Day 6: I woke up at 5 am, and felt horrible. Something I ate the night before did NOT sit well (can you say Pepto Bismol in German? Yeah, me either) and then I wasn’t able to fall back asleep. I finally got a little rest from 8:30 to 9:00, and then showered and got ready for the best hangover cure- walking through quiet museums. It was a nice day by Munich standards, mostly cloudy and about 35 degrees Fahrenheit, so I opted to walk to their museum district that is adjacent to the university. I popped into a café and grabbed a Sprite and chocolate croissant to chomp on while I walked down the ash and trash riddled street. Munich is an incredibly clean city, but on this morning it looked like Bosnia-Herzegovina from the 90’s. Debris, filth, broken bottles, and many firecrackers (some still not detonated, I stepped on one that popped and nearly peed my pants).
A neat thing that Munich does, as do many other big cities, is that on Sundays, it only cost one euro to enter the museums, on a normal day it’s usually between 7-15 euros (currently 1 euro = around $1.36). I first hit up the Pinakothek der Moderne. I have long been a fan of modern art and design, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Pinakothek der Moderne has the oldest and the largest collection of modern design in the world. It was truly a beautiful museum, and wonderfully laid out by the director Professor Dr. Florian Hufnagl (his name really made me laugh, so I like to say it [write it] as often as possible).
When you walk into the Pinakothek der Moderne design wing, the first thing you see is a 60-foot high type case. It’s titled “Design Vision”, and is absolutely breathtaking. I stood still and silent for about 25 minutes taking it all in (and if you know me, you know that not moving or speaking for that long is a real rarity). Every item in the type case was beautiful, perfectly designed and efficiently designed- it made you think about how little you truly need when you have just the right object. There were also these fantastic chairs located at the bottom of the type case, I could have watched people there all day- it was really fun to watch the kids crawling in and out of them (culture, I tell ya!). After you pass the entrance of the wing, there is an exhibit with cars- the most breathtaking of which is an ’87 Tatra, which was the first mass produced streamlined car. By no means am I an expert on cars (heck, I don’t even know how to use the windshield wipers in my Mini), but this was a truly beautiful car.
After passing through the car portion, I saw some steps and followed them up. There was a set of enormous doors, but they were locked. And then I saw it. A perfect wooden bicycle. It was so simple and beautiful, all alone on the landing of steps that went nowhere. I couldn’t read the German card, so I can’t tell you much about it, except that I loved it (and not just because it looked like a nice bike that wouldn’t throw me into the street and concuss me, but because it was an unpretentious, impeccable bicycle). I walked back down the stairs and entered the main portion of the design museum- there was a neat gallery that had technology (I’m talking about every sleek and well designed video game system, computer, typewriter, ever). This was very crowded (and I was very hung-over), so I quickly made my way to where the furniture was. My favorite piece in this large collection was a chair called Elda. It was designed in 1963 by Joe Colombo and the neat thing about this chair is that is shields the seated person from ambient noise, swivels, has these great wheels, and is designed to meet your emotional and sensory needs. Apparently he created it to evoke eroticism, but I thought it just looked like somewhere I would want to plop down and read a book (or in the case of this journal, write one).
Now my favorite gallery of Pinakothek der Moderne- the Danner Rotunda of Jewelry. Lately I have been incredibly fascinated with jewelry, which is strange because I can’t stand to wear any type of jewelry but a ring that has been in my family for decades, pearls from my mother, and diamond studs I bought after I closed my first deal. I love antique rings, admire the girls that can host an Arm Party, and wish layering necklaces was my thing (but it’s not, I like really hate when things are touching me or move around on my skin, it makes me incredibly unproductive). But I love looking the creativity and beauty that has been designed. One of the things Karl Fritsch said about the jewelry exhibit really struck a cord with me while I was in there, and I had a very personal and emotional moment. Mr. Fritsch said, “Sometimes you have to say to hell with it, drill a nail in it, destroy it, and let something new and more beautiful emerge.” And that’s truly what this rotunda held- beautiful handiworks for everyone to admire. If you enjoy seeing interesting pieces of women’s jewelry, make sure you stop by the Danner Rotunda; it was 30 minutes of life that was absolutely captivating.
At this point in the day it was about 3 o’clock, and I was ready for some food. I hopped in line at the museum café, and had a fabulous wrap, while I Skyped with mom to let her know that I had survived the German New Year, and to wish my Grandmother a happy 87th birthday. After a quick bite, I walked through the art collection- it was massive and I greatly enjoyed it, but I’ll touch on my favorite collection, although quite small. The Fohn Collection is on the second floor, and is a prized group to the museum. During the war the Nazis condemned all contemporary and modern art- it was destroyed, graffiti-ed, and tossed in the trash, as the Nazis were kind of doing whatever they wanted at this point. What the Fohn’s did, was they rescued and recovered as much as the condemned art as they could (and they weren’t even keen on modern art, but thought it was important for this period to be remembered!). They believed that artist should be artists, and they wanted their collection to be available to the public and never used for monetary gain- only for the freedom of the art (oddly enough, these modern pieces were all in very traditional frames, and I loved that quirky juxtaposition).
As I was leaving, a gentleman at the bookstore stopped and asked me where I was going next. I told him probably to go have dinner and go home. He informed me the Museum Brandhorst was next door and I still had plenty of time to view it if I was interested. I was.
I moseyed over to the colorful building and am so happy I did. The Brandhorst has a spectacular collection of Cy Wombly (who’s work I admire greatly and passed away last year), multiple Warhol’s, and many others. I spent most of my time in the room with the collection of the 12 Lepanto paintings that depict an epic battle on the sea (there is no photography, no pens/journals, and no cell phones allowed in the Brandhorst, so my notes are less complex on these galleries). I also enjoyed the Rose collection by Wombly- he was an incredible talent who left a beautiful and elegant mark on the world. I felt very blessed to see such a large collection of his paintings and experience the beautiful use of color and space. It was starting to get dark by this time, so I scurried into the Alte Pinakothek, and saw two paintings before I got the boot and had to find my way back to the hotel.
As I walked back in the dusky evening, I made my way across the university grounds (where people were STILL shooting off those damn firecrackers), and saw many couples and people enjoying the first day of the New Year together. It was hard for me to watch people spending time with those that they love, and try and pretend that I was okay with being alone.
This was the only time on the entire trip that I allowed myself to be sad, and it was difficult (mainly because I tend to be a pretty happy person and I know that if whatever I’m going through at this moment is the WORST thing that happens in my life, then I’m going to have a fantastic life). I am just not good at being sad or gloomy, and I will be the first to admit, I got back to my hotel, skyped my mom and bawled my eyes out. Then I took a shower and had that cry, you know the kind where your entire body shakes, and if you look at your self you just cry harder? And then, I got out of the shower, with every intention of going to bed and throwing myself a giant pity party, but instead I pulled up my email from Italian friends I had met at Hofbrauhaus, and met them at a bar near Marienplatz (again it was some German name I can’t remember) and had some beers and a good time (pity parties are hard to host, especially if your guests speak Italian). I was tired, brokenhearted, mentally exhausted, but don’t regret going out and having fun instead (and it was another chance to have some delicious Augustiner beer). After the second beer, I got a taxi and went back to my hotel (ALONE, much to their dismay), because you know what they say- nothing good happens after midnight, especially if you’re a pretty blonde American with 4 Italian men.
Day 7: I had a tour set up for 9 am at Neuschwanstein Castle. I’m going to preface this day with one statement. If I had this day to do over again, I would not go to Neuschwanstein. Am I happy I went? Sure, now I can say I’ve been there (and I won’t go again).
I walked to Hauptbahnhof, grabbed a croissant, an Orangina (thanks to my ex-boyfriend Yuri’s love of this drink [and instilling it in me], I always get this when it’s an option), and a schnitzel and boarded the train. I am so thankful I hopped on the train when I did, as it’s a Two-hour train ride before you ride the bus for 15 minutes to the base of the mountain. Our train was PACKED. There were probably 20 people in my car alone that had to stand that entire time (most of those standing were men and college aged looking people, so don’t worry about the elderly and children, I would have offered them my seat, begrudgingly of course). I slept for a portion of the train ride, as it was hot inside the train and I knew I was in for a long day. Something I did notice and asked our guide Keith about was that there were more solar panels in the German countryside than I had ever seen in my life. You would see a village that was just full of shacks, where it was apparent people were living in extreme rural poverty, and there would be solar panels on EVERY. SINGLE. ROOF. It was baffling. Giant fields, filled with zero agriculture, but rows and rows of solar panels. People make more money off solar panels than they could any other agricultural product, so they use their land, homes, and businesses and “grow energy”. As a Houstonian, I loved this.
We finally arrived at Neuschwanstein and hopped on the bus. This was the first clue that there was going to be a problem with our guide. He didn’t have a clue how to wrangle people, and his co-guide who was giving tours in Spanish was even worse. She had NO EARTHLY idea what she was doing, and this came to be a problem at the end of our excursion, but I’ll get to that later. We take the bus in the rain to the base of the mountain, and the guide Keith tells us to grab a bite to eat if we’d like in the restaurant and he’ll be right back with our tickets. I ate some pomme frites with mayo, and talked with this couple from New York by way of Georgia, who echoed in my sentiments about our guide, except they were a little louder and considerably more upset about his lack of skills thus far. Fast-forward an hour.
Keith finally shows back up with our tickets. We’ve seen no less than 5 other tour groups start hiking up the mountain. About half of our group had wandered off. It was chaos, and Keith just didn’t seem to get that people were upset. It was really bizarre. I just wanted to learn more about the castles, so I stuck by Keith and this very strange Jewish girl from Atlanta who kept talking about her birthright trip. Maybe someone can explain what this means, because she was a BIG TIME WEIRDO and acted like I should know everything she kept blabbing in my ear. She was easily the strangest and most obnoxious person I encountered on my entire trip, and lucky for me she wanted to ride the bus and train back to Munich next to me. REALLY, IT WAS AWESOME.
As we hiked up the mountain we approached a yellowish castle. This was building in the late 14th century to protect a trading route, and later became the home of Ludwig and Otto. Otto was institutionalized (it was rumored he was a paranoid schizophrenic), and Ludwig spent his time after his father died renovating castles. He was majorly obsessed with German legends and Teutonic knights, which is evident the moment you walk into Neuschwanstein. The family still owns the yellow castle (I can’t remember the name), and has apartments there that they reside in. We finished the breathtaking hike up to the castle, and then had to wait another 20 minutes before our group was led in by the official Neuschwanstein tour guide- his name was Max, and if there hadn’t been 60 people around I would have turned on my A-game because this guy was incredibly hot.
Unfortunately for Max, I was there to learn about the castle and not to pick up some strange German ass. There was no photography allowed in the castle, so I won’t be able to share photos with you, but it was really beautiful, but not in the way that you walk into a persons home and you say, “oh what a beautiful home you have”. This was beautiful in a way that hundreds of people spent years of their lives carving the woodwork, or laying the 5 million tiles for the mosaic floors, or painting entire operas on the walls. Every detail was taken care of, except you know for the fact that only 2 floors of the castle were completed before Ludwig died, so the castle is completely unfinished (and will remain that way). It was beautiful and the kitchen was TO.DIE.FOR. I’ve never seen so many copper pots and cast iron pieces in my life. Those kitchen wenches were lucky ladies.
As we made our way out of the castle, we see Keith. He tells us to be back at the bus at 3:30 because the bus leaves at 3:35. So we hike down the mountain and the entire time the girl from Atlanta is going on and on about where I should go buy souvenirs to save money [NEWSFLASH: I don’t buy crap. I don’t care about the worthless crap you’re going to buy, and I don’t need a stranger telling me how to spend my money. Especially on the best place to purchase key chains, coasters, and coffee mugs. NO. THANK. YOU]. I finally made it down the mountain and hopped on the bus. There were about 20 people our bus. We arrived with 60. The couple from New York was getting vocal about how they didn’t want to stand on the train again. Did I mention it was snowing? And raining? And our guide Keith just looks at us and said, “I don’t know where my other guide is. We’ll have to wait for her”. This sent the wife (Dana) into a tailspin. Keith smartly exited the bus to go find her, and returned 20 minutes later, without the guide. Apparently the Spanish-speaking portion of our tour decided they wanted to go eat in one of the dine-in restaurants and the guide went with them. We waited for 10 more minutes before they showed up to the bus. Now, as most of you know, I’m very non-confrontational, especially with strangers. I get uncomfortable when people can’t get along and it makes me nervous. Things got out of control. When the group of 5 Spaniards (yep, the entire bus had to wait for these 5 people, when they easily could have taken the public bus like everyone else not on a tour) boarded the bus with the guide, people started yelling at them, in multiple languages. The young woman in the group started yelling back. The Spanish guide told everyone to calm down, that they weren’t that late. That really set off the couple from New York, and they ripped into her. I was sitting in my seat just wishing the girl from Atlanta would start talking to me again, just to avoid all this confrontation. The Spanish guide even through out the phrase, “this is why everyone hates Americans”. It was bad. Really bad. I should note I used the same tour company for Neuschwanstein as I did for Dachau, and had dramatically different experiences. We hopped off the bus, and the guide Keith told us to run, or we’d miss the train. We barely made it on the train, and thankfully found seats (and my new friend from Atlanta blabbed in my ear while I tried to sleep). The trip back to Munich was supposedly shorter, but it was pitch black outside so you couldn’t see anything, and seemed like an eternity.
After rereading what I just wrote about this tour, it sounded horrible. It truly wasn’t bad, it was just completely different than what I was expecting (I mean, Cinderella’s castle was modeled after this, so I had some pretty high expectations). And the lady Dana from New York and I had an amazing conversation as we were hiking up the mountain to the castle, and also on the train ride back, so it wasn’t awful, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Like I said, it was just a different experience than what I had imagined.
When I got to the train station, I booked it home after buying an orange, and I went straight to bed.
Day 8: I woke up to check into my flights and found that my first flight had been canceled. I freaked out. I was worn out, ready to get back to Texas, have a meal without a sausage, and speak English to anyone who would listen. And I had lost my chapstick. That may not sound like a big deal, but I spent two HOURS of this day walking to every grocery store, pharmacy, beauty store, and department store trying to find chapstick. I pulled up the word in Google translate on my phone and had it repeat to every shopkeeper, and NO ONE COULD TELL ME WHERE TO FIND ANY FREAKING CHAPSTICK. It sounds stupid, but my lips were dry and I just wanted it. I am 100% convinced that they do not sell a single tube of chapstick in the entire state of Bavaria. Be warned Americans, take more than one tube of chapstick with you, because if you run out, you’re shit out of luck. (Now climbing off my chapstick-less soapbox)
I figured out my flight situation, and after the great chapstick search of 2012, I did some shopping. My mother has this beautiful wall of tiles she has from all over the world so I went in search of a tile for her. I bought my brother a beer stein. I ducked into a hat shop (I have a gorgeous and extensive hat collection that I inherited from my great aunt and have continued in my adult life), and wanted to purchase a beautiful mink hat, but the time it took to steam it and have it fitted properly didn’t work with my flight schedule, so I sadly left empty handed. I returned to my hotel, and headed to the train station with my giant bags full of books, chocolate, Haribo products, and some really neat kinder eggs for my colleagues children. I arrived at the airport, checked in and hopped on my plane to Amsterdam (it was 2 hours delayed, but it gave me another opportunity to fall asleep while watch Bridesmaids [which, by the way, I think is hilarious, yet I always seem to watch it when I’m exhausted and so I’ve never seen the end. Pathetic.])
I arrived in Amsterdam, and had taken the advice of my wise sensei with impeccable taste (and he also happens to be my boss man) Uri, and booked a micro-hotel at the airport (I arrived at 8 pm and my flight was at 8 am). If you are ever in a city that has a CitizenM hotel, STAY THERE. I don’t care if it’s not near anything, it is worth it. I would consider myself a city snob, I dislike suburbs, dislike the lack of culture, dislike chains, I just don’t like it. But this hotel was incredible (it’s downfall was that it was 100 steps from the airport, and not in the center of the city). You must check out their website, it was just incredible. Everything you need in 150 square feet. I took tons of videos of my excitement of the whole experience- it was so high tech, the windows, lights, thermostat and alarm clock were all this remote designed specifically for this hotel. Not an inch of space was wasted (but it was so clean), and the shower. OH THE SHOWER. It was like I was in a tomb of perfection. When I purchase my investment property this year, I’m going to make sure that it has the bones to be turned into the modern amazing-ness that was the CitizenM Hotel. I follow them on twitter (again, if you’re not on twitter get with it), and they’re opening a CitizenM in Paris- you can guarantee I’ll be there around the time they open- it’s going to be out of this world.
After some Sushi and Heineken with fellow travelers (also as enamored by CitizenM as I was), I retired to my enormous bed and watched F*R*I*E*N*D*S in Dutch for 2 hours (it was The One Where Avery Was In Amsterdam). This was the first time I’d turned on a television in 9 days, and it was a little strange, of course not as strange as the Dutch commercials- those are from bizzaro-world.
Day 9: The alarm clock was not what I expected. I had selected the elephant option, thinking it would be loud and get me out of bed. Instead peaceful blue lights turned on in the room, and a soft porno sounding music rang out from the speakers (if you ever use FreeConferenceCall.com, it was eerily similar to the hold music they use). It was surprisingly nice to wake up to. I scurried out of bed and walked in the dark to the airport. I was smart enough to grab some juice this time, but was still feeling a bit sick and exhausted (by the end of this trip, I can understand why sometimes people check themselves into the hospital for exhaustion, it is a very real thing and can make you feel wretched). I started making my way to the customs gate and started feeling weak in the knees. I got really sweaty, and chills were running up and down my spine. I wanted to barf. I sat down and chugged my freshly squeezed grapefruit/orange/carrot juice blend. I was still shaking, but had enough energy to get to customs, where the line was OUT OF CONTROL. ALL I HAD TO DO WAS GET TO THE OTHER SIDE OF CUSTOMS AND I WOULD BE ON MY WAY BACK TO TEXAS. I set my bags down and started waiting. And then, by the grace of the good Lord, they opened up another line and I made my way to the front. I spoke with the guy briefly (I don’t know why it made me so nervous, I had nothing to hide except 20 lbs. of Haribo products), as I was sweating through my coat. He finally let me pass and I got in line at the first Starbucks I saw. I downed a venti coffee and sat at my gate. Where I proceeded to fall asleep until a nice young woman woke me up. I boarded the plane, and couldn’t have been happier to head back to the land of howdy’s and y’alls.
As soon as I got on the plane, I couldn’t sleep. I popped a sleeping pill, ate my breakfast and tried to get some shuteye. The two people in front of me were a mother and her adult son, who suffered from what I am guessing, was some sort of mental disorder. A few rows behind was a woman with a very good baby, but over a period of ten and a half hours, is bound to cry. Every time the baby even made a peep, this gentleman would start screaming “STTTTTOOOPPPPPPP CRRRRRYYYYYYIIIIINGGGGGG”. It was unpleasant to say the least, and I personally felt bad for both moms because they were obviously both doing the best they could on a very long flight. It was a good lesson and reminder of two things: 1) if you are a mother to a two year old or a thirty-two year old, you never stop taking care of them, and 2) I am going to be a great aunt one day.
After getting two hours of sleep, I decided that maybe I could try and watch one of the dozens of recent movies they had on the system in front of me. Low and behold, HALF OF THE PLANE’S TELEVISION SYSTEMS STOPPED WORKING. I was in that half. Thankfully I had a fully charged computer and some writing to do (so you can all thank KLM for these lengthy posts), so I started plugging away.
A few minutes later the head flight attendant comes over the speaker and says they will reset ALL the systems to get the other half working again. BIG MISTAKE. They shut off all television screens. And then, none of them would turn back on. It went from half of a very large airplane being very upset, to an entire airplane being very upset. I put my headphones on and just kept writing.
We finally landed in Houston and I was beside myself with joy. I made a phone call when I landed that ended with me getting screamed at (SCREAMED, is actually putting it nicely) so my excitement from being home quickly went to warm, wet tears streaming down my face as I made my way to customs. I’ve decided that I’m not good at going through customs, so I need to find a way around this (yeah right). My sweet darling friend (and coworker) Seresa had taken her lunch hour to pick me up, and I could not wait to see her. When I walked into the international waiting area, I saw a sea of men holding signs with people’s names on them, and A SPARKLING DIAMOND. Seresa was waiting so patiently with a sign with MY name on it. I was so happy to see her (she can attest that I was the happiest person in that airport). It felt so good to speak English (and be understood). It felt good to get Chick-Fil-A (because that’s where we went to pick up lunch). It felt good to be in my car (which Seresa had trouble figuring out how to drive to the airport).
I’ve had a few days to process my trip. It was one of the most fun, challenging, entertaining and exciting things I’ve ever done. Was I scared shitless? You betcha. Were there times I wish I had someone with me to share the experiences with? Of course. Do I wish the circumstances had been even a little different? Sure. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
I am so happy that I went on this trip. I learned more than I could have ever hoped. And as stupid as it may sound, I am really proud of myself for going, because let me tell you, it was NOT easy, but the best things in life usually aren’t. #AveryGoesToGermany