The plane slowly landed in Oslo airport, bringing me back to the European mainland. I grabbed my bag back from the storage, and hopped onto my flight to Copenhagen. I wished that I could have been able to stay at the city of green domes, since I bet that must look fantastic in summer. The only thing I could do in Copenhagen, however, was to buy a bottle of the famous chocolate milk called Cocio (thank the glorious Arceus). This classic Danish drink had been the staple of my diet in Denmark since the day I arrived in my Eurohop trip. I loved the fact that it was so thick and sweet that I had to eat it with bread, and the result was always amazing.
Cocio chocolate milk
I then transited to Munich. The ride down was really not that interesting, as intra-Europe flights were generally on time, service-less, and quiet. I got into Munich airport just before 9 at night, and decided to take a train to the city and walk towards my hostel. The one I booked was rather far from the city center, and this one was even crazier than the one in Bergen: this one has 100 beds!!! However, this one, in my mind, is much better. It is more a kind of temporary camp than a permanent hostel. This place only opens during the warm summer in a suburban park. The giant tents house 100 people each, and you basically grab a yoga mat and some linens to sleep in the basic tent, which I chose because it sounded super fun. There is another tent, but filled with 100 real beds instead, but what is the fun in that! Every night, there will be a large bonfire, along with cheap alcohol and lots of music. Needless to say, it was a party hostel, and normally I avoid those; however, for this kind of special party hostel, I would love to give it a try. Always trying new things, isn’t that why we travel?
Kaufingerstraße, central Munich
After getting myself a metro card, I took a train towards city center, but for some reason, likely rail maintenance, it terminated at a big station ahead of the central station, and I was left stranded in (what appeared to me) middle of nowhere. Luckily, I saw a bus station, and the route happened to list the park my hostel was in as a stop. That must be my birthday! It was already late at night; the streets were occupied only by loneliness, and I arrived at my home for the next few days before the wee hours, thankfully. I took a later morning the next day, and took a tram into the city center. Munich has the iconic “new” city hall in front of a giant plaza, and when I first arrived there, I was stunned by the intricate details the building boasts.
Munich city center, facing Neus Rathaus, New City Hall
I was famished, and turned on my radar searching for food. Right next to the big plaza full of tourists, there was a road leading to the famous market Viktualienmarkt. I was instantly drooling when I saw the food on display here. The food was presented so elegantly that it even made me hesitant about whether I should eat those delicious precious or not!
*stares with big gaping eyes*
I found myself a soup stall, which had a dozen locals lining up. I ordered the soup on the top of the menu, Leberknödelsuppe, because the waitress recommended it to me as their specialty here in Bavaria. I took my soup (with a complementary pretzel!) to a table and realized there were no chairs! Everyone stood in this stall and simply ate while standing! I could not care less, since I am never an advocate of dining table etiquette to begin with. I tried the soup, and it is… uh, special.
Bavarian soup Leberknödelsuppe
First things first: this soup is very, very sour. It must had more vinegar than water in it. The thick texture likely comes from the ingredients: I tasted pig’s intestines, pig’s liver, and all others were just mystery ingredients. I would like to say it is of an acquired taste, but I doubt if anyone could ever develop such strength. I did not really care, however, since I was so hungry that I was ready to devour some tree bark. I slurped down the soup along with the delicious German style liver dumplings inside, and swallowed the pretzel whole. Let’s see what was next on my agenda: keep traveling… hmmmmm, sure! I walked around even more, and felt even hungrier than before!
ahhhhh these are the wurst
I took a swing inside Neues Rathaus, and found out the inside was even more interesting. Apparently there was some kind of conservation work going on, and the carvings on the buildings were definitely worse for wear. They looked like they were in pain, and what I knew was that it was giving me pain as well.
when you realize you are single as fuck and never gonna get a girlfriend
I decided to visit a place called Residenz, between plazas Odeonsplatz and Max-Joseph-Platz. It is the 14th century residence of the King of Bavaria that had been in use ever since its construction. It started as a palace, and later kings added more and more buildings next to it that it ended up as a huge residential complex. It was not until the Revolution of 1918 that the Royals left Residenz, and it is now housing three museums: Residenz Museum, the Treasury on display, and a coin collection called Staatliche Münzsammlung (doesn’t it just flows through the tongue, ah, German, what a beautiful language). The combination ticket can take you everywhere within the complex, and there was enough content to keep one occupied for a whole day!
I only had time to fully explore the Residenz Museum, not the others, as it was already 2 pm! The inside had a series of rooms, with doors opening from one to another, one anterior chamber after another, and one bedroom after another, seriously how many beds do one rich person and his family need? However, instead of beds that were plated gold, I was more interested in the interior decor that ranged from late Renaissance, to Rococo, to Baroque, to Neo-classicism, since the different branches were built and renovated in different eras.
a painting of the female personification of Justice
the iconic Renaissance style Antiquarium
The audio guide the museum provided was really helpful, so were the detailed information billboards that were designed to complement the guide. Listening to the guide explaining why a painting was put there while slowly wandering in the huge palace in a slow afternoon, with glittering lights all over the place, and gold dazzling in your eyes from every corner, was an experience not to be missed.
Ahnengallerie/Ancestral Gallery, Baroque style
After exiting Residenz, I wandered back to the center, and I could not resist the smell of a classic Leberkässemmeln. Despite its name containing Leberkäse, this thing has nothing to do with either liver or cheese. It was like a large slice of luncheon meat in a simple bread roll. This thing is likely the most iconic snack in Munich, and I usually blend in quite well on the food side, that is for sure.
Suddenly it started pouring down like the monsoon season in Nepal, and I had to run into the nearest building to keep myself dry, and more importantly, keep my Leberkässemmeln crispy. I stumbled into Peterskirke, the oldest church in the city. It was just me, under this huge dome, facing a high altar dedicated to Saint Peter. The rain raged on, with crashing thunder that threatened to end it all. I could hear the raindrops hitting the gilded window frames, and I could see the lightning lit up the entire interior, briefly casting a shadow of Saint Peter onto the whitewashed dome.
Luckily, the rain quickly stopped. Munich, as I later learned, is very familiar with frequent freak storms like this, since the mountains to the south could generate a lot of low pressure rapidly. I walked out of the church back onto the now slightly-wet streets. The plaza in front of Neues Rathaus, Marienplatz, was crowded with people again. The shop owners also did not waste any time to set up for the crowd again.
a flower shop in Marienplatz
I got in touch with two old friends back in high school in Canada, Helin and Wendy. We decided to go to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle/Schloβ Neuschwanstein. If you do not know what it is, a look at Disney’s logo would do. I slept soundly despite I was sleeping on the floor in a tent filled with 50 other people.
We took an early morning to meet in the central train station, and in German it is called huptabanhof (beautiful language, isn’t it?). The train took 3 hours to position ourselves in the township of Füssen, and a bus ride put us at the bottom of the hill for the castle. Then a long climb led to the entrance ensued, though difficult, I was nonetheless attracted by the beautiful tower the second I saw it appearing in my sight among the shadowing trees, while panting like an overheating puppy like the one from last part in the Arctic.
a peek at Neuschwanstein Castle
Once we got to the top, we saw the whole thing: it was the reincarnation of beauty. Slim in shape and harmonic in color, this castle is the epitome of European architecture. Built by King Ludwig II in appreciation of beauty as a whole as well as Richard Wagner, a composer and writer of his time, it was the basic inspiration of many artwork, including the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disney. The entire castle was built in the late 1800s, and never actually finished according to the original floor plan. The interiors were decorated with German mythic stories, and even more scenes from Richard Wagner’s plays. For its name being Neuschwanstein, basically “New Swan Castle”, it had a lot of decorations in the form of swans. From doorknobs to wash basins to paintings, all of the little things were in the shape of swans. The interior and exterior were just equally stunning, and I have to say it is hands down the best castle in Europe.
However, this place is not made to be of royal courtship, or as a seat of government. You see, Ludwig II was very, very likely a homosexual man born into perhaps the worst time and place for being a gay. He was engaged once, but he forcefully postponed the wedding until he could come up with a reason to cancel it altogether. His fascination with Richard Wagner made him quite unpopular among the leadership in Bavaria. He allowed Richard to be in his closest counseling unit and if Richard was alive now, he would be called an ultra-liberal. The end of the story was not happy, though. Richard was forced to go into exile for a few years, and Ludwig became increasingly obese and snobbish after Bavaria became a part of the new Germany, thus losing most of its autonomy. He used his own fortune to build this castle, Neuschwanstein, and started hiding away from the day-to-day business, sometimes going on hunting trips for half a year without any intention to return to the court. This castle, therefore, is not the Sleeping Beauty Castle with magic and happiness, instead it is a hiding place for a sad, lonely but very wealthy gay man, who lost people he loved and rejected by most of his subjects. We see large towers souring into the sky, but it was intended to be a tower that Ludwig II could lock himself as far as possible from this unrelenting world. He dedicated every bit of his artistic talent to this castle, his last line of defense against the cruel social norm, and made this castle for his life-long 30+ year older lover, Richard Wagner, though Wagner died even before the castle was completed.
now you have a closer look for the castle
Despite the fact that I understand Ludwig II’s misfortune, I could not be too sympathetic to him. I believe a strong person should always think of the best outcome of people he loves the most, and I do not believe hiding in a beautiful castle was the best he could do. He was too true to himself as well as to the others, and should he married the girl he was promised to but kept everything underground, he would likely be more popular, and maybe even considered a good king. Now, he is history’s tragedy, an old, obese, gay man with a large castle to run away from responsibilities and cry. (hmmm, that sounds familiar..?) Anyways, I still loved this castle, though, as it just looks so elegant and untainted, maybe just like Ludwig’s simple heart. Upon returning to Munich, Helin, Wendy and I were still in the deep trance the castle provided, and of course we needed to celebrate the reunion with a good Bavarian beer! We sat down in a local brewery-owned beer hall that is quite popular in Munich, and feasted away!
this drink, to the bright blue sky, and everything underneath!
when you enjoy a beer so much that you forget to take a picture for the blog until it’s gone
After dinner, I bid Helin and Wendy farewell, I was now back to walking on the slightly damp streets of Munich. I took a bus back to my hostel, and I was the only passenger up so late on this Sunday night. Outside the window, only a few people were on the windy streets. The old lamp posts flickered dim with the wind, and I could not help but think of why I traveled alone, and more importantly, how did I manage it without much coping? I always thought I was born into doing this, but then why did I miss others during my journey whenever I was alone again? These were the questions that kept me up under the starry sky sometimes, and it seemed to me I would never be able to find the answer. The bus came to a slow halt at the terminus station; I slowly stepped off, tightened the straps on my bag, and looked ahead to the road in front of me: there is still a long, long way ahead.
I started my final day with a visit to the famous Schloβ Nymphenburg. It was a grandiose Baroque style palace built as the summer residence for the rulers of Bavaria. It sits in front of a beautiful, symmetrical garden, with hundreds of water fouls swimming in the water features. The road leading to the palace was also carefully covered with different types of trees, as well as flowers. Bikers rode casually on the narrow walkways, and couples made out on the picturesque grass field.
looking at Nymphenberg Palace
a swan as pure as freshly fallen snow in front of the palace
The inside of the palace was definitely gorgeous, and I would even call it more amazing than the outside. The interior, unlike Residenz, still retained a lot of its original Baroque style settings, and the central pavilion called Steinerner Saal (German always has such elegant rolls of lips, eh?), oh my god, is absolutely mind-blowing. The extremely high ceiling was covered with a huge fresco of Helios in his chariot, and long crystal lights dangled down, with mirrors on the sides, illuminating the entire room, even though the windows on both sides face the gorgeous outside already!
a look up the roof
The palace was not as big as the others, and most of the area was closed. The part that intrigued me the most was King Ludwig I’s Gallery of the Beauties. He commissioned the painter Joseph Steiler to paint 36 pictures of beautiful women from all social classes, including his mistress Lola Montez. The paintings were world class, as I was able to grasp the beauty of every person from the shoemaker’s daughter to the queen, as if they were all smiling at me. The very nature of this gallery, though, was definitely more interesting to me.
Gallery of Beauties
It is a funny story about King Ludwig I and the mistress Lola Montez. For starters, this is not her real name. Hell, she is not even Spanish! Marie Gilbert was a dancer and performer, and she was running around Europe because she could not kick off a career and therefore had to resort to being part-time courtesan. Courtesan is basically what we nowadays call freelance model, so you know the nature of this “job”. She eventually got her way around Ludwig I, and he made her Countess of Landsfeld. She exercised a lot of power around the king, and directed the entire Bavaria towards her interests. She got so much hate from the citizens that she was partially the cause of the Revolution of 1848, which forced Ludwig I to abdicate. She ran to USA afterwards, and lived a short life of 39, dying of syphilis. Fun story, right?
the back side of the park
After enjoying the history in Nymphemburg Palace, I took a stroll in the old town for a while. I encountered a small seafood stall, which was bursting with local crowds even at 2 p.m. I queued up, and found out that you could order any seafood by weight, and they would customize a plate for you! I went for everything, of course, and I was deeply impressed.
With that in my stomach, I could think rationally again. I eventually decided to take a quick look in the notoriously famous Hofbräuhaus, the beer hall typical to Bavaria (like the one Helin, Wendy and I had yesterday) by the biggest beer producer in the world. I knew it was touristy, but I did not expect it to be like this. The entire place was jam packed even outside meal hours, and I could barely make my way around. Just the first floor was bigger than Nymphembeg Palace’s main hall, huh, so they definitely set their priorities straight. I did intend to stay and take a drink, but seeing menus in 6 languages deterred me immediately. It was too touristy for an authentic beer, pass.
two men drinking HUGE beers, and having a great dandy ol’ time
I left the brewery for the train station, and I still giggled at the fact that the Germans call central station “hoptabanhof” haha. I boarded an ICE, the highest express rail service of Germany, heading to Stuttgart. Now, I had to say goodbye to Munich. I think this part of my travel is perfect to describe how backpacking really feels like. It is not really about the destination itself, as the city of Munich rarely rings a bell except Oktoberfest, which I was destined not to be able to participate. Travel is always more about the road, not the place, just like the walk down Kaufingerstraße, or a bite on the Leberkässemmeln; it is also about the people you travel with, and luckily I was able to admire the sheer beauty of Neuschwanstein Castle with Helin and Wendy; and lastly, it is always about the very journey itself: I enjoyed a street performer’s music, laughed at my poor choice of soup for the first lunch, sat beside a bonfire under the starry sky… It is always more than the castles, the buildings, the museums and the sceneries. It is about who I was, who shared the road with, and who I’d become. Traveling makes one closer to the world, and the people who love you enough to stick around, and growing up lonely in a corner of a boarding school, I guess that is why I always loved traveling. Going to places together, that is the real bond, and I am glad that Munich was one of those places.
The train reached flying speed before I could fully bid farewell with Munich, and one potato field after another flew by my window. The water from a storm earlier on was still sliding across the vibrating glass, and the train sped past a beautiful rainbow. I did not bother taking a picture, though, as I knew the best parts of traveling were never supposed to be caught on cameras. My thoughts were interrupted by the conductor, as he demanded my ticket. He looked at my ticket, punched a hole, and said something in German.
“Sorry, I am not German.”
“Huh, that makes it interesting.” he said with an eyebrow raised, “not many foreigners go this deep into Swabia, and you’re going to Balingen? Huh.”
“Oh yes,” I looked into my reflection in the mirror and smiled, “there is someone waiting for me.”