Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Germany and England: Munich and London

By Melissa at 4:23 AM
"Huh?" you may be thinking, in what universe do Germany and England go together? Well I'm very behind in writing the blog posts so I'm going to combine two destinations. We also slowed our pace a little and had relatively short visits so, Germany and England together it is!

Germany: June 5 - June 10
We added Germany to our itinerary at the last minute and hadn't done much research, but it was well worth the detour. Our friend Stefanie, who had been living in San Francisco decided to move back to Germany around the same time we departed on our trip and we were excited that we were going to get to see her so soon after we had left. We took a train from Luzern, Switzerland to Munich and the next day took a short ride on a commuter train south to Feldafing, a cute town located on Lake Starnberg where Stefanie lives. Even though this was our first trip to Germany, we decided to limit our travel to Bavaria (a province in Southern Germany) since this is where Stefanie lives and our current itinerary doesn't allow for many more additions without overstaying our visa. We can only stay in Europe (or rather the Schengen Area countries) for a total of 90 days in a 180-day period without getting a special visa for Brian, which is just not practical for our purposes.

Bavaria was even more beautiful than I imagined. We were able to take a nice stroll along Lake Starnberg as well as a driving tour of the different towns around the lake. We were also completely spoiled by both Stefanie and her parents who prepared delicious typical Bavarian breakfast (white sausage, pretzels, mustard, and wheat beer) and dinners for us while we were there.

Typical Bavarian breakfast
From Munich, Germany

From left to right: Beer, Stefanie, Pretzel
From Munich, Germany

The highlight of the trip was our hike on Mount Tegelberg. We took a cable car to the top of the mountain and then embarked on a four-hour hike along the top of the mountain ridge and down into the valley where we got amazing views of Castle Neuschwanstein, the inspiration for several Disney castles. This castle as well as many other buildings in Bavaria were the brain children of the so called Mad King Ludwig. At the time he was viewed as something of a lunatic for spending so much state money building opulent castles and palaces, but of course today these buildings are major tourist destinations, drawing millions of visitors to Bavaria.

Schloss Neuschwanstein from the gondola
From Munich, Germany

The Bavarian Alps from the top of the mountain
From Munich, Germany

Schloss Neuschwanstein
From Munich, Germany

From the valley
From Munich, Germany

After our hike, we visited the Wieskirche (White church), the most significant Baroque church in Bavaria as well as a major pilgrimage site since 1738. While it has all the main elements of Baroque style, it's quite different from the Italian Baroque churches we've seen in that many of the walls are painted white as a backdrop to the richly ornamented column capitals and frescos. The effect is quite stunning and serene.

The organ in Wieskirch
From Munich, Germany

We also had a fabulous day in downtown Munich with Peter, a friend of my sister's who also lives near Munich. A veritable encyclopedia, Peter showed us all the big sites and lesser known finds in Munich. Peter is also an economist, so we were able to have lively conversations to boot (Brian and I both studied economics in college; he as a minor, me as a major).

Fountain at Karlplatz
From Munich, Germany

Rathaus
From Munich, Germany

Lion statues at the end of the Odeonsplatz
From Munich, Germany


London: June 10 - June 16
After our lovely stay in Bavaria we hopped on a short, one and a half hour flight from Munich to London. It was a quick detour from our eastward travel to visit Saurabh, one of Brian's college roommates who now lives there.

We slowed our pace even more when we reached London as both Brian and I started to feel pretty tired. One morning we woke up both feeling like we'd been hit by a truck. Time to take it easy for a few days! But London was a good place to take it easy as we'd been there before and only had a few items left on our agenda. Our friend took us around the city for the first two days we were there, highlights include the Burrow Market and a trip we took to Greenwich, an adorable town just a short train ride from London, and of course the location of Greenwich or Prime Meridian.  After a fun-filled weekend of touring around the city with our friend Saurabh, he had to go back to work and we were on our own during the day to explore the city.

We had fun finding cheap eats around the city. Luckily that was not too hard since our friend lives in an area of East London that is home to a large Bangladeshi community, as well as other immigrants, and plenty of cheap food. We also took a few trips to a nearby Waitrose, my new favorite supermarket. Think Trader Joe's prices with Whole Foods selection. Too bad they are only the UK! We also visited a few of London's many museums, most of which are free. There were a few we hadn't gotten to see last time like the British Library. It is home to the Magna Carta, Gutenberg Bible, original printings of Shakespeares plays and a variety of pages where the song lyrics for several Beatles songs were originally composed. Next up, Vienna!

Couple kissing on Millenium Bridge
From London, England

The Chapel and the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich
From London, England

In the colonnade at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich
From London, England

Big Ben
From London, England