96 nights : 3,635 miles travelled: Countries visited : 7
“I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others” Ludwig II
Arriving in the Bavarian Alps is like stepping through the back of a wardrobe. One minute we were playing who can spot the mountains first (Graham) and then you are in the middle of a landscape seen in so many picture books. Red topped chalet villages and needle sharp church spires bathing in yellowy green pasture. We spent a minute still believing the mountains were clouds, then they are spectres behind the forested foothills and closer still, the gigantic characters reveal themselves.
We had travelled south on what was labelled on the map as the Romantische Strasse. It was one of the least attractive we had seen in Germany and anyway, we don’t do romance. The problem is there are three people in this marriage. And Graham insisted on bringing the other woman along. He listens to every word she says and on the rare occasion he goes his own way she doesn’t shout, but sternly tells him to turn around when possible. He gazes into her illuminated face every evening and if he pushes the right buttons she patiently answers all his questions. Now do I sound like a jealous wife?
We expected to stay in Oberammergau one night but found it hard to leave after a week. The village welcomes many tourists but still retains a local community at core. It is this community that puts on an elaborate Passion Play every 10 years in gratitude for escaping the plague in the 17th century. Oberammergau is renowned for it’s Luftmalerei, painted houses which give the illusion of ornate facades like window frames and columns and others telling stories, like those from the Brothers Grimm or religious scenes. It is also a centre for intricate woodcarving and we spent too long looking at lovely things that we couldn’t carry with us for the rest of the year.
The icy river provided a safe place to exercise Kips during another heatwave. Graham lost his footing a couple of times and sank into the clay that lined the banks. We speculated that it was the same mud they charge hundreds of euros to coat you in at the spa up the road. Graham’s knees look 20 years younger than the rest of him!
We took a long hot walk to the nearby village of Ettal to see the monastery. The views along the way were accompanied by the sound of bells from the sheep and cows and took me back to my childhood love of Heidi…I was smiling from the inside out.
The heart of the monastery is the Baroque church. It was open to visitors and most surprisingly, so was the slick gift shop, selling their own brewed beer….on a Sunday. I could hear my strict Methodist Grandmother whispering “heathens”!
Nearby was Linderhof Palace, one of several built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th century, but the only one he completed and lived in. As with The Wartburg, the gardens and parkland are open and free to all visitors, with entrance tickets needed only for guided tours. The Rococo architecture was enhanced, if not outdone by the dramatic but gentle landscape.
Ludwig died in 1886 aged just 40, in mysterious circumstances, a day after he had been declared insane. He led what appears to be an eccentric and isolated life but he left Bavaria with some amazing monuments to an age that was past even when he was alive.
Treat of the week: The only clock we had in Brian is a useful little device that also indicates the temperature and predicts the weather. However it is difficult to read because it is digital so we cannot read it without our glasses and we often confuse the functions even if we do. The answer? There is only one in the Alps. We found a battery powered cuckoo clock that is both lightweight (for Graham) and incredibly kitsch (for Mandy) AND it tells us the time…no glasses required…just count the cuckoos! Every hour it still makes me smile….and Graham wince.