Monday, September 04, 2006

"it's a small world after all..."

a quick update, b/c it's fairly late on mon night and i need to meet my boss tmw morning for breakfast before we attend our briefing meetings. today was a fantastic day. i got up extremely early (well, 7:40 - earliest i've gotten up so far on this trip) so i could shower, eat, and check out of my hostel before heading to the train station for my trip to....

schloss neuschwanstein!!

for those of you who've never heard of this castle, you'd probably still recognize pictures of it -- it was the inspiration for sleeping beauty's castle in disney world and is one of the most famous castles in the entire world. read more about it on the wiki.

it was about two-hour train ride out to the city of fussen, which is the base for exploring the castles (neuschwanstein is right next to another famous castle, hohenschwangau, which was built by ludwig II's father). i sat next to an aussie girl named natasha, who was on a five-month post-university trek through europe before resigning herself to finding an engineering job (why is this so common in countries like australia and the UK but so much harder to find in america?) in melbourne. we americans have it so wrong. every time i go abroad i wonder why i don't spend more time out there. there's a whole big world -- why stay in my one little corner all the time?

anyway, the ride was amazing -- the weather was absolutely incredible (again), and the german country scenery was ridiculously picturesque and serene. even the cows seemed different -- they wore real cowbells and seemed more placid than those feisty american heifers (hehe). once we arrived in fussen, we had to take another bus to the town in order to begin our trek. and what a trek it was! the tour guide had said there would be some uphill climbing, which was the understatement of the century. we had a major uphill hike up the mountain and we were all dripping with sweat by the time we got up to the top. it was worth it, though -- we had gone to "mary's bridge," a small iron bridge suspended over a towering gorge that gives you an amazing dead-on view of the castle in all of its splendor. the backdrop of tiny red-roofed houses and blue, blue lakes and huge mountains seemed almost fake, they were so perfect and beautiful. i took about ten million pics, none of which seemed to do the castle justice.

we eventually went inside and toured through the castle. now, i've seen a lot of european castles and it's kind of like eh, once you've seen one castle you've seen them all, which is kind of true. this one, though, had a lot of odd things which befitted all of the odd legends that surround Ludwig II (he was in love with wagner and themed a lot of his rooms after wagnerian opera settings, he only made one toilet in the entire castle, he liked to dine alone but pretend that he was having dinner with louis XIV, so he would have his servants set an extra place for louis XIV) and was completely worth the trip. my favorite part: the tour ended in the souvenir shop, which you had to go through in order to exit. they also don't allow you to take any photographs inside the castle walls, thus encouraging you to purchase postcards so you can remember what you saw. if that isn't american/disney-esque, i don't know what is...

the hike back down the mountain was a lot easier but just as breath-taking, b/c most of the hike was down a small iron pathway that had been built into the stone and passed over the gorge and tons of crystal-clear, ice-cold mountain water. it was truly awesome. then it was back on the train for the two-hour ride back to munich (i was asleep for most of it), back to the hostel to collect my luggage, and off to the work hotel for a quick shower and dinner w/my boss.

tmw's installment: i (finally) do some work! stay tuned...


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