I live to travel and love exploring new locales, filled with history, cultures and cuisine. On a recent trip to Europe, I had the opportunity of spending four days in Bavaria. Munich, the region’s capital, is a fantastic city. It is also the centre for Oktoberfest, as well as the gateway to castles, villages and great food. I have had the privilege of visiting Munich at least 8 or 9 times, but decided this year, to explore the city and surrounding area.
For me, the best way to travel to Western Europe, is to get as late a flight as possible. This allows me to land around 11 AM. I always use Mozio (a global Uber system) with airport pickups (tips included), to get me to my hotel. I check in, drop my luggage, get a bite to eat and buy a day pass on a ‘Hop On Hop Off’ bus to explore the city with narration. I usually start to fade late afternoon, but make a point of staying up until at least 8 PM. That way I get through the jet lag and the next day I am my usual self.
I should mention, if you suffer from jet lag, cover yourself in talcum powder before you get dressed to board the plane. Also, buy some liquid Oxygen at a health food store, and put half a dozen drops into a water bottle (you can take the small liquid oxygen bottle in your carry-on. Sip it constantly during your flight and you will be amazed how refreshed you feel (it is also good for altitude sickness). I would also recommend compression socks, especially if you are over 55.
The city of Munich is beautiful. The old town is amazing, with shops, eateries and very old sights to visit. BMW World is another great place to stopover because, next to tourism, Bavarian Motor Works is the largest revenue producer in Bavaria. Oktoberfest is of course, a big draw, and preparations begin early in the year. The sixteen day event draws over seven million visitors and serves seven million liters of beer (170,000 liters of non-alcoholic beverages and 95,000 liters of wine). Don’t forget the coffee and tea, as 300,000 liters of the caffeine fix are served up, along with 1.2 million liters of water and lemonade.
Food is of course, a must when drinking beer, and 550,000 chickens, along with 150,000 pairs of sausages accompany 45,000 kg. of fish, 116 oxen and 57 calves. It’s hard to fathom the preparation that must go into an event of this caliber. The electricity used would do a family of four, for 52 years and the facilities include 1,000 toilets, 900 metres of urinals and 17 full service accessible facilities.
So what does all this cost? Beer is served in litre mugs at $17 CDN. In short, the total money brought to Munich from Oktoberfest is two billion dollars.
I spent a day travelling to one of Germany’s, and probably the world’s, most picturesque castle. Neuschwanstein stands outside the town of Füssen, about a two hour drive from Munich. It is a fairytale-like castle built by Ludwig II in honour of his good friend and composer, Richard Wagner. The castle served no defensive purposes, and was strictly meant as a quiet retreat for its inhabitants.
Walt Disney toured the castle and decided to use it as a basis for his famous Cinderella Castle in Disney Land and Disney World. The castle sits high on a hill and there is a tram that takes you to Maria’s bridge, where you can get a fantastic view of the palace. From there it is an upward hike to the entrance and a tour of the inside. You must get tickets beforehand, as they are for timed entrances. The trip is worthwhile and the experience whisks you back to the days of knights and kings.
My third day in Bavaria was spent visiting Berchtesgaden, also known as the Eagle’s Nest. This is the location of the famous summer retreat of Adolph Hitler. If you are expecting to see Hitler’s rooms, furniture and lifestyle, you will be disappointed, as the entire complex was demolished in the 1950s, by the victorious allies, who wanted to leave nothing behind for any Nazi
sympathizers. The bunker still remains, however, it is undergoing a two year restoration. In actuality, the only remnants left standing is the elevator that takes you to the top of the mountain.
Hitler was so impressed with the area that he bought a small cottage, where he could paint and relax. When he was elected Chancellor of the Third Reich, he appointed his secretary, Martin Bormann, to redesign the place. The problem was, strangers would show up unannounced, at Hitler’s doorstep, hoping to get a glimpse of the Reich Chancellor.
Surrounding houses and farms were purchased by Hitler’s inner circle, and those who did not wish to sell were transported to work camps in Auschwitz and the like. Those camps, at that time, had not yet been converted into the infamous death camps.
All in all there were 80 buildings, in a compound which resembled an industrial site, rather than a Bavarian countryside retreat. In contrast, the town of Berchtesgaden is quite beautiful with its small shops, cobblestone streets and many small eateries. It is a great day tip from Munich, as it is only an hour and a half away.
There are many picturesque towns and villages in Bavaria, all of which are well worth the visit. If you’re doing a Rhine cruise, why not consider flying into Munich and spending a few days, rather than the typical Zurich or Amsterdam. Better yet, go in October and enjoy the largest beer festival in the world.
Wherever your travels take you at this special time of year, I would like to wish each of you all the best for 2019.
Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit photosNtravel.com