Bavaria (Germany), Zurich (Switzerland)
Travel Period: 8 days (June 2014)
Places to Visit: Munich, Regensburg, Nuremberg, Passau, Füssen, Neuschwanstein Castle, Salzburg (Austria), Zurich (Switzerland)
Top of Mind Tips:
- Log in to www.vfsglobal.com for all information related to German Visa. Getting Schengen Visa does not take more than a week’s time except that all documents need to be in place especially the travel itinerary and hotel booking. In case you would like to make changes in your hotel booking, it is better you book through www.trivago.com/ www.booking.com and choose to ‘Pay at Hotel/No Cancellation Charges’ option.
- Carry some Euros with you so that you don’t have to figure out currency as soon as you land at the airport
- Summers are pleasant in Germany. A thin pullover will do, but if it starts raining, you might want to carry a jacket
- Lot of people in Germany don’t speak English. So it’s good to know few regularly used words in German.
- If you can survive on minimal data usage and without phone calls, then forget about buying another SIM. Special recharge options are available by telecom operators, which offer small data usage
- If you plan to visit nearby countries as well, go for the Schengen tourist visa. They normally ask you to specify the city of entry into Europe and travel itinerary, but after that you can carve out your own path
Germany is situated in the heart of Europe and offers glances into breathtaking landscapes and buzzing European city life. The land has a rich history and culture and is a perfect place to learn how to preserve the soul of the city while at the same time making it modern and accommodating for the expanding population. Due to its role in World War 2, there are a lot of historic sites in Germany that tell the stories of the horrific times. It seems like nature has been particularly kind to this part of the world. There are vast green landscapes, clean rivers and snowy mountains. Near Bavaria (or Bayern in German), there are other beautiful European cities like Prague and Zurich. If time permits, do plan a trip to these cities as well.
Day 1: Munich
This was my first trip outside of India and I was very excited. I boarded a flight from Delhi and after a small stopover in Dubai, landed at Munich. It was evening time and apart from excitement, there was lot of curiosity in my mind. I was going to step in a city which has been a major Centre of arts, culture and industrialization. From the airport, I took the metro (called U-Bahn in German) for the city. The moment the train emerged from underground, I was awestruck. Never had I seen before such greenery in my life, that too in a city. The land was uneven, and it looked like a green ocean with waves of grass running away to their shores to submit to the huge trees.
Luckily I had a friend’s place to stay in Munich, which made it very smooth for me there. While walking from the train station to the house, I felt a pleasing calmness in the air. I was walking on a road that had tall buildings on both sides and yet there was practically no noise. It was such soothing and benign that I didn’t feel tired even after a 12 hour journey.
Day 2: Nuremburg
Munich is the capital city of Bavaria and is well connected by train to other nearby popular towns and cities. We took a train from Munich main railway station (München Hauptbahnhof in German) and started for Nuremburg. German trains are known for their punctuality, so it is good idea to reach the station few minutes before. Tickets can be bought which are valid for entire day and can be used for travelling anywhere using Deutsche Bahn. Trains are very cozy and have huge windows. Everybody seemed to be reading a book in the train while I was busy peeping from the window to see the amazing canvas. It takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach Nuremburg from Munich. The city has expanded beyond its old confines but the old part of the city still lives and is like an old man sitting in a busy market trying to attract people’s attention and narrate them his story. After a point, vehicles are not allowed on the road and it is a perfect place for someone who just wants to stroll around and learn about the place. There is a huge church facing a big market, behind which is the Imperial Castle. There are cafes on both sides of the road where people are seen enjoying Sausages and Beer. One can spend an entire day breathing the city and enjoying the warmth it has to offer.
Day 3: Salzburg
Due to Munich’s location in south Germany, it lies just a few hours from Czech Republic, Switzerland and Austria. Salzburg is one such town in Austria that can be explored while visiting Bavaria. Again we started from Munich railway station for Salzburg. The train took around 3 hours and passed through thick Grasslands, bridges in the wake of high Alps Mountains. Salzburg is the town of Mozart. The great musician was born here before captivating the world with his Classical symphonies. The house of Mozart is marked in the city. The most beautiful to me was the river Salzech, from which the city derives its name. The curvy river flows quietly, as if silently dancing on Mozart’s music. Austria is also a German-speaking nation and one can see the similarities in the culture. Overlooking the river is the Hohensalzburg Castle. It is a huge and high castle and for reaching there one has to pull few muscles together. It’s a 15-minute walk up, after which tickets need to be bought. The castle has a museum with well-preserved artifacts. The walls of the castle present a bird’s eye view of the town. The curvy Salzech river can be seen flowing from a distance, with its streams battling the air filled with Mozart’s music trying to prove that the waters of this river were blessed with the music too. Other places to see in Salzburg are Mirabell Palace and Gardens, which have a mesmerizing layout and old structures.
Day 4: Munich
After having explored couple of nearby towns, it was time to see the Beer capital of the world. I would have loved to visit the Oktoberfest but sadly it was the month of June. Streets of Munich are very well organized with separate lanes for cars, buses, trams, cycle riders and pedestrians. I started on my own and went to Marienplatz first. It is a big square filled with tourists and has lot of souvenir shops. Munich is the most lively city I have ever seen. It seems like every structure, every brick, every garden of the city is living its own story. After crossing Marienplatz, I came to Odeonsplatz, which is a huge open area with some old structures. Near to Odeonsplatz is the Hofgarten, which is a splendid garden, having an Italian architecture. I kept walking on the Leopoldstraße for hours, letting the city take over my mind and imagination. But the best was yet to come. In evening I went to the English Garden (Englisch Garten). It is one of the largest urban parks in Europe. It felt like no less then a mini forest to me. There were water streams with ducks plying, huge trees and greenery as far as the eye can see. Perfect place for someone who seeks escape from the city life and wants to embrace nature (although the noise levels in Munich are much lower than that of an average Indian metropolitan). After spending 3 hours there, I had to force myself to go out like a 5 year old who wants to play more and more in his playground. Some other places to explore in Munich are the Allianz Arena (must go for FC Bayern Munich fans), BMW Museum and the Olympic Stadium (which hosted the 1972 Olympic games). Munich is a city that cannot be just seen, it has to be felt and lived.
Day 5: Regensburg
It was again time to head towards Munich Hbf and travel to another beautiful Bavarian town: Regensburg. The city is at a confluence of 3 rivers and is a UNESCO heritage site. It is a big cultural Centre and is home to very old churches and theatres. No later than a 10 minute walk from the train station and I felt like I have been time machined to a place that is fiction and just used to feature in Shakespearean plays. There is the towering Regensburg cathedral, which I struggled to accommodate in my camera’s shot. There are numerous small cafes on the pavement which people are chilling, enjoying their beer with Bavarian music. A bridge has to be crossed to go to the other side of the city. Another thing about German rivers is that they are crystal clean. Bottom of the relatively shallow rivers is easily visible. After spending a good day exploring the city, I started back for Munich in evening.
Day 6: Passau
Passau is another historic Bavarian town, again situated at a confluence of two rivers. For someone who lives in NCR in India, the streets of Passau offered immense peace and calm. Steamers and small ships can be seen on the Danube River, ferrying tourists and goods. Apart from the beautiful streets of Passau, one can explore Veste Oberhaus which is a fortress built on a hill adjacent to the Danube river. The fortress is a place of solitude and offers a panoramic view of the city.
Day 7: Zurich
Zurich, the largest city of Switzerland, is 3 hours from Munich by bus. Going by bus turned out to be a good decision because it also involved a ferry ride. Bodensee is a huge ocean like looking lake on the way to Zurich from Munich. As there is no bridge to cross this river, there are huge ferries that carry over the buses and cars from one end to the other. The ferry was like a decent ship, having a nice deck and a restaurant and bar. It is a 30-minute ride. Zurich has consistently ranked as the city with one of the highest quality of life in the world. It is an expensive city nonetheless, but is a mesmerizing city overlooking the Alps. It has lots of churches and museums and is a big financial Centre in the world. Lake Promenade is a popular walking path in Zurich that looks like a breathtaking valley. There are a lot of small boats and yachts docked on the lake. I spent the entire day roaming around the streets and Promenade of Zurich. This is one place where opulence meets the nature.
Day 8: Scloss Neuschwanstein, Füssen
The best was kept for the last day of my trip. Another town situated couple of hours from Munich is Füssen. It is home to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. It was made by the King Ludwig II of Bavaria and is said to be the inspiration for the Disney Castle by Walt Disney. This was the most crowded train in my entire trip. Every seat was taken, mostly by Chinese tourists. From Füssen, the castle is a 30-minute walk. And it is as enthralling as they say. By seeing the castle, one can say how deeply King Ludwig II admired nature. The castle has an outer area, which is free, and an inner area that can be accessed after paying a fee. As beautiful as the castle is the view from the castle of the green plains below. There are large green fields in the plains. There is also a bridge near the castle that has a glass floor and offers a complete view of the castle for the tourists. Right behind the castle are two mesmeric out of the world lakes: Alpsee and Schwansee. I visited the larger of the two, The Alpsee. It is a quiet lake with clear and blue waters surrounded by small hills on all sides.
There is a small trail all around the lake and one can take a walk around the lake. It is one of the most pleasing things I have ever seen. I could sit near the lake for hours doing nothing. It was evening, and it was time to go to Munich for one last time in the trip to board my plane to Delhi the next morning. It was a great trip that opened my eyes to this schön part of the Europe. There are a lot of places to see in other parts of Germany but Bavaria trip remains one of my most memorable trips.