Monday, January 26, 2015

Christmas in the Bavarian Alps

After four lovely days of sightseeing in and around Munich, we met our London children and grandchildren. The boys favorite thing is to go to the Bayern Munich sports store as they are big fans. They also cheered for the USA team in the World Cup, but were very excited that their favorite team, Germany, won it all!

Our interesting tour guide in native dress!
They wanted to show us their view of Munich as they visit often when seeing family in Germany. Of course, there were castles and churches on the list. We had actually taken a day trip on the train to see Neuschwanstein Castle which was commissioned as the private refuge for Ludwig II of Bavaria, but opened to the public immediately after his death in 1886.

Neuschwanstein Castle from the observation bridge
Now recognizable as the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle, Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular castles in Europe. The fairytale charm of Neuschwanstein Castle is also felt from the idyllic scenery of the Bavarian Alps. During the winter, some of the best views of the snow-capped mountains can be seen from the palace grounds.

The artwork in the castle was inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner, to whom the king dedicated the canstle, and the corresponding medieval legends from his works. Apparently, Wagner did not appreciate the lavish expenditures and never set foot in the place.

The throne room is magnificently decorated with frescos of angels, ironically the king died before the actual throne was built. Despite the medieval motif of the decor, the castle was actually outfitted with latest technology of the time with running water and central heating.

We had an interesting tour with a history professor who poked a lot of holes in the stories told about Ludwig and this castle in particular. He was insistent on giving on the FACTS! He was both entertaining and somewhat annoying, but made for an interesting day.

Max & Alex at the Medieval Christmas Market 

Katie and the boys took us to the Nymphenurg Palace that was a short walk from where we were staying. The boys enjoyed running in the garden to work off some of their energy and excitement. We did not go into the Palace since they had been there before and were more interested in getting to the Christmas Market and Bayern Munich store. We will visit again the next time we are in Munich.

Nymphenburg Palace, i. e., "Castle of the Nymph", is a Baroque palace in Munich, Bavaria, southern Germany. The palace is the main summer residence of the former rulers of Bavaria of the House of Wittelsbach. The palace, together with its park, is now one of the most famous sights of Munich. The baroque facades comprise an overall width of about 700 meters. Some rooms still show their original  baroque decoration while others were later redesigned in rococo or neoclassical style.

After a two hour train trip from München Hauptbahnhof, we arrived in Oberstdorf in the Bavarian Alps where the kids frequently vacation in summer and winter. The train is a great way to travel with the only challenge being all of the luggage. We have been traveling with four large duffels without wheels (ugh!) and they had ski clothes and Christmas presents in four large roller bags. It was quite humorous to watch us shuttle all the bags off the train, onto the platform, then on to the connecting train, then off again and through the ski village to our chalet! Where is a SkyCap when you need one?

Look who we found walking down the street!
One of the loveliest sights was their Christmas tree. It was small, but fresh with real candles! It made the living room glow. It was fun to be with the boys with the excitement of Santa arriving as we haven't had Christmas with them for several years. The entertained us with the songs they had learned for their Christmas pageant. Alex is quite the ham!

While they skied in Germany and Austria, we enjoyed the village and lunches out. And, of course, the Mulled Wine, called "Glühwein" in German, as it is a traditional and tasty Christmas drink in Germany and the prefect treat for cold winter days. We were enjoying the various German sausages, drinks and hot chocolate! I don't think we could handle it everyday without gaining a lot of weight!

Christmas Eve we attended the local parish church for a beautiful service in German. While we didn't understand the homily at all, Mass is Mass around the world. The church was all aglow with candles and the singing was beautiful. Following the service, the musicians gathered outside and continued to play Christmas carols under a clear crisp starlit night. It was postcard perfect!

Christmas Day it began to snow and snow and snow. About 18" fell within 16 hours and made the village fairy-like. It was time to head off to the sledding hill followed by hot chocolate and lunch. Then we headed back to pack up and catch the late train to Munich airport! Then on to the USA.


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