We miss you…

Bella and I visited Kensington Gardens for a different reason today. We wanted to drop in at the park and lay flowers for Princess Diana because today was the day when the princess died in Paris 20 years ago.

We alighted a bus at the bottom of Kensington Church Street and bought a bouquet of flowers from an open-air florist by the church.

Gilded gate outside the palace was turned into a makeshift shrine for the princess and crowds were gathering around it…

On the same day 20 years ago, I was in Japan, spending my summer holiday with my parents. I still remember clearly what we were doing when the news of her death came in. It was an ordinary sunny Sunday morning and we were watching some news review show on TV. Out of the blue, a guy who was panelling the programme started to listen into his earpiece intently and then announced, ‘Princess Diana seems to be hurt in a traffic accident in Paris.’ My late dad, mum and I looked at each other and uttered ‘Oh my god!’ simultaneously. Then, we saw the same presenter’s expression turned very grave as he received more updates about the princess’s condition. ‘I am afraid to inform you but the princess has died.’ We all lost for words. ‘No, no, NO!’ Princess Diana was very popular in Japan. She was loved because of her beauty and her charity works. We were devastated by the news.

People were reading notes attached to the shrine and laying flowers…

I wanted to come here 20 years ago and mark my respect. Now, I can finally do it, I felt very emotional as I placed my bouquet along the fence.

I never saw her in person but I adored her beauty, especially her warm gaze…

It was difficult to believe that 20 years had passed since she was gone…

She was the best loved British royalty for sure and I miss her very much…

Britain did become a less interesting place since her death. Despite her sons has grown up to be two fine men, they can never match their mother’s star quality and charm. Diana really was one of a kind. She was a treasure.

Lots of media were there to cover how the public were marking their tribute…

BBC, Sky News, CNN, etc, all camping out between the statue of Queen Victoria and Round Pond…

I miss you, Princess Diana. Please rest in peace.

I will never forget you.

Zugspitze Glacier Plateau

Yes, we did speak too soon because it was so bl**dy cold up on the mountain! I lent mum my bomber jacket because the one she brought herself didn’t look warm enough.

Mum with a Bavarian totempole…

The landscape around us was rather grey and barren…

No one was sitting outside because the blustery winds were whipping everything and everyone up…

Mum, no point in hanging around here. Let’s climb to the summit with a cable car, I shepherded her toward a platform of Glatscherbahn cable car…

Can’t wait what we see from the summit! We were soooo excited…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Up the mountain

Another highlight of our road trip was to visit the top of Zugspitze – the highest peak of Bavarian Alps, Wetterstein Mountains. The summit was 2,962 m (9,718 ft) above sea level, and could be accessible by cogwheel train and Gletscherbahn cable car.

We left Garmisch Partenkirchen around eight o’clock after a brief showdown with that old woman at the reception. In the end, she offered to knock off €20 from our bill, and I decided to settle the matter without further haggling or making a scene. Life is too short to be unhappy, especially during our precious road trip, mum and I agreed.

Mum poised on a cogwheel train, waiting for the train to move…

There are a few ways to reach Zugspitze. One way is catching a cogwheel train at Garmisch Partenkirchen. The train stops at Hausberg, Kreuzeck-Alpspitzbahn, Hannerbach, Grainau and Eibsee before starting a serious climbing toward its terminal at Zugspitzplatt. Another way is driving to Eibsee like we did and catching a train from there.

Our train was starting from Eibsee and it was schedule to depart at 9:15…

We managed to find the seats by the driver. We could hardly wait until a driver arrived and started the engine.

At the beginning, the track was surrounding by thick woodland…

The climb was rather slow and laborious. We could feel the cogs underneath our carriages biting into the steel tread between the rails and pulling the load up like a powerful farm horse ploughing a field. I had never been on this type of train, therefore, I was fascinated by how it worked.

Then all of the sudden, the vegetation on our right opened and revealed a breathtaking view of Lake Eibsee on our right. The sight made us realised how high the train had climbed already…​

After Eibsee, there were two loops on otherwise a single track. At each loop, two trains, one ascending and the other descending, waited in order to pass one another.

Our train entered Kleiner Tunnel and stopped. The driver turned off the engine. Apart from the driver, none of us on the train knew what to expect in the tunnel, and we were rather excited when we spotted some bright light in the distance…

The light was of the headlamps of the oncoming train. The train approached towards us very slowly and steadily, like two cars passing each other on a very narrow street.

After the tunnel, the cogwheel train climbed another 1,100m and we arrived at the terminal, Zugspitzplatt…


Despite it was 2588m above sea level, the inside of the terminal station was not at all cold. Mum and I were well prepared for low temperature, therefore, we were a little disappointed…

We won’t need any jacket after all!

Our optimism would vanish into thin air as soon as we stepped out of the building…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Sticky night @ Garmisch-Partenkirchen

The distance between Linderhof Palace and our next destination, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, was roughly 50 minutes. We followed B23 up to Oberau and changed to B2 which led us all the way to the famed German ski resort.

Around 14:30, we arrived at our hotel. I parked the car by the hotel and went inside to inform them our arrival.

Sometimes, you have a humch that things are not gonna be right with this person / place. And I had this gut feeling when I saw a man behind the reception. He asked me to fill a guest registration and instructed me where to park our car. His demeanour while dealing with us somehow lacked any warmth or enthusiasm, and it worried me a little. Will the stay at this hotel be pleasant? I wondered.

Our room was on the top floor…

The room looked okay at first glance but we did notice how tired their bathroom was after a more careful inspection. Oh, I hoped we would have a trouble free stay tonight…

Another thing we noticed was a raucous rooster in the field nearby which was bossing around his several misses…

Stop being so bossy and keep your voice down!

After unpacking, we ventured out to explore a small thoroughfare in front of the hotel.

In spite of being it was Saturday afternoon, the place was very quiet…

We needed to buy a tube of toothpaste so walked into a chemist. A pharmacist behind the counter was very nice and ended up giving us a few samples of the different toothpastes for free. Danke!

We saw a chocolatier with amazing selections of chocolates and sweets displayed in their windows…

Unfortunately, the temperature was too warm for buying chocolates, therefore, we had to walk away empty-handed.

Isn’t it a time for us yet to have an early dinner and beer? Mum wanted to know as we walked past a restaurant / hotel with a brimful of guests sitting outside and enjoying their alfresco supper…

Even though it was still 5pm, we were fairly hungry as our lunch that day was a very light one. Therefore, we decided to have an early dinner and to go to bed early…

Our beer!

Mum’s favourite beer at Garmisch-Partenkirchen…

Paulaner-Brau. She ended up drinking 3 glasses of them.

Then, our dinner…

Wienerschnitzel for mum and veal for me. Mine also came with a generous portion of Spätzle. They all tasted great but the servings were far too much for us and we ended up not being able to finish them.

Halfway through the dinner, two young men on bikes arrived at the restaurant. They were clad in a traditional Bavarian costume and appeared to be in a great hurry. They rushed into the restaurant and the music started shortly afterward. The tune sounded like typical Tyrolean tunes and we could hear the sound of clapping and cheers from the inside.

Then, they came out and started to dance for us too!

 

Didn’t they do well?

I wish if the night ended as well as the dinner and the dance. However, my earlier hunch proved right and a problem developed as soon as we retired to our room. We discovered that we didn’t have any hot water! I alerted the hotel staff as soon as I was out of the shower, and they duly sent us one of their staffs to our room. He fiddled with valves on the wall for a long time, muttered something incomprehensible in German and left us without fixing the tap. I called the reception again and demanded an explanation. This time, an old woman with a very unfriendly tone answered my call and said ‘Sorry but there is nothing we can do!’ She also asked why we needed a hot shower if the outside was 30°C! How dare you! I was outraged. Why should I ask my old mum to have a cold shower?! If the woman on the other end of the line was not so unrepentant, I would have been less annoyed and more sympathetic. However, she was so unapologetic and unpleasant. Mum was also very annoyed about not being able to freshen up with a hot shower. Who wouldn’t like to take a relaxing warm shower before going to bed? She lamented. After slamming the phone down on the unpleasant old bag at the reception, I suggested to mum if she could face a cold shower. ‘No! You must be bloody joking!!’, she refused it categorically.
I am very sorry, mum. I apologise on behalf of that horrible woman. I muttered as she lay on the bed, being not in the best of her moods…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Schloss Linderhof

Schloss Linderhof in Ettal was another famous creation by Ludwig II of Bavaria. This gem was the only building which was completed while the king was still alive. As a consequence, Ludwig spent most of his later life at this palace.

We arrived at the palace’s car park just before noon.

A sign board on the wall of the public restroom in the car park, displaying the Tyrolean summits in German…

The sun was already high and its glare was beating down on the Tarmac mercilessly. It was going to be another scorching day, we groaned as we stepped out of the car.

What a pretty house! There was a house in the Tyrolean fashion standing by a path leading towards the ticketing office…

Before Ludwig transformed the place to Linderhof Palace, it used to be a hunting lodge favoured by his father, Maximilian II. The exterior of the hunting lodge was clad with timber in the tradition of Tyrolean. I wondered if the lodge looked like the house we walked past.

After buying tickets, we followed a gravelled walkway through parkland. The path was dotted trees which offered a welcome shade here and there.

There was a pond with a lone swan…

A few tourists were looking on the swan from the edge of the pond and the swan appeared to be very tame. The swan glided across the water and looked up at the spectators, expecting to be fed.

After having a short breather, we pressed on towards the palace. The place was surrounded by beautiful woods and pastures…

The place was like an Alpine paradise. Birds were chirping, the blades of pastures gently trembling in the travelling breeze and the blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds. I could easily imagine why Ludwig wanted to retreat into this place of tranquility away from the political intrigues of Mucich.

When we arrived at the entrance of the palace, we still had another 10 minutes to spare…

While mum rested at the bench in the shade, I walked around a landscape garden in front of the palace…

Same as Neuschwanstein Castle, the interior of the palace was accessible only by joining a guided tour and photographing it was not permitted. Our group was around twenty people and most of them were Canadians who were touring Bavaria with their Harley Davidsons!

Our tour commenced from the entrance hall with a small golden statue of Louis XIV, Ludwig’s idol. If I was to summarize my impression of the palace in one word, it would be “small”. Everything in Linderhof was exquisitely made but very small. Unlike Neuschwanstein, the place was not made to impress the king’s visitors but to allow the king to retreat into his world of fantasy.

At the bedroom, we were greeted with an enormous stately bed which was inspired by the Sun King’s at Château de Versailles. However, Ludwig never had the “getting up” ceremony, the Levee, like Louis XIV. According to our guide, Ludwig ordered his clothes to be laid out on a table next door and changed himself alone, instead of a team of courtiers helping him to dress every morning.

Another well-known anecdote regarding the reclusive Bavarian king was his peculiar dining habit. His dining room at Linderhof was not stately in scale but regally opulent. It was decorated in the late Rococo style and a priceless Meissen porcelain vase with hand painted porcelain flowers graced as a centrepiece. However, what made this room famous was not the decor but a dining table which the king used to eat his meal. “Tischlein deck dich”, a disappearing dining table was installed for the solitary king, therefore, his servamts wouldn’t have to bother him. It may sound like Ludwig was painfully alone yet he did have dining companions. Well, at least in his imagination. He invited fantasy guests who he considered to have equal clout to him, such as Louis XV, Mme de Pompadour or Marie Antoinette, and asked his cooks to prepare extra feast for them. The kitchen below the dining room would duly laid out the foods, sometimes including Ludwig’s favourite roasted peacock, and hoisted the table up for him and his guests.

Another impression I had about the palace was that it was like the inside of a kaleidoscope. The epitome of it was Ludwig’s favourite room, Hall of Mirrors. It was said that the king loved to spend the nights in this room, reading books and gazing unlimited reflections in the mirrors. No one would ever know what he saw beyond his own faces and the gold gildings shimmering under the candle lights other than imagining his pessimism about his dimishing status and yearning towards the past.

The tour lasted about 30 minutes and we walked out of the palace and into the sunshine and the garden…

What shall we have for lunch? There was a restaurant near the car park and we sat at one of their tables on the terrace and studied menu…

We didn’t fancy what they offered and decided to buy some sandwiches and drinks at a gift shop next to the ticketing office…

Mum had the one with mozzarella and tomato with basil, and I had the one with chicken Schnitzel. They were pretty moreish.

I also bought these adoringly kitsch postcards…

Hubbie, who was a through and through modernist, sniggered when I showed them to him. Oh well, I think they are really retro and cute and I am gonna keep them for myself…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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