European Delivery, April 2002

April 23rd

Tuesday morning we woke up and checked out of our hotel. Our destination was the so-called Cinderella castle Neuschwanstein built by Mad King Ludwig. Its about 75 miles from Munich. We loaded up the car (we had parked it in the parking garage below our hotel, at a fairly reasonable 16 euros for the night). We programmed the town where the castle was (it was the closest that we could enter into the Navigation as we didn't have an address for the castle).

After a short drive through downtown Munich, we reached the autobahn. There are some speed limits on the autobahn, designated by circular signs with a red number shown in them. They are usually in multiples of 20, such as 120kph, 100kph, 80kph, etc. Once you get clear of the city however, the sign that everyone is waiting for, a circle with a grey slash through a white background, denotes that there is no longer a speed limit. At this point, every German's foot goes to the floor. It was pretty fun driving on the autobahn, although we had to take it easy on the car to break in the engine. We weren't on the autobahn that long when the Navigation directed us to take some smaller secondary roads to get to Neuschwanstein. It was a beautiful drive, the skies were clear and the temperature in the 60's. The picture to the left was taken at a rest point off of the Autobahn.

When we reached the castle, we parked (for a small fee) and had some lunch. We fortunate that it was very sunny and a beautiful day. Even then, in the morning that we arrived there was a mist around the base of the castle obscurring its view (as you can see in the side view picture of my wife in the car and the castle is supposed to be in the background, but you can hardly see it). This factor along with the walking involved to get to the castle would make it almost not worth going during anything but a sunny or partially overcast day. So plan accordingly by how the weather will be.

That warning aside, as I said, there is alot of walking required. When we purchased our tickets, we noticed signs warning that handicapped access was limited. Yeah, no shit. Try impossible. More on this later. You can take a long uphill walk to get to the castle or take a bus. We elected to take a bus. Once he had stuffed as many sweaty tourists as he could on this poor bus (we were one of the first on it so we had seats), it became apparent that the bus driver's sole joy in life is to scream up the mountain road to the castle at the absolute handling limits of the bus. I found this entertaining, my wife who doesn't enjoy looking out the window to a sheer drop down the mountainside, did not.

They offer tours in English which we purposely asked for. There were various warnings that tickets could not be refunded nor could you atatend a later tour should you miss yours. What they do not tell you is that AFTER the bus drops you off, you have another 1/4 mile to walk to get to the castle. Door to door service, the bus does not provide. This last walk is via a narrow path, winding steeply up and downhill to the castle. With 5 minutes to get to our tour when the bus dropped us off, we frantically walked/ran to get there, arriving just as everyone in our tour was walking into the castle. My wife was having a mild asthema attack. On the way back along this path, we took the pictures you see to the left.
Remember when I mentioned the lack of handicapped access? Well, if the previously described 1/4 mile, steep uphill and downhill climb didn't put you off, then the endless circular staircases will. We climbed 4 or 5, each with at least 30 steps during the tour. The castle is beautiful though. Although the tour is short (the castle was never completed so there are only so many things to see) it is still well worth seeing. The views out of the windows are amazing. It is sad that crazy King Ludwig was only able to live in it for 10 days before he died. The wall paintings, stonework, and general architecture are truely awesome. King Ludwig definitely knew where to pick a site for a castle also. The views out of the castle windows are stunning. The pictures to the left were taken from the castle windows.

There is also a skinny bridge that was built to span a gorge near the castle. The bridge offers a wonderful view of the castle. However, besides having to walk back uphill and downhill to get to the bus stop (you would have to do this anyway though to catch the bus), you have to take a different path that goes steeply uphill to get to the bridge. Thanksfully it wasn't that long of a walk from the bus stop. However, people with fears of heights should not go to the bridge. It is EXTREMELY high up but afforded me the opportunity to take the excellent pictures you see to the left of the castle.

After the bridge, we took the crazy bus ride back down and got in the car and hit the road. After a mild snag with the Nav we were on our way to Salzbrug (Snoozeburg). The drive was long enough to really enjoy the car and the speeds you can go on the autobahn. We quickly became adjusted to autobahn etiquette. And while driving through Munich (at rush hour, but it wasn't so bad) we saw a beautiful blue M5.

April 24th
Wednesday, was supposed to be the day we did the "Sound of Music" tour. However, the previous night when we arrived, we had discussed it and decided it sounded a little too hokey for us. The clincher was in one of our tour guide books where the guy describing the tour said "If you idea of a good time isn't spending 4 hours on a tour bus singing "Doe a Deer" then this tour probably isn't for you". That was all we needed to hear.

As it turned out, the downtown area had enough cutsie shops to keep us occupied for a while. It was a rainy day anyway, so it was probably best that we didn't do the "Sound of Music" tour. Besides, down by the AltStadt (old town) area is Mozart's house which might be worth seeing.

There isn't much to say about the shops. Touristy stuff and some nice stores with neat things. I spotted a jeweler that had a Breitling watch I wanted. Only 3800 Euros! Yeah, maybe sometime in the future. And it seemed that almost every store was trying to hawk this Mozart liquor. I think it was a chocolate liquor. It has Mozart's head on the label. There was even a small bottle of it in the hotel honor bar! Then we turned our attention to the tour of Mozart's house. We had taken the bus down to the old town which was a fairly short ride. Mozart's house is right down there but back on the other side of the river. It was....o.k. I wouldn't say that others shouldn't go to it, its just there isn't a very cohesive flow to the tour. In fact there is no tour. Its self guided with these annoying audio things you have to hold up to your ear. They speak English and everytime you get within a few feet of one of the transmitters at an exhibit, say a piano, the things start playing the description of that object. But of course they play the description on a loop so you never get there at the exact instant it starts so you have to listen for a while. And like I said the tour just randomly jumps around. Probably the best part of it is a movie shown at the very end of the tour (in English) that runs about 25 minutes. It has a pretty good explanation of what went on in Mozart's life. Then when you exit, it routes you through the gift shop (of course) and they had the biggest selection of Mozart liquor we'd yet seen.

Not far from Mozart's house are some beautiful gardens, part of some old estate I think. We walked there. They were really pretty as you can see from the pictures. There I had my first experience with a public restroom you have to pay for. We had already backtracked halfway to the hotel so we just walked the rest of the way back. The hotel we stayed in was the Renaissance Hotel. Its a block from the main bus terminal so that's a big plus.

Overall, Salzburg was a bit of a snore. My advice would be to skip it and so something else. Go to France or something different. But unless you really want to do the tours in Salzburg, you're not missing much by skipping it.

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