Friday, September 28, 2007
There is so much to write, many photographs to post and several anecdotes to share and I have no idea where to begin. I've decided to start with the pictures as I collected my thoughts .
Munchen was our last port of halt in Germany .The first big city that we visited . After a long journey from Freiburg , it was midnight when we landed. Tired, sleepy, hungry with a hotel in the outskirts ,we tottered our way through as the rains came tumbling down . Morning brought more rains , but that did not dampen our mood .
We were too early for Oktoberfest , but the festive spirit was already in the air. Munich is a city where even a week is too less to get a feel of the city We had a few hours and we felt that we had just flipped through a book . There was history, art, sports, beer to choose from . We chose history and beer . Armed with a map and an umbrella , off we went to walk down the Middle Ages, to get a glimpse of Bavarian way of life .
We started with Marienplatz or Mary's Square ,the city centre which dates back to the 12th century . Bordered by the old and new town halls called Altes Rathaus and Neus Rathaus and the Marien's column in the centre , it was earlier called Schrannen and was once a trade route between countries like Italy and Austria .
We had no tourist guides, nor did we go with any city tour..our doses of history came from local people we met in trains and in hotels and even some on the road who paused to answer most of our queries
In the Middle Ages markets and tournaments were held in this city square. The Glockenspiel in the new city hall was inspired by these tournaments, and draws millions of tourists a year.The "performances" here are quite amazing .
We posed at the Fish Fountain for a picture - I believe this was an erstwhile market and you can get a feel of that today in Viktualienmarkt . Its lively , colourful and full of energy..From ripe red strawberries to bright yellow flowers, this market is a great place to relax. The Frauenkirche or Church of Our Lady is the landmark of Marienplatz, built in the 15th century .Other attractions here are the three city gates, St Peter's church among other monuments .
Walk further and you come to Odeonplatz . a beautiful square bordered by the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshal's Hall), the Italianesque Theatinerkirche and the Hofgarten, a former court garden. From this square the Ludwigstrasse - one of Munich's most monumental streets - leads to the Siegestor, a large triumphal arch.
As we walked towards Hofgarten, looking for the palace, we saw a majestic monument. We stopped by to ask a German how to get to the palace when he smiled at us and said you are right there . We were at the Residenz Palace , home to the Bavarian kings and queens from the 14th century. We were standing at the Festsaalbau , or the banquetting hall .
We were guided to the entrance and the two main areas - the Alte Residenz or the Old Residence and the Konigsbau or the King's tract . There are 135 ornate rooms here filled with roich taopestry and mirrors , including the bedrooms of the king and queen .My favourites are the Hall of Antiquities where there are frescos from the 16th century and the Ancestor's Gallery . There is a treasury as well , which has some unique jewellery and gems along with some statues and sculptures .
It was late evening and it was time to gulp down all that history with some refreshing beer . We had heard about a 16th century beer hall which was set up by Duke Wilhelm V to satisfy his thirst , With just a "X" mark on a map, we went looking for it . we lost our way and when we finally did find it - it was almost like discovering a treasure - what a place ! The less said, the better...Im going to leave you with some pictures- too bad we didnt have some music and beer to serve you as well...
Sunday, September 23, 2007
The train meandered through lush green meadows and dense woodlands . Lakes and streams dotted the landscape , lulling us into a deep sleep . A fairy with a magic wand appeared from nowhere and lo ! we were in land of Red Riding hood . All the characters of Grimm Brothers came alive, but there were no wolves or witches to haunt us . We were in Schwarzwald or the Black Forest . Dark and Dense , with pines and conifers, black is beautiful. Cuckoo clocks, the traditional Bollenhut hats and the sensuous black forest gateau filled with the most delicious cherry schnapps, strawberries , cream and chocolates ...this is where we had landed .
Our journey into the Black Forest started with Freiburg, a pictureque medieval town flanked by the Black Forest mountains. If you are planning for a walk in the clouds or a hike in the mountains, Freiburg is the destination . The town itself is a beauty to behold. According to Wikipedia , the city was founded in the 12th century and I felt that it probably remains just the way it has been ...Like Heidelberg, the old and the new merge - the old town - Augustine platz is quaint and yet bustling..several old monuments, churches, squares dot the town .
The city is filled with Bachle or water that fills the gutters and even small cobbled streets . We followed the sound of water and walked down a narrow alley behind a church and found it gushing .For a moment, I thought that its sewage, but it was crystal clear with no odour . Then one of the shopkeepers corrected me saying that its water from the Black Forest that flows down and its not sewage - apparently its been flowing since the city was founded .
It was late night as we walked to the city centre. We had just had our first meal in the last few days that started with wine and ended with a sumptuous desert . We were doing some window shopping and I was amazed that there were only trams that were allowed into this road. Bright and colourful, these red vehicles added to the beauty of the town . Besides them, there were cyclists all over. Even the trams lugged them . I saw a couple who tied their child's pram to their cycle and ambled along the road.
Could we for a moment stop and imagine a Linking Road in Bandra or the Brigade Road in Bangalore being open only to cyclists, pedestrains and trams or buses ? No cars, bikes, autos ... no noise pollution ..no pollution at all ! No wonder Freiburg , the eco city looks like its set in the middle ages....except for the young students and the modern brands, I thought for a moment, I was in a different world !
And now we wanted to explore the Black Forest . Tourists come here for a week , but for us, it was just a few hours . Unfortunately we just had a dekho ! So, we hopped onto a bus from Freiburg that took us to the cable car (Tal station - Tal means valley )and decided to go up the Schauinsland mountain at 4000 feet high.
Its one the longest and the most beautiful ride that I had ever taken , looking down to see just acres of verdant greenery . As the cable car dipped and soared, kissing conifers and touching flowers , we were breathless taking in the views .This is it ! we were in the famed black forest .The mist clouded our vision, leaving everything hazy and dreamy
And then we decided to go on a trek ourselves into the woods . We were amazed to find the energy among the old who were in their trekking gear . There were several routes , with information at every corner so that amateurs like us could enjoy the black forest without the fear of were wolves .
We wanted more, but there was no time . surprisingly our feet did not cry hoarse -so with the energy we had ,we decided to go to Lake Titisee to enjoy more of the black forest ..We were originally planning to stay there in a farm house, but accomodation was unavailable.
Its a great place to shop, trek, chill - go to one of the spas or a boat ride ...But the weather cried foul...we landed there only to realize it was raining..but whats a holiday if you dont enjoy a bit of rain and shine !
Coming up next- Munich !