Travels from the Swiss Alps to the home of Germany’s Mad King Ludwig

In May 2010 I decided to leave my job in Australia and travel around the world before moving to the USA. This journey ended up involving travelling in 18 countries on 4 continents (North America, Europe, Asia and Australia) and taking me around the world 1.5 times over a 12 month period! I wrote a number of travel emails from that trip and I thought it would be fun to revisit them with some additional info and photos. The following blog is Part 10 of that journey (Switzerland and a return to Germany).

June 24th, 2010

Hi All

Since my last report I have been pretty busy. Spent the last few days with friends Esther and Urs in Switzerland. We visited a number of places, including Aareschlut (Aare Gorge) a fantastic gorge on the Aare river in the Swiss Alps, saw a wild deer in the woods whilst going past in a train – of course no one believed me (wild animals are pretty rare – a report in the news of a wild bear spotting was major news)!

Aareschlut Switzerland
Aareschlut

Then it was onto Luzern to the Verkehrshaus (Swiss Museum of Transport) – they had this cool building full of historic cars stacked on racks on a wall, you voted for a car and then a robotic elevator would pick it up and bring it down to the floor level – then they would tell you all about it (alas only in German). We had a Lamborghini come down – apparently they used to make tractors, and Lamborghini told Ferrari of a few improvements he could make to his cars….Ferrari advised that perhaps he should make a better car himself…so I guess he did!

Museum of Transport Switzerland
Swiss Museum of Transport
Swiss Museum of Transport
Swiss Museum of Transport
Swiss Museum of Transport

I was based in the Swiss capital Bern and it was good to explore the city again for the first time since 2005. I was pleased to see that they have finally replaced the 1800’s era bear pits with a new big open bear park enclosure with grass and trees along the river, as a result they now have two baby bears – very cute! They were playing, fighting, climbing, running! Oh and watching their dad intently as he got angry and wanted to go inside due to the wet and cold! Fun to watch.

Esther and I went to Basel for a day trip, interesting city with a mix of the old and the new, we went to where 3 countries meetSwitzerland, France and Germany at Dreiländereck (Three Countries’ Corner). I also got into a small amount of trouble from a cashier in a department store restaurant for mixing a chicken dish with potatoes…apparently I should have put the potatoes on a separate plate…they have a very different food system the Swiss (often you pay by weight)…anyway got the potatoes for free!

Now I am in Munich, Germany – last time I was here was way back in 1994, alas I spent my time back then mostly getting drunk at the beer halls, so don’t remember much except the Rathaus (town hall) and glockenspiel….. this time I have been more constructive! I have been to the Deutsches Museum – one of the most important technical museums in the world – a labyrinth of exhibitions – pretty impressive covering everything from physics, aeronautics, astronautics, chemistry, music and photography to textiles!

Munich Rathaus Germany
Munich Rathaus

Wednesday I went to Dachau the first concentration camp set up by the Nazis in 1933 – a sombre place to say the least, they have set up an impressive museum there, but it really hits you when you enter the crematorium and gas chambers. The front gates state “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Brings Freedom) – never a more blatant lie was written – once you entered those gates you were unlikely to ever be freed or seen again.

Dachau Gates Arbeit Macht Frei Germany Concentration Camp
Dachau
Dachau Arbeit Macht Frei
Dachau
Dachau Concentration Camp Germany
Dachau

I watched Germany beat Ghana, whilst getting updates of Australia’s win over Serbia in the soccer world cup – unfortunately all too late as we can not make the finals now – oh well there is always 2014! The Germans are once again going crazy out on the streets – good place to not be!

Today I travelled 2 hours by train to Fussen in Southern Bavaria to visit the fairy tale like Neuschwanstein castle of Mad King Ludwig II – the inspiration for the Disney castle apparently. This is a pretty spectacular place set in the Bavarian Alps. I did a tour inside – the decorations and rooms are all inspired by Wagner operas – quite bizarre, but spectacular – unfortunately you couldn’t take photos inside. From there I went up to a bridge that overlooks the side of the castle from above, then I decided to investigate the possibility of getting the view in all the postcards.

Neuschwanstein Castle Bavarian Alps Germany
Neuschwanstein

I soon discovered that was impossible without a helicopter or climbing equipment! So I climbed higher onto the mountain which provided spectacular views above the castle and into the valleys and lakes below….I kind of got carried away at this point and headed off in what turned out to be over a 2 hour hike to the top of the mountain (Tegelberg – approximately 1800 metres high)! It was a warm day and I did this with 500ml of water – not ideal, but a great hike! Incredible views up there – weather was really good so I enjoyed some cider and a schnitzel meal at a mountain top restaurant and took it all in.  Afterwards I took a cable car down from there, then walked 30 minutes back towards the castle and buses – funny after hiking high mountain trails along cliffs and so on – I end up walking through a farm dodging cows on the path! Spectacular day!

Neuschwanstein Fussen Germany
Neuschwanstein – no not in a helicopter, just really high up on the side of a mountain!

Tomorrow I got Berchtesgaden close to the Austrian border for 2 nights. More awesome scenery to see and I will also visit the “Eagles Nest“.

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