the longest castle in the world

Yes, really, this is one castle up on the hill in the small Bavarian town of Burghausen, which lies on the Salzach River on the German-Austrian border.

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A picture of the entire castle obviously required the panorama setting on my camera. This is a view of the castle with the town below it taken from the Austrian side of the Salzach.

My brother and I drove on a cold winter’s day about a year ago from Munich 1.5 hours east to Burghausen. We parked up at the castle. The day was gray and windy – especially up on the hill. After a tour of the castle, we walked down through the town, across the bridge, and the sun came out for a bit.

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Looking down on the Old Town of Burghausen from the castle

Like all real castles, Burg zu Burghausen has a long history, which you can see in the pieced-together look of the castle itself. The first mention of the castle was in the year 1025. The main part of the castle was built in the 14th-15th centuries, in the time period that the Bavarian kings took up residence there, but the oldest fragments of the castle still in existence go back to 1090. Throughout the centuries, the castle was expanded… it had a military defense function in the 16th-18th centuries. Towards the end of the 19th century, the citizens of Burghausen were able to prevent demolition of the castle. The first renovations took place around the turn of the 20th century, and since the 1960s, historical renovations have continually taken place to return some the original character of the castle. Burg zu Burghausen belongs to the Bavarian state and parts of the castle serve as museums and event rooms, while other parts are rented as homes! That’s where I’d want to live if I lived in Burghausen!

 

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Passing through a courtyard to head to the museum area.

There is one main castle and six courtyards strung along the ridge. We walked through the courtyards and toured one part of the main castle, which housed rooms that were set up with furniture along with art galleries.

 

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

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Inside the main courtyard.

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Photo from the roof of the main castle.

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One more view of the main castle from the river bank.

This was a great half-day-trip destination from Munich. On a warmer, sunny day, we would have surely liked to stay longer up at the castle complex and enjoy the views from the courtyards. As it was, though, we had the castle to ourselves!

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bio cult(ure)

Sometimes the simplest, everyday things of life in Germany make me think about cultural differences. Take trash, for instance. One of the things I had to get used to in Germany was separating trash. Paper, compost, metal, green glass, brown glass, white glass, plastic, and all the rest. In my first year here, I had to ask all the time about where to sort things. A tea bag, for instance, has a paper tag and bag, it’s filled with tea, which belongs in the compost, the string might go in the “rest” bin, and the tiny metal staple connecting the tag to the string would go in the metal bin. (This is just theoretical… no, we don’t separate all these tiny parts…)

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We have 4 recycling stations like this within close walking distance from home.

At our apartment now, they only pick up paper, compost, and the rest, so we collect the metal, glass, and plastic all together and carry it to large recycling bins down the street and separate it there.

This everyday practice has become second nature to me, and I think it is representative of a larger cultural phenomenon in Germany: Bio- and Öko-leben. Organic and eco-friendly living. Germany is really green. Continue reading

a day at glentleiten

Drive just an hour south of Munich to the Glentleiten Freilichtmuseum and you go even further back in time… a DSCN6186hundred years or more! The museum is comprised of a large area of land and old Bavarian houses, barns, workshops and mills that have been picked up from their original locations and reconstructed and restored on the museum grounds. It’s a place to learn about the historical life and culture of rural Bavaria. Continue reading

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

conquering the kreisverwaltungsreferat

This is the first post of an informational series: German Bureaucracy Guide — the story of how it worked for me and helpful tips for other Ausländer on the journey.*

Officially a Resident

It is only my 5th day since arriving in Munich, and I am proud to say that I already have my residence permit! This is a great big multi-step bureaucratic hurdle that I crossed in one jump — despite the jet lag — on my first full day here.

After a proper German breakfast (read: long and relaxed), we headed to the Munich Kreisverwaltungsreferat (KVR). This is a local government office that deals with citizens’ issues like drivers licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, IDs, passports, birth and marriage certificates, name changes, elections, and (among many other things) immigration. It is an enormous place!

Our first stop was the Bürgerbüro — the citizen’s office — where you register with the city upon first arrival. We got there late morning and the place was already packed, so we pulled a number and, seeing that we had a while to wait, went next to the Ausländerbehörde — the foreigners’ registration office. We walked up to the counter, told the lady that I was there for a residence permit, she checked over my documents and then told me what we already knew: I needed to register (anmelden) with the city first. Still, she handed me the necessary application form and confirmed that I had all of the needed documents with me.

Back in the Bürgerbehörde, we filled out forms, waited for my number to be called (about 3 hours total), played tic-tac-toe and did some people watching as they were called in and out of the four offices there. I eventually timed the numbers as they ticked by — from 160 to 170 in about 14 minutes — and reckoned it would take at least another hour to get to number 204. We should have brought books to read!

The people watching was interesting though. Continue reading

studienfahrt 2013: study trip to lindau am bodensee

This week we have started our summer semester at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität. Back into action! In the week before, the students at the Collegium Oecumenicum (about 35 of 50 residents) traveled on our study trip to the Bodensee. Bodensee is the lake situated on the border of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. We spent time in all three countries, exploring nice towns and harbors in this beautiful region of the country. Here are pictures and notes about all that we did and saw.

Continue reading