destination: füssen

Füssen gets a lot of tourist traffic because it has the nearest train station to the most popular “fairy tale” castle of crazy King Ludwig II, Schloss Neuschwanstein.

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Schloss Neuschwanstein

To American tourists, the castle is best known as “the Sleeping Beauty Castle,” since it inspired Disney’s designs for the Disneyland princess castle. Neighboring Neuschwanstein is a smaller castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau, built by Ludwig I. Scads of tourists on a whirlwind tour of Europe get off at the station in Füssen, board a bus straight to Schloss Neuschwanstein, visit one or both palaces, then head back to Munich all in a day. I have done the day trip to Neuschwanstein TWICE myself!

According to this news story, in 2013, a record 1.52 million people visited Neuschwanstein! Up to 6,000 people visit daily. I have experienced a wait time of several hours there. Once you get inside the castle though, because it was never completed before Ludwig’s death, there isn’t all that much to see. You only get about a 20 minute tour. In my experience, the guides usher you through at a pretty quick pace, don’t encourage questions or lingering, and before you know it, you’re out of there. So when guests come to visit from abroad, I’m usually not to keen on taking this day trip again.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I visited once, but for me, it isn’t worth the money to go again and again. Anyway, the really spectacular thing about the castle is the view from the outside. It is situated perfectly in the Bavarian Alps above the Alpsee (lake), and walking/hiking around is really a treat.

Since my parents were here in September and wanted to see the castle, we decided to not just do the typical day trip, but to spend a little more time in Füssen and experience more of the town itself and the surrounding area. Continue reading

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deco on a budget

I wrote several weeks ago about the challenges of apartment hunting in Munich and introduced you to our small (very empty, very white) attic apartment. Since moving in at the end of September, we’ve been busy making our place into a (colorful) home. We were lucky to get several major pieces of furniture from family: our dining table, bed, desk, and a cabinet. Julius already had bookshelves, and I brought… basically nothing for the apartment. I came to Germany with three suitcases containing clothes, shoes, two framed pictures, several books, and a couple of small, packable keepsakes. We considered having some larger things shipped from the States, but in the end, decided it wasn’t worth the cost.

So, we still needed a lot of things to make the apartment functional and attractive and cozy! We had wonderful friends and family give us generous monetary gifts for our wedding, so we had a budget, and a long list of things to buy. I think every couple setting up house together for the first time and every family that moves overseas and leaves their possessions back home is probably overwhelmed, even intimidated by their list when they total up all that they need. Where do you begin? And how do you find affordable things?

A few items had to be purchased right away. Our place didn’t have a refrigerator, so we placed an order for one immediately. We also needed a washing machine. eBay.de was the place for these. Both were “buy it now” items (no anxious betting), and the refrigerator shipped as a new item, while the washing machine just had to be picked up in Munich.

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When it comes to Ikea furniture, there’s something satisfying about saying, “We built that!”

Our first big shopping adventure was a trip to Ikea in Eching. We spent several hours on the web site ahead of time, making a list of things we wanted to see in person, and writing down the item numbers for things that we already knew we wanted. We ended up bringing home two shelves, a cabinet, a sofa, a chair… and a ton of little things (trash cans, kitchen items, etc.) Then we got to assemble it all! A second trip to Ikea a few weeks later was in order and we got dressers. They just have everything — even things you don’t know you need — and its all pretty affordable.

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Our updated kitchen cabinets

 

 

We’ve also found deals at our nearby Baumarkt (home improvement store). We got several lamps there on clearance. This is also a good place to buy brooms and mops and buckets and toilet paper holders. We also wanted to paint our kitchen cabinets and got all the necessary supplies and some much-needed advice there!

My favorite place to score deals on home items though is the Flohmarkt (flea market)! Continue reading

oktoberfest nostalgia

The 2014 Oktoberfest has come to an end, and the stats are in!

As reported by Bayerische Rundfunk (BR), this year 6.3 million guests attended and consumed 6.5 million liters of beer, 48 calves and 112 oxen. They smuggled 112,000 mugs out of the tents. There were 2,205 police interventions at the Oktoberfest, but the police seem happy to report that they intervened proactively, which prevented many criminal offenses this year. The Bavarian Red Cross stitched up 700 wounds and treated 600 patients for alcohol poisoning. BR reports that guests traveled to Oktoberfest from all over the world, mostly from Australia, USA and Italy, but also in large numbers from Egypt, Chile, India and South Africa.

Munich residents are breathing a sigh of relief today that the millions of guests have gone home again. It’s hard to play host to that many people for two whole weeks. (It’s also hard to board the subway and have to stand with your nose 5 cm away from someone’s armpit.)

Because we’ve just moved and have been living out of boxes during this time, the last thing we needed was more commotion in our lives. Nevertheless, we were invited to join some friends at Oktoberfest, and we were happy to trade the chaos at home for a different kind of chaos at the Wiesn for one afternoon!

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Greeting the Wiesn last Thursday

Continue reading