After a fun day in Munich, seeing the Marienplatz and Glockenspiel, and making new friends over many pints at the Hofbräuhaus, we didn’t want to leave. However, we also wanted to see more cities. So we did both. We made Munich our base camp for 3 days and took day trips to nearby Fussen and Salzburg.
Munich to Salzburg is just 90 minutes by train. And unless you want to do the 4-hour Sound of Music tour, you can see most of the city in a half day.
Munich to Fussen is a little farther at 2 hours by train, but the ride is so scenic and beautiful that you won’t mind. From there, head to the nearby Neuschwanstein Castle (so beautiful it inspired Disney’s Cinderella Castle), then tour the tiny, quaint and lovely town of Fussen before heading back to Munich for dinner. And more pints of course.
How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle from Fussen
Take the train to Füssen, then the bus RVA/OVG 73 in the direction to Steingaden / Garmisch-Partenkirchen or the bus RVA/OVG 78 in the direction to Schwangau until you reach the stop Hohenschwangau / Alpseestraße. (Directions copied from http://www.neuschwanstein.de/englisch/tourist/howtoget.htm.)
You can also take a cab from the train station if you’re short on time.
Fussen and Neuschwanstein
The Scenic Route
In a restaurant in Old Fes, I met a man named Giles who was in Morocco to escape the bitter cold of home. Don’t go to Brussels, he said. It’s miserable. In case we did, however, go to Brussels, he also gave me his contact information. And while I didn’t call him a month later when I finally arrived in Belgium, I was surprised by how welcoming he and other travelers that I met on my 10 week journey had been toward me. They offered to be my tour guide in their home country; some even offered a place to stay. As a new traveler, I wondered if I could ever become so trusting, offering my home to a stranger.
When I arrived in Brussels, it was cold and rainy, just as Giles had described. But it was also wonderful, paved in cobblestone and centered on the Gothic and baroque architecture of the Grand Place. And the food … how did Giles not mention it? I wasn’t aware of Brussels’ culinary praises at the time, but during my day and a half stay it was hard to ignore. There was shop after shop offering waffles, beer and chocolate, and I, of course, got my fill.
I started with a waffle.
With no knowledge of the Brussels vs. Liege waffle debate, or that the “Belgian waffles” I knew were really a North American food and didn’t exist in Belgium, I chose a small waffle shop with a large crowd.
And in typical American fashion, I chose the waffle topped with the most fat and sugar: whipped cream, syrup and speculoos—a spicy, crunchy (and amazing) cookie I had never heard of. It was heaven.
Fortunately, through the gobs of toppings, I could tell this waffle was different. It was dense, chewy and delicious and unlike any waffle I’d had before. But now that I know the difference between a “Belgian waffle” and a waffle from Belgium (I believe mine was a Liege waffle) nothing I’ve had since can compare.
Next was chocolate. I sampled truffles and milk chocolate medallions from different shops and all were equally delicious. And then came the beer, which was the best treat of all. While craft brews have finally made headway in the U.S. offering selection beyond the swill of the masses (read: Bud Light), Belgium beer is incomparable. At least for me. I enjoy a yeasty, unfiltered Belgian white, my favorite being Blanche of Namur.
To top off my sugary feast, I stopped by the Corica coffee shop for a cappuccino and a non-Belgian specialty but a long-awaited first—kopi luwak.
Kopi luwak is a rare coffee made from the seeds of coffee berries that have been eaten and digested by civets (some call it “cat poop coffee”). It was not delicious, but not terrible, and for me, an expensive one-time treat I’m glad to have tried.
From there, I was off to enjoy Giles’ city: the tulips, the lovely architecture and the attire du jour of the Manneken Pis.
A quick detour to Pisa on our way to Florence turned into a really fun memory. The place was packed with people in ridiculous poses, pushing, holding or supporting the leaning bell tower. It took some teamwork and a few dozen tries, but we got a few shots in too.
When we ascended the tower, I could tell it was leaning. It only takes a few degrees to throw off your equilibrium. I had to stop for a break midway up. The marble steps were also worn from all those who came before me. I liked this, like I was on a pilgrimage to finally see the famous tower I learned about in my sixth grade social studies class, a tower that I had long forgotten but suddenly remembered with urgency.
From the top, we had an extensive view of the area. The town of Pisa, the mountains, the top of the Pisa Cathedral. There was a lot more to see and do than I anticipated and we didn’t make it in time to tour the cathedral. We stayed until dark, bought a leaning tower trinket and then took the train to Florence.
Ultimately, I’m glad I took the detour and ignored my suspicion that Pisa would be a cheesy tourist trap. Besides being fun, it was really beautiful, a perfect little green lawn with a bell tower and churches and some of the most lovely architecture I’ve ever seen.