Friday, February 8, 2013

Vicarious Tourism: Bavaria

While I was in Garmisch I did spend most of my time working (No really! I did!), but I managed to squeeze in some time to experience Bavaria while I was there. My attempt at snowboarding was pretty much a fail, but I found plenty of other ways to occupy my time that did not involve throwing myself down a mountain strapped to a plank of wood.

I spent a good amount of time wandering around in Garmisch, which is just charming. Really, there's no other word for it. They still had all the lights up from Christmas, and everything was so pretty it hardly looked real. I also walked out of town a bit to see Partnach Gorge, which is not charming; it's awe-inspiring. In the winter amazing natural ice sculptures form all over the place. It's like nothing I've ever seen, and I highly recommend taking an afternoon off from skiing to go check it out.

A little farther afield, I took a day trip to Dachau to see the concentration camp, a first for me. This wasn't exactly fun, but it was interesting and worth the trip. The museum was thorough and informative, but compared to the more emotional experience you get at the Holocaust Museum in DC, it seemed a bit sterile. Maybe this is to be expected in Germany, where WWII can still be a bit of an awkward subject.

Another day trip brought me to Neuschwanstein Castle, the fairy-tale castle Walt Disney used as a model for Cinderella's castle in Disney World. Walt probably would have gotten along pretty well with Ludwig II, who built the place. Ludwig definitely had his head in the clouds: he designed the whole castle around Wagner's operas - complete with an artificial grotto on the third floor - and had imaginary guests to dinner. You're not allowed to take pictures of the inside, which is a shame. The castle was never entirely completed, but the rooms that are finished are pretty spectacular.

The closest I got to successful snow sports was sledding. There's a place nearby in Austria that turns a ski slope over to sledders a few nights a week, so I gave that a try. I won't lie - there were a few spills at the beginning while I was working out the steering, but after I worked the kinks out it got awesome fast. It was kind of like Mario Kart, but colder and more intense. I would definitely do that again, though I may need to invest in some goggles next time.

But the very best thing about my time in Bavaria was the food. Oh my god, the food! I had never cared much for German food before - I found it kind of bland and heavy - but once I started eating in Bavaria I didn't want to stop. Dumpling soup! Sauerbraten! Currywurst! Doughnuts! Venison goulash! Spaetzle! Schnitzel! Roast goose! Pretzels! Apfelstrudel! I don't know if the food was just better there or if the elevation does something to your tastebuds, but everything was delicious. And of course, there was plenty of excellent beer to wash it all down. (I took no pictures of any of these things, because I did not want to waste a single second getting them into my mouth.)

All in all, a delightful trip. 

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