The Alps Drive

The famous alps of Germany and Austria. This is a diary of our drive through the alps seeing Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles.

Getting the car
We had initially booked a Toyota but decided to go for a Mercedes C class. Upon getting to the car, we realised that not only was the driver side the opposite(like US), the controls for the Merc were completely different. Being a bit dark in the car park, we couldn’t see the seat adjust, parking break and the navigation was in German which took a while to change. It took us a good 30 minutes before we were on the road.

Heading South
We headed South from Munich through Holzkirchen where we were staying. The first 20 minutes were a little scary driving through tram tracks and driving on te other side. Once on the Autobahn, we were flying at 130km/h average. That wasnt to last long before there was a accident on the road and we had to take the inside road to the monastery which was our destination.

We found the monstery completely randomly from Google and decided to go for photos. It was also close to the cute historic town of Bad Tolz and we enjoyed the drive there. Once there, we discovered the incredible views from the monastery and a packed beer garden. It was as Bavarian as they come with people making a day trip to the Bad Tolz region by cycle or car and stopping at the monastery for a meal and beer. Finding a seat in this place was itself an adventure, there were more people than tables and it was a picteresque day, not a cloud in sight.

We eventually got a seat when some nice people alerted us that they are leaving. It was good they told us as we were getting sun burnt waiting for a seat and had no German skills to ask nicely. We ended up being seated next an old German couple who’s kids were travelers and working overseas. We had great conversations with them, though being German, they were pretty clear-cut. India is dirty and they have a funny religion, said the old lady. Well, Dankeschen for the conversation and translation and Gut Got!

Bad Tolz was the next town and we tried to go there. When I say tried, I mean we got there, drove around and couldn’t find a single parking space. It was a Sunday and everyone was out to get the sun, bier and the river in Bad Tolz. Oh well, Auf Wiedersehen Bad Tolz!

Drive to Seefeld
The next two hours were spent driving towards the edge of Bavaria into Austria with a few stops. We stopped at a lake in the alps with people wind surfing everywhere. It was nice to se real Germans doing real German things. To be honest, it wasn’t all that different from Kurnell on a hot Sunday afternoon except the language and landscape. This was not the Europe we expected!

Our next stop was the town of Garmische-Patsikern as the Sun was nearly setting. We ended up going for a walk to nowhere. What I mean is, it was a walk to a Gorge but seeing the evening cold and the darkness approaching, we decided to head back. Still, it was through beautiful woods and farms with Alps now next to us. The Bavarian/Austrian architecture of hardwood was close up to see and it really looked like we were in Europe.

As the Sun set, we reached our hotel just outside of the town of Seefeld in Austria. To be honest, we never realised when we cross the border until the flags on Pubs changed. It is quite refreshing seeing Europe not have serious borders. Our Hotel was on top of a large hill with the valley below and Mountains on all sides. Our room had an awesome view of this vista and we took as many pictures of the sun set as possible.

Onwards Neuschwanstein Castle
As we left our Hotel the next morning, we knew we had to rush to the Castle. We had to be back in Munich by 3pm to return the car and catch the train. As we headed down from Seefeld into the valley, we passed by the town of Telfs. It was even mre beautiful than Seefeld with Mountains shadowing it on sides. We had no time to stay and rushed towards the Fernpass onto Germany.

Our only stop on the way was a small castle sitting on top of a hill in the pass. Why would anyone live in this place? It must b covered in snow for many months. Was it to control the pass? We couldn’t ask those questions and there was no museum or time for us.

We saw another castle on top of a mountain next to the highway but it looked abandoned. We couldn’t believe why anyone would build so many castles in the high mountains where historically, it would take days if not weeks to reach. As we reached Fussen, We coudn’t believe the beauty of the place. The town of Fussen itself was so beautiful with historic buildings and a castle on the hill. We kept driving to Neuschwanstein and Hoheschwangau castles.

Hohenchwangau was built by King Maximilian II after he liked the area around the castle and Neuschwanstein was started by King Ludwig II as a dream project. After parking, we went to the Bavarian Kings museum. It highlighted the history of the Wittelsbach kings and a good one at that. The monarchy sadly ended in 1918 but Bavaria’s two main attractions, Oktoberfest and Neuschwanstein castle were both the gifts of the Wittebachs.

Sadly, the best view for the castle, the brook bridge, was closed on the day. We walked upto the castle and took a few photos of the castle itself and the surrounds. Oddly enough, some of the best views of the castle were on the way back. The castle looks much better with from below and from a distance.

As for the king who started this dream, He was made the King at 18 years old which seemed to have hurt him somewhat. He was forever suffering from mental issues and was not capable of the geopolitics in Germany around 1870s when Germany became a nation. His dream wasn’t complete when he died, he was removed as the King in 1875 after spending too much time away from the public eye and probably the powers that be in Berlin didn’t want him to be the King of Bavaria. Sadly, the Mad King gave the world, one of the most loved Castle and a major tourist attraction for Bavaria.

For the record, we never bought the ticket to go inside, partly because we wouldn’t have the time and partly because the castle’s beauty is in the outside(the King never lived there). Our only costs in the area were the parking, museum and snacks. We also took some shots of Hohenschwangau Castle built by Maximilian II but again, we never had enough time for seeing it. The whole area requires 1 full day to be able to see everyhig including Fussen, Hohenschwangau and Nueschwanstein.

Return to Munich
The drive to Munich was reasonable, though, there is Autobahn close to Fussen. Using the B highway was a bit annoying as we went through villages every 5-10 km apart with the speed going from 50-70-100 every 20 minutes. Shruti slept on the way back and I drove all the way to the drop off before realizing that we had not filled the Diesel. The Avis inspector was good enough to let me drive to the petrol station and fill up.

P.S. – Be very, very careful when hiring a car in Germany(or maybe Europe). As we return the car, the inspector(who was still nice) told us of a scratch in the front. We had never noticed this and had never hit anything, the scratch was like a parking scratch at the front. Though we didn’t have to pay anything, the inspector told us that car companies make money off scratches. Be very careful, take a video of the entire car and take the $0 excess.

Munich Travels

Munich is known for beer, ber gardens, sausages and Bayern Munich. We spent a couple of days here checking out the place.

Train in

As mentioned, we stayed in Holzkirchen(not to be confused with Hohenkirchen) which is at the South-West end of the city. The area is “regional” which means it’s outside of Munich city.

The train in was a beautiful experience. It was a 40 minute ride to Marienplatz, the center of the city and we passed by some beautiful places.

Sydney could learn a thing or two from Munich’s train network. For a population of 1.4 million, the city has 4-5 modes of transport which are incredibly efficient(its Germany!). We traveled the S-Bahn, U-Bahn and even the long distance trains. We bouht the City tour pass for 75 euros which lasted us 4 days and we never paid for a ticket there. It was a good deal for 2 people for 4 days.

 

Marienplatz and the old city

Marienplatz is the oldest part of Munich, being the city centre. One of thefirst things we noticed here was the Bread. Oh god, the bread, it’s everywhere. It smells amazing and it’s so cheap. This was before we even got out of the station.

The centre of Munich is Churches, and alot of them. They are incredibly beautiful. They may have looked better on a drizzly grey day but they were exquisite on a blue sunny day. Frauenkirche, Heiligeistekirche and St Peter’s Church were all incredible, with Frauenkirche being the symbol of Munich’s old skyline.

We saw the other newer parts of the old city around the Maximilian Strasse, the Residenz and Munchener Freuheit. It may be boring to others but it was beautiful to us. The area around the churches is all cobblestone and historic with a real European feel. Being there on a hot, sunny day gave us a glimpse of bars with tables outside and people drinking in the beer gardens.

Beer Gardens

We enjoyed our first Bavarian beers in Munich at a Beer Garden, right next to the frauenkirche. We didn’t know this a the time but the Augustiner Brewery where we drank is the last private brewery in Bavaria. It had amazing Helles(pale) and Dunkeles(dark) beers.

Our next time was outside the Residenz with the amazing company of Samarth and Sonnika. Over lots of topics we had the raddlers, lowenbrau weisbeer and dunkelers. As the sun set over Munich, the beers seemed to be the natural beverage to drink.

Finally, we had Weisbeer at a Monastery outside of Munich. Yes, a monastery! It was hot, Sunday and the beer garden was packed. We finally got a spot due to some nice German oldies who translated the menu for us as well. Thanks guys!

It wasn’t just the beer gardens which were awesome. It was the Bavarian(or German) attitude to alcohol. Everone drank beer at all times of day but no one had a fight. No one spewed and everyone had a good time. Prost!

Munich Museum and BMW Welt

We decided to avoid museums in this trip. They require a lot of walking, can be expensive and you are left overwhelmed. We made one exception for the Munich city museum. It gave a reasonable history of the city, it’s monarchs and how it represents Southern Germany.

In summary, Munich was established at the site of a monatery(the city’s name is related to the word monk). It was an insignificant market town until the Wittlesbachs dynasty decided to move here as Dukes and Kings for 5-600 years. It was home to Nazis and is now the home of BMW and other industries.

Well, we went to see the BMW Welt or the BMW factory plant. It was around 5-6 stations from Marienplazn on the U-Bahn and the entry was free. However, we realised that the plant is closed so decided to check out the BMWs, Rolls Royce and Mini cars on show. I almost convinced myself of buying an 80 euro umbrella due to its german quality but then decided against it.

Just to enjoy ourseles, we played some Xbox while there, proving to ourselves we still got it!

Final

It was a great couple of days in Munich. We even managed to eat well with bread shops everywhere. We wanted to experience the city and we certainly were not left let down by Munich.

Back with a bang

We’re back!!!!! It’s been a long time. We missed several small camping trips and the entire trip to New Zealand. That was a learning experience as we did too much during the day and the internet wasn’t available in South Island in most places. When we got back to Sydney, Life took over and it never for done.

So what now?

Well, we’re doing another trip this time and decided to blog while we traveled.

The Plan

Shruti and I wanted to travel somewhere with Shruti’s parents in September/October. Several locations were thrown up in the air – Greece, Turkey, South East Asia, Germany and the UK.

We would be unable to travel for longer than 2 weeks due changes in Jobs and our house extensions in general.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out and only Shruti and I could travel.

So we chose Central Europe as our first destination in Europe. It has the Alps, Bier, Castles and some amazing cities in close proximity.

Preparation

Tickets were first – We got a great deal with Qatar airways

We picked the cities of Munich, Vienna, Budapest and Prague. A little bit of jiggling around meant that we could given them around 3 days each with a day for Vienna thrown into a road trip around the Alps.

Hotels were booked and we applied for Shruti’s Schengen visa. Given our luck with the Schegen Visa, we prayed a little bit. However, the Austrian consulate in Sydney provided the visa before time and without any issues.

Money – We pre-booked our hotels and transport due to the Visa conditions so the only thing left was spending money and we loaded our Qantas Cash card with Euros. Hungary and Czech Republic don’t use Euros but we should still be able to get cash out.

Stay – At Munich, We’ll be staying with a good Friend(thanks Samarth!) in the burbs. The rest cities(Vienna, Budapest and Prague), We’ll be staying in hotels. One of the nights in the Alps, we’ll be staying in the small town of Seefeld, Austria in a typical Alps style hotel. We chose not to go Airbnb this time due to getting bad reviews from friends who used it in Europe.

Let’s do it!