Back when I watched television, I remember a commercial of a person taking a trip from Flagstaff, Arizona to Phoenix, and how they shed their clothes along the way because of the changing weather. On my last day in Europe, I had a similar experience. I took a bunch of trains with many stops along the way from Murren, Switzerland on top of the Alps to Frankfurt, Germany where I took a plane back to Bangkok. I left at 8:30 in the morning wearing all of my warm clothes to hopping back into shorts and a t-shirt by the time I went to bed the next night. I thought I would point out the change as it happened by taking a picture at each one of the stops along the way.
Murren, Switzerland was the highest point, and the coldest. I had to bundle up and crunch across the snow.
We were still pretty high up when we arrived in Grutschlap, but did not have to leave the station as we waited for the cable car to take us down the mountain.
It was still a little cold in Lauterbrunnen because it was early in the morning, but the short wait did not make it feel that cold.
We had made it to Interlaken, Switzerland on a train and felt the constant descent from the valley we had stayed in for the last five days. The snow was still there, but reserved for the far away mountains.
We hopped on another train to Spiez in Switzerland, and we could start to see more blue sky and the need to pull off the coat.
Basel was our last town in Switzerland. We had quite the break there and it was getting really nice.
We reached the outer station of Frankfurt and had to put the coats back on and stick under the safety of shelter because of the rain that had come out of nowhere.
The rains had stopped in the twenty minutes it took us to get to Frankfurt’s main station, but it was still cool outside because the sun had dipped below the horizon.
Even though it was cold outside, I was in Frankfurt Airport, and knew my next stop would be Thailand, so I packed my coat away for the next couple of months. I would not need it where I was going.
It was fun being out in Europe for the Winter Break. Thanks for following along as I got to enjoy the cold weather for a little bit. Never take it for granted because you will miss it when it is gone.
One of my favorite things to do while out on a long vacation that will take me to new and exciting place is to take a picture of the view I can see from my window of the hotel or hostel or Air B+B that I am staying at. It is surprising to see the differences of the places, and I think each place really show what certain places are really like. These are the views from the six place that I stay at.
Bad Windsheim, Germany
This was a really nice Air B+B we stayed at in Bad Windsheim, Germany. It sat above a nice pizzeria, and overlooked other people’s backyards. This feeling of being at home and comfortable in the very private surroundings that describes this quaint Germanic town.
We only spent one night in this town that is most famous for the two big castles that sit on the mountains just outside of town. It was a small little hostel that was very crowded with only two bathrooms that I had to squeeze into if I wanted to use the shower. The building right across the street described the feeling of this place perfectly.
We stayed on the campus of one of the colleges in this town in a hotel chain. It was very comfortable and the staff was great. They had a nice community bar downstairs that many people visited throughout the day, and wherever you looked you saw other guests. The fact that I could look into other people’s rooms demonstrated this fact nicely. I tended to look over the building though at the mountains that surrounded the town.
I was back in the city with this hostel. We had a private room in the place, and it even had a sink in our room which made things a little more comfortable. There were a couple of shared bathrooms, and I could see during a busier time of the year it being a problem, but due to the fact that we were there at the beginning of the holiday after hangover, it wasn’t ever really a problem. I really enjoyed this place even the view could have been a little better, even though what should I have expected while staying in a city but a view of the city.
This was a great hostel and the views were amazing. It had a really nice kitchen and a great patio for each of the rooms. We did not use the patio because it was just a little too chilly, but that was the reason we came out here in the first place. The room was big and the people we shared the place with very friendly even though there were very few of them. It was exactly what it was like exploring this place that has easily become one of my favorite places in the world.
We like to splurge on one place on trips like this, and this was the place that we chose to do it at. The place was right across from the train station, but when you are in a town as small and quant as Murren, this is not something that should cause alarm. We were the only people staying at the place that night as well which made for a fun experience, and one again, the views were just spectacular. It also a a patio, and even though it was cold outside, we took advantage of it, and had a drink while enjoying the moon rise over the mountains.
I was looking for a quiet retreat away from the crowds and the usual tourist insanity on my last day in Munich, and I heard about a mile and half square plot of land right in the middle that in 1789 they built a beautiful park, and called it the English Gardens. It wasn’t that far from my home, and it had the quiet that I was look for.
Basically, it is a series of paths that wind around various rivers with a couple of structures that give people a beautiful view of the whole expanse of green or allow the ducks who hang out here a retreat from all of the dogs that people bring here to stretch their legs. I have seen pictures of the park in the summer months, and it looks like it is the favorite spot of many people, but it does not have as many people during the winter months. There was always somebody to smile to along the path, but it gave me a sense of escape in the middle of a city that is always overrun with people. It is also far enough from city streets, giving the dogs that come here the freedom to run around like a dog park. There were many times during my stroll through here that I was greeted by different dogs that thought I might have a snack or at least a ball to throw.
There is even a little treat in the middle of the park, a beer garden. It is designed off a Buddhist pagoda, and is called the Chinese Beer Garden, but for the most part the food, and beer are the same that you can find at any other beer garden in Bavaria. It was the perfect place to grab a snack and a quick beer before moving on again.
Besides beer and dogs, there are many other things available to do in the park. There were huge stretches of grass that would allow people to play soccer or throw a frisbee around, but the most interesting place came on the edge of the park. One of the rivers that runs through the park’s entry point is under a bridge that causes the water to come out as a series of rapids. People with short surf boards come to this point in the river and take turns showing off their surf moves. It was the one place where the crowds gathered because it wasn’t also a place where the surfers came, but it also a gathered a group of viewers to see these people surf these waves.
The English Gardens of Munich were the perfect place during a warm day in January to come out and visit. It offered enough quiet to feel like I had gotten away from the crowds but still offered enough to make me still feel like a tourist. It made for a really nice day in the middle of this vacation and it would easily be a place I would love to come back to again.
I have never been one to say that you need to learn about history so we never are in danger of repeating the atrocities of the past. It seemed like a pointless way of looking at history because we can’t go in the past and repeat something that is already history. My belief was that you learned about history so you could learn about where a culture has been and where they are now. It is the mistakes and choices a country made that turned it into what it is today. It is a very existential way of looking at history, and I stuck to this belief until I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp on the outskirts of Munich, Germany.
There are a few places in the world that I think everybody should visit at least once in their lifetime, two of the bigger ones being Hiroshima and Auschwitz. Both of these places give you a perspective of the world that you have never had before, and help you understand the extent that humanity will go through to prove that they are right. It makes you wonder what they were thinking at the time, and it gives you hope that society can move forward to a greater place of peace and kindness. Even though I would not put the Dachau Concentration Camp in the same category as the other two, it still allows you to see the world in a new way, and understand how terrible the Holocaust actually was. It adds another piece to the story that a visit to Auschwitz will start.
To start off with Dachau was a place where they detained Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals, but the people that were sent there were not brought there to die. Dachau was used more as a work camp for the thirteen years that it was in operation. It started off as a place where the Nazi party sent political prisoners, and people who spoke out against what was going on in Germany during the 1930s. The conditions were not great while there. They still got packed into dorms that were overcrowded. They were still beaten in inhumane ways in the showers. They were still killed for quick reasons to give the guards reason to hold the rest of the prisoners in fear, and maintain control over the population. They still conducted experiments about the effects of weightlessness, various gasses, and hypothermia, and the survival rate of those they experimented on was small. But the purpose of this sight was not to kill the prisoners, but to use them to help create ammunitions, and build planes for the war effort.
By the end of the war as Germany started to lose the war, and the purpose of the Dachau changed. The prisoners were no longer treated as kindly, and the Nazis were not worried it they died in the process of the harder labor that they had created at the concentration camp. Because of this, they built a whole new building next to the original crematorium that was already on the grounds, and it was used along with the original one to dispose of all the bodies of the recently deceased.
Dachau was the first concentration camp that the Americans had liberated on April 29th, 1945, and even though they knew that there were atrocities taking place in this country, they were not prepared for what they had found. A group of soldiers were given cameras to document the conditions of the camp, and these were the first images that the world saw about what was going on here. The film showed prisoners who were severely underfed, and piles of bodies piled outside the crematorium because of a shortage of coal did not allow the Nazis to dispose of them at that time. It demonstrated how terrible a group of people can be if they are allowed to let their ideology of hate, and nationalism go unchecked.
This brings me to probably the most interesting and disturbing part of the visit to this site. There was a whole room dedicated to the rise of Nazism in the 1930s and how they used the recent economic collapse of Germany to help sell their propaganda. It was disturbing how easily they were allowed to rise to power and which tactics they used in order to do this. They told half truths and used the fear of people not like them to help bring the people together under one dangerous ideology, and it all centered around the importance of the economy and the closing of the borders. There were many of the tactics that were used by the Nazis that are being used by many other leaders around the world as they push their own forms of nationalism. The idea of global cooperation is becoming smaller every year as more countries want to close their borders in order to hold on to an ideal that no longer exists.
Even the symbols if Nazism have been stolen over the last years in order to be used as propaganda to promote these idea of isolation. The gate of Dachau was stolen in 2014, and many people thought that it would never be recovered, but it was later found underneath a tarp in Bergen, Norway and returned to its rightful place. Around the same time the gate to Auschwitz was stolen by a Neo-Nazi organization and was split into three different sections before it was recovered.
It makes places like this even more important and people need to make the pilgrimage to these places so they don’t forget what happened here. It becomes that important lesson from history that I usually do not prescribe to. We need to make sure that these lessons are learned, so like the motto of Dachau, this atrocity will be “Never Again”.
Yesterday, I arrived back in Germany. Culturally, it is not much different than Austria, but I am sure the Germans and the Austrian could tell me the differences. It was actually a good day to travel in Europe. Many of the people were still in their beds from staying up late the night before, and many of the shops did not open because they wanted to give their workers the break that they needed. Even a lot of the restaurants were closed for the day, making it a little difficult to find food, but I was able to find some small snacks at the train station, and a really good Italian restaurant for dinner. Oddly enough, it was also right next to the train station. Even the sights in the city were closed down for the day. I was still able to walk the cobbled stoned path of Munich’s Altstadt but I could only see the sights from the outside. Basically, if there was anything that I wanted to do it had to find it at the train station which made the logical choice of doing something that day, traveling to my next destination.
Train travel in Europe is my favorite way to travel. Throughout all of my experiences of traveling around the world, not many countries have been able to accomplish what this continent has been able to accomplish with its railway system. As long as you can find a way down to a train station, you will be able to find a way to any place in the European Union, with small exceptions from the island countries. The train stations in the larger cities are just like airports with bars, restaurant, book stores, and other various vendors except none of them are as pretentious as the ones you will find in a lot of airports now-a-days. Nobody is going to try to sell you a diamond necklace, or an overpriced bag with a brand name on it that you really don’t care about. Most of the things you can find at a train station are the basics you would need to enjoy your trip on the train.
The trains are really comfortable as well. This is something that other countries try to do, but do not quite achieve this level of comfort. Korea tries to pack as many people as they can on to one train, and other countries make it feel more like an airplane ride rather than a train ride. But in Europe, on the good train, you get enough leg room to spread out a bit, and you get to face the people you are traveling with rather have to sit right next to them. They even put a small table in place where there are four people traveling together so you can share a meal with each other, or play a game of cards. It turns the trains into more of a social affair rather than a quite place where you are being shuttled from one place to another.
I am even comfortable on the trains to fall asleep on them. This is because they have placed you into a relaxed environment that allows you the ease of mind to fall asleep. The clacking of the wheels as they go over the rails also give a nice rhythm that also induces a level of sleep. It makes travel so easy.
There are a lot of reasons that I love traveling this way, and it is part of the reason that I enjoy coming out to Europe so much. It may take a little longer to get from place to place while traveling this way, but the stress level is so much more less, and you feel more in charge of your destination rather than traveling by plane. I would hope that the rest of the world would eventually recognize this because it is part of what makes Europe a great destination. Not the say that other places do not hold the same kind of appeal, but it is those little details that make any trip more memorable.
Imagine this is your childhood home. It sits prominently over the city of some of your father’s most loyal subjects, and this town is the gateway to the rest of the country that he rules over. A lot of the minor inconveniences of life are taken care for you. There is a large kitchen where your food is prepared. Painter adorn your walls with the beautiful artwork of your favorite childhood stories. And when it gets cold, people inside the walls will supply more wood to the stoves that keeps each room warm. You don’t even need to know that they are there because they have their own special way of moving about the castle.
This is even your view from your bedroom window. It overlooks a huge lake, and during the summer months, the sun shines begging you to take a dip in its cool waters. During the winter, it turns into a magical snowy landscape that hints at the fairy tales that you have grown up on. Life is pretty easy. Yes, you have to sit for the occasional portrait, and you are destined for a life of signing papers, and managing a country, but for now, you can search for more intellectual pursuits to enrich your life any way that you can think of. It seems like the life that came at the end of a fairy tale. What could possibly ruin this perfect existence?
This was the life of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. He took over the throne at the age of 19, and two years later engaged in a war with Austria. It lasted only a couple of weeks, and Bavaria lost. His country was finally included into Germany a couple of years later and he was only a king in name afterwards. It was the kind of event that affected a person deeply, and he never wanted to experience that kind of loss again, so he needed to find another way to spend his time.
He still had a lot of money, and he decided to spend it fulfilling his wildest fantasies, mainly building more castles in some of the most idyllic locations he could find in what was once his country. The most famous of these was build right across the valley from his childhood home. He could watch the construction of it from his bedroom window. It would be the perfect retreat where he could add modern conveniences such as electricity and running water, and he could go there to live alone in his misery. This is when he earned the name Mad Kind Ludwig and was clinically diagnosed with depression during this time. This did not stop him from building his fairy tale castle on the hill, and he would have finished if it wasn’t for a couple of things. First, he ran out of money, and he could not pay the workers to finish what he had started. Secondly, he drowned mysteriously at the age of forty. Nobody discovered what had happened, whether is was an accident, suicide, or murder. Either way, the castle was left to be opened to the public, and people could now gawk at the luxury that this mad king had created for himself.
The castle made the small town of Fussen, Germany a tourist destination spot, and many people came there to view that castle, but it did not become the bid tourist destination it is now until a particular man came to view it. He had grown up with the same stories that King Ludwig II had, and had grown in his desire to share these stories with the rest of the world. He had made progress in this arena by animating a couple of movies that enthralled his your audience, but he was looking for a way to bring it even more to life. When he saw this castle, he was inspired in a way that could let the kids not only see these stories, but to become a part of them as well. He too would create a castle just like this one in the United States, and surround it with his Magic Kingdom. It took him a few tries before it took off like the way he wanted, but he was still able to solidify not only in America, but the rest of the world as people now flock to Disneyland and enjoy his version of this castle.
It is strange how inspiration comes from the strangest of places, and creates the legends that we live with today. A losing war, a childhood vision, and a random trip to Germany have made the Nueshwanstein Castle one of the most famous buildings in the world. It all cam about because people came across something and wondered what could possibly become of it. Some call them mad for thinking that way, but sometimes it is this madness that could lead to genius. Disney had to file for bankruptcy once to retain his movie studio, but he was still able to build something great out of it. Even Mad King Ludwig failed at the one of the shortest wars ever, but he was able to leave behind a masterpiece because of the rejection he felt from that failure.
You might not have been born in a fairy tale castle, but that does not mean that your path might not lead you to greatness. What will the next turn bring to you, and how will it inspire you?
When we were looking at visiting this part of Germany, we originally thought of staying in Rothenburg because it was the inspiration for coming out here in the first place. The last time we stayed there twelve years ago, the prices were reasonable, and we expected them to be the same this time around, but Christmas happens to be the big time of the year for Rothenburg and the prices jumped up quite considerably. So we started to look for other towns in the area that would be more affordable and came across the sleepy little town of Bad Windsheim. It is on the rail line, and only a forty minute train ride to Rothenburg, and an hour train ride to Nuremberg, so as long as the place was comfortable, it seemed like the perfect place to stay.
What we found was a hidden gem that many people outside of Germany do not know about. It has the same quaint houses that Rothenburg has, and the same cobblestone streets. It even has a Christmas market, just not as big as the other places, but they still sell mulled wine, and have people come to sing and play songs for the people who attend. It even has its own sites with some pretty impressive statues, fountains, and a living museum.
They even have a sense of humor that goes along with the traditions and heritage that comes from this part of the world. There were many references to Grimm’s Fairy Tales popping up all over the place, but my favorite had to be the Rapunzel hanging out the window of one of the stores on the main street. They even used Christmas lights to make her hair be seen for miles around at night.
On the northern part of town there was a huge walking park with a beautiful green landscape. It was the perfect place to take a walk with huge old trees that were kind of sad to look at in the winter, but I could imagine that it would be a spectacular display of color during the fall. It was even close to some natural baths that were encased in dome, but I never made it all the way over to that place.
There were a lot of hidden corners in this idyllic small town, and even though it did not boast a medieval well like Rothenburg or the huge Christmas market that Numerberg has, it was still a pleasant place to stay with enough to see to keep us entertained during our time there. Because it was a sleepy little town, most of the sights are restaurants had closed down on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but I think that would be found no matter where you went in Europe on these days. The place we stayed had a nice small kitchen, so were still able to have a nice Christmas dinner even though we were still on the road.
I found it to be the perfect home base for this area. It was close to everything that I wanted to see, and it was not overrun with tourists. Granted, I was there in the winter which was probably a downtime for them, and they could easily see more people during the summer months. Still, it was great for the holiday season, and I am glad that we landed here at the start of our bigger vacation through this part of the world.