The very best day of my trip to Munich was actually spent mostly outside of Munich.
On Saturday, we dressed up in authentic Bavarian dirndls. As I told Andrea, if the the five-year-old version of me had known that I would someday dress up old-fashioned to visit a fairy tale castle, she might have died first of overexcitement.
Andrea borrowed her dad’s car so that we could visit Neuschwanstein Castle, which you may recognize from the children’s movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The drive there was a treat. We passed through some quaint German villages that conformed quite closely to my expectations of quaint German villages. Better yet, I finally got my first glimpse of the Alps that took my breath away. I had seen them from Switzerland and France, but on those occasions, I was, frankly, a bit disappointed. They lacked the grandeur I expected from growing up on The Sound of Music. (First World Problems.)
Germany changed that. The weather was gorgeous, and the scenery was so incredibly beautiful that I could have been in a living postcard.
The hills were definitely alive with the sound of music, so needless to say, I burst into song.
We were disappointed to learn that we wouldn’t be able to tour the castle. It was sold out until the evening, and we had other plans back in the city. (Stay tuned.)
The bus ride up the mount was a challenge for someone as terrified of heights as I am. My knuckles were white as I had daymare visions of the bus rolling out of control down the mountainside, crushing down giant pines along the way. And then we stepped out onto the bridge.
See that tiny thing covered with people a jillion meters in the air?
This is what you saw if you looked down. Andrea took this picture while I was busy hyperventilating.
But this is what you saw if you looked out. I pulled myself together just long enough to take one picture.
That's the original Swan Lake in the background! This picture wasn't so difficult because I was on firm ground, rather than a bridge that groaned under the weight of a jillion tourists.
Neuschwanstein was built—commissioned, rather—by “Mad” King Ludwig II, a really interesting guy, if you ask me. If he were a broad, I’d consider naming a beer after him, so it’s unfortunate for both of us that he was born male.
Ludwig II was coronated at the age of 17 when his father died. He hated kinging, and preferred the company of Bavarian villagers. He married, of course, because kings always do, but popular opinion maintains that he was gay. He was known for having strapping young Bavarian dudes come to the castle under the pretense that their muscles would be drawn for anatomy books.
Like most royals, his life tragic. He wanted to live in a fairy tale, which would explain the fact that he commissioned multiple outrageous castles. In 1886, he was declared insane and deposed. He died the next day under mysterious circumstances—it’s unclear whether he was assassinated or committed suicide.
It’s a sad story, but the happy ending is some badass architecture.
After exploring the castle grounds, we headed back toward München, stopping along the way in Germany’s answer to a roadhouse grille: a biergarten with delightful Bavarian fare. I love Europe.
A mac n' cheesey sort of thing, curry fries, and schnitzel. Pas mal!
We hurried back to the city to catch Swan Lake at the National Opera.
Lemme just say: Natalie Portman, shut up.
I haven’t seen classical ballet since my childhood, so the dance and the music were a tremendous treat. Better yet, we didn’t know when we bought our tickets that the story had been re-choreographed to tell the story of our dear leader Mad King Ludwig II! We felt a bit odd showing up at the gorgeous National Opera House in dirndls until we realized that we were more appropriately dressed than anyone else there!
The parallels in the stories were uncanny, and the ballet was incredible. I like avant garde dance, but it’s possible that I like ballet even more, because I like things that are orderly, and ballet is the most orderly kind of art I’ve ever seen.
Alps, castles in the sky, gay kings, and ballet: that , my friends, is why I’m in love with Bavaria.