Germany & Czech Republic: 9/17 – 9/23

Berlin >>> (Czech Republic) Prague >>> (Germany) Munich
9/17 – Travel to Prague and explore the nightlife of Prague 
9/18 – Walking tour of Prague: Prague Castle, Charles Bridge
9/19 – Travel to Munich
9/20 – Explore Munich: BMW Museum, Glockenspiel, English Garden 
9/21 – Oktoberfest! 
9/22 – Explore Füssen and Neuschwanstein Castle 
9/23 – Heimgarten and Herzogsstand Hike with Laura

9/17
Travel to Prague and explore the nightlife of Prague
+ Today we were going to be leaving Berlin and heading to Prague in the Czech Republic! It was a pretty spontaneous decision after both Laura and Marius recommended the city. But we never pass up an opportunity to see a new country so it took hardly any convincing on their part before we agreed to go.
+ Laura’s friend Tom came back to his apartment and joined us for another hearty German brunch and then we all packed up our stuff. Marius headed back west to his hometown and then Laura came with us to the bus station and we settled in for our 4 hour ride to Prague.
+ By the time we’d arrived, the weather, scenery, and architecture was exactly as we’d pictured eastern Europe would look like. Our opinion had been based on various movies and TV broadcasts of course, but it definitely fit the mold.
+ The walk to our accommodation, Art Hole hostel,  was brief and after getting some advice from the receptionist, we set off for a local restaurant that served traditional food. Along the way, we noticed that 80% of people walking around seemed to be groups of guys aged 20-35. This was definitely a party town with advertisements for strip clubs everywhere appealing to the bachelor party groups that filled up the city.
+ The restaurant was packed and we each got a different menu item from a waitress who was not very friendly. While Laura and Liz liked theirs, Corey did not enjoy his choice. Very very bland food that was too overpriced for what you got. Still, at least we’d tried the Czech foods.
+ Since it was still relatively early in early in the night, we decided to walk around the city and see some sights. Although most all the attractions were closed, we did look at some different bars and even the main lobby of a Sex Toy museum which seemed like it would be a crazy experience. So after a couple hours of wandering through the different alleyways and sampling a couple different Czech beers, we stopped into an Irish Pub to sit down for a bit. The TV had on various Paralympic games which none of us had ever seen before and made for some interesting conversation.
+ We all headed back to the hostel after that and went to bed in our dorm room to prepare for a sightseeing day tomorrow.
9/18
Walking tour of Prague: Prague Castle, Charles Bridge
+ Our hostel offered a free breakfast which we were initially excited about but after tasting the cereal, our enthusiasm dwindled because it was probably the worst cereal we’d ever had. And the OJ was more like yellow water. But at least the bread and butter tasted normal!
+ Whilst reading through the top things to do in Prague, every list we read mentioned doing a walking tour. So that was where we headed first. Everyone met in the main square of Old Town and our tour guide Dora introduced herself before we began the 2.5 hour tour.
+ We proceeded to walk all around the city as Dora told us all sorts of fascinating stories about Prague’s sometimes violent history. These stories consisted of priests being thrown out windows, thieve’s hands being cut off after the Holy spirit grabbed hold in a church ( the severed hand actually still hangs in the church! we saw it!), and other stories about the war and even the famous writer Kafka. She was a great guide!
+ Afterwards we found a nice little restaurant down a hidden alleyway and in a stone room where we had some yummy soup bread bowls and used the wifi.
+ From there we parted ways with Laura as we went to explore Prague Castle, Vitus Cathedral, and the Golden Alley. They were all located across the river atop the highest hill in the city.
+ First we had to cross the famous Charles Bridge, which was a big attraction itself. Besides being really old and having withstood many floods and wars, it had lots of street performers on it and lots of statues to rub for good luck.
+ After hiking up the hill, we made it to the castle and walked around snapping pictures. It turns out most of the things you could pay to go inside were already closed but we probably wouldn’t have done them anyways. So after only about 30 minutes, we’d seen everything and started back down the hill.
+ Before crossing back over the bridge, we stopped to admire the John Lennon wall. His anti-communism messages were huge sources of inspiration for this city and many of his quotes were spray painted on the wall, along with tons of other cool designs and colors.
+ Back across the river, we met up with Laura for dinner at a restaurant called Atmosphere. It was a cool place where Liz ordered ribs for maybe the first time in her whole life! They were delicious!
+ From there we got some beers from the mini market and drank them while walking through the town towards a beer garden we were headed towards. Unfortunately when we got there it was closed, but still provided magnificent views over the city.
+ With nothing else on the agenda, we headed back to the hostel and hung out for a bit before bed.
9/19
Travel to Munich
+ In the morning, we all had another free breakfast buffet and then Laura left to head back to Munich with a BlaBla Car. We hung out at the hostel until about 3 in the afternoon doing research on the tablet and phones, and then left to go get something to eat.
+ Traveled from Prague to Munich on a Eurolines 7 hour bus ride. The bus sat through an incredibly long line at the gas station near the border. After filling up, we were finally on our way again.
+ Liz did a great job of looking out the window every now and then and we were able to spot a bunch of Czech deer! They looked smaller and lighter than the Scottish and Irish deer we’d seen a few days earlier.
+ Although we wanted to watch some shows or movies on the tablet, we never got around to it because we were too busy doing research and working on the blog. We were able to figure out an agenda for the next 5 days in southern Germany and then plans for afterwards in Austria and Switzerland. Going to be an exciting trip through this region of Europe!
+ When we arrived in Munich, we only had a short 5 minute walk to meet Laura, who was very kindly waiting for us in her car. Even on that 5 minute walk we spotted tons of people who were returning from their day at Oktoberfest in varying levels of intoxication. At least their outfits looked great! Then we rode to her place about 30 minutes south of Munich to a town called Grünwald.
+ Hung out, talked about upcoming plans for our time in Bavaria and had some yummy cheese and chocolate snacks before finally going to bed around 3! (Laura shared some cheese she and Johannes had recently bought on a trip to Norway. It was “caramel cheese” called Gudbrandsdalost! it was delicious! The taste reminded Liz of those little peanut butter cracker sandwiches she used to have when she was a kid.
9/20
Explore Munich: BMW Museum, Glockenspiel, English Garden 
+ With Laura’s window shutters down, it was very dark inside her living room and we had no idea what time it was. Thus, we ending up sleeping until after 11! After some showers and breakfast snacks, the three of us finally headed out the door for our day in Munich.
+ Along the walk to the train station, we popped into a little butcher shop and got some traditional Bavarian food called Leberkaüs on Semmel bread.
+ After a tram ride and a few subway rides, first up was the BMW Museum and World building. Here they housed many different types of new BMW’s, Rolls Royce’s, and Mini Coopers. They also had a section of all the different motorcycles which was pretty cool. A sales lady tried to talk to us about buying a car and shipping it overseas or even paying an arm and a leg to rent it for a few hours. She must not have gathered we were cheap backpackers!
+ When we’d had our fill of browsing, we exited and rode the subway again to the center of town. Laura was going to serve as our tour guide around downtown Munich and so we set off to see all the hotspots.
+ First off was the market where we browsed all the meat shops and even tried some Weisswurst. It had a very particular way to peel off the casing and eat it, which we both flubbed a little bit. We also got one of the big Bavarian pretzels which wasn’t that good because we definitely got a stale one and it was too hard. The American ones with different flavors taste way better!
+ The Glockenspiel performance was going to take place at 5 so we showed up a few minutes beforehand and got good viewing spots. It turned out the show was about 15 minutes long and not super exciting as the puppets moved very slowly. But the fact it was so old made it impressive.
+ After that, we climbed up the almost 400 stairs in the Alten Peter tower and got good views of the Rathaus and the whole city. Unfortunately it wasn’t the clearest day ever so we couldn’t see the mountains in the distance, but we could still see a lot!
+ From there we walked all through the town looking at different statues, museums, and a tall flag pole. Then Laura took us to a river that had just the right dip in it creating a spot where people could surf! So for about 15 minutes we stood there watching people in wetsuits surf in this very cold river, it was pretty neat!
+ One of the top places to visit in Munich is the English Garden, which is actually a little larger than New York’s Central Park! So we wandered around in there and took some pictures of the unique Chinese tower, which had been a gift to Munich from China many years ago.
+ We were going to eat dinner with Laura and Johannes tonight so we made a visit to the supermarket to get the necessary supplies for Johannes’ famous curry. We also picked up some different German beers to try out and were happy to see that they were very cheap! Less than a euro for a nice German beer!
+ We then rode the metro to the train station where we met up with Johannes who was coming back from a work trip in Frankfurt and we all shared a taxi back to their house.
+ That night, we all hung out, drank the beers, ate the delicious curry, and then watched the movie Beerfest in preparation for the real thing the next day!
9/21
Oktoberfest! 
+ Today we were finally going to Oktoberfest! Laura owns 3 dirndls and they are each beautiful with totally different colors and prints! Laura was happy to lend one to Liz for today but after trying it on it was definitely way too small.  So Liz and Laura improvised and put together a nice Bavarian looking outfit and both did their hair in a typical braided Oktoberfest style. Corey wore normal clothes since he was too big for any of Johannes’ shirts, but he did wear a German hat to at least blend in a little.
+ After many different train rides and a quick snack, we finally reached the entrance. We had made it to Oktoberfest! One thing we weren’t expecting was for it to be so much like an amusement park or county fair. Tons of rides and gimmicky games in tents everywhere. But we bypassed all those and went into the first giant tent we came to and were greeted by a crazy big festival with a German band in the center playing fun music and tables as far as the eye could see, all filled with people drinking liters of beer from the huge glass steins they served them in.
+ After a little searching, we found a table with some space and the group of British guys there let us sit with them. They were from different parts of the UK and we talked with them about our travels through there while having a beer.
+ Laura explained this was definitely not the norm. Usually you have to wait in line forever just to get in to the tent let alone find a group to share table space with! We were happy we seemed to have picked a calmer day to visit because that meant we could hop from tent to tent!
+ The rest of the day was spent going from tent to tent and looking at all the different decorations and party scenes. We stopped in a few and got a beer and in one, we met a nice Korean girl named Sehee. She ended up coming with us to the next tent, Hacker Pschorr, which was the most festive tent we had seen yet! Probably because it was later in the day and more people were here now. We managed to get some standing spots near the stage where we danced and drank and met more people from all different areas of the world.
+ Eventually we all had our fill and knew it was time to head back. On the way back, Corey thought it would be funny to play hide and seek but Liz was not amused as we made our way back with public transport. We made it back safely after the multiple train rides and all fell into bed.
+ Overall, Oktoberfest was a really fun event that lived up to the hype but was very expensive! We would loved to go again one day with even more friends!
9/22
Explore Füssen and Neuschwanstein Castle 
+ After a nice long sleep, we got showered and dressed and ready for another day exploring the Bavarian area. Today we were headed south near the border to see the popular Neuschwanstein Castle, set among the Alps. Laura would not be coming with however, as she’d already been before.
+ So after riding to the train station and grabbing some lunch from a Mexican restaurant, we got on yet another train to ride 2 hours south into the mountains.
+ On the train we admired the changing scenery and worked on this blog to finally get caught up from the missing weeks we had while campervanning.
+ As we approached Füssen, the giant mountains of the Alps came into view and the little town had a very unique Bavarian style and look.
+ Wanting to make it to the Neuschwanstein Castle as quickly as we could, we hopped aboard a bus to take us to the starting point. We tried to buy tickets for the castle, but they were already sold out for the day. But it’s ok, we’ve already seen countless castles and we could still hike up and look at the outside, as well as a viewpoint from up above.
+ So we set off on the hike and after about 30 minutes we reached the viewing bridge located high above the castle in between 2 mountains and directly above a series of 3 waterfalls! It was stunningly beautiful and we lingered for a while just admiring the design and architecture of the castle. As an added bonus, there were a bunch of paragliders and hang-gliders flying all around the sky up above the castle and mountains. We could only imagine how beautiful everything must’ve looked from up there!
+ Most people turned around at this point but knowing we weren’t touring the castle and since we still had plenty of time, we continued on further up the trail. It continued to climb the mountain and after another 20-30 minutes we reached the top. Now we had even better views (without any other tourists around) and could even see over the next mountain to a big beautiful blue lake!
+ Many pictures later, we hiked back down to the bottom, stopping at the base of the castle to get pictures of the gate entrance.
+ We originally thought we were catching the 7 pm train, but after some deliberation we decided to catch the later train and eat dinner here in Füssen to explore the town.
+ After wandering through it’s cool alleyways, we settled on a nice looking Italian restaurant where Corey got a big pizza and Liz got an absolutely humongous calzone! They were both delectable and left us stuffed for the 2 hour train ride back to Munich.
+ Back in Munich, we had to catch a few more underground trains and then a tram to get to their house. Then Liz passed out and Corey stayed up for a while looking through his emails and various points/flight deals that would pertain to us.
9/23
Heimgarten and Herzogstand Hike with Laura
+ We woke up early today at 7 to go hiking in southern Bavaria with Laura. We’d be heading to the Voralpen area to hike the Heimgarten and Herzogstand peaks.
+ So after some breakfast and making sure our day packs were ready to go for hiking, we set off in her car for the 90 minute drive south. We even drove on the Autobahn for a little bit!
+ Before long we’d reached the mountains, which were actually the foothills of the Alps called the Voralpen area. But they didn’t look like just foothills! They were towering peaks which would be covered with snow in just a few short weeks. Right now however, it was just very cold wind at the top.
+ Our route was going to be a 6-7 hour loop that climbed steeply to the Heimgarten and Herzogstand points and then followed a ridge for a while before descending back towards the starting point.
+ There was a cable car that would take you to the top (or bring you down) that was a very tempting option instead of a long hard hike, but we’d already committed to the idea and couldn’t rob ourselves of the satisfaction (and incredible views) the hike would bring.
+ So for 2.5 hours we hiked up on endless switchbacks until we reached a hut on the top that offered fantastic 360° views over multiple lakes and picturesque towns. We were all starving so we stopped here to eat all the snacks and sandwiches we’d packed and regain some fuel for the next few hours.
+ Then we continued along the narrow ridge, careful not to have a misstep with such steep drop offs on each side. After reaching the hut on the far side of the mountain range, we started our hike back down and at a grand total of 6 hours, 10 minutes we finished our grueling day of working off all that Oktoberfest beer.
+ After driving back home and taking nice hot showers, Johannes joined up with us and we all walked to one of their favorite Bavarian restaurants in town.
+ It was a really nice restaurant with a fancy ambiance, pretty reasonable prices, and really good food! We both enjoyed the different things we’d ordered and after a few beers we all headed back to the apartment.
+ Since this was our last night together, we hung out at their place talking until they called it a night. Then we stayed up to do some research for where we were headed tomorrow, but didn’t decide on anything.
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