Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Guten Tag from Bavaria

We flew from Amsterdam to Munich on Monday, and when we went to pick up our rental car, we received a huge free upgrade to this awesome BMW. I've never driven a car like this, and I don't expect to ever again. It's been fun.

There was one slight problem, however. When we opened the trunk and looked at our four bags, there was a bit of a moment of, "Are we going to have to switch cars?" It's only a two-seater, you see. Mark said afterward that he would have been willing to carry his duffle on his lap in order to keep the car, but fortunately we didn't have to resort to that. I realized that if we unpacked our duffles, the two of them could then fit into the space that was occupied by one. Most of clothes were in those packing cubes, so we were able to stuff them in. The result:

From the airport, we drove to our first stop, Andechs Monastery, an hour's drive southwest of Munich. I am currently reading a novel that is set there, and I'd read that they have good beer that is made there at the monastery, so that's where we had a late lunch.

Monday was my birthday, and for some reason, Mark had it in his mind that Monday was the 27th, not the 28th. I had wondered why he hadn't said anything all morning and into the afternoon (and was, frankly, a bit irritated). On our way to Andechs, we passed a pile of pumpkins at the side of the road. (Don't know whether their indigenous or an American import.) "Look, Joseph," Mark said, "they're getting ready for your birthday tomorrow!"

Pumpkin pie became a tradition for my birthday since my oldest daughter's birthday is four days before mine. It became a tradition with Mark and me as well. Four years ago, I had an extremely disappointing birthday. I had been served with divorce papers a month before and I had also just met Mark. We were driving back from a visit to his family in Portland, Oregon on my birthday. I didn't hear from any of my kids, and we stayed that night in a dumpy motel in Baker, Oregon. Mark, bless his heart, made a semi-secret trip to Safeway and, after dinner, brought the pumpkin pie with candles and whipped cream around the corner from the bathroom, singing "Happy Birthday."

Two years later, we were on Maui on my birthday. Mark took me to the Four Seasons for dinner. When it came time for dessert, the server brought out a beautifully presented piece of pumpkin pie. Mark had bought the pie at Safeway and taken it to the restaurant that afternoon. It was one of the best birthday presents I had ever received. (I'm really big on thoughtful gestures.)

Meanwhile, back to Bavaria ...

"Um," I replied, "my birthday is today." 

"Oh my god!" Mark said with a horrified look on his face. He was profusely apologetic. For some reason, he had gotten it into his head that Monday was the 27th and not the 28th. Amongst the many things he said was, "I am such a schmuck. That's German for shit-head." I had to agree at that moment.

But by the time we arrived at Andechs, all was more or less well. I forgive you, Mark.

The monastery church.

The monastery beer. I had a wheat, Mark had dark.

One of the dining halls. They have a cafeteria set-up. You get your food and your beer, then find a place to sit. For some reason, there were a bunch of Italians there that day.
I had pork roast with, as can be seen, an extremely (delicious) layer of fat and fried crispy exterior.

Mark had this: pig knuckle. It took him a day to get over it.

After Andechs, we drove on to our hotel in Hopfen am See, a tiny place outside of Fussen, Germany. the skies were overcast, but that made the view of the mountains in the distance (in Austria) from our balcony all the more enchanting.

A lone fisherman on the lake Tuesday morning

On Tuesday, we took a beautiful drive across the border into Austria, then back into Germany. On our different way back to the hotel, we stopped at Linderhof, a tiny castle in the middle of nowhere that was the first of three built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. His most famous castle is Neuschwanstein above Fussen, visible in the distance from our balcony. Ludwig was a fascinating character. He was a romantic who loved Wagner's music and was one of Wagner's greatest supporters. He was almost certainly a homosexual. 

And, Ludwig was eccentric. But he was also aloof and became more and more a loner. He loved nothing more than to be in his castles and other residences in the mountains. In the process, he drove his ministers to distraction, and they finally had him declared insane and appointed a relative as regent in Ludwig's place. Shortly thereafter, Ludwig died in mysterious circumstances in a few feet of water in a lake in eastern Bavaria.

Linderhof is the only one of the three of Ludwig's castles that was completed during his lifetime and in which he actually lived. The setting is spectacular, and the weather gods favored us yet once again with beautiful blue skies.

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