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The hills are alive…

August 12, 2008

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Schwangau to The Zugzpitze, Deutschland (Germany) to Salzburg, Österreich (Austria)

The Alpenhotel Meier served a great breakfast and I was off at 8:30 to go see Mad King Ludwig‘s playhouse, the object of my affection today.  His early years were spent at his parent’s house Hoënschwangau, and then a young Ludwig wanted his own place I reckon, so he had Neuschwanstein (Noy-schvan-stine) built.  He only got to live in it for less than 200 days until he was deemed not right in the head and no longer fit to rule, so he was sent off somewhere and he and his psychiatrist were never heard from again.  Six days later, his castle became a public museum.  As castles go, it’s a relatively new one, having been completed in 1886 after 17 years of construction.  It’s all very touristy, but there’s sometimes a good reason for that, there was in this case.

dscn1720I’ve talked about the whole opulence thing before but I must admit, this castle is quite something and it’s in a perfect setting, with a constant cool breeze coming from the mountains and the waterfalls.  I got my ticket and beat the big lines and got a tour time for 10:05 am.  There are options for transportation to get you to within a 15 minute hike from the castle, but silly me, I chose the 45 minute hike, up.  OK it took me an hour and at the end I wished I had taken the 15 minute option.  I sure worked off that schnitzel and potatoes from last night and probably a couple other meals as well.  I found myself above the castle on Mary’s Bridge (Mariene Brücke) where I had an amazing view of the castle, the meadows below and the waterfall.  From there I hiked down 15 minutes to the castle courtyard where the queue for the tour began.

dscn1694The tour was interesting indeed and I got to meander a little afterward.  OK, so I was kidding in one of my first posts, about how I was in Paris and it was just like being at Disney’s Epcot.  Well this castle had a certain familiarity to it.  It was clearly new and clean, but with an old style.  Sleek and with neat curves.  The interior walls didn’t have many paintings hanging on them, the walls themselves were paintings.  Millions of tiles used for mosaics.  Everything about it made me feel like I was at the castle at the Magic Kingdom at Disneyland.  Apparently, this castle was Mr. Disney’s inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty castle.  The artwork at Disney World is stylized just like the artwork at Neuschwanstein, kind of fake and overly silly looking, like you’d find in a child’s story book.  It was freaky.

Then I tackled the 20-minute uphill hike to the bus for the ride down the hill.  I got off the hill about 12:30 and after that I went back to my secret place to see if my wireless benefactor had gotten up yet.  He had not, oh well.

dscn1787I was just going to head on to Salzburg where I had reservations for the next couple of nights.  While I was looking at the map, I realized how close I was to the Zugspitze, a mountain that I was planning to visit in a week or so.  I had time so I went and got there in about 1.5 hours via Austria and a spectacular drive it was.  Hopped on the gondola and up to the top I went to an altitude of 9,718 feet.  Just after clearing the first tower on the way up, there was a bit of drop, near weightlessness for a couple of seconds, some swinging, and some concern and uncertainty, in that order.  Everyone else shared the sentiment with oohs and ahhs that got louder until the car settled down.

It was a little cool up there and breezy too.  Actually, it was below freezing and the wind was howling furiously.  I almost lost my day pack right off my shoulders a couple of times.  Lot’s of gray and black clouds, some that were below us.  It was pretty wicked at the top, miserable actually and yet magnificent.  I could see peaks in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.  I saw crazy people climbing at the top and other crazy people at lower altitudes riding bikes, in the direction of up.  There is a large facility at the top with restaurants, a small museum, backpacker’s hut, etc.  I marveled more at that I think more than all the other.  The engineering to create such a habitable facility in such an inhospitable environment is remarkable.  I came down from the mountain at 3:30 and warmed up.  After another uphill hike back to my car, I turned on the AC to cool down.  As I drove off the mountain, I came upon a postcard scene; horses on the farm with a mountain backdrop.
dscn1838

I headed for Salzburg and used the Autobahn to make the trip in 2.5 hours.  I rang the hostel while still in Germany to let them know I’d be arriving after 6:00 (which they appreciate) and to ask if they could give me directions.  I figured what the hay, it’s been challenging at best finding these places, couldn’t hurt.  The guy gave me what sounded like decent directions, I didn’t even write them down, because you know, I was driving.  Well lo and behold, I drove straight to the hostel, no worries, no fuss.  Glory be, what a treat.  And I arrived at the Salzburg Youth & Family Guesthouse Hostel right at 6:00.

Once settled in my bunk, I headed downstairs with my little toy computer to finish posting the past couple of days and to write today’s entry.  I’m sitting in the lounge/bar/hang out area with something cold to drink, I’ll give you one guess.

This is Sound Of Music country.  Oh my gosh, I just started this paragraph and I was trying to think of something clever to say about Sound Of Music and being here in Salzburg, and no kidding, the behind the reception desk girl just turned on the big screen TV and it’s playing the Sound Of Music.  How ’bout that.  Someone just told me they play it every night.  A bunch of people just migrated close by to watch.  I looked around and it’s all girls and one guy.

Well, it took me over three hours to write that last paragraph, not sure why.  Kurt really is incorrigible though.


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