First of all: MERRY CHRISTMAS! HAPPY CHANUKAH! HAPPY NEW YEAR! ETC!
Since they arrived, we have gone on several adventures in the surrounding areas, but the biggest one was our trip down to the Bavarian Alps this past weekend.
Stacy, Lonnie, Madi, and I took off on Friday morning and headed towards two of the most famous castles associated with King Ludwig II; Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. The crowds were way smaller than they were in the Summer, but there were still tour buses parked all over and plenty of people flowing in and out of each castle. Our tour guide for Hohenschwangau was super and I learned some facts from her that I hadn't heard in my previous visits, but our second tour guide was awkward; and since I had visited both castles before, I had a bit of time to day dream and to listen between the lines...
This time while visiting the castles, I started to realize it was maybe a bit odd that Wagner (the famous pianist and composer) spent so much time at Hohenschwangau when Ludwig II was a small boy, only to become the one guest of Neuschwanstein and the motivation for every room in the enormous castle built by King Ludwig once he was older. As the day went on, Madi and I pieced together more and more evidence (the love of swans, the pristine decorating skills, the lack of a wife and kids....) that maybe King Ludwig the II was a bit....well.... fabulous! When we got to Unterammergau that evening, and had finished having fun and stuffing our faces at Gasthaus Stern down the street, Madi and I stayed up reading the only two books we could find in English in our Guest House. Although there were no books about Ludwig II (in English) there was a history of Bavaria and a history of Oberammergau. We didn't find too much interesting information on Ludwig, and instead focused our attention on the Passion Play of Oberammergau that takes place every ten years.
Apparently, back during the plague, Oberammergau locked up the city and had sentries posted in an attempt to keep "the pest" from striking their city in the form of strangers coming and going. Unfortunately, a local man who had been traveling, managed to come into the village from a mountain passageway and then proceeded to die within two days. A huge number of villagers passed away from the plague within two weeks (I want to say the number was between 60 and 80) and so the people got together and made a promise to God that they would make sacrifices of time and money to honor and thank him for his graciousness for the rest of time, if only their city would be spared from more death. Interestingly enough, there were no more victims of the bubonic plague in their city, so every ten years, the town still gets together and puts on the Passion Play in the Passion Theatre (which has been rebuilt over time and now holds about 5,000 spectators). Unfortunately, the next play takes place in 2020, so we won't be able to watch it, but it was still fun to learn about!
Cody met up with us in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Saturday morning and we spent the day walking through fields and hiking up a mountain in an attempt to go see the Partnach Gorge. We tired out before we got to the top, but not before we had a lovely lunch, took a terrifying cable car ride (damn cable cars!), and rode a horse-drawn carriage back down to the Olympic Stadium. After a quick stroll through the Christmas Market, we went home to rest up for the home-made dinner our Guest House owner had offered. We highly recommend staying with Marianne in Unterammergau if you are ever in the area- she was extremely friendly, helpful, and hospitable!
The next morning we got up and went to another one of Ludwig's castles; the only one he finished and one I had not heard of until this visit to the Alps! This castle, Linderhoff, was absolutely spectacular, inside and out. Dare I say it was even more fabulous than the ones we had toured before? As you can see, each room was covered in gold and velvet; there were even more swans, several peacocks (another of his favorite animals), and some rooms featured several pieces from his small porcelain vase collection... The tour guide at this castle/mansion (another wonderful and informative guide) even mentioned that Ludwig had called off his engagement mere months after it was arranged. The evidence had piled up; our dear, favorite King Ludwig just had to have been a homosexual!
I did manage to google this when I got home, and found some answers ! <p.s. we were right!>
While at the castle, we bought a book all about the reign of Ludwig and came to love him even more; and feel sympathy for how awful he was treated by the men who threw him out of office with manipulated paperwork and lies. (I encourage you to look up his story while bored at work!)
After leaving Linderhoff, we meandered to Ettal where we had another delicious German meal and spent some time at the King's Cloister, where we loaded up on liqueur, wine, gluwein, and beer. We played charades and enjoyed our goodies back at the Guest House and eventually went across the street to The Dorfwirt for dinner- even though we were there a bit late, the owners were stupendous and shared an after-dinner shot of schnapps with us, gave us some schnapps to take home, and even handed out postcards! As any trip should, this one ended with fun, food, and drinks- who knew the Alps could be so entertaining!?