Monday, June 25, 2012

Munich & Austria

At the beginning of this month Ross and I went away to Munich and Austria to celebrate our six year anniversary.

There were a few things planned on this holiday that I had been looking forward to for years... visiting the castle of all castles, Neuschwanstein Castle and frolicking in the green hills of Austria.  I must say that both expectations were exceeded.  We arrived in Munich early in the morning and had the whole first day to tour around the great city.  Being the main area where Hitler rose to power, it was full of fascinating history. We took a free walking tour through a great company called Sandeman's, the same company we had used in Edinburgh.  Throughout the tour we enjoyed walking through the pedestrian filled squares, beer gardens, farmer's markets, and places of historical significance in the events leading up to and during WW2.  We ended the night eating an authentic German meal at the Augustiner Beer Garden, a great place to try a local pint and delicious food.  We then took a fresh baguette, gruyere cheese & strawberries from the farmer's market back to the hotel for dessert. Yummy!

Beautiful yellow clock tower
The church next to the main square Hitler addressed the SS

A speech given by Hitler was made between these two lions... Maybe we should have been doing a frowny face in this pic

Busy town square- Hofbrauhaus on the left

Inside the Hofbrauhaus

Smelly, yummy cheese at the farmer's market!

Fresh fruit and veg
Dinner at Augustiner's Beer Garden...yum!

Fresh pretzels and bratwursts
The next day we hopped on a tour bus for our long awaited castle tour!!!  King Ludwig II had four castles/palaces built during his life time, two of which we were able to see on this tour.  We first stopped at Linderhof Palace where King Ludwig lived in solitude for the last 8 years of his life.  It was a gorgeous palace tucked away in the Bavarian countryside.  The inside is unbelievable!  From floor to ceiling in every room the walls are covered in gold.  It is the most gaudy and overwhelming decor, but fun to look at!  

Wild flowers in Bavaria
Linderhof- King Ludwig's Palace
View from the front of the palace
View of the garden and mountains from behind the palace
Simply stunning!

We then hopped back on the bus and stopped in a cute little village where men and women were decked out in their lederhosen and dirndls and the homes were covered in hand painted murals.  
Our stop along the tour in Oberammergan, where we bought our Christmas ornament

Beautifully muraled buildings

Men in their lederhosen enjoying the sun 

We then headed back on the bus for the drive to the ultimate of ultimate castles----Neuschwanstein!!!!!!!  This is the castle which inspired Disney.  As you drive into the town down below, the castle is nestled away up in the hills.  We hiked 45 minutes up the mountain with great anticipation!  Before our tour of the inside we were able to enjoy the best view of the castle from the bridge across the ravine.   I can't even put into words how amazing it was, but I think the pictures speak for themselves!  We then toured the inside, which wasn't nearly as impressive as the outside (because King Ludwig had died before it was completed), but still very worthwhile going into.
Charming town at the foot of the mountains below Neuschwanstein

Ummmm..... WOW!
The breathtaking beauty of Neuschwanstein 

View of the bridge from the castle

View hiking back down the mountain of the surrounding Bavarian countryside... no wonder King Ludwig wanted his castle here!

Ice cream after touring the castle... my kind of day!

The third day of our trip we picked up our rental car and stopped at Dachau Concentration Camp, a very sobering and informative trip - a must see.

30 rows of barracks where the prisoners slept

We then started the 2 hour drive south to the valley of Zillertal, Austria where we were staying the next four nights.

  As we had booked this hotel deal through Groupon, we were a bit skeptical as to what we would find once we got there, but it surpassed our expectations and ended up being an amazing deal!  Zillertal, which is located in the Tyrol area of Austria in the heart of the Austrian Alps, is known for its unbelievable beauty, and it is well deserving of this!  It is truly one of the most beautiful places!  Our hotel, being in the valley, was surrounded on all sides by bright green, snow-capped mountains.  Stunning!!!  

In Zillertal Valley and almost to our hotel... getting excited!
If I were a cow, I'd want to graze here too!
Typical style buildings we saw along the way

Our hotel was fabulous!!!!  We would go back in a heartbeat!  
We were just a little excited about seeing how dang cute it was!

I immediately took a walk around and took a few snap shots of the grounds.
Gutshof Zillertal Hotel

Bedroom and balcony view

And the first thing I did was crack open a Toblerone and I enjoyed the scenery!

Then I read a book with a glass of wine... I could get used to this!

The four days we were there, it was drizzly and raining off and on, but fortunately our hotel had a great spa area that we made great use of!  At one point as we laid out in the glass enclosed pool area and watched a thunder and lightning storm.  It was a perfectly restful trip filled with reading, the steam bath and sauna, massages, and good food. 
Our second room

Creepy eyes looking at us!!  We still aren't too sure what they're about

We sure sat in these lounge chairs a lot... quite the view!

Happy Anniversary!
Favorite memories from the past 6 years inside each balloon
Ready to enjoy the spa!
One of the days we went to Swarovski Crystal Factory, which was a bit of a flop except for the pretty pen I bought :)  We were expecting to walk through the factory where the crystals are made, but it was a modern art museum where Swarovski crystals were used in their designs.  Random!!!!  On the wall as you left we noticed that it was a self-proclaimed 8th wonder of the world... don't be fooled! hee hee
Outside Swarovski Crystal Factory... about the only cool thing to see there 

Every girl needs a sparkly pen!

Thankfully, our last full day, the rain let up long enough to take a few different hikes in the surrounding mountains.  And my frolicking dreams, first formed by watching the Sound of Music, were fulfilled :) There is something about being surrounded by raw beauty that refreshes the soul and makes you want to sing!  I don't blame Julia Andrews!

Driving to find a hiking trail


View during our first hike

Ooops!  That was an electric fence! It kept out cattle... it kept out the Inmans!
Along the drive

The view at the top of our second hike... down below us in the valley is where our hotel was located

During our entire trip we kept stopping by a roller coaster that was built into the side of the mountain near our hotel.  Due to the rain, it had been closed all four days.  The day we left, the sun was shining so we thought we'd try one last time to ride the coaster--- it was finally open!  It was great fun and the perfect way to end our trip!


Going up the track!

Steam train

 As we got home, we turned to each other and both expressed how the entire week felt like a dream.  The beauty that our eyes had taken in during those 7 days seemed almost too good to be true.  I must say, it was the perfect way to celebrate the six wonderful years we've been married.  Happy Anniversary!

Picture proof that it wasn't a dream :)