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  • Day11

    Mastering the Zipfelbob

    September 14, 2019 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    The pictures say it all - Ian attempts to bobsled down the run. He does very well remaining upright, and incident free for the run. He reported back that he took on quite a bit of snow! Down his shirt front, and in his shoes, we weren’t properly dressed for this activity, but there were people in sandals and skirts giving it a go.Read more

  • Day11

    High on a hill........

    September 14, 2019 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Today we are spending the day with family. My father’s side of the family still live in Germany, and today Anke was our guide along with her daughter Anna. Last year we caught up with Anke’s parents in Hamburg (her father is my dad’s cousin), and her brother Folke and his family but, as Anke lives in the south of Germany, we didn’t get the chance to meet up with her.

    Anke and Anna picked us up from our apartment this morning, and we headed southeast to Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. We drove through several lovely Bavarian villages on our way to Zugspitze. We have been very fortunate with the weather again, as today was sunny and warm, although we knew it would be chillier up on the summit.

    We arrived and parked, and made our way up the mountain in a huge cable car or gondola 🚠. The trip was very quick and smooth. At the top of the mountain we were standing at 2,962 metres above sea level. The facilities are very good, and you have a range of viewing platforms to look at the amazing 400 plus mountain peaks in four countries - Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.

    After checking out the views from all aspects of the viewing platforms - part of which meant we crossed over into Austria - we stopped for lunch at Panorama 2962, where the views were spectacular - possibly the best we will ever have at a restaurant. We had some traditional German fare for lunch, which was delicious and Ian tried a local limited release wheat beer that he thoroughly enjoyed.

    Following lunch, we caught another cable car to Gletscher - down the other side of the mountain. Here we found a small church, more restaurants, more stunning views and a toboggan run. This particular toboggan is called a zipfelbob, and was designed by a Bavarian. Anke, Anna and Ian had a couple of turns. I decided not to as I didn’t want to chance reinjuring myself.

    It was great to spend the day with Anke and Anna we had so much fun up on the mountain, and it was a spectacular place to visit.
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  • Day10

    Neuschwanstein Castle

    September 13, 2019 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    We met up with our tour group at the main train station, a brief walk of about 5 minutes from our apartment. We set off about 9.45am on a coach for the 2 hour drive southwest of Munich into the heart of Bavaria, the land of the happy cows - reputedly the happiest in the world. The Bavarians celebrate their cows at a festival, which happens to be tomorrow. The villages have a parade with some of their cows, and the children make flower garlands for them. No doubt they also drink a lot of beer.

    We also learnt about the tradition and history behind the maypole. Each town has a maypole, and each year a new one is built and painted (white and blue). It also depicts pictures (the tradition began at a time when many people could not read) of all the services available in the town, e.g. butcher, blacksmith, tailor etc. The maypole is prepared in April from a newly cut down tree, and erected in the centre of town on 1 May to celebrate the end of winter and the approaching summer and harvests. There is also a rivalry between villages, where they try and steal each others maypoles, and so it is a carefully kept secret as to where the pole is hidden. If a pole of a rival village is stolen, then the village must provide food and drink to those that stole it, and those that stole it must return it and help the villagers erect it. These Bavarians are a crazy lot. In these villages all houses must be built in the same style, no exceptions.

    Neuschwanstein Castle is very close to the Austrian border, and situated in the lovely town of Hohenschwangau, perched high up on a crag surrounded by gorges. The castle looks quite magical, and it inspired Walt Disney when he designed both the castle in Snow White, as well as the logo for Disney. We were lucky to have a beautiful day - clear blue sky and sunshine, which really added to the castle’s charm. On arrival, we were split into groups, and we were lucky enough to be allocated unto Sarah’s group. We first went off to grab lunch, which we ate on the forefront of lake Alpsee. After lunch, we walked around the area a bit before heading up to the castle.

    Ludwig ll had spent much time in the area as a child and teenager, as his father had built a castle (Schloss Hohenschwangau) in the town as a summer home for the family). Ludwig and his younger brother Otto spent most summers in this area, and his mother loved tracking through the surrounding alps, not a common practice for a queen in the 1800,s.

    Ludwig II was known as the fairytale king, the Swan King and the mad king, but he was loved by his subjects. He ascended to the throne at the ripe old age of 18, after his father died of Cholera. Ludwig had not been close to his father, and so had no real idea of what it meant to be King. His idea of a King was based on how they had ruled in Medieval times, which did not work well in the 1860’s as he was a constitutional monarch who had to answer to the parliament, and did not have absolute power.

    Ludwig had several passions as a young man - music, painting, poetry, opera and architecture. He formed a close relationship with the German composer Richard Wagner, who was 30+ years older than Ludwig. His favourite opera was Lohengrin by Wagner. He saw it for the first time at the age of 15, and fell in love with the story of tragic love - Wagner’s operas appealed to the king’s fantasy-filled imagination.

    Wagner had a reputation as a political radical and philanderer who was constantly avoiding creditors. He and Ludwig became close, but Wagner’s perceived extravagant and scandalous behaviour in Munich was unsettling for the conservative government, and so he was forced to leave Germany. He settled in Switzerland and was supported by Ludwig from afar.

    Ludwig had homosexual tendencies but, as a devout Catholic, he denied his true feelings, although he did have a number of close friendships with men and he never married (he was engaged to his cousin Sophie but couldn’t go through with the marriage).

    Ludwig became a recluse, avoiding contact with people as much as possible. He was very sensitive and creative and really hated Munich, and so avoided going there at all costs.

    Ludwig built three fairytale castles and had plans for a further four. He had gone into debt personally to build these castles to the tune of 7 million dollars. In fact, he did not get the interior of Neuschwanstein completed - only 6 rooms are complete and we toured them today. They are over the top and ostentatious, and reflect Ludwig’s recession into a world of fantasy and isolation.

    Ludwig was declared mad by the parliament, placed under house arrest and was dead at 40. Mystery surrounds his death. He supposedly drowned in Lake Starnberg, along with the head psychologist who had been instrumental in declaring him mad without having ever examined him (it was all based on information provided by government officials). His death is still a mystery 150 years later. There are a multitude of theories about what happened, but most of them are just pure speculation.

    After touring the furnished rooms of the castle, we decided to walk up to Marienbrücke to get a different (most spectacular) view of the castle. After that, we decided on the recommendation of our guide Sarah to hike down through the Gorge to get back to the bus. This was fantastic, with great views of a waterfall and different aspects of the castle. This took us about 50 minutes, but was worth the effort.

    The other spectacular sight we witnessed today was people paragliding off the alpine mountain situated behind and way above the castle, the weather conditions were perfect.
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  • Day27

    Augustiner Klosterwirt

    January 8 in Germany ⋅ ☁️ 3 °C

    Reading a few blogs on the train, a Canadian woman who moved to Munich 15 years ago described this place as just tourist friendly enough to have an English menu and not be rude that you don't speak German, but authentic enough that the food is excellent and it's full of locals.

    We thought she was bang on - we sat at a table with five Germans and savoured a big heavy meal of beef broth with a dumpling, pork knuckle with cabbage, sauerkraut, beef gravy, a potato dumpling and two skinny sausages, and crispy apple fritters with icecream. I suppose if you've been going since 1328 you get the hang of things. It was the perfect last dinner of the trip, and we rolled home, my electric scooter dying just metres from home.Read more

  • Day10


    January 1 in Germany ⋅ ☀️ 3 °C

    3 nights spent in Munich was a lovely ending to 2 years of living in the UK. We got to explore the parts of Munich that we didn’t have time when at Oktoberfest the year before. We let off firecrackers, ate bulk pretzels caught up with friends and drank beautiful German beer!

  • Day20

    The Eagle's Nest

    June 23, 2018 in Germany ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    As I emerged from the Munich S-Bahn at Marienplatz, I had a feeling of déjà vu. I remembered having been at this exact spot with Mum and Dad during our trip to Germany many, many years ago. We sat outside under an umbrella in the square opposite the famous glockenspiel Clock Tower enjoying a German beer. Mum was so taken with the fine lager glasses that she put two in her handbag and I believe still has them. Munich was busy with Friday night revellers, but I resisted, and had an early night at the comfortable Blauer Bock Hotel nearby.

    This morning I set out on a trip to visit the Eagle’s Nest - part of Hitler’s mountain retreat, the Berghof. After a pleasant train journey from Munich, I arrived at the charming town of Berchtesgaden. From there a bus took us to Obersalzberg location of the now demolished Berghof, which in the 1930s became, surprisingly, the 2nd seat of the Nazi government after Berlin. Then a further specially constructed bus to cope with the steep climb up the mountain to Kehlsteinhaus (The Eagle’s Nest), where, with its panoramic views, Hitler entertained special guests. It is virtually the only building not to have been bombed or demolished, and now serves as a restaurant / bar.

    To reach the summit you had to walk through a long tunnel constructed in 1938 and take a beautiful copper decorated lift to the top. What fabulous 360 degree views over the Bavarian Alps and Lake Konigsee. It is hard to imagine in this idyllic mountain setting that Hitler and his followers made world shattering decisions on war, persecution and genocide.

    I enjoyed bockwurst and potato salad and a cool, German lager in the main reception room, featuring a marble fireplace gifted by Mussolini, although it was a bit unsettling to see photographs of Nazi leaders and dignatories pictured in the same room. The excellent museum Dokumentation Obersalzberg provided a great insight into the Nazi takeover of this hitherto quiet mountain community.

    I did contemplate making the very short train journey over the border to Salzburg, Austria for some pink lemonade. Some light relief in The Sound of Music city would have been welcome. However I headed back to Munich for dinner and to get ready for the next part of my trip - the overnight sleeper train to Hamburg. Another very special day, sobering in part, but with breathtaking scenery.
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  • Jan18

    Day 2

    January 18 in Germany ⋅ ☁️ 4 °C

    The next day I meet Franz for breakfast. He has work today, but time for brot und kaffee before he goes. When I arrive he has a radio for me to take, bread laid out, and three kinds of jam all from his tiny-garden. In Munich, and Germany, there are allotment-gardens: tiny sheds with a garden attached, like a community garden but with more for each participant than a raised bed. The sheds usually have water, or water nearby, electricity and enough room for a couch or equipment (whichever you might need). Franz has a bee-hive, a pear tree, strawberries, and enough time to turn them all into jams for sharing in the winter.

    We chat a bit more. The weather has us both with low energy. It’s my first day in Munich and I plan to explore good weather or not. Franz has set out bretzels, sunflower seed bread, and wheat bread. The jam goes well with the breads, the Kaffee, and the advice Franz has for exploring downtown. “You have lots of time, Munich is small. Don’t worry about seeing it all in one day”. I do worry, but with his advice to go through Schawbing to downtown, where I am to find New Town Hall and Marienplatz, I head out on a bicycle in the rain.

    As I ride downtown I get lost, refuse to ask directions and wind up passing by Schwabing only to double back and check it out – and it’s worth it. There’s a diversity in restaurants – Asian, Mexican, burritos, bratwurst, and everything inbetween is here. The place bustles with activity even though it’s not even 11am yet. I drive my bike downtown until I run into streets shut to cars, and then ride my bike a bit farther before I lock it up under a shelter in a rather large plaza. After a solid look around I realize that New Town Hall is in front of me, and all the people are watching the glockenspiel at New Town Hall play its 11 o’clock tune to the entire square.

    Despite an adventurous spirit and a willingness to learn about a different way of life, I really didn’t learn a bunch about Germany before coming here. I have run into enough people that I have an idea of the culture – everyone I’ve met from Germany is fantastic – yet I know that it’s not a particularly open and inviting culture. Like Nova Scotia everyone is friendly yet difficult to get to know. My lack of knowledge about this place and how to came to be needs resolving, so I load up an audio tour of downtown Munich and hit play, hoping to learn the lay of the land and a bit more about the history of this place.

    The tour takes me on a whirlwind through the city. I know I can hit pause and take my time yet I don’t know what I’m putting off or taking in, and I know I’ll have more days to come, so I rush through it all like I’m doing a drive-by shooting where I can come back later to investigate exactly what just happened. I crash through St. Peter’s Church and avoid walking the tower as it’s still too cloudy for me. I run through Viktoriaplatz where fresh stalls sell farm-fresh produce at high prices next to outdoor cafes and beer gardens still bustling with people despite bad weather on a weekend in January.

    I wander through an iron and glass building with a grocer and restaurants that’s an absolutely stunning piece of architecture before stumbling into Munich’s museum, and the Jewish history museum and synagog. The Munich Museum shop tells me enough that I need to go back and learn more about the Bavarian history of fancy outfits and Pumukles that make Munich so unique. I find children’s books I might actually be able to read with my kinder-deutsch.

    Next up is the Asmoth Church – a church only a few meters wide that looks like it’s made of marble yet actually it’s mostly beautiful facades. Almost every building I pass by is a replica of what it was before WWII, and even the originals are inspired by Italian Architecture as Munich was the Catholic Church’s northernmost stronghold: the frontline of the Roman Catholic Church in the middle of Europe. I don’t know what original Bavarian Architecture is because it’s so entwined with Italy’s architecture – much like the regions.

    I head away from churches for now and wander down a pedestrian street, around a corner or two and past the hunting and game museum with a boar and a troat on guard outside. I keep walking to St. Michael’s church were Mad King Ludwig II is entombed and I have to take a look. Afterward I stumble toward the Frauen Kirk – a cathedral dedicated to Mary that is iconic for the height of the spires and their unique round shape. Next door is a posh mall, the funf “somethingerother” which is a most beautiful covered arcade / mall / shopping centre with 50 ft ceilings and ivy dangling down from the top. It’s a gorgeous dedication to capitalism. I can’t help but purchase a blank notebook from Muji – ostensibly to help with notes as I learn a new language.

    Eventually I find a most-posh grocery store with a fancy café that has a lineup a mile wide. Half the people in the store are tourists, yet the other half are regulars in fur coats and fancy suits looking at prices on produce that match their outfits. The Bavarian Hofbrauhaus is world famous for being a wonderful and bustling brewhouse yet in the early Saturday afternoon it’s dead. Everything I’ve read online tells me the brewhouse is expensive and touristy and everyone should instead go to Augustiner, and that’s where everyone is. I grab a seat with strangers, order a beer, and rest for a bit.

    My tour ends back at Marienplatz after a roundabout look at more architecture and tales of old Bavaria. After a few errands Downtown dark sets in – I leave knowing I still need to find groceries and tomorrow’s breakfast before I can sit down and make dinner.

    Dinner is a simple pasta, made with love and accompanied by a beer. It’s Saturday night and I know there’s a lot going on yet all that’s on my mind is if there’s convenient wifi in a café nearby as the wohnung I’m in doesn’t have it set up. Pretty soon I’ll need to have a meeting or two with Nova Scotia which will be hard to do without wifi. An after dinner walk reveals several spots for wifi – none I expect. Olympia Hall and TUM university have eduraom, free wifi for those who remember their university email – yet neither offer great seating. It’s enough that the internet tells me where the libraries are. Libraries are great in a pinch.

    By then it’s time for home. Google Fit says I’ve overkilled my goal today. My body feels it and when I finally get to bed I sleep hard with only a little jet-lag related wakeup in the middle of the night.
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  • Day1

    Munich - home of beer

    December 4, 2019 in Germany ⋅ ☀️ 2 °C

    Despite impending jet lag - we had an awesome day checking out the sights, smells and sounds of Munich's platz's, beer halls and Christmas markets.

  • Day28


    May 29, 2018 in Germany ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    We’ve had 3 days to explore Munich - beer and pretzels have featured heavily and we’ve had beautiful warm days of close to 30 degrees.

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