Like a Fairytale
When leaving the metropolis, there’s an aura that gets deeper while we follow the romantic route. The castle’s road leads us to Neuschwanstein, Herrenchiemsee and Linderhof, “jewels of the crown” of Ludwig II’s vision, the king that died trying to make his dreams come true.
But the mysteries don’t end up here. We keep on searching across the woods of the Black Forest, a region with such density that the light barely passes through the trees. Book your flight and come find out a trully magical place.
“München Mag Dich!”
Munich loves you: the cities’ motto is palpable wherever you’re going. People share the same long tables, drinking beer in the company of a perfect stranger. You can feel the gemǖtlichkeit in the air: that untranslatable adjective that means something like cosy and good-natured people.
And that’s the way the city open its arms to receive six million people every year to enjoy Oktoberfest, a 16-day long festival that takes place between the end of September and the beginning of October.
Not only is it one of the world’s greatest celebrations, it’s also an important part of the traditional Bavarian folklore.The beer served here is specially made for the occasion: darker and stronger than usual.
The first pint belongs to the prime minister of Bavaria, who shouts: “O’ zapft is!” — Let the celebrations begin!
Being one of the headquarters of Germany’s automotive industry, the city has also a great legacy in architecture. From exuberant baroque-style churches and palaces, to big neoclassical monuments from the reign of Ludwig I, who wanted Munich to become a “new Athens”.
The old official residences of kings and governors of Bavaria are mandatory stops. Residenzmuseum, placed right in the city’s centre, is the largest urban palace in Germany. And there’s also Nymphenburg castle (and gardens), mainly used in the old days as a Summer house.
Then we look for religious landmarks. Bavaria is a deeply catholic region and the highlight goes to the churches of St. Peter and Frauenkirche — one of the city’s postcards, with its recognizable green domes.
As for museums, spend some time discovering Deutsches Museum, the biggest technology and science museum in the world. The Glyptothek is a great archive of Antique art; and Brandhorst displays a collection of modern pieces from 1945 onwards.
At the historical centre, Marienplatz is one of the favourite areas to spend some time walking around art galleries, season fairs and street artists. The noblest areas to shop are between Ludwigstrasse and Maximilianstrasse, where the contrasts between old and new, antique stores and the latest fashion trades, become obvious.
Saying goodbye isn’t easy. Nothing like heading to the English Garden, one of the largest city parks in the world, perfect for a slow walk. Take your time, because after that you’ll certainly want to try the biergärten (literally, “beer gardens” of course) where you’re also find cheese tables, grilled meat and other local delicacies.
We continue our journey towards the palaces hidden behind the Bavarian mountains. The men that dreamt them, Ludwig II, inherited the taste for magnificent pieces from his grandfather, Ludwig I.
During his reign from 1864 to 1886, his extravagant works of architecture almost led the kingdom to bankruptcy. Ludwig was actually declared insane — and deposed and arrested one day before his death.
Unconditionally passionate about Richard Wagner’s music, about poetry and nature, he used those elements to design his three fantasy shelters to escape from reality.
The small town of Füssen is the set of Neuschwanstein castle, literally meaning “the new swan of stone”. It’s not a coincidence if the façade looks familiar to you: it was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Besides a luxurious interior decoration, the cave with small cascades and colourful lights is another special feature. It will give you the illusion of being surrounded by stalactites.
While you’re in the area, a walk around the historical centre of Füssen is also well worth it.
Herrenchiemsee palace is located in Herreninsel, one of the islands of lake Chiemsee. Even though 50 of the 70 rooms remain unfinished, it’s Ludwig II’s most ambitious construction, meant to reproduce the grandiosity of Paris’ Versailles.
The gardens also remind of a miniature Versailles, filled with fountains, statues from a Wagner’s opera and water mirrors. The castle lodges Ludwig II Museum, packed with pompous furniture, old drawings and letters to the king’s favourite composer and close friend.
And last but not the least, Linderhof is the smallest of his megalomaniac buildings. Located at Graswangtal, it’s also the only work finished while the king was still alive.
Behind the castle, a Venus cave was specially made for the private shows of Wagner’s pieces. At the centre of the cave, there’s a gondola-shaped boat that rests in the lake’s waters, with a painted set behind, rococo style.
To celebrate the king’s birthday in August, there’s the “König – Ludwig – Feuer”, a firework show held in the town of Oberammergau. After all, the king’s fascination with myths and legends ended up making him a legend himself.
A forest stuck in time
The Black Forest unfolds across the German southwest just like a fairy tale. Dark and dense woods, crossed by Little Red Riding Hood to reach her grandmother’s house. They’re also the land of towers high enough to keep Rapunzel safe and roads that take you to Sleeping Beauty’s castles.
Many of Grimm’s brothers’ tales from the 19th Century took place right on those woods, accompanied by the margins of Rhine River. Up north, you’ll find the elegant town of Baden-Baden, rich in casinos and great thermal baths to soak away all of your worries.
The Westweg Trail begins in the town of Pforzheim, on northern edge of the Forest, and ends later in Basel, Switzerland, with a mandatory stop in Lake Titisee. Among pine trees, amazing cascades and trails, it’s ideal for a romantic long walk.
And even you’re far enough from the city’s fuss, you won’t loose complete track of time. The cuckoo wooden clock is the region’s ex-libris, made in all shapes and sizes. You must set your clock by the largest cuckoo in the world: with 15 metres high, it sings to the people in Triberg every single hour.
Enjoy this escapade and forget about maps and plans. If you let yourself go, you’ll find villages completely lost in time, that look like straight out of a movie. Freiburg, Lörrach, Stuttgard and Furtwangen are just some of the picturesque cities that definitely deserve a visit. They’re the definite representation of a Bavarian’s fairy tale.