Get ready for a long post because we spent a fair chunk of time in Germany. Our first stop was Berlin. I'm ashamed to say that I'm very ignorant and uneducated when it comes to world history. Marc did the Berlin wall and other historical points on his own. I joined up for beer hall visits and later on, an interesting graffiti tour.
The vibe in Berlin is quite interesting. There's a lot of graffiti and as we learnt from the tour, it's a form of expression from the street artists. When certain things were explained to us, we could see the hidden statements. There's just a sort of underlying angsty tension throughout the city that gives it a hard edge.
German food appeals to me when I'm in Australia because I don't eat much like it. In Germany though, the rich stodginess soon got tiresome.
Curried sausage and chips
There is only so much sausage and schnitzel you can ingest without turning your stomach. Even Marc was well tired of German food by the end of our time there. Notice that all the food is sort of browny-yellow? The lack of green surely can't be good for the bowels ;).
One thing I didn't get sick of was pretzels. The only pretzels I used to be familiar with was crunchy packet pretzels. German pretzels are big bread knots with a delicious chewy, yeasty, salt-crusted coating. I tried variations with cheese and other things but plain salt was my clear favourite.
We can't cover Germany without talking about beer. We drank a lot of beer. Every place we visited in Germany seemed to have its own brand of beer. It was all pretty good to me! I can't tell my beers apart but I do have ones I like better than others. I did get sick of beer towards the end but I commend my effort.
Marc and I progressed from Berlin to Hamburg. This was almost a two-cities-in-one experience for Marc and myself. Our hotel was at the start of the Reeperbahn, which is the adult strip in Hamburg. There are dirty clubs, adult stores and lots of general seediness. We wandered through but one loop was enough for me.
The other side to Hamburg is its harbour. We explored the waterfront on our own and did a walking tour the next day. I think a good tour guide adds a lot to our experience of a foreign city because previously meaningless sites become 'the most acute angle in a building in the world' or 'the oldest door knob' etc.
Cologne was an obscure stop we decided to take because Marc had some friends there. It's actually a very pleasant looking city with the prevelant site being the Cologne Cathedral. We did a river cruise and also enjoyed some Turkish food with said friends.
The standout for me was our visit to the Lindt Chocolate Museum. Hey, isn't Lindt Chocolate from Switzerland? I still haven't figured it out but I do know the chocolate we created via the DIY stall was delicious!
Everytime someone asked us where we went between Cologne and Munich, Marc would relay that question to me. He still hasn't learnt how to pronounce Garmisch-Partenkirchen whereas I can go one step beyond that; I can even spell it right first time!
Veggie dumplings with creamy cabbage
We spent a couple of nights here with a private tour guide (here) who took us to the top of the Zugspitz and through Partnach Gorge.
The gorge was wild and wonderful to see but it's definitely one of those things that don't translate as well on film. We went through the cave channel on the side and came up over the top on our way back. It's always fun going off the beaten track.
I wasn't going to pass up on one of Germany's most iconic sites: the Neuschwanstein Castle. We did a guided tour through the castle. I'm not normally into that kind of stuff but the furnishings were quite spectacular and the stories about the king were really entertaining. I loved the view from the top of the mountain too.
We passed through a little village for lunch on the way back before checking out the Ettal Abbey. One of my highlights from this trip is the delicious German-style pizza we ate called 'flammkuchen' aka 'tarte flambee'. It's a thin flaky base with cream cheese, bacon and chives on top. Omg so good.
We spent a good 5 nights in Munich in total but spent so much time bouncing off to other locations that we didn't get a good look through Munich city itself. It seemed pretty cool from what we did see.
Freezing water in the English Gardens
The English Gardens are a standout, with icy water channels throughout that at one area, people were even surfing in. We dipped our toes in and boy was the water freezing. I was highly in awe of the people who were wading through. Also, beware nude European sunbathers. They tend to be old and hairly and wholely without self consciousness.
One of the many goofy faces I pulled
One of our excursions out from Munich took us to a skydiving site. Myself, Marc and Garthritis had never been skydiving before and we were pumped (and nervous) to be doing our virgin drops from 4000m. The delay in getting on the plane did nothing to calm nerves although from my end, it didn't really hit me until we were in the plane about to be rolled out
IT WAS AMAZING.
We headed back to Munich with a healthy appetite.
I'll add at this point that Marc and myself hired a car to drive us around in Germany. I definitely wouldn't have been able to handle myself. Marc was shaky enough on the first day that we had many close altercations and my heart got a heavy workout.
This was an unplanned stop that came about from the oddest source. My tandem skydiving instructor asked me if we were going to Ulm for the river festival. I had no idea what he was talking about but through the power of the internet, manage to track it down. We took a train there from Munich.
I thought this festival deserved a mention because it ended up being one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It was so different to anything we have in Australia and frankly, I couldn't see something like this working here. Basically, the whole town of Ulm was shutdown for this event and it became one big party. There was plenty of beer, food, other drinks and random DJs stationed in the streets.
Moreover, the river itself was transformed. I think there's a parade that goes through but we missed it. By the time we got there, it was just clowns who had brought along inflatable boats and buckets and anything else that would float paddling along the water. It was still entertaining to watch and needless to say, we all dropped in for a swim ourselves.