Sunday, May 10, 2015

Germany (and Austria)

My friend Cassie lives in Virginia, but I feel like she has come along with me in spirit to Sweden.   We keep in touch mostly over email, and I can tell her about all the stuff that will never make this blog. We exchange pins and texts, and I lost count of the cards and packages she has sent to our family.  Her friendship is such a blessing, so when Cassie and her family (husband, dad, sister) planned a trip to Germany and Austria I was so excited. Although they couldn't take a side trip to Sweden, they graciously let us crash part of their trip.  May Day is one of the many spring holidays in Sweden, and the day off for us coincided with the beginning of their trip.  I didn't know much about Germany before, but Cassie's dad was stationed there when she was little so I counted on them to pick a cool part (and they did).

We started our trip flying from Gothenburg to Munich (direct, thankfully).  We could have driven, but starting out with a 14-hour drive would really cut into our time there.  I was looking forward to seeing the Maibaum (maypole) festivities in Viktuelienmarkt, but it was raining solidly when we got there.  I am made of sugar, meaning if it's raining I need a good reason to be outside in it.  Give me a cup of tea and a book any day over that, but fortunately Steve saw that I would regret being in Munich and not seeing it, so he dragged us out to Marienplatz. We just missed seeing the Glockenspiel "performance" but we did hear the bells of Frauenkirche. May Day is a public holiday in Germany as well, so many of the business were closed. Fortunately the restaurants weren't, and dinner at Augustiner-Keller was one of the highlights of the whole trip.  We had seen people walking that direction in traditional garb, and indeed when we arrived many people were wearing dirndls and lederhosen.  We sat way, way down in the cellar, family-style at a long table with benches.  Warm, huge pretzels topped off the kids' bratwurst dinner (which they both liked).  Steve got the schnitzel and I got gröstl, which is pan fried pieces of roasted pork and potato dumplings with an egg on top. And the house lager.  I am a meat and potatoes girl, so Bavarian food was right up my alley and I spent the rest of the trip trying to top this meal.

The next day we were greeted at breakfast by this beautiful sight.

Fresh squeezed orange juice and a super-auto espresso machine
After breakfast we got a rental car and headed south.  It was still raining off and on, which made everything look gray and boring moody and atmospheric.

I took about 300 pictures of Bavarian churches. I love their spires.
First we stopped by Starnberger See (Lake).  On a clear day you can see the Alps in the background.

We continued on down to Oberammergau, an adorable town where I shopped for handcrafted things.

Last Christmas while home in Virginia I visited Cassie and got to see her amazing collection of handcrafted wooden decorations, so I blame her for starting my German Christmas obsession.

After lunch we kept driving.
Like a car commercial.
And then the clouds would part and we'd catch a glimpse of the incredible mountains.


The rain cleared up a bit on the way to Mittenwald, and meanwhile Cassie and her family arrived as well. Coincidence?  I think not. We checked into our apartmenthaus and went for a walk down Obermarkt.  This is one of the few places in Germany I already had on my bucket list before learning the details of Cassie's trip.  The buildings are colorful, and many are painted with elaborate pictures. They all seem to be in immaculate condition. 

We stopped for gelato and watched as dozens of guests of this wedding walked by in traditional clothing.  We had dinner at a restaurant close to their reception, and they sounded like they were having so much fun.

 The following day we set out to see castles.
Fueling up
Cassie and her family did in-depth tours while we just did an overview.  When traveling with kids you have to be flexible and realize you can't do everything, and this was one of those times I realized it's better to just let them sleep in the car instead of hiking up the hill to each castle.

Austria's Ehrenberg Castle (Oh, how I love ruins!)
...and its neighbor, Hohenschwangau
One of my favorite things while traveling is when we come across something awesome and unexpected.  Along the border of Austria (Tyrol) and Germany (Bavaria) is Lake Plansee.  The water has this gorgeous teal color from the mountain runoff, and as you drive along the edge of it you can clearly see the bottom.

When we got to Linderhof Castle we explored the extensive formal gardens. More rain. 

Back in Mittenwald we enjoyed a cozy dinner (Jägerschnitzel with spaetzle) and zither music.

The next day we checked out and said goodbye to Cassie and company as they headed for Salzburg and we headed down to Tyrol again. Fortunately the rain cleared up!

Sometimes the journey is the destination.
colorful Innsbruck, Austria
Swarovski factory and Crystal World
Then we drove back up toward Munich.
Chiemsee Lake
Herrenchiemsee (castle on an island in the lake)
Heading home
So...  This was my first trip to Germany.  How did I like Munich?  I didn't really get to see it because it was the evening, closed for the holiday, and raining.  Loved the food, though.  The other towns were quaint with lovely traditional elements like handpainting and woodcarving (more my speed than a city). It was great to see my friend again, too.  One last thing... This guy?  He's a road warrior.  We just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.  I'm happy to be your co-pilot anytime, sweetie.

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