The Wieskirche 

Visiting the Wieskirche, the Pilgrimage Church of Wies, was another highlight of our road trip. Thanks to Google, we did know what to expect from this 18th century church. Still, seeing the actual place with our own eyes, which was world famous for being the epitome of a Rococo style, was exciting and unforgettable. One poet who visited there was so moved and described it as “The Wies is a bit of heaven in this suffering world.”

From Schwangau to Steingaden, in where the church was located, took about thirty minutes. We left the hotel shortly after nine…

We set off for the church from the car park via an immaculately kept gravelled path around 9:40.
Unlike the congestion around Neuschwanstein Castle we experienced the previous day, the vicinity of the church was serene and quiet…

The car park nearby was ample yet very empty. We assumed the church could be as crowded as the castle if our visit was timed any later. Our advice: Visit the church early as the place opens from 8 am.

The Wieskirche was listed as one of the locations of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983. The church was originally built by two brothers, J. B. and Dominikus Zimmermann in 1749.

We pushed a heavy wooden door to enter the church.

The west side of the wall which accommodated a piped organ above was undergoing a restoration work, and scaffolding surrounding it barred the visitors to approach the nave of this oval-shaped church directly. We walked around it and sat on one of the pews and gazed at the altar from the distance first.

A panoramic view of the church interior…

What a Rococo extravaganza! Mum and I sighed. Probably, the prettiest church in the world!! We did understand why the poet was moved by the sight. The place was indeed heavenly.

The Residenz at Augsburg was another Rococo extravaganza, but this church surpassed it in my opinion.

The ceiling with trompe l’œil, which made the Wieskirche so famous, did not betray our expectation…

The world outside may be a horrible place. However, the inside of the church is a full of peace and hope, we murmured.

In a typical Rococo style, the church was full of elaborate stucco and plaster works. They were skilfully coloured in manifold of hues, most notably in gold…

Aren’t they amazing?

Legend has it that tears were seen on a dilapidated wooden figure of the Scourged Saviour in 1738. This phenomenon started a flood of pilgrims which swamped a small chapel which then accommodated the statue. A local monastery, Steingaden Abbey, realised that it needed a separate shrine, therefore, decided to commission a new church. The construction started in 1745 and it was completed in 1754.

The present figure being presented in glorious splendour…

Astonishingly, this divinely beautiful church once faced total demolition in the 19th century. Under relentless pressure from the revolutionary France and Napoleon, who advocated the spirit of the secularization of society, the church was nearly destroyed by the Bavarian government. In the end, protests from the local farmers saved the shrine from demolition.

Once we were out of the church, we saw their neighbours. Three ponies…

Are your owners a descendent of the brave farmers who saved this treasure?

A dog was waiting for its owner in the shade…

By the church, there was a small cafe/restaurant which had a good review in Google. Unfortunately, we had a large German breakfast at the hotel and were not remotely hungry. Otherwise, we would have had their famed Wiesküchen, Bavarian donut…

We saw hens pecking the ground. Do you supply eggs to the restaurant?

Houses around the church were pretty…

Now, we are heading for a town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Schloss Neuschwanstein

Our carriage ride through a leafy path towards the castle was very pleasant and relaxing. Apart from a steady rhythm of the hoove kicking the tarmac and occasional murmuring by our fellow passengers, there was hardly any sound which reminded us the hustle and bustle we went through prior to the ride.
We alighted the carriage at where the road bulged out so a carriage could manoeuvre, and headed for a waiting area adjacent to a direct approach to the castle. The waiting area was equipped with benches, some of them were under the roof, electric noticeboards and a small kiosk for souvenirs and refreshments.

A view over the parapet…

We had another 40 minutes to kill before our tour began so we started to read guide books, a short biography of Ludwig II and a book about the interior of the castle, together.

Eventually, “16:45” was displayed on the electric notice board, and we proceeded to the entrance.

Unfortunately, the main entrance was undergoing a major restoration work and it was completely hidden beneath scaffolding…

The work was very much needed for the castle to stay on this windswept cliff. However, it did spoil the view very much, therefore, I didn’t take many pictures of the castle’s exterior.

Photographing the inside of the castle was strictly forbidden, therefore, again I have no image to show here.

After going through automated ticketing gates with revolving bars and walking through a small courtyard, we entered an assembly point by the main entrance. In there, a small handheld audio device was distributed to each of us by the staff and we were herded up by a castle tour guide. Our tour guide was a very (very) handsome German guy and he spoke English with a slight German accent. He explained how the handheld device worked – it amplified the sound of his commentary which he would make through a small microphone so everyone in the group, no matter how far they were, would be able to hear it if the device was held close to one’s ear. He also warned us that strenuous stair-climbing would await us before we were treated with the extravaganza of Ludwig II’s medeaval fantasy. He explained it was because we were on level 2 and we were to skip entire level 3 before reaching to level 4 on which most of the highlights of the tour were located.

The stair-climbing he mentioned was certainly tough. Please heed my advice, anyone who may be thinking about visiting the castle. You must visit before being too OLD! Even though my mum managed to negotiate them with a walking stick and a handrail, it was a bit of an ordeal for her. Did the king himself climbed those steps? He must have done because it was the main staircase. Didn’t he find it a bit cumbersome? Maybe he didn’t have to move between different floors as often as his servants had to?

I didn’t count the steps but it felt like the stair would never end. Then, we arrived at level 4, the king’s floor. The first room we were ushered in was the throne room. The ceiling was high and it had a huge steel chandelier which resemble a crown. Symbolically, a space allocated for Ludwig’s throne was left empty because the king died before the castle was completed. What kind of chair would have been installed if the project was not abandoned, mum and I mused. Would it resemble the one in Westminster Abbey, a simple dark wooden one in gothic style? Or a bejewelled one which would compliment an opulent decor of the throne room?

Has any of the readers watched a documentary “The Fairytale Castles of King Ludwig II with Dan Cruickshank” which was aired on BBC4 during last May? The programme gave a fascinating insight into the king’s tragic circumstance and his motivation for building those fanciful castles. Obviously, the main problem was that Ludwig did not have the cunning and stomach to survive the turbulent period which swallowed up not only him and his kingdom but also the rest of Europe and beyond.

Even if he managed to stay alive until the castle was completed and the throne was installed, what sort of life would he have led? Would he be still very alone and melancholic? And what caused his death by Lake Starnberg?

His and Dr.Gudden’s death by the lake was shrouded in mystery, and it has been a subject of speculation and fascination ever since. Was he bumped or did he jump?

After the throne room, we were led to Ludwig’s dining room, followed by his bedroom. The rooms were dark, and if I may say so, gloomy. It was undeniable that a mood of melancholy was hanging in the air.

And, had I ever been any castle which had an indoor grotto? Never! It was until I visited Neuschwanstein, of course. Between his living room and study, there was a small grotto made from plaster and paint. The grotto was dark and felt slightly damp like the real one. Why he decided to have a man made grotto in there, I had no idea. I should have asked my guide, Mr.Adonis…

All in all the castle was beautiful. It was like a jewel box. One of a kind. Still, I found it hollow and tragic through and through. Poor Ludwig II, a powerless puppet king living in fantasy in self imposed exile. Probably, the castle was Ludwig’s oversized bravado against the outside world which was ruthless and ungratifying?

He never imagined that his beloved castle was to become one of the most well-known tourist attraction…

We left the castle and headed for a pick up point of horse carriage.

Hello there. Good to see you guys again…

Descending was a lot easier for the horses. The driver made sure the carriage wouldn’t roll too fast by applying a foot brake time to time…

Join a carriage ride with us!

 

 

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Rothenburg in dusk

One thing I totally misjudged about our road trip was the amount of time it would require if we wanted to visit every single town along Romantic Road. I thought we could get away with visiting several towns a day while we were en route from Würzburg to Füssen in four days.

After we had the fiasco between Würzburg and Rothenburg, it was decided that we would rather visit one place at a time and spend a quality time there than skim through a few places in a hurry and end up passing most of the time in a car.

Following is a list of the towns we gave up visiting: Tauberbischofsheim, Lauda, Bad Mergentheim, Creglingen, Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen, Harburg, Donauwörth, Landsberg, Schongau and Pfaffenwinkel. You see, I should have allocated a week at least if we were to explore Romantische Straße properly…

Ok, let’s get back to the moment right after we bid farewell to the Japanese gentleman at Cafe Walter Friedel.

We found Marktplaz almost emptied of tourists…

Apart from restaurants and cafes, all the shops were closed…

We decided to have gelato at one of ice cream parlour on Rödergrasse…

We sat on the steps of one of the souvenir shop and watched the passers-by who also appeared to be tourists like us while we ate our dessert…

Once we finished the gelato, we resumed our evening stroll.

What a pretty dress! Mum was delighted to see a little girl’s dress in the window…

Anyone fancy some Lederhosens for little boys and Dirndl dress for little girls?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Snowball in June

No, it was not a real snowball but a pastry named as Schneeball (snowball), which was the most famous sweet in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. And I forgot to taste it!

I blame the heat wave, which was upon us throughout our road trip, for making me to miss out on this local delicacy. It was simply too hot to have any appetite for a fist-size fat-fried donut with sugar. Instead, I craved for ice cream (and beer).

Awww, Scheebälle! I want you now…

Are they like Krispy Kreme?

The history of these pastries is very long – they have been known to exist for at least 300 years. They were meant to be served on special occasions such as weddings, however, they became famed local delicacies and started to be available throughout the year.

The main ingredients are flour, eggs, sugar, butter, cream and plum schnapps. In order to form a distinctive shape of Schneeball, the dough is first rolled out and cut into even strips with a special rake-like cutter. The dough is cut as such that the top and bottom are left intact. Then, partially cut dough is loosely assembled and placed in a “Scheeballeneisen” – metal tongs with hollowed globes on the both ends. Finally, the scheeballeneisen with the dough inside is inserted into a deep-fryer, and voila, a golden brown Schneeball is born! Obviously, it has to resemble the real thing, therefore, it is dusted with confectioner’s sugar while warm.

Nowadays, Schneeball comes in many varieties of flavour, such as dark chocolate, white chocolate, mocha, almond, marzipan, vanilla, etc.

When mum and I were peering into a show window of Cafe Walter Friedel, a man standing nearby turned and asked if we were Japanese.

‘They are Schneebälle, did you know?’ He smiled. He was a Japanese tourist and visiting the town which was a part of the package holiday. ‘We came by a tour bus. How did you two get here?’

He was very much surprised when I told him that I drove from London. His eyes twinkled with excitement. ‘Oh wow! Really? I’d love to drive on a world famous autobahn too!’, he gushed. Apparently, he loved fast cars and driving a car in general. He confided to us that a driving holiday in Europe, especially hiring a BMW in Germany and driving it on autobahn, was his lifelong dream.

Our conversation returned to the Schneebälle in the window, and we asked him if he tried them already. He replied yes and told us what he thought about them.

‘They were very sweet and rather greasy.’

Oh, I see. Mum and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing. Are they going to be as anticlimactic as Kendel Mint Cake or Grasmere Gingerbread?

Anyway, the man and we parted shortly afterward, wishing each other a safe journey home.

Next day, we did have a chance to explore the town, but we completely forgot about the pastries because our attention was all focused on the Rothenburg’s famed Christmas shops.

As I write this post, I have come across a German confectionary shop Walter Friedel, and they are happy to ship their Schneeball to anywhere in the world as long as the order is more than €18.00! I am going to ask Hubbie if he wants to try them. So watch this space…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Pre supper walk in Würzburg

‘Let’s walk to Alte Mainbrücke!’ Mum and I stood up from the bench and started walking westward along Domstraße…

The church at the end of the street was Bischöiches Ordinariat. As we headed to the bridge, we came across a fountain…

The time was nearly 5 o’clock but the sun we felt on our arms was still scorching…

The Alte Mainbrücke – Old Main Bridge is the oldest bridge over the River Main in Würzburg. The bridge connects the old city centre with the opposite Fortress Marienberg.

Fortress Marienberg in the distance…

The bridge was first built around 1120, but it was partly destroyed by the floods in 1342 and 1442.

The bridge was decorated with statues…

The bridge had altogether twelve sand-stone statues.

Around the end of the 1720s, six statues of saints were erected along the south side of the bridge in honour of the late prince-bishop, Christopher Franz von Hutten. Then 10 years later, The north side received another six statues of saints in the style of Baroque, commissioned by Prince Friedrich Carl von Schönborn.

Mum was given a beautifully illustrated map in Japanese at the hotel…

She found it very very useful!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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