t to say that don’t enjoy big cities and what they have to offer, but thinking you can have a meaningful experience in an hour is a fool’s errand. Nina and I see eye-to-eye and she navigated us off the Autobahn in favor of the back roads.
What struck me the most was how lost-in-time the little villages just outside Munich felt. It wouldn’t be a stretch at all to commute from one of them to Munich for work and I wonder how many people actually do. I was delighted by remote and untouched feeling.
We stopped in the slightly larger town (as in it had restaurants and stores, and not just barns and houses) of Weilheim in Oberbayern for lunch.
The menu was entirely in German so I embraced the unknown when it came to food and drink and happened upon what is now the signature drink of our trip: The Hugo, a refreshing cocktail of Prosecco, elderberry syrup, mint, lime (sometimes) and soda water.
It was an otherwise lovely lunch except for the blasting pop music that belonged more on a Mexican booze cruise than a nice German restaurant. German taste in American music never ceases to confound me.
We arrived in Oberammergau just around sunset. It was one of those cities with historic area in the center. The city is known for their passion plays (re-enactments of the crucifixion of Christ) and enjoys a thriving tourism economy.
The cobblestone streets wound around churches, plazas and traditional Bavarian architecture. Every building was decorated with colorful stucco, frescos and the de rigeur abundant flowering window boxes.
Despite the historic nature of the buildings, everything had a shiny and new feeling. I can only imagine how much time and money is spent on restoration of buildings. Now I see where Vail and Aspen got their look and feel from.
It is a shame that the United States isn’t more into conservation of old buildings. It saddens me that at this very moment Boulder is tearing down older buildings in favor of modern architecture.
We are losing our quaint low-slung buildings with trompe l’oeils on the west end of Pearl street because landlords can’t get as much for them as buildings with retail areas and two stories of luxury apartments on top. But I digress.
We stayed at the Hotel Kopa and skipped dinner because we were so stuffed from lunch. Instead we sampled pastries and tea before going to bed.
Nina and I are used to sharing a bed which is made easier by the European practice of a queen actually meaning two twins pressed up against each other. Having different mattresses ensures that our movements don’t affect each other (not that Nina moves around) and each person gets her own twin comforter so no fighting over covers.
Breakfast was included with our room and no one does it like the Europeans. Fruit, boiled eggs (both five and eight minute) cold cuts, cheese platters, and bread are the norm.
We enjoyed a full meal and stashed away paté and brie sandwiches with cucumber and tomato for lunch on the road. We control our travel expenses by only buying one meal a day.
After exploring the village in the daylight, we pressed on to Neushwanstein Castle via backroads. It was all grassy fields with a smattering of very content looking cows, old barns and trees for days.
Nina drives kind of like she walks: fast and with little patience for slowpokes. It’s great because driving isn’t my thing. I’ll do it if I have to but I’d much rather grip her thigh around tight turns and roads so narrow that you has to pull over whenever someone comes from the other direction.
An accident turned us around so we detoured to White Church, an awe inspiring church in the middle of nowhere. To say the setting was pastoral would be a great understatement.
Being Sunday, there were plenty of locals coming to worship in traditional finery. We were able to take a look inside before the service started. It was gorgeous and unexpected.
We wound around tiny back roads to get back on track and were happy as could be.
Neushwanstein Castle was next and even though it was early, the crowds were already lining up.
It was 11:00 and the sign read that the earliest we could get in for a tour was 12:45 but we could walk around the outside if we were willing to do the 40 minute walk up the hill. It seemed like the obvious choice.
Ten minutes later we were at the castle. I’m not sure where they got the 40 minute estimate from but I’m really glad we opted for fresh air and walking rather than waiting in a queue.
We loaded back up into the car and ate our sandwiches and felt the sun on us as we drove to Tegernsee, a lakeside resort town.
We had an hour to kill before we were able to check into our hotel so we strolled around the town and had a Hugo at a lovely tavern.
Nina told me that she booked a deluxe spa/hotel for the night. There are no words for how amazing this place was.
Seriously, this was evil genius level accommodations.
It being the off-season and a Sunday, we were able to get a room for almost half the usual price.
We splurged on massages and had unlimited access to the spa, usually a 60 Euro charge for a day pass. The massage was nothing to write home about although it was quite good, but the view of the forest and lake from the floor-to-ceiling windows was priceless.
We spent the next few hours padding around in our robes and slippers while trying to discretely take photos. I’m pretty sure we weren’t fooling anyone with all our gawking and oohing and ahhing, we obviously aren’t used to this kind of place but that totally make it better.
The best part of the spa was the indoor pool which connected to a gigantic outdoor hot-tub, actual a hot pool with a shallow end that you lie in while jets massage your back. It was connect to the indoor pool by a – get this – automatic door that you swim through!
This is next level luxury. I kept waiting for sharks with frikkin laser beams to come through the door.
Nina and I drank in the beauty and calculated how many Boulder mani-pedis it would take to equal a night here. Or ski days. Or bikini waxes. Or happy hours. In truth it wasn’t many at all.
We decided that it is worth forgoing all those things (not that either of us get mani-pedis, bikini waxes, etc.) so we can travel. We also concluded that we are happy with a without luxury because it would be a real drag if something as beautiful as this place seemed pedestrian.
I like a life punctuated with beauty and magic amidst a less glamorous – but happy – family existence.
We sampled the sauna room (one dry standard, one Finnish, one steam room, and one humid room). There were naked dudes walking around because I guess it was co-ed (either that or we were in the wrong part of the spa which was totally possible) so we timed our visits carefully.
Each sauna/steam room was differently themed: Finnish, Swedish, natural, and tile. But they all had beautiful lighting that twinkled like stars set into the ceiling, slowly cycling through the color spectrum. I want those lights above my bed.
We had a traditional Bavarian dinner of spaetzle and roasted potatoes in town and had drinks at the hotel bar.
The next day we had a ridiculous breakfast and did our best to not get thrown out for obviously not belonging in such a swanky place.
What, free mimosas? Yes please!
We hid sandwiches in our bags and checked out.
We drove to Königssee, an alpine ski resort town and national park. We caught a 45 minute ferry ride to Obersee where the second mate serenaded the alps with a trumpet so we could appreciate the echo. The video doesn’t do the sound justice. It was etherial.
We disembarked and hiked to another scenic lake and drank in the green of the moss and trees and the blue of the lake. This is truly exotic scenery coming from the dry Colorado climate.
I was feeling a little peckish from the walking so I got a slice of chocolate cake with cream and cherries for the road. Nina doesn’t like cherries so I didn’t have to share it with her or anything!
It was the lightest cake I’ve ever eaten and will spend the rest of my life searching for a cake that good.
We crossed the border to Austria which was perhaps the least exciting border crossing ever. They really need a wall.
We stayed in Salzburg for the night and so far it’s been my least favorite part of the trip.
The weather went from intermittent rain but mostly sun to full-on gray and very cold. Salzburg is a big city set amidst the mountains and is known for being the birthplace of Mozart and where Sound of Music was filmed.
Cities aren’t my thing. Maybe it would be different in the summer but trying to absorb a place as big as Salzburg in an evening simply isn’t possible. Between the cold, gray weather and a mistaken turn into a very shady looking alley that I thought was our hotel entrance, I feel like I got off on the wrong foot.
We had dinner at a place called the something something monkey that recommended by someone on the ferry ride (very nice), had a couple of glasses of wine, a substandard strudel at the hotel bar (tsk) and retired to our room to catch up with America.
Last year we were in Paris during the 11/13 terrorist attacks. This year Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s second presidential debate and the release of his “hot mic” recording with Billy Bush was like getting a bomb dropped on American politics.
Nina and I blogged (well, I tried to but I ended up chucking it and starting over because it was full of stupid and disorganized rants) and then tried to go to sleep.
I’m used to falling asleep with little effort but the time change and social media before bed made it hard for us to relax.
Tonight we vow to turn off the computers at 10pm and do some yoga and read. Otherwise we are sleeping from around midnight to 7am which isn’t bad at all given that we should be terribly jet lagged.
We strolled around the city a bit this morning, saw the palace gardens and looked around the shopping district but I really just wanted to get out of there.
I’m going to end it here for now. Today we are going to Vienna with a stop at Hallstatt. I’ll pick up with you later.
And PS: Nina is responsible for most of the pictures. When traveling in Europe, I highly recommend bringing your own photographer.