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Category: Germany

Up And away To The Highest Peak In Germany!

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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Neuschwanstein Castle

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

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).

Neuschwanstein-Castle

 

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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.

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This Is Dachau

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Food In Munich

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.

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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.

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Hello Munich!

After two days of feeling under the weather, we flew from London to Munich in hope for a fresh view of another part of Europe. We spent our last two…

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After two days of feeling under the weather, we flew from London to Munich in hope for a fresh view of another part of Europe. We spent our last two days in London with Adlee and Owen in their cosy home near Ealing Broadway. We were treated like king and queen with superbly delicious meals served every evening and a super-sized guest room to hibernate in!

Touching down in Munich meant ‘serious backpacking’ all the way… until we leave lovely Europe at the end of January. It was also our first real challenge as Munich had most of their signs, instructions, directions, in German! To our surprise we were given a warm welcome and given specific directions to get to our hostel by an absolute stranger who saw the question marks in our eyes.

Munich is the most expensive city in Germany, but it is also the place to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of traditional Germany. This city apparently is the heart and soul of Bavaria. The city carries with it 800 years of history tucked in the every side alley, cobblestone, signpost and window. Stories of love, vengeance, bloodshed, victory and the like fill the air. Munich’s history is a long, important one – it was the central hub of the rise of the Nazi power. Adolf Hitler, a person renown for his dictatorship and heartless acts is not something that people in Munich keep a hush on. Apparently it is encouraged to talk about it so that history does not repeat itself and lessons could be learnt from generations of suffering.

Not only is Munich filled gruesome history, it is also a city of victory as the city saw its surroundings crumble into rubble during WW2, however today walking into the city, you can only see buildings restored to its former glory, having taken years of meticulous reconstruction.

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