Sunday, August 5, 2012

Vegan on Vacation: Germany Part 2 - Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Neuschwanstein...

Now for the much promised next installment of our vacation.

From Munich we went on to Dachau - the concentration camp - which is not a place I wanted to go as I have a very bad reaction to that kind of stuff and felt quite ill, and anxious the entire time we were there. There isn’t much I want to say about it except to say it wasn’t what I expected. Personally I thought it was too clean and sterile and felt too much like a ‘destination.’ However despite it’s upkeep it is overflowing with bad ‘juju’ which only made me feel sicker. I know a lot of different people travel to these sorts of places for a lot of different reasons but I personally wouldn’t recommend it, it’s not a place I would ever want to go again. I felt embarrassed to be there, I felt like a ghoul, and I felt surrounded by ghouls - everyone feasting on the pain, suffering and tragedy of the past. While in Germany I had zero interest in doing anything WW2 related. Germany is such a beautiful country with so much interesting and amazing history that I wanted to explore. I didn’t want anything to do with that one bleak moment in time.

But it was only for the morning, and then we were on to happier things. We traveled to Garmisch-Partenkirchen next, which is and absolutely beautiful town in the Alps. I slept most of the way between Dachau and Garmisch because the experience had sucked all the life out of me, but when I woke up I discovered we were very near, and beautiful soaring mountains were all around us. As I stared out the window I felt exactly as though I were back in British Columbia driving to Harrison Hot Springs, Whistler or Alpine Meadows. The beauty and familiarity of the place hit me like a slap in the face and I felt so strongly that I was indeed home that I could have cried. When we got to the town itself that feeling grew even stronger, I told my husband “I could live here.” he said “You haven’t even seen it yet” and I said “I’ve seen enough to know I could live here.”

Our hotel was lovely. It was connected to a restaurant, the restaurant was in front and you walk through it to the back and outside behind it there is a very nice typically Alpine looking building that housed several rooms. In fact because of this set up, and being able to use an alley access when we went from the rooms to the street it felt almost as though we did live there. Our room had a very large wooden canopy bed which I was also quite excited about.

So we spent time walking around exploring the town. We popped in and out of shops, viewed churches and admired all the amazing glockenspiels. They were simply breathtaking. The carvings on them were so beautiful and intricate. Such delicate work that I couldn’t imagine how much time and energy a person must have to put into one to make it look that incredible. I thought a lot about my Oma and Opa while we were there, particularly my Opa as he’s quite the craftsman himself. During our walk we happened upon a wide, rushing river and some very neat old bridges. I couldn’t tell you what any of them were called because we happened upon them quite by accident, but it was lovely to sit in the meadow and watch the river rushing by. Or sit on the rail of the bridge with our feet danging off looking up at the Alps.

We also took a look round the Olympic Grounds and man I have to tell you, seeing that sort of thing in person is a lot different then seeing it on t.v. On t.v. those ski jumps don’t look all that high or scary, but see them in person and you’ll have a completely new respect for Olympic Skiers and Snowboarders. I think I’d break my neck on even the ‘smallest’ of the slopes.

We also did some hiking in the Alps while we were there, and went through some - unfortunately not all - of the Gorge. The Gorge was fantastic and if I could have carved out a little cave in a wall I would have stayed there forever. Roaring river below full of bright turquoise water, gorgeous mountains above, and numerous waterfalls, what’s not to love?

As far as eating is concerned we didn’t do a lot of it in Garmisch. Actually when we were in Dachau - the town not the camp - we stopped at a very cool Organic Grocery and bought provisions for the ride to Garmisch. So we’d eaten a lot of fruit, and nuts, some amazing baked tofu, and even vegan chocolate pudding. However around 10pm or so we finally stumbled tired and exhausted from hiking into an Italian Pizzeria. As far as I know there are no vegetarian or vegan restaurants in Garmisch, but that doesn’t mean you have to starve. We saw signs for an Indian restaurant, and there are lots of Italian places which are always very veg friendly. In fact the one we stumbled into was quite good, and very accommodating. We ordered a plate of Bruschetta for appetizer minus the cheese. Two large green salads with vinaigrette, and my husband ordered a plate of spaghetti in tomato sauce, while I ordered spaghetti with the best pesto I’ve ever had. The pesto was made with only garlic, olive oil, basil and pine nuts. No cheese!  The staff was very nice and so obliging despite our very late dining hour, and Garmisch was actually our first opportunity to speak in our limited German. Aside from our first day in Munich speaking German hadn’t been necessary up to that point which we both found a little disappointed. I kept telling my husband that I wanted people to speak less English to us, and I finally got that wish in Garmisch where the English speaking population seems to be very little. So I was happy.

Unfortunately I can’t now recall the name of the restaurant. But it did have pizzeria in the name and it was along the main drag. It was lovely and delicious, and we were so very grateful since we were starving after all the walking and hiking. As we were leaving there were some very drunk Germans outside watching the football game and one guy dressed in lederhosen and a funny hat was trying to unlock his bicycle. When he saw us he engaged us in excited drunk shouting, laughing and wild hand gestures. My German’s not near good enough to understand all he was saying especially not at the slurred rapid rate in which he was speaking but I did catch the words Deutschland, Fussball, and Anf├╝hrer. So he was either saying something about Germany being the leader in football - they were winning that night - or he was under the impression that he was the leader of German football, ha...

For dessert we stopped in at an Italian Gelato place where they had quite a selection of sorbet, or fruit ice as we quickly learned they call it there. At first communicating was a bit difficult, we tried speaking German to them but the people working the counter didn’t really understand us. After a moment of confusion we found out that they were Italians not Germans and they found out that we were English not Germans. So we spoke in kind of a strange mix of German, English and a few Italian words. In the end we were able to get what we wanted and we were very happy, the fruit ice was fantastic! If I remember correctly I got Himbeere - or raspberry in English. - My husband got Erdbeere. - Strawberry.

When it came time for breakfast in Garmisch we were fortunate enough to have it included in our hotel, and the spread was quite nice. Lots of bread and fresh fruit and tea. Some pickled vegetables like olives and beets and things of that nature. Some outstanding muesli which I was absolutely over the moon about because I love muesli and there was something a bit novel about eating it in Germany. No soy milk though, but that was okay because I quite enjoyed it dry.

Our next stop on the trip was Neuschwanstein Castle, which is absolutely lovely and like something out of a fairy tale, but oh so touristy. Now that I’ve seen the castle once I’d probably never go again just because of the hoards of tourists all pushing and fighting and pulling and being generally rude. I would however go back to that area. I would have loved to take the time and explore the town, and do some hiking in the mountains there, and swim in the lake if it’s allowed. There were several lakes in the area and many mountains. We did get to do some hiking while we waited for our Castle tour - the only way you can see the castle by the way so make sure you actually plan your visit rather then just show up like we did. - and the hiking was actually my favorite part. It was peaceful and relaxing and it felt good to be out there in nature surrounded by so much outstanding beauty. We hiked a bit on the mountain and a little in the gorge and then we went down to the river and cooled ourselves in the Alpine water. Washing our hot faces and hands and arms and the backs of our necks in the icy water. That was a beautiful moment, sitting on the hot rocks with the lovely blue water rushing by. So refreshing and once we’d had enough we felt ready again for anything.

The castle itself was beautiful and amazing. However as it was never finished and since it wasn’t lived in for very long because poor King Ludwig died there aren’t so very many rooms inside to see. I could probably have spent a lot of time there looking at the intricate paintings and architecture but as you’re on a tour you really only get about 40 minutes. Though our guide was very nice and very knowledgeable and you could tell she had real passion for the history of the castle as well as for the story of King Ludwig. That always makes it entertaining. The thing I found most fascinating about the castle was how modern it is. It was built in the 1800's and for it’s time it was the height of modern. It had a telephone system, and central heating and a very new pristine and modern kitchen. The amenities are so modern in fact it makes you think these things were updated in the 20th century but they weren’t. Also the stories of how difficult it was to build such a castle on such a steep slope back in those days was very interesting.

As for eating since we had a large breakfast at the hotel and still many provisions left over from our jaunt at the organic grocery we didn’t eat at Neuschwanstein. We decided it would be best to hold out and eat at our next destination, but I’ll tell you all about it in the next Vegan on Vacation entry.

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