FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Inside Bavaria

Posted in Germany, Munich by folkestonejack on June 6, 2015

The trip was all but over and we had barely seen anything of Munich itself, apart from a trip to the Residenz and Nymphenburg Palace on the day we arrived. To rectify this glaring gap we made an early start on our last day and set off on a wander. Appropriately enough, our first stop was Bavaria, or rather the embodiment of Bavaria in bronze that was unveiled in 1850. It is a huge sculpture and remarkably advanced for its time.

Bavaria

Bavaria

You can climb up the inside of the sculpture and peer out of a few openings in an incredibly tight chamber, reached by the most awkward staircase that I have come across. I was the only one inside at the time of our early morning visit so no-one could witness the indignity of my attempts to clamber and crawl into this space!

It was rather strange being inside the head, a bit like seeing everything from the inside of a jelly mould. The seats at the top have been rather wonderfully designed to look like they are cushioned, though they too are made from bronze. Thankfully the temperatures were not as high as yesterday but it still felt like an oven inside there – what on earth must it be like in the midday sun!?

Our morning then took us on a trail of stunning churches, including St Pauls, the Burgersaal, St Michaels, the Frauenkirche, the Asamkirche and the Ludwig kirche – all stunning in their own ways. From our last stop we took a combination of metro and S-Bahn to get back to the airport for our late afternoon flight home. An hour’s delay to our flight provided a welcome opportunity for one last radler to toast Bavarian hospitality.

The stunning interior of Kloster Ettal

The stunning interior of Kloster Ettal

I have thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Bavaria and alongside the spectacle of the palaces it has been a pleasure to be delighted by unexpected exhibits (such as the golden model of Trajan’s column in the Residenz Treasury), seduced by the natural beauty of the countryside and wowed by surprising interiors (such as the dome at the Kloster Ettal).
Occasionally it is nice not to have done your homework and find your breath taken away when you least expected it.

It’s astonishing how many wonderful sights are packed into Bavaria and it is no wonder that we barely dented the list of places we wanted to see. I expect we will be back before long!

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The Ludwig II trail

Posted in Füssen, Feldafing, Germany, Munich, Prien am Chiemsee by folkestonejack on June 6, 2015

We hadn’t intended to turn our trip into a Ludwig II pilgrimage, but soon found ourselves gripped by his unusual story and spectacular vision. So, with this in mind, I thought I would wrap up our trip report with a quick run through of our self-guided Ludwig II tour for any souls contemplating a similar endeavour.

Our tour could have been pretty expensive if it wasn’t for the 14 day passes from the Bavarian Department for State Palaces. A pass for two adults came to 44 euros, which compares incredibly favourably to the 127 euro bill we would have faced by paying for all our tickets individually. Children under the age of 18 are also included on this ticket at no extra charge.

Nyphenburg Palace
Ludwig was born on 25 August 1845 at Nymphenburg Palace, in the suburbs of Munich. The palace is easily reached by tram (Straßenbahn 17) and can be toured on a self-guided basis. The Queen’s Bedroom, where Ludwig entered the world, is one of the rooms open to visitors. The palace, park and park buildings are all delightful but the star attraction has to be the Marstall Museum’s collection of royal carriages.

Detail from one of Ludwig Ii's carriages in the Marstall Museum

Detail from one of Ludwig II’s carriages in the Marstall Museum

The Marstall Museum gave us our first glimpse into the world of Ludwig II with some of the most extravagant and ornate carriages and sleighs that can ever have existed. If they still have this effect on us today, how much more astonishing they must have seemed to Ludwig’s subjects in their time – especially with Ludwig’s preference for moonlit excursions!

Hohenschwangau
Ludwig’s childhood summer home was a real surprise to me, as I expected something quite plain and found an altogether more elaborate castle. Maximillian II clearly had a strong artistic vision like his son. It is striking that the two palaces are just a short distance from each other. The castle can be visited on a hectic day trip from Munich or taken at a more leisurely pace with a stay in Füssen. I have written posts about our visit to Hohenschwangau and the pleasures of Füssen covering the practicalities in more detail.

Munich Residenz
The Residenz is a marvellous complex to visit, but the apartment that King Ludwig had fitted out for himself between 1867 and 1869 (in the style of Louis XIV) was destroyed during World War II. Thankfully, many of the moveable items of furniture and decoration were spared and can now be seen in three rooms of the museum at Herrenchiemsee.

Ludwig’s other major construction here, the winter garden, has also long gone. The garden was a 70 metre long glass hall constructed on the roof of the palace, abutting Ludwig’s apartment. It was no ordinary conservatory, presenting a fantastical Indian landscape, complete with a Moorish Kiosk, a lake and a large illustionistic backdrop to extend the setting way beyond the space available. It was dismantled in 1897 but we can still get a good idea of its appearance from surviving photographs and a gondola preserved at the museum at Herrenchiemsee.

Roseninsel
The secluded summer house, known as the ‘Casino’, on Roseninsel (Rose Island) was the only finished building from Maximillian II’s Feldafing Palace project. It doesn’t have the wow factor of the palaces, but it is easy to see why Ludwig II enjoyed this retreat. It’s a little off the well-trodden tourist path in Bavaria but worth a diversion if you have a spare day. I have written posts about our visit to the island with some practical tips.

Linderhof
The modestly sized mansion at Linderhof, tucked away in the shadow of the Ammer mountains, was the only palace that Ludwig II lived to see completed. The palace was built and developed in stages between 1869 and 1885, growing out of the forester’s house constructed by his father Maximilian II. It must have presented a fascinating mix of styles in the early stages, blending the simplicity of an alpine house with splendour worthy of Versailles. All of this changed in 1874 when the alpine styled Royal Lodge was moved and the palace assumed the form that we see today.

The Royal Lodge can still be visited for a small additional charge (free to holders of passes from the Bavarian Department for State Palaces) in the grounds, with a small museum about the history of the palace and park (the text of the displays is only in german, but english language translations handouts are available).

Many of the coach tours that run from Munich offer limited time at the park, so we opted to use public transport instead (a train and two buses in each direction) and this worked out pretty smoothly. I covered our visit in the post Royal refuge in the Ammer mountains with some practical tips drawn from our experience.

Neuschwanstein
My personal highlight of the trail came with the visit to Neuschwanstein Castle. It is one of the most visited sights in Germany and there are plenty of downsides to this, but nothing can detract from the wonderful interior that (in my eyes) exceeds anything else that Ludwig II created. Don’t believe the reviewers who say that it is not worth taking the tour!

Planning your trip in advance is a must here as the ticket queues can be horrendous. Various ticket combinations are available, depending on how you plan to arrange your visit and whether you are aiming to see everything in one day or spread out over a couple of days with a longer stay in Füssen. I covered our visit, with some practical tips, in the post Monument to monarchy

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Herrenchiemsee
Ludwig II’s attempt to recreate Versailles on an island in Bavaria is quite extraordinary (a word that gets used alot on any tour of Ludwig’s palaces!) and delivers some of the most spectacular rooms I have ever seen. The tours may be short but every second in this palace counts.

The opulence of Herrenchiemsee New Palace is in stark contrast to the relative simplicity of the King’s chambers in the Augustinian Monastery (Old Palace), which can be visited with a combination ticket. I summed up our astonished impressions in the blog post Versailles-am-see, though words are quite inadequate to describe this place!

The King’s House on Schachen
One sight that eluded us was the King’s House on Schachen, which is located 1,866 metres up in the Wetterstein mountains. It is difficult to reach at the best of times, as it can only be reached on foot and takes 6 to 7 hours to get there and back!

Whilst we were visiting the area many of the footpaths were closed because of the G7 summit, including those up to the King’s House, but this shouldn’t be a factor in anyone else’s visit! Guided tours are given during the summer months (in German only). The highlight is the upper floor, known as the Turkish Hall, which is a splendid vision of eastern delights.

Berg
Berg Castle, where Ludwig was living at the end of his life, is still home to the Wittlesbach family and not open to the public (indeed, Ludwig’s gothic additions have long since been removed). However, you can see the Votivkapelle (memorial chapel) constructed in his memory and the cross in the Starnberger See marking the spot where Ludwig died in mysterious circumstances on 13th June 1886, aged 40.

We didn’t make it to Berg but it is relatively easy to reach by taking the S-Bahn to Starnberg, followed by a 12 minute ferry crossing.

Michaelskirche
Ludwig was laid to rest in the crypt at the Michaelskirche in Munich on 19th June 1886 (though his heart was placed in an urn at the Gnadenkapelle at Altötting alongside those of his forebears). The crypt can be visited for a couple of euros.

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Surfing in Munich

Posted in Germany, Munich by folkestonejack on June 6, 2015

One of the unexpected pleasures of our trip to Bavaria was the opportunity to see surfing in the most unlikely of locations – Munich city centre.

Summer at the Eisbach

Summer at the Eisbach

Surfing takes place most days on the Eisbach, a man made stretch of river that runs parallel to the Isar, next to the Haus der Kunst. It’s quite easy to spot as you wander along the street as there is usually a large crowd on the bridge watching the action (as well as on either bank). Although the summer is the obvious time to see some surfing here it’s clearly an all year attraction for some surfers – there are plenty of pictures of surfing taking place whilst thick snow covers the riverside!

The appeal of the spot is easy to see – the river forms a standing wave that is about a metre high. Surfers line up on either bank and take it in turns to tackle the shallow, icy waters.

I’m no expert but it looked like a tricky spot to master, particularly as the water masks a series of concrete blocks inserted into the riverbed by the builders. An unlucky fall here can have nasty consequences for bord and body so the inexperienced are generally discouraged from taking their chances – there’s another spot at Floßlände in Thalkirchen where the conditions are better suited to beginners.

A few years back there was a proposal to demolish the wave on safety grounds which generated an incredible surge of opposition from around the world. The plans were dropped and surfing has been officially accepted since 2010.

It is astonishing to think that the tradition of surfing here has already entered its fifth decade, having started in the early 1970s. It is entrancing to watch surfers riding the wave, making their way from side to side, until they accept the inevitable and take the plunge into the icy waters. Long may this brave band of surfers continue entertaining tourists and locals!

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Run Rabbit Run

Posted in Füssen, Germany, Munich by folkestonejack on June 5, 2015

Although my trip to Bavaria was not designed with railway photography in mind, it would have been remiss to have passed up the opportunities that arose on our travels.

Class 218 diesel 467-9 approaches Füssen on 5th June 2015

Class 218 diesel 467-9 approaches Füssen on 5th June 2015

The trips we made to Burghausen and to Füssen just happened to be some of the last places in Germany with a concentration of turns by class 218 diesels, better known as ‘rabbits’ on account of the appearance of their two exhaust funnels. The class was easily spotted at its peak, with 398 built in the main production run between 1971 and 1979, but their use across the network has steadily decreased in recent years. Electrification plans scheduled for the next five years will inevitably reduce this further.

I didn’t come armed with the necessary diagrams which centre around Kempten (taking in Füssen, Munich, Memmingen and Augsburg) and Mühldorf (taking in Munich and Lindau) so I was delighted to see so many on our travels. I was particularly surprised when 218 467-9 turned up at Füssen to propel our service towards Munich, not least because this example has been painted in an attractive livery to promote the Bayern ticket with illustrations of Lindau, Neuchwanstein and the Königssee (whereas most of the class are painted in red).

The rabbits of Bavaria are not yet an endangered species, but it’s marvellous to see and hear these noisy beasts whilst they’re still around.

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Bavaria bound

Posted in Germany, Munich by folkestonejack on June 1, 2015

At the age of eight or nine I went on a trip to Thorpe Park organised by my primary school. If that seems a little strange today, you need to know that Thorpe Park was originally conceived as an educational attraction rather than the thrill-seeker’s theme park of today. Instead of the rides that you would find now, the parkland was packed with recreated historic buildings (representing the ‘Invaders of England’) along with models of some of the world’s most astonishing buildings. The one that caught my eye most of all was Neuschwanstein Castle.

It has taken me a little while to get around to visiting the real thing, but this week I have finally made it to Bavaria armed with a plan to see all three of King Ludwig II’s incredible creations – Linderhof Palace, Herrenchiemsee Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle. In theory this should have been fairly simple to arrange but the threat of a long railway strike and the complications of a security lockdown for the G7 summit at Elmau have made me wonder whether the attempt was doomed before it began!

Thankfully, the industrial dispute was resolved a few days before we travelled out here and a bit of re-planning ensured that we would avoid the travel disruption and demonstrations associated with the G7 summit. Time to start exploring the wonders of Bavaria…

And what of the historic buildings of Thorpe Park? They were largely demolished in 1990, whilst the models survived until the early 2000s. Not much trace remains of the educational park that was unveiled to the public on 24th May 1979 and which so entranced me as a youngster in 1980-81.

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