Fröhliche Weihnachten…excuse you?

Isn’t that a mouthful to say?

I finally made it to Germany…for longer than a day.  TOMA YA. Along with my good friends, Danielle, Leila, and Mika we started our Christmas holidays!  Our journey began in Munich where we had dreams of beer, schnitzel, and more beer.  Our first stop was the oh so famous Hofbräuhaus.

Preztels and beer makes a little girl oh so happy.

Preztels and beer makes a little girl oh so happy.

A little history about the Hofbräuhaus.  Poor Wilhelm the V had a very thirsty household during the 16th century.  Since his people were dissatisfied with the beer in Bavaria (the region around Munich), he had to import beer from outside the region.  In 1589, he and his councilmen had a brilliant idea:  Why not build their own brewery instead of spending SO much money on importing beer?  So that day, the Bill and his men decreed that they would build their own brew house that would make THE brown ale for the Bavarian region.  Now who was to be the “brew master?”  Well, back in the day it was the monks who would brew the beer because they the time to devote to it, and they weren’t allowed to drink it.  So Duke Wilhelm appointed Geisenfeld Monastery, led by Heimeran Pongraz, to be the official brew master.  Soon after Wilhelm’s son, Maximilian the I, decided to put a monopoly on the wheat beer and only allowed his brew house to make and sell the product…but only to the royal court.  It wasn’t until 1610 that he allowed other ale houses to purchase said beer and sell it to the “common folk.”

Two fun facts:  on September 8, 1908 something previously unheard of occurred at the Hofbräuhaus: someone committed sacrilege and ordered a lemon soda in the beer hall! Since all waiters refused to fill this order, the landlord himself had to step in and serve the beverage.

This little fact is a little embarrassing since my family is Swedish.  In 1632, during the Thirty Years War when the Swedes occupied Munich, the duke was doing everything he could to prevent Bavaria becoming a part of Scandinavia.  So he struck a deal with the Swedes: in exchange for not pillaging and plundering the city they were given 1,000 buckets of beer from the Hofbräuhaus, including 361 buckets of Maibock (a special brew of beer).  Of course Swedes took that offer in a heartbeat and went back to Sweden ladened with Germany’s speciality.

As I explained in my post from my last trip to Munich, there are public tables and private tables.  These private tables are claimed by a group of people who sit there everyday (I mean it…EVERYDAY) for 7 years.  Along with claiming a table, these groups can also have their special beer steins locked up safe in the brew house.

Someday my stein will be there.

Someday my stein will be there.

I guess you need to show photo ID to retrieve this one?

I guess you need to show photo ID to retrieve this one?

The damage after our first night.

The damage after our first night.

Typical brew house food.  SO HEAVY.

Typical brew house food. SO HEAVY.

The next day we woke up refreshed and ready for our next beer adventure.  We did a walking city tour with Sandeman’s New Europe tour company.  I highly recommend them, they have “free” walking tours pretty much in every country in mainland Europe.  I use the word “free” in quotations because it’s basically “pay what you think the tour guide deserves.” I should state that I every tour guide I have had has been AH-mazing and has earned every penny I have given them.  Just be prepared that these tours are around 3 hours long (with a coffee break in the middle).

In our tour we began our journey in the main hub area of Munich, Marienplatz.  This has been the central square of Munich since 1158.  The most famous aspect of this square is the Glockenspiel that was built between 1867-1908 in the New City Hall.  Every day at 11 AM, 12 PM, and 5 PM you can watch the little show.  During the Christmas season, this square is even more famous because it houses one of the biggest Christmas markets.  Here you can buy little handmade crafts, German bratwurst, mulled wine, and my personal favorite späztle.

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Marienplatz at night

Marienplatz at night

Marienplatz is also Santa's local hangout.

Marienplatz is also Santa’s local hangout.

Mulled wine really wasn't my cup of tea...

Mulled wine really wasn’t my cup of tea…

On our tour we learned a lot of facts and history…but the one little fact I remember is there is a church that has a holy beer mug.  Yes.  A HOLY beer mug.  Supposedly the cross on the church fell down one day, and the church couldn’t find anyone dumb qualified to put it back up.  So what did the pastor do?  He walked into one of the many brew houses and said he would pay for the man’s beer for the WHOLE night if they climbed up to the top of the roof to put the cross back on.  The drunkest bravest man volunteered, climbed up with his beer in one hand and the cross in the other.  It is told that as he climbed up he slipped and almost fell, until he caught himself and the cross, but lost his beer stein.  The stein tumbled all the way down the roof, and when it landed on the ground below, it was found unbroken.  Apparently, the church will put it out on display on special days.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to view the holy item.

Another really interesting stop on the tour was a side street, Viscardigasse, over by the old palace.  At first glance it looks like just a side street, but when you really look at it you will notice a trail of gold bricks.  Back during the Nazi occupation, Hilter posted two Nazi men at an old monument for Nazi sympathizers that died in 1923 when Hitler attempted to gain power, and failed, in Munich.  When he did gain power, he posted two guards at this memorial, forcing people to do the Nazi salute every time they passed.  However, those who weren’t apart of the Nazi party found another way to slip by.  They would use Viscardigasse to go behind the memorial, and ultimately avoid having to salute the guards.  This was super dangerous because those who were caught could have been sent to the local concentration camp, Dachau, or even beaten in the street.  In due time, Hilter’s men found out about this secret passage and in the end, placed another guard down Viscardigasse so all out have to salute.  Now, the gold bricks represent the lives of those who would risk their lives daily…just to get to work or home.

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This next day we joined up again with Sandeman’s tours to take the day tour to the famous Neushwanstein Castle located about two hours outside of Munich. This castle is more known for being the castle that influence Walt Disney while he designed Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disney World.  One super interesting fact is that this castle is not finished…because the designer and King at the time, Ludwig the II, unexpectedly died.  Unfortunately you can’t take photos inside, but I can paint a picture for you.   Basically Lugwig was a little off his rocker…he thought he was the Swan Prince from Richard Wagner’s musical pieces.  So the house is decorated with murals from different parts of the story.  If the castle was completed, there would have been over 200 rooms, one of the first central heating systems, and first flushable toilet.

Long story short, Ludwig had a rough childhood, it is well known that his father didn’t spend enough time with him and he was most definitely malnourished.  It is also thought that he was homosexual (because would a straight man create such a extravagent castle?).  Ludwig basically strived to be bigger and better than his father, and he was on the path to that.  In Bavaria there are three more castles he designed, one of them being a larger model of Paris’ Versailles (take that Louie).

With having such grand designs, Ludwig needed the funds.  Everyone should know that Ludwig was using his own money to fund these projects.  However, the royal family wasn’t too happy with these expenses…but they couldn’t legally remove him from the throne, nor stop him from building.  That was until they came up with the brilliant idea to have Ludwig committed…but Ludwig wasn’t crazy.  Until they found three “doctors” to diagnose him, but these men never actually spent any time with Ludwig.  These diagnoses were based on stories from his family.  Ludwig was committed and kept in his father’s castle just down the road from Neuschwanstein (isn’t that a kick in the balls, being locked up in the castle that you where trying to outshine, only to look up at your unfinished masterpiece).  He was allowed visitors and daily walks along the lake that he learned to swim in as a child.  This is where we come to the mystery…the mystery of Ludwig’s death.  During his time at the palace, Ludwig had befriended one of the doctors that committed him, and they would take daily walks together around the lake.  I should remind you that even though Ludwig had let himself go, he was still a pretty fit man.  This is where things get confusing.  They left in the early afternoon for their walk, and around 10 PM that night it was noticed that they were still missing.  A search party is sent out, and they find two bodies floating in the lake.  The two bodies are that of Ludwig and the doctor. The autopsies showed that both died from drowning…but how is that possible?  Ludwig was an amazing swimmer, and where they were found the water was only waist deep.  It was also noted that the doctor’s watch had stopped a full 20 minutes BEFORE Ludwig’s watch.  With this evidence, it was concluded that  Ludwig attacked the doctor and drowned him.  Then Ludwig must have had remorse and then killed himself by drowning himself after the doctor.

Of course there are conspiracies to how Ludwig died.  I should first mention that to this day, the official autopsy of Ludwig is still sealed.  Meaning that until the Royal family allows it to be public, no one will know what happened.  The only thing that has been released is that no water was found in Ludwig’s lungs.  Years later a woman came forward saying that Ludwig was shot.  She supposedly had the shirt, with the bullet holes, along with the diary of a man who was hired by Ludwig’s Austrian cousin to help him escape.  He said that he was coming across the lake when he heard two gun shots, and then saw Ludwig fall face first into the water.  The second theory is that Ludwig died of natural causes, such as a heart attack or stroke, brought on by the cool water temperature…ha yea right.

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The little town where the Neuschwanstein Castle is located.

The little town where the Neuschwanstein Castle is located.

Just like that Christmas Eve arrived, and as I have celebrated the last two years, it was a party to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  During the day we continued exploring and met some interesting folks along the way.  In the English Gardens, we got to watch the famous German surfers who have manipulated the river’s current so they can surf.  Then that night we held a party at the Hofbräuhaus once again for a night full of pretzels and beer.  ‘Twas a night that did get a little blurry…

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