Since it was pretty close to Munich (and Chris could then add Austria to his list of visited countries) we decided to go on a day trip to Salzburg since it’s a short train trip from Munich. We took the obligatory picture of Mozart’s house, visited all the places where The Sound of Music was filmed, wandered around looking at all the souvenir shops, and made our other obligatory stop – the brauhaus.
Chris liked the Stiegl Keller brauhaus because it had stag heads on the walls and a nice “hygge” feel. (Hygge is a Scandinavian term for the warm fuzzy feeling that things like candlelight give you. We have added this into our vocabulary as it is particularly useful when you live in a wintry country.) We had a liver dumpling soup, dumplings on sauerkraut, and beef goulash. Yum!
One of the other main things to do in Salzburg is to visit the castle, a.k.a. Fortress Hohensalzburg. Salzburg is an interesting town in that it didn’t have a secular ruler – its ruler was the archbishop of the area. So the archbishops in charge built a castle up on the hill. Over time, each bishop expanded the castle with additional fortifications. They even had a funicular that was winched up by horses. There was also a clock powered organ there, that one bishop liked to have play early in the morning to make sure all the town’s inhabitants weren’t lazy.
I have visited the castle in the past, but they have added a lot of exhibits since I was last there, including the very fancy archbishop’s chambers that you can now visit. The view from the top is still the best part though.
Another obligatory place to go in the area is Neuschwanstein Castle, another short train trip from Munich. Neuschwanstein Castle is famous for being the template that Walt Disney based his Sleeping Beauty Castle on.
Hilariously, Neuschwanstein Castle is not an actual medieval castle, but an elaborate palace built by the eccentric King Ludwig II. You see, Ludwig was fascinated with the Middle Ages and the operas of Richard Wagner, so he decided to build himself a personal retreat that was a romanticized version of a medieval knight’s castle, but with modern amenities.
Unfortunately, due to a number of circumstances including the fact that the castle cost A LOT of money and Ludwig’s questionable mental health, Ludwig died before the castle could be completed. However they have some neat visualizations in the castle showing how it would look if everything had been completed.
Anyways, the castle is located by the village of Hohenschwangau, which is also the location of Hohenschwangau Castle, Ludwig’s childhood home. As Neuschwanstein Castle is a massive tourist attraction, we took the earliest train we could in order to minimize our wait for tickets. You can only visit the castle with a guided tour, which go every 15 minutes in various languages. You have to buy a ticket for a specific time, and are let into the castle via an automated gate so basically there is little margin for error to get into the castle.
Fortunately because Chris is a stickler for timeliness, we made it up to the castle in good time. We opted to hike, the alternative being to pay to take a horse drawn carriage.
From the castle you can hike a bit further until you get to Marienbrücke, which is a bridge where everyone takes their pictures of Neuschwanstein from.
Once inside Neuschwanstein we were guided around by a very German girl through all the completed rooms of the castle. I think it’s fitting that it’s the model for the Disney castle since the inside is also very Disney-esque. Everything is painted in such an extravagant and colourful style that it’s almost cartoony, similar to how the castles at Disneyland look. And, as Ludwig was obsessed with the German legend of Lohengrin, the Swan Knight, there are swans everywhere.
The completed rooms of the castle include the throne room, singer’s hall, Ludwig’s chambers, and a fantasy grotto (since it wasn’t an actual fortress he built a lot of just-for-fun rooms). Unfortunately it’s verboten to take pictures, though.
Augustiner-Bräu and Spockmeier
We were starving to death by the time we arrived back in Munich, so immediately headed to Augustiner Keller, the closest brauhaus to the train station. There we immediately ordered too many pretzels and sausages and ended up being explosively full afterwards.
Fortunately we weren’t too full to go to Spockmeier for breakfast the next morning. We basically knew of this place because we overheard some locals recommending it to another traveller on the train on our way into Munich. Since it was our last morning, we decided it was necessary to try the traditional Munich breakfast of a white sausage, pretzel, and beer. Although I didn’t have the beer, because that would send me immediately back to bed.
We spent the rest of the morning trying to digest by walking to Munich’s famous Englisher Garden. The Garden is enormous, with a nice big lake and weirdly also a little canal where you can surf, if you want to brave the cold.
Next, it was onto Rothenburg!