Royal Gardens and Classic Architecture: A Walk Through Munich

For my last day of roaming through Munich, I ventured farther out into the city. I had spent the past few days exploring the area around Marienplatz, and decided I should see more of the city.

So I started my journey the way all journeys should begin: with bratwurst! Who cares that it was still in the morning…bratwurst is amazing any time of the day!

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I loved that there were tons of little parks throughout the city. A perfect place for a bratwurst picnic!

And then I set off to explore! My objective: find the Englischer Garten and the Hofgarten. Along the way, I passed some beautiful architecture-

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The Hofgarten is a beautiful garden in the center of the city in the area surrounding the Residenz Palace. It was originally created in 1613 as part of the palace complex.

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The park is formally laid out around two footpaths that intersect in the center at the Temple of Diana.

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The Temple of Diana, or the hofgartentemple, was designed in 1615 by Heinrich Schön. The temple was built with eight arches from which footpaths lead, dividing the garden into eight sections. The bronze statue on top of the pavilion is the “Tellus Bavarica,” symbolizing the treasures of the Bavarian land – grain, game, water, and salt. It was originally sculpted in the likeness of Diana, the goddess of hunting, in 1594, but was later remodeled into the allegorical figure of Bavaria in 1923.

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Bavarian State Chancellery

Another cool sight you can find in the direction of the Englischer Garten and the Hofgarten is the Victory Gate, built in 1843 to commemorate the bravery of the Bavarian army and its success in the Napoleonic War of liberation. The Victory Gate was largely destroyed during WWII, and when it was rebuilt, a quote by Wilhelm Hausenstein was added to the arch that reads: “Dem Sieg geweiht, vom Krieg zerstört, zum Frieden mahnend,” or in English, “Dedicated to victory, destroyed by war, reminding of peace.”

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The Victory Gate

I did make it to the Englischer Garten, but I wrote about that in another post which you can find here. Getting there took awhile, but I passed through so many beautiful streets on the way that the distance didn’t bother me one bit.

On the way back to my hotel, I took a different path so I could see as much Munich as possible (and thanks to my trusty map, I never got lost).

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Street musicians! Strolling through the incredible streets of Munich was even more enjoyable while listening to the live entertainment found in many plazas and street corners.

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It was super cold out, so I became a frequent customer of Munich Starbucks.

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Seeing the Starbucks sign juxtaposed with the classic statue on the next building over made me laugh. It was a perfect example of the way Munich is a blend of old and new.

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True, I have no idea what most of the buildings are that I photographed. But sometimes it is nice to just wander and enjoy the scenery.

Beer Halls!!

Munich is world famous for its beer. In addition to being the birthplace of Oktoberfest, Munich also boasts lots of lively beer halls, over 200 beer gardens, and 6 major breweries within the city limits. It is pretty much the beer capital of the world. I plan to return to Munich one day to participate in their Oktoberfest celebrations and spend a week doing nothing but drinking beer, but on this particular trip I only had time to visit one beer hall. The Hofbräuhaus is the most well-known of all Munich’s beer halls, which usually  = the most crowded. Though I would’ve loved to see it, as a solo female traveler I wasn’t particularly in the mood to place myself in the epicenter of loud, drunken revelry.

Instead, my journeys brought me to Augustiner Restaurant/Beer Hall, mostly because it is the most conveniently located of the beer halls, in the pedestrian walkway between Karlsplatz and Marienplatz. I passed by it everyday, and finally decided to stop in on my last night in Munich.

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The original Augustiner began brewing beer as early as 1328, and has been serving its mild Edelstoff beer freshly tapped from wooden barrels in this current location since 1885.

I was starving upon arrival though, so I found a seat in the adjoining restaurant and ordered some sausages and sauerkraut. Plus beer of course! All meals are served with a basket of complimentary pretzels. Way better than dinner rolls or bread.

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Pretzels instead of bread? Best restaurant EVER.

 

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Oh delicious heaven on earth…

The restaurant was loud and lively, but in a good way. I would expect nothing less from a beer hall. It soon got really crowded, and I ended up sharing my table with some visitors from somewhere else in Germany who had come to Munich for the Fasching celebrations. I learned that combining small parties into one table when restaurants are crowded is a common practice in Germany. It actually makes a lot of sense to do that, and once I got over the initial culture shock, it was totally cool. They were really friendly, and I told them all about living in LA.

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The food at Augustiner was absolutely delicious, and the beer was really good too!! I generally prefer darker beers, but this one tasted amazing paired with the sausage and sauerkraut. And because it was my last night of vacation, I decided to treat myself to some strudel for dessert. This meal is definitely one of the best I have ever eaten.

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Ok, so my visit to the beer hall was a little less beer, and a lot more food. Drinking a lot at night while traveling alone just didn’t feel very smart. But even if you don’t want to drink (or just don’t like beer), it is still worth going to the Augustiner. There is no better place to eat authentic Bavarian food in true Bavarian fashion!

For hours of operation, directions, a print-out menu and other information, visit their website!

Day Trip to Neuschwanstein Castle

Around 2 hours outside of Munich, nestled in mountains above the town of Schwangau, sits Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle looks like something straight out of a fairy tale (it was even used as the inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World!). With a history as romantic as its location, a trip to Neuschwanstein is perfect for anyone with a love of history, architecture or who has a love of storybook worthy scenery.

To visit Neuschwanstein, I decided to enlist the help of the pros and booked a guided tour through Viator. The tour met up bright and early at Munich Central Station (which was right across the street from my hotel…yes!!). And my goodness it was cold!! Luckily the tour left quickly, and coffee in hand, we all piled onto the warm train and settled in for our 2-hr ride. DSCN1044

2 hours might seem like a long time to sit on a train, but the ride was actually very pleasant. Our tour guide told us stories of Munich, the Wittelsbach Dynasty, King Ludwig II and Neuschwanstein, all while taking in the beautiful scenery of the Alps and southern Germany.

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The Alps!!

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Before I knew it, we had reached the small town of Fussen. From there, we hopped on a bus that took us to Schwangau, where the castle is located.

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Fussen

Upon arrival in Schwangau, we took a lunch break while our tour guide arranged the rest of our journey. Yes, I got more bratwurst and German coke. I had formed a fierce addiction to those wonderful sausages.

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And then the journey continued on foot. We walked through Schwangau, passing by King Ludwig II’s childhood castle of Schloss Hohenschwangau.

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Walking through Schwangau

 

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Schloss Hohenschwangau

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The walk up to Neuschwanstein is pretty fierce, so we each paid a couple euros to take a tram. We stopped at Marienbrucke first, a small bridge stretching across Pollat Gorge that King Maximillian II (King Ludwig II’s father) had built as a birthday present to his mountain-climbing love, Marie. Those with a fear of heights might want to skip this one, as the gorge is a long way down. But the views of Neuschwanstein from the bridge are absolutely incredible, with rolling hills and small villages surrounding this magnificent castle.

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After taking in the panoramic views from the bridge, we continued on foot to the castle. There was still some snow on the ground, and it just added to the magic of the castle.

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Schwangau, with Schloss Hohenschwangau

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As I’m sure you have figured out by now, this tour requires a TON of walking. You’ll definitely be wanting the comfortable shoes for this one.

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Made it to the castle!

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Feel like Disneyland yet?

And then it was time for the guided tour. Neuschwanstein is absolutely gorgeous inside, and the decorative details are incredible. No photography allowed inside the castle though, so I don’t have any pictures of it. They wouldn’t have been able to do it justice anyways.

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“Mad King” Ludwig II was a shy dreamer with a vivid imagination and a tendency to isolate himself. He had visions of grandeur, and identified himself with the kings of the Medieval age. He was obsessed with the idea of a holy kingdom by the Grace of God over which he could rule as a true king, instead of the reality of just being a constitutional monarch with little ruling power. Ludwig II retreated more and more into a fantasy world where he could live the old-world, poetic life he dreamed of. He spent less time in Munich, and sought a residence away from the hustle of city life. He wanted to build his own kingdom where he could be free to live in his world of fantasy, a world in which great kings still existed and resided in ornate and elaborate castles in the countryside.

Ludwig II selected a location near his childhood castle, and began construction of Neuschwanstein in 1866, two years after taking the throne. Ludwig wrote to his good friend Richard Wagner, saying:

“It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin of Hohenschwangau near the Pöllat Gorge in the authentic style of the old German knights’ castles, and I must confess to you that I am looking forward very much to living there one day (in 3 years); there will be several cosy, habitable guest rooms with a splendid view of the noble Säuling, the mountains of Tyrol and far across the plain; you know the revered guest I would like to accommodate there; the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable, a worthy temple for the divine friend who has brought salvation and true blessing to the world. It will also remind you of “Tannhäuser” (Singers’ Hall with a view of the castle in the background), “Lohengrin'” (castle courtyard, open corridor, path to the chapel); this castle will be in every way more beautiful and habitable than Hohenschwangau further down, which is desecrated every year by the prose of my mother; they will take revenge, the desecrated gods, and come to live with Us on the lofty heights, breathing the air of heaven.”

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In reality, the castle construction took much longer than Ludwig II expected, and he was not able to move in until 1884, roughly 20 years after the original plans were drawn.

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The lifestyle Ludwig II was building for himself proved to be in conflict with his duties as head of state. Neuschwanstein and the life Ludwig II lived in it were expensive; far beyond the means of a private king. Foreign banks threatened to seize the property, and Ludwig’s refusal to act rationally about the situation resulted in the government declaring him insane and removing his title and power. He was interned in Berg Palace, and the next day, he was found dead in Lake Starnberg under mysterious circumstances alongside the psychiatrist who had declared him insane. It is thought that he preferred death over returning to reality, and he choose to end his life while still in his world of dreams and illusions. However some people also believe he was murdered, with several witnesses claiming to have seen or heard King Ludwig II be shot and then dumped into the lake. The truth remains a mystery…

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Following the tour, there is a cool gift shop where you can pick up some fun Neuschwanstein souvenirs. I got a hand-blown glass Christmas ornament and some postcard pictures of the castle interior.

But oh the walking has not yet ended. While we were able to take a tram up to the castle, we had to walk all the way back down to Schwangau. Our tour guide told us what time we had to be back in Schwangau to get on the bus, and then permitted us to shop and stroll our way back at our leisure. I stopped at a cute little stand and bought some hot chocolate in a souvenir mug and some German cookies to enjoy during the walk.

And then something magical happened. It started snowing!! I know that is not a big deal to a lot of people, but as a southern Californian, I had never been snowed on before. I had been to the snow of course, but had never actually experienced seeing snow fall. I was beyond excited. Everything about the castle felt like magic, as if Ludwig II was still creating his romantic fantasy world from beyond the grave.

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SNOW!!!!!

Our tour group eventually all made it back to the bus in Schwangau, but some of the group took too long getting there and made us miss the train in Fussen. Thankfully there would be another train along in an hour, but until then, we had to kill some time in Fussen. Which normally would’ve been wonderful, because Fussen is a very pretty town with lots of fun shops and stuff, except for the fact that it was freezing and pouring rain.

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Like I would let that stop me. I still went out and explored anyways. A little rain never hurt anyone (unless you are in an old movie, in which case rain = certain death).

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I appreciated the humor of whoever put this pink shirt on the statue hehe

The train ride back to Munich was decidedly less pleasant than the last ride. I was soggy from wandering in the rain, and the train was super crowded. A lot of people even had to stand, which was a bummer since it was a 2-hr ride.

By the time we made it back to Munich, I was starving, cold, and exhausted, but still mesmerized by the magic of the castle.

For more information on Neuschwanstein Castle, visit their website.