It is time to get the hell out of Munich. Not the city’s fault that a heat wave blasted the place, but we are ready to make like a tree and leave.
We have an appointment with Mr. Hertz for one of his cars at 0700 at the train station. Alarm is set for 0640 (short walk), but by 0600 I am up and tired of trying to sleep. By 0700 we are all at the train station, we get our key, pickup breakfast and lunch from a deli counter and head across the street to get our car.
The plan is to head to a small town in Austria called Lermoos, which is just across the border. Haven’t heard of it? Not shocked…it isn’t on the list of top 10 places to visit in Austria. It is, however, close to the sights/activities we want to see/do which are (in no particular order), Neuschwanstein (the castle), the Zugspitze (a peak), canyoning, hiking and swimming. I found a hotel that seemed too good to be true…half board (breakfast and dinner) for ~70 euros a night. And finally, it is AJ’s birthday; I told him I was getting him a castle.1 We shall see if this pans out.
Back to Munich. We have to get our car, get out of the garage and then out of the city without damaging the car. I requested a small car to better avoid disaster on the narrow streets in the small towns and when we got to our parking spot our chariot awaited–a four wheel drive Ford SUV. Big. Burly. Just what we need. Or not. We get out of the garage, Jan and google get us through the city and we are winging down the autobahn in 20 short minutes. “Winging” means doing 85 max…there was a lot of construction, traffic and did I mention I was in a Ford?
Our first stop is the castle Neuschwanstein and we arrive by 9:30 for a 13:10 tour. The castle was built by Ludwig the second using his own personal funds (shout out to the museum and wikipedia for that factoid), but he died before it was finished. It opened to the public soon after his death, survived both world wars and has been a huge tourist attraction. It was also the inspiration for Mssr. Disney while designing his castle at Disney world. Definitely with a stop. But we are too early, so decide to hike around the lake which should take about 90 minutes. 20 minutes into the hike, Jan comes running back to me, eyes spinning in a crazy way. “RAIN” she exclaims, and sure enough…we are in a sprinkle. With her crazy eyes, she proposes that we IMMEDIATELY head back to the car to get our rain coats and then hike again. Or, I propose, we could just keep going. Since it is only sprinkling, there are breaks in the clouds, we are in a forest, and we aren’t made of sugar, we should be OK. I kept the last part to myself. We continued and didn’t get wet at all.
That is, until we headed up the mountain when it was time for us to go to the castle. We had a choice on how to get to the caste/palace. Either a 10 minute bus ride or 45 minute hike; we are eating too much crap food for a bus ride, so hike it is. When we set off, the clouds have moved in and thunder can be heard. By the time we are 30 minutes into the hike, lightning is striking relatively close, but still no rain. We get to just outside the gates and all hell breaks loose. Torrential rain, small hail, wind. Normally this is all good–means a cold front is moving through, but we have another 300 meters to the castle entrance and no umbrella. Fortunately we are 40 minutes early so we we wait under an overhang for the rain to stop. At the 30 minute mark the rain has NOT stopped, but we need to move to get into the castle for our appointment. So we run like hell, make a wrong turn and end up at the exit, go back the right way, until we got to our destination. The old gatehouse.
Where we are met with a wall of about 500 people all crammed into a very tiny space trying to stay out of the rain–the peasants are trying to break the gates. We are at the back of this mob and we need to be in the front in three minutes. There is absolutely no control or direction, looks like a general admission rock concert in the 80s and we know how that ended up working out. We start asking those around us what time their tour is and they are here for start times after two or three pm. So we start to push ourselves forward, brandishing our tickets like a shield and screaming “1:10–we have a 1:10 start time.” At some point the three of us are separated. I can see AJ gamely fighting through a group of umbrella carrying women, but Jan has disappeared–then I catch a glimpse of her putting a ninja move on a dude who won’t get out of her way. We get to the front of the line at 1:15 for our 1:10, we sprint across the courtyard to the entrance and they let us in. We collect our audio guide, then catch up with our group.
The castle is most excellent. While it looks like a castle, it is really (as AJ pointed out) a palace. An ‘over the top’ palace, even as palaces go (think the Las Vegas of palaces and you get the idea). There is a major restoration of the happening, but that doesn’t take away from anything. We don’t have pictures, because you can’t take any, but if you ever get close, it is worth the trip.
Once complete, we walk out and the weather has cleared and the temperature has dropped at least 20 degrees. We walk down the hill, hop in the chariot and head 45 minutes south to Lermoos, Austria and the Hotel Edelweiss.2
A short aside: There are a couple categories of sleeping establishments that we are staying at during this trip. Broadly they fit into the following categories:
1. Generic business hotel. Mostly in the big cities. Think Hilton, Hyatt, or your favorite chain. The one upside is that they all have air conditioning. Most are close to whatever transportation we need for our trip and these are mostly at the top of the price per night for a hotel.
2. AirBnB. Our filters are ‘our own place’ and ‘washer’ so we can do laundry. We have three of these in cities that seem to have ridiculous hotel prices (Reims, Bayeaux and Helsinki).
3. Cutsey hotel/hosted/BnB with personality. Often these provide breakfast. These tend to be smaller hotels or in smaller towns/cities.
Hotel Edelweiss is one of the latter category. When I booked it online it looked like a small alpine guest house. Maybe 12 rooms I thought. Flower boxes in front. In a random small town in a valley that is surrounded by mountains. The price was right–71 euros per adult and that was half-board! Breakfast AND dinner are included in the price. When I heard the plan was-half board, I was both elated (cheap!) and concerned. What kind of place is this going to be?
Let me tell you, it is freaking awesome. It is a hotel that obviously does the lion’s share of its business in the winter. It looks to have over a hundred rooms, a full sized (nekkid, of course, we are in Europe) sauna, HUGE indoor pools and outdoor pool as well. Stunning views of the mountains (we are looking at the Zugspitze as I type this). Dinner is served in an immaculate dining room and we eat at the same table at both breakfast and dinner with the same server Ikor. Breakfast is a buffet, dinner has a salad and dessert bar, plus a choice of one of four meals, one of which is vegetarian. Our room doesn’t have air conditioning, but does have the breezes from the alps outside and the only sounds we hear at night are the rain falling or the goats bleating. We have found Nirvana. We have our first dinner, head back to the room and the the hotel brings us a Happy Birthday cake for AJ. Most excellent end to the evening.
1 Yes. I lied. Sue me. Jan and AJ’s birthdays are back to back. Pity me.
2 With random unannounced stops on the way which drive AJ absolutely bananas. He thought that when we got in the car we would head straight from point A to B without stopping, but that would defeat the purpose of being on a trip. Each time that we saw something that looked mildly interesting or historic, I whipped the car into a parking spot and hopped out, camera in hand. I call this the ‘grandma Judi’ rule after in memory of my mother. When we would travel across the midwest (or anywhere for that matter), if she saw a sign for an antique place, you could bet we were stopping and checking out what they had. Do you have any idea how many antique shops there are in the midwest? Thousands…and we stopped at them all. I have turned into my mother. Jan gave in years ago, but AJ is still resisting; he sat in the car for the first two or three, but then got into the spirit of things.