DAY 6-Around Munich & the farewell dinner
This was the last day of our trip. If I were in Berlin I think I would be sadder to leave, but I just don’t love Munich like I loved Berlin. It is dirtier, less friendly and much less German feeling. It is very international, which means it lacks a lot of German culture in the main area we were in. We spent our last day out and about Munich spending the day in Marienplatz. It was quite disappointing, only because the American influence is so heavy that it felt like a shopping mall in the US. The stores sold the same stuff I could find back home and everyone was bumping American top 20 music. I just really don’t want to hear Kelly Clarkson when I am in Germany! We shopped, mostly for gifts for the family and I bought just one thing for myself. To commemorate Neuschwanstein (which means “new swan”) I really wanted to purchase a Swarovski swan, which I did to add to my collection. So now I have my mouse from Berlin and my swan from Munich. Hopefully they can be passed down someday to someone who can appreciate the story behind each of my figures or “replicas” as they call them here.
We had our final farewell dinner tonight at a place called Lenbach, which is described as a trendy, cosmopolitan restaurant. The restaurant provided me some great photography practice, as the architecture & ambience was absolutely beautiful. The stargazer lilies at the entrance perfumed the entire foyer. There was a runway that cut the room in half that was lit from below by blue lights. A string quartet of elegant women walked around the room all night, changing into a different beaded gown at every break. There were two cartoonish bodyguards keeping the room monitored, each on stilts and exaggerated shoulder costume suits to add to the drama. There was a “pyrography” artist that used some sort of sparkler to do caricatures for any guest wishing to have one done. He wore a face shield & oxygen mask, and provided some very unique art! I was one of the lucky ones he “drew.” Once again, the VP of sales gave a toast to all of us, thanking us for our hard work and jokingly telling us he hoped we enjoyed the trip and that we better have because they went well over 50% beyond budget for this trip, meaning the expense was roughly $20,000 per employee & their guest. Tonight marked my last night with my teammates, three of which were here enjoying our success together. It was extremely bittersweet as I said my goodbyes, knowing that I may never see them again. These people, this company, has given me such a great number of opportunities during my four year career and it brings me great sadness to have to turn in my letter of resignation. I remember a trainer of mine told me at sales training that she could only describe this company as one that treats her like a princess. I whole heartedly agree. That is of course, if you work as hard for them as they work to reward and pay you. This has been a phenomenal experience, one of the best in my life and I will remember it forever.
DAY 5- Neuschwanstein Castle (no-eye-sch-wan-stee-n)
This was the day I had been waiting for! I had dreams for as long as I can remember of seeing a real castle and finally, it was the time in my life where that dream would come true. Today we visited the castle that inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, perfectly placed in the alps overlooking a typical Bavarian town.
We departed the hotel at 8am, knowing it would be a long day. The drive from Munich was 2 hours but it went by very quickly because I couldn’t keep my eyes off the scenery. We drove out of the city and through the country and it is everything you see in fairytales. The grass is green and endless, the water is turquoise, the cows wear cowbells and the little brown houses have window boxes exploding with the most beautiful flowers in shades of red, yellow, pink and purple. The little homes have functional shutters that the residents actually close to keep the light and presumably the weather from coming inside. The little towns we drove through were bustling with life and I just couldn’t get enough of the flowers. Even the downtown buildings five stories high had flowers. It looked fake. I really didn’t think that this could be real. As we drove through our last little town we spotted the majestic castle high up on the mountain. King Ludwig the III built the castle next to a lake and overlooking a waterfall high up on the hill. You can read more about the castle here.
We began the castle tour by walking through a little town to a lake, set in front of the Alps that was so beautiful that the backdrop for my pictures looked artificial. After enjoying the photo op we boarded another bus that drove us up a steep incline, only wide enough for one bus so they had to take turns going up & down. We got to the top, or what we thought was the top and began our hike. Our first destination was the foot bridge that overlooked the castle. Suspended between two giant mountains, the bridge provided a spectacular view of the castle and the town, land and lakes below. After enjoying the second amazing photo op, we continued yet another steep hike up to the castle. Passing now & then were horse drawn carriages with those who couldn’t make the hike. It was so steep that I am still sore three days later, and I have an addiction to the step mill at the gym, so I consider myself able to handle an uphill climb pretty well! Once we reached the top we made it to the castle and were able to explore the courtyard before the interior tour. No words can explain the beauty of the inside. There were no pictures allowed so you will have to put this on your list of places to visit so you can experience the extravagance. The coolest part of the tour for me was approaching the gallery and seeing the name “Parsival” written on the wall. Much to my surprise, the major works of art in the gallery were the 10 murals that depicted the tale of Parsival the knight and his heroic life. I am sure my last name has something to do with this since the name is of German heritage so it was really neat to see where the name likely originated and what it stood for. Glad I have a name that depicts courageousness! The other most beautiful part of the castle was Kind Ludwigs bed & bedroom, which took 4 woodcarvers two years to complete. It was so intricate and all hand carved. The craftsmanship was amazing. What I cant quite imagine is how all of the materials for this castle were transported from the ground, up the steep incline before modern technology. It is quite remarkable. DEFINITELY worth seeing someday of you haven’t already.
After we got back to the bottom of the mountain, we took a bus to a small town for lunch on a patio overlooking a large lake. I ended up walking down the hill with the VP of sales and he was the person who made the trip to Germany a reality. He said his goal was to not only show us the origin of the company and reward the high performers who contributed to the company’s most successful year in history, but to put us in a country where we were forced to stick together and mingle amongst ourselves because we couldn’t communicate with anyone else due to the language barrier. (And we talked about me returning to the US unemployed…but that is another story!) His goal was realized because every meal we went to we sat with new people from different business units and lunch at the lake was no different. We sat with two lovely couples and enjoyed the view, the food and the company.
Our last stop on the daytrip was Oberammergau, a small wood carver’s village famous for its Christmas decorations that were hand carved. We had just an hour to meander through the stores which proved to be far too little time! The carvings were really neat and I took home some gifts that will hopefully be appreciated for the love and care that was taken in making them. There was no shortage of cuckoo clocks, but they were outrageously expensive and deservedly so. I can’t imagine what it looks like during the Christmas season. I noticed on the way up, that the trees we passed were the absolute most perfect typical Christmas tree ever. The branches that grew horizontal also had branches that draped vertically along the curved strong branch that is what I can only describe as the exact outline of a Christmas tree cookie cutter. I would absolutely love to be here during Christmas, in the snow with the magic of the city and the traditions which surely are quite different than ours. It was such a neat experience. The state in which we entered this town, best described as delirious, provided the most laughed about quote of our journey. Some background…we have had a really hard time finding drinkable water here. I LOVE my sparkling mineral water but when mineral water is flat it tastes like dirt. Since Europeans think flat water is for bathing, sparkling water is for drinking there is a shortage of decent flat water. We were hot, sticky, sleep deprived and very, very thirsty. We had gone to about five different shops looking for some basic water and still were out of luck. After I stumbled (literally almost ate shit on the steps) into a meat market to yet again, find no water I looked up somewhat perplexed. I saw a brown paneled home complete with shutters and red flowers draping over the window box edges, the alps so close you could see the individual trees and all I could mutter was “doesn’t that look just like we are in a foreign country.” Yup. Definitely forgot we were. That’s how ridiculous the dehydration was. Ahh…maybe I should go back to blonde.
By the time we got back to the hotel, we were hot, sticky, sweaty & tired. The degrees are in Celsius and we still don’t know the conversion. The hotel desk told us to dress warm, the mountains would be cold but boy were they wrong. It was easily 85 degrees and we were dressed all bundled up and HOTHOTHOT!! We got back and put our swim suits on for a dip in the pool, one of the most interesting pools I have ever seen. You must see the pictures because it is almost too hard to explain. After cooling off, we had a short sushi dinner and headed to bed, where we slept like rocks!
DAY 4, MUNICH
We flew into Munich (which Bavarians call Munchen [moonch-in]) airport which reminded me of an Apple store. Everything was white and brightly lit and there were advertisements everywhere. My favorite was a two story BMW grille and headlights that stared at us while we claimed out luggage. BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Maybachs are all produced in or just outside Munich so you can only imagine the kind of cars we see around town. All the taxis are Mercedes and we overheard one driver saying he had 700,000 miles on his and plans to drive it until it hits a million miles. Think we could find an American made car that could do that?
[Munich airport potty. i just love the shape of the women’s dresses over here!]
[BMW headquarters are here]
[this was just a cool advertisement in the airport]
Driving to our hotel we got a mini tour that took us by the rodeo drive of Germany which was full of the designer shops we know in America. We came to our hotel which was next to the major train station in Munich, the end of all the train lines. I was surprised at how completely different this city felt compared to Berlin. I guess the best way to describe it is San Francisco compared to Oakland, Munich being more like Oakland. Our hotel, while absolutely beautiful, is not in the best area of town. There is a large Italian influence here and we are kind of in the Italian “ghetto.” I did not feel safe leaving the hotel at night.
We are staying at the Sofitel Munich which doesn’t lack design ingenuity, but lacks a huge amount or practicality. The bathroom is all made of frosted glass doors that slide all over the place and don’t provide any privacy. The beds have only a duvet on them for covers and they have a limit to how cold the rooms can get, which isn’t as cold as we are used to back home. One colleague told us she called the front desk to ask if she could turn the temp down and she was told it was “colder than you think.” Sheesh! It is a LOT hotter here than anticipated and we have been sweating through our clothes, literally! Shorts and a tank top would be the proper attire and I didn’t bring either, so it has been a lot of heat toleration! The hotel is so secure that I found myself unable to get to my room on multiple occasions. We have a key that is plain white-no branding on it whatsoever. The key has a microchip in it which is programmed with all of our information. When we get into the elevator, we have to hold our card in front of the sensor and it automatically selects the floor we need. The problem here was that you couldn’t use the elevator without a card. If you took the stairs to get some exercise, the card wouldn’t work in the room because according to the elevator, you are not in the hotel. Once we got into the room, the ticket to electricity was entering the room key in a slot next to the door. Very energy efficient, since you have to have your key to leave the room and all the lights go out about 30 seconds after the key is removed from the card slot. Unfortunate if you lose a key and your roommate needs to go downstairs for something.
The first night we went to the famous Augustiner Keller Beirgarten. It was the same kind of feel as the county fair food court, lots of food and beer stations around the perimeter of hundreds of picnic tables. There were many smells which were less than pleasant circulating. They sold fish, whole fish, which the customer tears open, removes the bones, then sticks a fork in it like eating out of a pita pocket. It was so gross!! Our group was in the main indoor beer hall, which was not air conditioned. We were all hot hot hot! The service staff was dressed in the typical Bavarian garb, which can best be described as “Heidi” braids and corseted peasant dresses. Men wore typical lederhosen. We were entertained with yodeling, men slapdancing (kind of riverdance style) and the playing of the large horns that reached from the mouth to the ground of the person playing. The food was of typical German fare. Those of you who know me know I struggle with the eating of meat and this night didn’t help at all. There was a little pig, head, tail and all, on the cutting board which was extremely disturbing. I was strict vegetarian that night, most of the trip actually. Overall the experience was hot and stinky and I couldn’t stomach the beer so I was clearly too sober to enjoy the evening as much I should!
[sweatin our pants off at the biergarten. that beer was just for show, it was TERRIBLE!]
[staff were dressed like the three models on the left]
[gorgeous hydrangeas again! Kim pointed out that I achieved bokeh on this shot! yah, I didn’t know what that meant either, but I can do it!]
[trust me, this picture makes the place look waaaay prettier than it was.]
[yah that was the only sip of that beer I took. it was nasty!]
The hotel, however…endless photographic opportunities. Some of my favorites of the whole trip: