Saturday, February 16, 2008

Our Trip to Garmisch-Parkenkirchen - part 3

Thursday morning Brian went snowboarding down the Alpspitze mountain - the second highest mountain in the Zugspitze range. He took cable car up the mountain and he said it took him 2 1/2 hours just to snowboard back down! The mountain is huge and the runs are long. He said that hardly anybody fell while skiing or boarding, which was very unlike our ski trip to Lake Tahoe 3 years ago. We saw people falling all over the place (including ourselves). Everyone who skis or snowboards here is quite experienced. Brian said he had a great time but it was quite a workout for him. Unfortunately we don't have any pictures of it because he forgot to bring his small cybershot camera with him on the trip and my camera is too bulky to snowboard with.

While Brian was snowboarding, Luke and I were getting ready for our day. After Luke's nap, all three of us headed to Fussen, Germany.

The Romantic Road of Bavaria ends in Fussen. Fussen is 3 miles from the Austrian border and is home to two of Germany's most famous castles, the Neuschwanstein and the Hohenschwangau. Fussen is also home to the "Hohen Schloss" or the High Castle. The High Castle is the former summer residence of the prince bishops of Augsburg and is one of the finest late-Gothic castles in Bavaria. Below the castle is the Baroque complex of the former Benedictine monestary of St. Mang, whose history goes back to the 9th century. We spent our afternoon of Fussen walking the cobblestone roads past all the shops, eating wurst (sausage) and kraut and browsing the cuckoo clocks, painted eggs and steins. I was able to walk around the High Castle complex, through the grounds and up into the castle courtyard. (Pictures below)
It was so neat to see and imagine what it was like hundreds of years ago. There is a lot of history around the St. Mang monestary so look it up on if you are interested in learning more. I've been reading all about it and the history that is in Bavaria is amazing.

In order to get to Fussen, we had to cross the Austrian border and then pop back in to Germany and cross the Lech river to enter Fussen. Once we crossed the border into Austria we were greeted by the other side of the amazing Zugspitze mountain range and it was amazing. We thought Germany was amazing with it's mountain scapes in the sky but Austria was mind-blowing. We stopped at a little ski resort town and checked out a shop and took a few pictures of the surroundings. We passed a small chapel on the side of the road with 3 crucifixes on the front. We didn't stop to see what exactly the chapel was but I snapped a picture as we passed it. As we drove on we passed mountain after mountain and spotted a historic ruin of a castle on a mountain ledge. We also passed an amazing waterfall with a bridge that crosses over and a bust of King Maxmillian set into the mountain side. We took a picture of the sign by the waterfall and have no idea what it means - I guess we'll have to try to translate. We were welcomed into Fussen by the beautiful site of the sun shining brightly on the High Castle. We drove into town and onto the narrow cobblesone streets (yet again) and found some parking so we could get out and enjoy the city.

We did not get up close to either of the famed castles - both are so high into the mountains that you can only get there by bus, by horse or by hiking. By the time we got to the castles it was late in the day and we didn't think Luke would handle the trip or walking through the castles very well so we settled for pictures from afar. A little history on the castles - King Ludwig II, a king that some called the dream king and others called the mad king, built the famous castle of Neuschwanstein. It was his second fantasy castle that he built and was so excessive that it threatened to bankrupt the kingdom. There are only 15 rooms that you can visit and the rest of the castle lies eerily empty. According to Fodor's Hohenschwangau See It In Germany, "once inside the castle you will appreciate the building's sheer size and understand why it is known as the Fairy-take castle of a Fairy-tale King." In 1886, at the age of 41, Ludwig was declared mentally insane and was found days later drowned in Lake Starnberg on the outskirts of Munich. The Hohenschwangau castle is older and of more importance to Bavarian history than the Neuschwanstein. It dates back to the 14th century. It was in ruins (for 600 years in fact) by the time Ludwig's father, Maximillian purchased it in 1832. It became the childhood summer home of King Ludwig II. A little tidbit of information for you - Disneyworld designed the magic kingdom castle around the Neuschwanstein castle. The first 3 pictures are our pictures taken from far, far below - The Hohenschwanstein is the yellow castle. The second 2 pictures are of the Neuschwanstein taken from (click on them to enlarge).

Fussen was a wonderful Alpine town. And now that I look at all my pictures and remember all the sights we saw, I can't say that Mittenwald was our absolute favorite. We called it a favorite because it was the first old world, brightly colored, old-world charming, village we came upon. Fussen is just as rich with color and charm and even more rich in history, it just isn't as small and quaint. But the cobblestone roads through the old part of town, winding up into the land surrounding the High Castle with the chapel tucked alongside the castle walls, is magical and awe-inspiring. Fussen is a town that I would definitely like to go back to because I feel like we didn't even scratch the surface.

This last picture is of our drive back from Fussen through Austria to Garmisch. The sun was slowly setting and although the town was darkened already, the top of the mountain was still reflecting sunlight.

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