Apparently everybody wants to go to Bavaria for Christmas. I didn't make it for then, but my birthday gave me a good excuse to skive off there in January, when the snow was still on the ground.
I flew to Munich on Friday. By coincidence, Reza from Acclaim Germany was doing the exact same trip in reverse - flying from Munich to Gatwick then! So I did not bother to visit Acclaim while I was there.
I had a look around the old town, including the Hofbrauhaus (a huge beer hall where Hitler launched his Putsch). Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to see many of the sights, such as the Deutsche Museum (a hands-on science museum), the Olympic Park, Dachau concentration camp and the Residenz (home of the Bavarian Royal Family for centuries). I did see a few of the gay pubs though, which were not bad.
It dropped to -9 degrees Celsius that night, but I was quite comfortable walking around in my new jacket.
Bavarian clocks remind me a lot of the ones in Ankh-Morpork - they have a consensus approach to time-keeping, and chime the hour for a total of at least ten minutes!
The next day I visited Neuschwanstein. This castle, built by Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria was never finished. It is thoroughly impressive nevertheless. The profile of the castle was designed by a stage background painter rather than an architect, which explains why it is such a fairy-tale castle. Originally 85 rooms were planned, but only about 9 were completed. The finished rooms are works of art.
The best view of the castle is from a bridge astride a deep ravine. Because the ice was not cleared from the path, it was very tricky to get to. Many people slipped over on the steep path, and had to grab onto the handrail to avoid falling down a cliff. It was exciting climbing up the hill to the view, and amusing to see the efforts of an Italian girl who was trying it whilst wearing high-heels. :-)
In the evening I travelled to Innsbruck, but had to go via Munich instead of Garmish (which was much closer) because of the lack of connections. The Alte Piccolo pub is very central and had interesting clientele. I chatted to a boy who was drowning his sorrows as he had just been drafted into the army. He was certainly succeeding on the drinking front, it was just the forgetting part that was eluding him.
Sunday morning I went up the Hafalekar mountain in the cable car. It was windy at the top, but midway down was beautiful, and many people were skiing or snowboarding there. In the evening I took the train to Salzburg. On the way I met an interesting person; I enjoy travelling on Austrian trains! In the evening I wandered around the old town of Salzburg. The footpaths were icy, which made walking very tricky. I saw a huge lump of snow fall off a roof. This can be quite dangerous in snowladen countries like Austria (so there are sometimes warnings not to stand near to the walls).
On Monday I went on an organised tour of the Bavarian mountains and the salt mines. The salt mines were fascinating. We dressed up in protective clothing, then boarded a miner's train which took us into the heart of the mountain. After walking down timber-braced tunnels, we crossed an underground lake in a boat. We slid down two sets of miner's slides to end up 210 metres below the surface.
After watching a multi-lingual video presentation we saw a reconstruction of the two ancient Celts whose bodies had been found in the mine last century. They disintegrated when they were returned to the surface. We crossed the German/Austrian border twice whilst underground, but there were no passport checks. There is a reciprocal mining arrangement between the two countries.
It seemed a little incongruous to finish off our tour by taking a modern escalator back up to the mining train, but the whole mine was a mass of contradictions. It was certainly different from the usual run-of-the-mill tourist attractions.
In the afternoon, I took the train back to Munich airport and flew back home. I had a great time and enjoyed the place thoroughly.