Otherwise Known As: The Land of Beer and Pretzels and Schnitzel and Castles and Tobogganing At Your Own Risk
Destination: Bavaria, Germany
Date of Travel: November 2010
Travel By: Flight from London to Munich, Rental Car in Germany
Length of Trip: 6 Days, 4 full days of sightseeing
Travellers: a Mom, a Dad, an OlderBoy (age 6), a YoungerBoy (age 2)
Itinerary: Neuschwanstein Castle, Linderhof Palace, Ettal Abbey, Sommerrodelbahn Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Zugspitze, Munich
Base Camp: Although our flight landed in Munich, we took our rental car and drove to Garmisch, which was our base city.
Trip Report: On our first full day of sightseeing, we headed out to Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle is famous for being the inspiration for Cinderella's castle at Disney World. "Mad" King Ludwig II was the one who built it, and he went bankrupt as he tried to build it - it was never fully completed!
Getting up to the castle is an adventure itself: it's on top of a hill, and we had the choice to walk, which takes about 20 minutes, or to pay for a horse-and-carriage ride. We opted to walk, with our 2 year old in a stroller and our 6 year old walking alongside us. It wasn't bad and manageable for all, especially as we distracted the walking child with a game of I Spy. Also, once we get closer to the top, we found some food stands that motivated us to keep going - we got some pipping hot German donuts, delicious!
We toured the castle (which did not take long, since there are not too many rooms built), and then we went across the way to Mary's Bridge to take in another view. This bridge is high up and also very crowded, with adults and children alike. We stayed on long enough to snap a few pictures, but then we all wanted to get off quickly!
View of the castle from the bridge
The next day we headed out to another palace that the Mad King had built, Schloss Linderhof. It was his summer residence and it is supposed to have some very beautiful gardens, but we went in the winter and much of the outside was boarded up. We had a quick tour around the inside - if I recall correctly, the tour was given in German and there were some English handouts to read.
Not far from Linderhof was Ettal Abbey, a beautiful church we stopped to see.
Since I had picked the two destinations in the morning, I handed over the reins to my husband for the afternoon. He had specifically looked up Sommerrodelbahn Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is a summer tobogganing course. My husband and my 6 year old got on together on one toboggan ... and they realized they had complete control of it. As in, once you go down the hill, you better be careful how you handle the brakes, otherwise you will fly off the course - and there are curves! But both of them thought it was fun and they went on five times. (I went on once with my son, but went very slow and held the brakes tightly the whole time. He didn't want to go on with me again after that!)
Going up the hill to start the journey
My son held on the camera during one of the rides. I assure you the screaming was for show.
On our 3rd full day of sightseeing, we took a mountain train up the Zugspitze, which is the highest mountain in Germany. It was covered in snow and there were lots of skiers out, but we were able to rent some sleds on the mountain and have some fun! There is also a glass-walled restaurant on top of the mountain where we sat, had some hot chocolate and soft pretzels, and watched the skiers.
The ski-level is not the highest point of the mountain. To get there, we took a cable car from that point to the very top. The views are breathtaking (and cold!) and at one point you can cross the platform and get from Germany to Austria.
To get back down from the highest point, we skipped the train and took a cable car all the way back. Even though my kids got a little weirded out from walking on a platform on the Zugspitze, they LOVED the cable car ride and my 6 year old was plastered to the front window, watching our descent. (Plus, this way was much faster.)
View from the top. Beautiful and much better than a Gwyneth Paltrow movie of the same name.
The cable car all the way down
On our last full day in Germany, we decided to take the train to Munich for a day trip. (If we had planned this better, we would have driven to Munich and spent the night there, but we had already paid for our lodging in Garmisch.) The train ride was about an hour long and easy. Once in Munich, we headed over to the giant cuckoo clock, the Glockenspiel, for its daily performance at 11 am. It was hard to see the golden bird, but the movement of the other dancing figures were visible. It lasted about 12 minutes.
This cuckoo clock will not fit on your wall.
We went to the Deutsches Museum, which is the world's largest museum of science and technology. We enjoyed looking through everything, and once the kids were getting bored, I pulled out a surprise: underneath the museum is a large kids play area, complete with a water area (be careful, my kids were soaked), building blocks of all shapes and textures, and a giant fire truck right in the middle of the room. The boys were in heaven!
After the museum, we headed up the clock tower for a view of the city. And dinner was at the famous Hofbrauhaus! It was crowded, noisy, full of atmosphere, music, and scantily dressed Bavarian ladies selling soft pretzels the size of your head - in short, it was amazing. There were plenty of kids there around 6 pm, but I probably wouldn't have wanted them there past 8. We had a delicious dinner and took the train home.