Upon arriving in Vienna, my first thoughts were ‘we have to drink Viennese coffee and watch the world go by’. We did exactly that, not one but two cuppas. After…
Upon arriving in Vienna, my first thoughts were ‘we have to drink Viennese coffee and watch the world go by’. We did exactly that, not one but two cuppas. After two nights of forced sleep, I realized that the caffeine doses have been a tad too much for my body so we retreated back to fruit juices and hot chocolate. Then while walking down the Kartnerstrasse (the main shopping street in Vienna), we bumped into a guy who told us that there are three things that will make our trip to Vienna complete;
- Drink Viennese coffee,
- Eat the schnitzel,
- Go for a concert.
We nodded at all three and gave a thumbs-up. Within 24 hours of arriving we had unknowingly enjoyed the best Vienna had to offer.
The Vienna State Opera House has concerts and performances every night. On the first night we ventured out hoping to get standing tickets which we heard costs only 4 euros. Anna Karenina Ballet was showing that night and I wanted badly to catch it, thankfully we got tickets in time and squeezed into an aisle where other viewers alike had already marked their places. Each aisle had its own hand rest and the aisle extended 5 rows back. The view was great – right in the middle not far from the stage. The show was spectacular and undoubtedly a steal (esp for budget backpackers like us).
We spend our days exploring the city by foot, subway and tram. Having seen at least half a dozen churches, museums and galleries, a tinge of modern art brought new flavour to our day. As we approached the Kunst Haus, Museum Hundertwasser we were gladly amused by the comical non-symmetrical checked boxes painted all over its walls. It looked like a scene taken out from a children’s story book. The fun and unpredictable designs followed us inside with uneven tiled floors said to heighten our sense of experience as sojourners on earth. This building house quirky paintings of the famous Austrian artist named Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
Vienna too has its fair share of palaces, with two on both ends of the city. The Schloss Schönbrunn is incredibly huge, although not spectacular in design on the outside, the courtyards and gardens make up for its boring structure. The palace also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hofburg Palace located nearer to the city has a grander feel than the Schonbrunn. Surrounded by waterfalls in the front garden and a statue of Mozart, many people pass daily enjoying the serene quite of its gardens.
Finally, a few must tries and bargains in Vienna (again to do with food since we get hungry quicker in the winter) is the ice cream from Zanoni and Zanoni. Located near the very gothic looking St. Stephen’s Catheral / Stephansdom, the ice cream at Zanoni and Zanoni is fantastic to say the least. Best thing is that it doesn’t cost very much to satisfy your cravings. And finally, we found the Wurtelstands very helpful for meeting the needs of our growling tummies. Serving up hot kebabs, pizzas, sausages and hot dogs – we couldn’t resist the splendid smells coming from the kiosk.
We had read in many travel reviews that Innsbruck was a place not to be missed. Located in Austria, this town overlooks the Alps offering us the best views of…
We had read in many travel reviews that Innsbruck was a place not to be missed. Located in Austria, this town overlooks the Alps offering us the best views of majestic mountains 360 degrees all round. The Inn River running across the town is sandwiched between the old town and the new town. Architecturally there is an astounding difference between both towns. Booming into a tourist destination, Innsbruck has a lot to offer – from guided city walks to self exploratory nature trails. This is also home to world class crystal makers – Swarovski. I’m personally not a huge fan of *blink blinks*, Terence seems to think it odd and peered over to ask, “Aren’t diamonds a girl’s best friend”. My respond, “Well I’m not your every-day-kind-of-girl then! Aren’t you glad you married me, at least you wouldn’t have to splurge of glittery rocks?” Needless to say, we didn’t visit the factory.
Instead, we walked the town center, climbed Stadtturm tower, checked out the Golden Roof museum, read about Innsbruck’s history and visited the Alpine Zoo! Although I do not support the act of caging animals, we visited the zoo for the simple reason of education and experience since we may never see these animals in real life due to its climatic habitat. A visit thoroughly enjoyed!
A break from cities and into small towns in hope to find a more intimate setting, charming shops and less traffic – we found ourselves in Garmish – Partenkirchen, 2…
A break from cities and into small towns in hope to find a more intimate setting, charming shops and less traffic – we found ourselves in Garmish – Partenkirchen, 2 hours away from Munich. This little town is the base of Zugpitze, Germany’s highest peak, a haven for skiers and snowboarders. We stayed in Garmisch for 2 nights and spent our time walking the snow covered walkways in the woods, weaving in and out of cobblestone alleyways, admiring 18th century wall murals, eating ice cream and taking the cable car up to Zugspitze.
The weather was fine and dandy at 2c when we left Garmisch for Zugpitze. The ticket up the peak set us back 74Euros (for 2 pax), so we vouched to spend a many hours on the peak as possible. The first leg of the journey was in a train, making several stops to pick up skiers along the way. They came in full skiing gear, lugging their skis and waddling like colourful penguins into the train. We observed, somehow enthralled by this new sport (at least to us). We were like snorkelers admiring divers who effortlessly throw themselves off the boat in full diving gear.
At the foot hill, we clambered onto a huge cable car that cranked its way up extremely steep terrain. Lime boulders stared at us in the face, I looked down and my legs went jelly. As the cable car doors opened to let us out, we were greeted with a whisk of biting cold wind. At 2692 metres, the temperature had obviously dropped. We grimaced at the fact that -11c with strong gushes of wind was what we will have to endure in order to capture the incredible sights at such heights. Despite the fist clenching, knee knocking coldness, Terence managed to capture amazing views of endless snowcapped mountains rolling on into the horizons. These mountain range is shared by four countries; Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland.
There was also a novelty set up at the peak – igloos! Made entirely by snow/ice, the interiors radiated a pleasant cool and hand chiseled walls adorn the igloo rooms. Travelers can even spend a night in and igloo room complete with comfy fur coating on a mattress embedded into the ice. Dim lights made the room glow in wonderment as the ray catches the hand chiseled art on its walls.
Neuschwanstein Castle (“New Swan Castle”) is one of the most beautiful and famous castles in Germany. It is also the most visited castle in Europe. Our guide, Stacey began her…
Neuschwanstein Castle (“New Swan Castle”) is one of the most beautiful and famous castles in Germany. It is also the most visited castle in Europe. Our guide, Stacey began her tour by intriguing us with the creator of the castle. His name was King Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as the “Fairytale King”. Ludwig (as I will call him) was a character shrouded with mystery. He once told his governors,
“I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others”
and it is this mysterious element that fascinated me (leading me to research more about him even after the tour).
Ludwig was crowned king at the age of 18 years old when his father Maximilian II suddenly passed away. Throughout his childhood Ludwig remained very sheltered and protected. His parents Maximilian II and Marie of Prussia were almost non-existent attending to royal duties in and out of Munich. Ludwig spent a lot of time alone which festered his day dreaming. Ludwig being a growing boy searched for a role model and found one in Richard Wagner, a world – renowned composer.
It was predicted from the start that Ludwig would not make a very good king, however he prevailed wanting very much to give the throne to his only brother Otto. However the unfortunate struck, Otto was declared mentally unfit to rule and Ludwig had to continue his reign. After some time, Ludwig found his refuge in places of solitude. He retreated from the public and stayed in Hohenschwangau Castle most of the time.
He turned to day dreaming once again, but this time with the royal treasury at hand, Ludwig was able to turn his dreams into reality. In 1869, the foundations of Neuschwanstein Castle were laid. 18 years later in 1887, after the mysterious death of Ludwig in 1886, the castle was completed. Although Ludwig wanted the castle as a refuge and requested that the castle be torn down when he dies, the government decided to open the castle to the public due to the enormous debt he had piled up from his extravagant building plans.
The famous German castle overlooks the picturesque Hohenschwangau valley and is located only a short distance from the popular tourist town, Fussen. It was built in Richard Wagner’s honour and many rooms in the castle’s interior were inspired by Wagner’s poetic characters. The castle was designed by a theatre set designer instead of an architect making it look like a scene from a theatre instead of real life. Indeed, this castle has appeared in a few movies but more notably, it bore inspiration for castles you see in Disney Land. The famous 20th century icon, Walt Disney saw, replicated and created his own in USA.
Staggering figures associate with this romantic sight; since the time it was opened, over 50 million people have visited the Neuschwanstein Castle. About 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. It has been told that the foundations holding this castle are starting to wear down due to the immense numbers frolicking it… nonetheless, if it crumbles (perhaps not in my lifetime) – here are pictures to tell.
To honour the dead and warn the living A statue erected to remind us all that history is not contained to geographical borders, nationalities or cultures – instead it is…
To honour the dead and warn the living
A statue erected to remind us all that history is not contained to geographical borders, nationalities or cultures – instead it is prominent life lessons for humanity that we will choose to make positive and peaceful decisions instead of destructive ones. The statue above is of a common prisoner, with his head held high, hands in pocket and one leg in an at ease motion. During his time in prison, he is not allowed to lift his head up to face a guard, put his hands into his uniforms’ pocket and must always stand in attention. If he is caught doing them, punishment will be acquitted.
The gates with the words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (‘Work Sets You Free’) were kept ajar as a sign that this once grim and forbidden fortress is now open. Its secrets uncovered, its victims honoured and its stories now live to tell. Dachau was the very first Nazi concentration camp set up as a hub to capture political prisoners who fought against its regimes. It later enlarged detaining criminals and Jews. People who entered the camp never knew whether they will ever come out – frightfully so, many didn’t make it out. Jews were thrown in by the hundreds and thousands – without reason, without even the right for trial and possible freedom. This was the difference between a concentration camp and a prison – Dachau was hell on earth for many innocent men, especially those of Jewish descent. It was reported that over 200,000 people went through the camp and 43,000 lost their lives to the ruthless torture and extreme work environments.
Detainees went through a strict system upon entering the camp. The mocking and torture would begin even before they enter the camp grounds. It was required of the public to spit, mock and discriminate the people entering the camp as they walked from the train to the camp gates. Anyone in the public who resisted would be treated the same as those whose fate lie in the hands of the SS guards.
Prisoners were stripped of their dignity, respect and possessions as they entered the first hall leading to the shower room. Their possessions were confiscated from them, even mere entities like photographs of loved ones or identification documents. From that moment on, they were only known by numbers. Guards would lead them to the communal shower room where they were forced to strip down losing their dignity, then their hair shaven before being shoved to the ground where they will frantically grab any piece of uniform from the heap on the floor.
Punishment was erratic and many times without reason, or instigated by SS guards. Prisoners were hung from a metal bar for hours losing all strength in the limbs, then whipped and mocked at. Other prisoners suffered canning by 2 guards simultaneously on both sides while counting one to twenty-five in German. Non-German speaking prisoners will suffer twice or thrice the punishment simply because they can’t count proficiently in German. Still other prisoners suffered the fate of being a guinea pig to the mad medical doctors who tried all kinds of experiments on prisoners for military developments during WW2. Whatever the punishment was, it baffles me how inhumane people can become, their conscience seared, their souls swallowed up by a seeming beast.
Walking down the silent expanse of torn down barracks, we entered the crematorium where thousands of lives passed on and delivered to the fire. Pictures show that at one point the camp ran out of coal, thus bodies could not be cremated; instead they were piled on top of each other like meat at the butchers, rotting away. The feeling walking into the crematorium and passing through the gas chambers is too awful for words – there is an immense sense of doom and although the building is quite sizable, I felt extremely trapped with a sudden surge of claustrophobia. No one – no one should ever have to go through this…
There’s somewhat a laid-back attitude with the people here in Munich. Beer halls, taverns, restaurants, cafes and streets are always filled with masses. A popular tradition in Munich is of…
There’s somewhat a laid-back attitude with the people here in Munich. Beer halls, taverns, restaurants, cafes and streets are always filled with masses. A popular tradition in Munich is of course beer drinking, we opted to taste a different Bavarian speciality instead – the food of course!
What we most readily associate Germany (food wise) with is of course the sausage. They call it wursts here. Sausages are usually served on a bed of sauerkraut, which is essentially boiled and pickled cabbage. Sausages here are amazing – the texture, taste and how its properly served. And despite not being entirely a meat lover – I’m dazzled by the sheer passion for meat of all sizes, cuts and taste as I walk through the local food market.
We dived into a typical Bavarian platter at a famous beer hall. This time is of pork knuckle, sausages (again), pan-fried duck, dumpling and sauerkraut. Hearty, fatty, warm and delicious – needless to say we walked back to our hostel in absolute satisfaction.