I woke up early on my final day in Prague and headed to the station to board my train to Munich in Germany. Selecting a seat on board my carriage, which formed part of my old Russian mule, I was joined by an elderly German lady and her son who was returning from visiting her daughter. After the normal half and hour of the usual quiet tension with the advice from my English family to “never mention the war”, I managed to strike up an eye opening conversation. What was to come was an amazing six hours of history and different perspectives. This elderly lady told me how she fled to America during World War II to hide from the Nazis and how she had made her new home in America. She then went on to explain how a nation has learned to come to grips with a history that was so violent and unjust. A history that even though she was against, she still felt guilty for. The mother was very gracious and offered me a great lunch of cheese and salads. On arriving into Germany I had a whole new perspective and again, which I have stated many times before, my pre conceived perceptions were wrong. I said goodbye to my fantastic German Mother who gave me her address details in case I ran into any trouble during my journey and headed into the mass of Munich’s main station.
Instantly the atmosphere of Munich was that of a fun and vibrant city entrusted with German values however with an un-German easy going lifestyle. I strolled out of the main station and headed to the Wombats Hostel just across the road. It was a funky hostel with great facilities, in an excellent location and to my likingm had a fat bottomed Aussie animal for its emblem. I spent the remaining evening chilling out in the big beanbags and soaking up the eclectic atmosphere of the hostel.
The next morning I woke up early (not by choice, but from a guy snoring above me who sounded like a launching space shuttle) and headed to the train station to buy a ticket to the Neuschwanstein Castle in Fussen. The train journey took a couple of hours before jumping on board a bus to the village of Hohenschwangau. Once you arrive at this quaint village, head up the hill a short way to buy your ticket for Neuschwanstein. There wasn’t any clear direction to the counter but it’s there. After purchasing my ticket to the castle that inspired Sleeping Beauty’s pad at Disney, I decided in my infinite wisdom to walk to the castle. You’d think I’d learn from my past mistakes wouldn’t you?
The hike was great but strenuous and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who has young kids or to anyone why generally doesn’t like walking. The buses and horse buggies also provide a viable option. My tour of the castle was booked in for a late session, so I continued to hike to the iconic bridge that overlooked this inspiring castle and my breath was taken away. The castle was something out of a fable and I instantly realised that King Ludwig the III really was mad. The castle was whimsical and ornate in detail. The location was set upon a cliff looking over Bavaria with the Alps nestled behind it, reminding me that no matter the splendor of what mankind builds, nature is always superior.
Once I got to the suspension bridge I decided I wanted more and again my lack of judgment led the way. I decided to climb up the side of the cliff, which if I was to fall would certainly mean my death. However the view from the top was nothing like I had even seen. Lakes surrounded by mountains, snow capped peaks, fresh water lakes and distant lands that time had forgotten. I stood upon the cliff’s edge and just shouted till the air left my lungs. It was a moment of realisation that I had finally made it on my journeys. A moment that nothing mattered, not careers, money, war, conflict – just the fact that this was what travelling is all about – that feeling when you get somewhere that is important to you.
After this amazing climb I headed for the castle to complete my tour. The interior of the castle itself was impressive, with swan ornaments lining tap handles to opulent artworks lining the castle’s walls. However it was all let down by the tour with the rather lackluster guide droning on, with her spiel sounding like it came straight out of a guide book. Which is a pity because this castle could of been presented in a really exciting manner. I could see in my tour guide’s disdained eyes that she felt it was a sacrilege that tourists were pouncing their way around this cultural and historical wonder. The rest of the afternoon was spent searching the various alleyways of Fussen before boarding my train back to Munich. What an amazing start to my time in Germany and I knew that tomorrow wouldn’t be any different.