Thursday, April 9, 2009

More Spring Break

Once again I’m typing up this blog from another train. I’ve decided I really like train travel and the EU rail pass was the way to go for getting around Europe as a college student. Last time I left you we were on our way to Munich. We arrived safely and on time and Brian came and picked us up in his BMW (He works for BMW). He and his wife Destene were more than accommodating and let Scott and I sleep in their little girl’s room. I decided that pink and frilly and loaded with stuffed animals was welcome relief after the Amsterdam bed and breakfast…which ironically didn’t have breakfast. That night Scott was informed that his cousin (whom I don’t know) was killed in a car wreck, I’m not the most sensitive person in the world so he hasn’t talked much about it, but I know that your thoughts and prayers will be greatly appreciated. He has decided that there is nothing he can do about it so we are pressing on and doing what we planned for the rest of spring break.
Anyway, the next morning we got up very early ate some delicious pancakes that Destene made and rode with Brian to the train station (he dropped us off on his way to work). There Emily Scott and I hopped on a train to Fussen then grabbed a bus up to a small village called Hohenschwangau located at the beginning of the German Alps. It was from here that we hiked up to one of the prettiest castles I’ve seen (from the outside…Versailles takes it for interior décor). Castle Neuschwanstein was not actually completed because its owner (who was a lover of swans) was found dead in a lake. His psychiatrist was also found dead floating alongside him. People in power had apparently declared him unfit to rule based on his psychological condition…and then about a week later the two of them turned up dead in a lake, end of story, no one knows what really happened.
This Castle, however, is rumored to be the one Walt Disney designed a castle after…so far we don’t know which one…my vote is sleeping beauty, Emily leaned towards Cinderella and Scott mediated and just said the Disney castle. After seeing the amazing view from the outside of the castle, and some paraglider’s gaining height out over a nearby peak, we got a tour. Honestly, it was one of the worst tours castle tours I’ve been on (just because of length). We saw about five rooms, a few hallways and climbed two staircases. There is so much more to that castle, but they claim it is unfinished we so didn’t tour it. After the tour we hiked up a short path to a bridge and got a few good photos…then not being totally satisfied we climbed up a nearby peak and got some wonderful views from the top. The view was breathtaking and probably one that photos just can’t capture. The temperature was perfect with a light Alps breeze and I was surprised how at home it felt. It wasn’t quite Appalachian, but close. Just before we decided to go back down we discovered a bag in a tree. We got it down to find that it was a Geocache. Geocaching is almost a sport. Basically there are GPS coordinates that GPS owners use to locate Geocaches. Geocaches have inside them (or at least this one did) a journal, a tracking coin, and a knickknack from just about everyone who has found it. We signed the journal and dated it then tossed in a US penny because no one had put one in it yet. There was everything in it already from a bouncy ball to a UK penny to a pencil sharpener. I might take up Geocacheing especially if people have put them in such incredibly pretty places.
Anyway, after the castle and mini hike we caught the bus and train back to downtown Munich and found a beer garden in an area that Brian had recommended. We enjoyed a German beer and German food while the sounds of a street band consisting of a guitar and clarinet came drifting our way. We actually (for the first time) had good service and tipped accordingly (you don’t generally tip in Europe because they build it into the food price and the service is generally lacking because there is no incentive for them to be extra pleasant or quick). The food, was good in an interesting sort of way. After dinner we got on the subway and got a ride back to Brian’s house.
When we got back last night I finally got some internet connection. So far no internet except that in the UK has been on the fast side of the word slow. It took me an hour to upload just a few photos, but it was nice just to be able to use the internet again.
Apparently I slept very well last night because Scott said I was snoring (he roomed with me freshman year and said he hasn’t heard me snore before this trip). We got up this morning to a traditional German breakfast consisting of all sorts of rolls, meats and spreads, a fruit salad was even included. Destene took us to the train station where we said goodbye to Emily and sent her on her way. Then we got dropped off in Dachau where Scott and I toured the concentration camp. The world is so different today that I find it very hard to mentally put myself in the shoes of people who lived and died here during that time. It seems that there has been a huge swing from life being cheap to life being very highly valued (proof = people who have a hard time allowing the death sentence for mass murders or torture of known terrorist organization members). On the way back from Dachau, Scott and I were looking lost in the Dachau train station and this very pleasant old lady named Bridget asked us if we needed help. We said we were trying to get back to Munich and she said that was where she was going and when she realized we were from the states and from South Carolina she got very excited. Apparently, she has a grandson who is living in South Carolina and she was asking us questions about Clemson and Greenville Tech because he’s 19 and figuring out what college to attend and she wants to help. She also told us a great deal about herself and how she had lived in California for a period of time. She was informing us about all of this in her wonderful German accent which sounds very much like my grandma’s (Who has a German background as well and currently lives in Wisconsin). She told us about how she was ten at the end of WW2 and saw horrible things, then she made a statement …something like “in war nobody wins because even the victor looses many young men”. It’s a thought I’ll be taking with me.
She was the first person to really talk about how bad the health care was here in Europe. Apparently she had tooth work done in the USA and when the dentists here (Germany) looked in her mouth they were in awe and had a conference all staring in her mouth. She said a similar thing happened with her granddaughter who couldn’t find anyone to tighten her braces for her so she went to a German University of dentistry where a professor had a herd of his colleagues come stare at her mouth work before figuring out how to tighten it. Bridget was so excited to talk with us that she even got off at our stop and showed us where the information desk was and asked us about the names of Carolina Colleges again before saying goodbye.
Scott and I are currently bound for Interlocken Switzerland. We kind of picked the wrong train…at least we picked the wrong stop to get off of a certain train. We are still on time and the semi mistake actually led to us being able to see some more of Germany. We found time at a station (Stuttgart) to find chocolate, a beautiful German park and a good Bratwurst. Of all of our Spring Break plans I’ve been looking forward to Interlocken the most. If tomorrow’s weather cooperates we will hopefully be able to find a decent hike in the Swiss Alps. So far Scott is (rightfully) scared of hiking with me. I assume this because he’s made comments about not trying to find the biggest, hardest, or most deadly climb Interlocked has to offer (not that I’ve been looking for it, but he knows me pretty well).

I Thought I'd finish this blog while I'm here tonight in the Hostel in Interlaken. So far the area has been very pleasant. Our hostel bar has good wifi and is blaring some excellent 80's rock so it quite enjoyable. Plus the bartender/hostel owner (I think) has been very friendly giving us peanuts and just being all around very service oriented.

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