Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ein wochenende zwischen schlössern und bergen ... Deutschland

I have never had any desire to see any of Germany's major cities. From what I've been told, they're cold and reminiscent of the Communist/Fascist reign of the 1930s-80s. That didn't appeal to me at all. No, I wanted small town Germany where I could see gorgeous mountains, see cows in a field with bells around their necks, hear men yodeling, fraulein in their dresses serving beer, cuckoo clocks, and tuba players wearing hats with feathers in them. This was the Germany I wanted to see. Surely, I'd see all of this and more in Bavaria, right? Ha!! What in the world was I thinking?!

I arrived in Memmingen on a Friday morning with a student, Jessica, who'd come along for the adventure. We would travel by rental car south to the small town of Fussen so that we could visit the "Disney" castles, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau on Saturday. We had a quick something to eat (I was able to get a BAGEL!!!) in the airport and then picked up our little Hyundai rental. I'm a good driver, but after not driving for 3 months and seeing how people in Italy drive, I'm not gonna lie and tell you I wasn't nervous. Cause I was. I had this fear that they would drive like maniacs and I wouldn't be able to navigate. I was reminded before I left that I was going to Germany, home of all things orderly in Europe. My mind was somewhat at ease. Still, I speak no German...nichts. Ergo, signage intimidated me a bit. Thankfully, I'd "upgraded" and got the which I am eternally grateful! All I had to do was take care of the car and Leiseil, our name for our GPS, would take care of the rest. 

Let me pause here for a moment and tell you that everyone who knew I was renting a car in Germany asked me this question: are you going to drive on the autobahn? To which I patently answered: are you nuts!? Why would I want to drive on a freeway with no speed limits and crazy people in a foreign country? I don't even like driving through L.A. Oh, how naive I was. It wasn't until I was 20 minutes into our 40 minute drive did I realize that all of Germany's highways are considered...the autobahn. Cars were whizzing past me so fast that I could feel the vibrations from the wind as they zoomed on by. And again, I'm not gonna lie....but I punched the gas and went. Well, I went as fast as my Hyundai would take us. It was fun. No speed limit? Heck yes.  And it wasn't just the no speed limit thing that was so was the scenery. I have never in my life seen anything like the scene outside of our windows. Flat, green pastures suddenly gave way to majestic white-capped mountains. They were breathtaking and Jessica and I kept exclaiming "It's soooo beautiful!!" 

Arriving in Fussen, we were able to locate our hostel quickly, drop off our bags, and explore the town. That took us all of...45 minutes. No joke. Fussen isn't very big and there's not a whole lot going on, but what it does have is charm and character. It was cute and quaint with lots of architectural detailing on its buildings and houses. Precious!! We wandered through its streets and then spent a lot of time sitting on a bench staring out at the river when finally...the sun poked its way out from behind the clouds and Fussen went from pretty to...awe-inspiring. The Bavarian Alps jutted up from the ground, stretching towards the heavens. Their peaks were snow covered and it almost hurt to look at them when the sun was shining directly on them. What impressed me the most though, was the feeling that they were an accurate representation of God's grandeur...His majesty...His awesome nature. 

     On Saturday, Jessica and I visited the most beautiful castles I have ever seen. They were so incredibly picturesque and fairy tale-like that I could envision Beauty and the Beast or some other tale set there. There are two castles per ticket and you must take a guided tour in order to get into the castle. First, you must go thru Hohenschwangau castle before you can go on to "Mad" King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein castle. I was thoroughly impressed me, though was the history of the castles. Who knew that Ludwig only lived 100+ days in Neuschwanstein before being declared insane, being committed, and then found dead in a lake next door to the asylum the day after. Fascinating!! I can't begin to describe the I'll just post pics...


LOVED it! Followed up our castle adventures with some wiener schnitzel, German potato salad, and of course, strudel. Perfect!

We spent the rest of our weekend exploring an Austrian town even smaller and more dead than Fussen. It was hard for two American women to understand how a town closes its doors...and I mean ALL of its doors before 1:00 pm. Does nobody want to make any money? This lead to many laughs...and making our own fun.

All in all, it was a great weekend and a fabulous introduction to Germany. No, I didn't see half of what I wanted to see (seriously!? Was it too much to ask for one lousy tuba player?!) I want to go back and explore more of this beautiful country. After all, part of my family history traces its roots back to Deutschland. I want to know more about my "people"; my "homeland." 

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