After my last trip to Germany – a disastrous few days in Berlin – I was really excited to visit the country again. And at Christmas time as well; what more could a girl want? If I wasn’t in the mood for Christmas before, after my few days in Bavaria, I definitely am now…
Flying with Flybe
As I may have mentioned a couple of times, Cardiff is a pretty great city. And we are lucky enough to have our own airport which is really up and coming, offering flights to here, there and everywhere or as they like to call it, “Wales to the World.” Which has a pretty nice ring to it. My flight to Munich was with Flybe; my first time flying with this particular company and I would 100% fly with them again. Cheap flights, great staff, and good on-board service, it’s all you need. The best thing about Flybe is their ability to offer super cheap direct flights to different destinations including Paris, Verona, Algarve and wait for it…GERMANY! I mean being able to fly to these gorgeous European cities for cheap, literally straight from my doorstep? Now that’s what I call easy travelling.
Due to the windy weather, the flight down into Munich was a tad bumpy. However, the views from the plane definitely made up for it. With German countryside peeping through the layers of clouds, a patchwork landscape of fields, rivers and housing suddenly became clear.
Before heading off to our first stop, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it was necessary to indulge in some proper German grub. Therefore a visit to Airbrau – the world’s only airport brewery – was in order. Pigging out on meats and cheeses and washing it down with some freshly brewed cider is definitely the best way to say “Guten Tag” to Germany.
Munich Airport is less like an airport, more like a country. It’s huge. And it’s got everything. Best of all, it’s got a Christmas Market, or more precisely a Weihnachtsmarkt. And there’s an icerink. Seriously. If the airport was anything to go by, Bavaria was going to be awesome. Due to the pretty ferocious winds, the Christmas Market was unfortunately closed so after a nasty incident involving a smashed mug blowing away in the winds (yes, it was that strong), we jumped in the car and made haste to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The two hour drive to Garmisch allowed us to catch some stunning slights of the Alps, in all their glory. A milky, colourful sunset behind the prominence of the Alps was simply magical.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen – a film-set city
Garmisch is one of those cities, that Germany is full of, that just doesn’t seem real. That look like film sets – all colourful buildings with cobbled streets and sloping roofs. After a quick walk around the place, familiarising ourselves with its charm, a visit to the Christmas Market was in order. My first, proper German Market was everything I expected. Full of twinkling lights, festive music, sizzling smells and chatting locals, it was easy to amble around and feel right at home.
After dinner at a local restaurant, it was time to head back to the hotel for an early night and preparations for the next day. And can I just say that, the view from my hotel room was pretty spectacular. All purple haze and soft snowy mountains in the distance. I don’t get views like that at home, I’ll tell you that for nothing.
A visit to Garmisch of course isn’t complete without a trip up the Zugspitze, or the “top of Germany”. At 2962m, Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain and given the right conditions, you can see 4 different countries from the summit. Of course, the day I went was not that day. It is me, after all, and bad luck seems to follow me around. This is the girl who went all the way to Hong Kong to go up Victoria Peak and ended up seeing not the promised spectacular view but a thick, dense fog.
A 40 minute cable car takes you to the first “stage” of the mountain, and the guides are more than happy to fill you in with its history along the way. The cable car was built in 1928 and took only 2 years to finish – considering that they had to dig a tunnel through a honking great mountain, that is damn impressive. We jumped out of the cable car at 2600m and were instantly greeted by a face full of snow. Now, as a resident of Britain, which gets the bare minimum of snow, this was pretty exciting. Although, my decision to wear fingerless gloves was possibly not my smartest move ever.
We then headed up to the summit after a quick mug of steaming hot chocolate to warm up my shivering frame. Being at the top of the mountain, it was of course absolutely freezing. Due to the ferocious winds and thickening snow, there was no view at all which was highly disappointing but I guess gives me a reason to head back there when the weather is all blue skies and sparkling sunshines….
Lunch was had in Sonnelpannel, a cosy restaurant which was bustling with people and had snowy views of…well you couldn’t really see anything because of the fog but I can imagine that it’s a cracking view when the weather is good. A warm, hearty goulash equipped with a cold, hearty lager was definitely needed and was definitely appreciated. Ahhh, what a way to end my experience at the “top of Germany.”
Our next port of call was Oberammergau – which is famous for three things – its painted buildings, its history of passion plays and its landmark industry, woodcarving and nativity sets. Similar to Garmisch, the buildings are all perfectly quaint and covered in colourful paintings.
The architecture in both Oberammergau and Garmisch is full of history and interesting stories. For example, the “Pilathaus” was once in discussions to be developed into a supermarket which would have completely changed Oberammergau’s quaint and peaceful streets. This kind of proposition did not go down well with the locals and soon there was a petition with the leading slogan “drink two beers less a year” to save Oberammergau. This caused every villager to spare themselves of a couple beers and instead put their money towards the restoration of the building instead. Such a great little story of community spirit and determination.
So after a brief tour of Oberammergau, we had a little peek into a Christmas shop which had been calling out to me since we passed it. And by God, does Oberammergau know how to do Christmas. It was literally like Christmas threw up. Choc-a-bloc filled with decorations, music, colour, lights, twinkles and shine….it was the perfect little Santa’s Grotto and a great place to pick up some tree decorations for folks back home.
As I mentioned earlier, Oberammergau is also famous for its woodcarving and you can tell this by looking in every window of every shop which proudly show off beautifully carved nativity sets. Having read “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey” every single Christmas Eve since I was three, I was extremely excited to see a wood carver in action. And it is extraordinary. He had a block of wood and then all of a sudden it was a face. I attempted to have a go myself, and I’d like to say I found my calling in life and created a masterpiece but I basically just made a hole and then carved off a few slices of wood. Hm. Maybe wood carving isn’t for me then. It was very therapeutic though, I think they should consider having wood carving as part of anger management classes. That would be a great idea.
The next day meant it was time to say “goodbye” to Bavaria. I woke up horrifically early (5.30am) and could not, no matter how hard I tried, get back to sleep – which was slightly annoying but meant that I was up and ready for the day. After a light breakfast with a view of a sleepy Oberammergau, it was time to check-out and get on with the day’s activities.
With blue skies but a thick fog settling around us, we drove to our next destination – Linderhof Palace. Linderhof is one of the three palaces owned and built by King Ludwig – a man who the people of Bavaria at the time, did not like. They thought that he was selfish spending money on doing up castles when there was such poverty in his district. Ludwig spent a lot of time alone and the design of the castle reflects this – for example each room had a small room before it which the servants had to stand in and wait until they were called. The castle itself was incredible. Ludwig was inspired by history, so much of the design has taken influence from previous decades. A very extravagant place, full of colour and knick-knacks and I’ve got to say, a bloody massive bed. Honestly, it was huge. It was basically the size of a small house.
After spending a short time at the Palace and marveling at other people’s fortunes and wondering what the heck I was doing with my life, it was time to head back to Munich airport. After check-in, there was some time to have a wander around the Christmas Market before boarding the plane. Wandering around a Christmas Market has got to be my favourite way to wait for a flight. Perfect end to a perfect, Christmassy trip.
So, flying back to Cardiff equipped with my Kindle, a cup of tea and a four finger KitKat (luxurious, I know), I was sad to say goodbye to the bright blue wintery skies of Bavaria and the land of Christmas. Honestly, of all days, why did the weather decide to perk up when I’m leaving? This was possibly the best weather for a trip to the Zugspitze! Oh well, maybe next year…