The many forms of greetings

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Have you ever had that problem in Europe that you don’t know whether you greet a new person with one, two or three kisses on the cheek? Or how low do you bow your head in Asia or where do you put your hands? It can lead to awkward situations and not even knowing how the correct way of saying hello or goodbye to somebody can prevent you from that.

Here in South Africa it’s different. For saying goodbye, people just hug you. No matter if you just spoke to them for the first time five minutes ago and they probably wouldn’t even dream of the idea that a hug might make some people uncomfortable. It’s such a normal and certain thing, that also if you don’t know how people say goodbye to each other here, you will know it once it happens because if somebody slowly approaches you with wide stretched arms, you just know what is about to happen. I haven’t received so many hugs from different people in a long time. Ever since I left the US after my High School year, I thought that Swiss people just don’t hug enough. Lots of my foreign friends in Switzerland lament about the same thing.

The funny thing here was that when I said that in Switzerland we greet people with three kisses on the cheek, they were shocked how you can just kiss somebody you’ve just met. Even when I underlined that these kisses feel very formal and it’s not like you actually kiss the person, they couldn’t stop shaking their heads.

 

Braai

Braai

The remaining days at the Surfhouse I spent trying to catch some waves in the morning and then just relaxing at the beach or in the hammock in the afternoons. Unfortunately only Saturday had good surfing conditions for me, therefore I next time better stay somewhere along the Atlantic with smaller- or in Indonesia with less messy waves. For the weekend, a big group of friends came down to Umzumbe and brought some life into our family-feeling beach house. Again, these people from Durban were so nice and just invited me along to Braais (bbq), birthday celebrations and surf sessions. When they left again, it also meant for me that my first week in South Africa was coming to an end. A few days were laying ahead of me, where I hadn’t made any plans yet. Since surfing hadn’t really worked out as well as I had wished for, I decided that there was no point in staying in Umzumbe any longer and try my luck up north in Durban. Also, I heard that the nearby reef Aliwal Shoal belonged to the top dive sites in the world and so I couldn’t resist to add in a dive day, although it would become very expensive with all the transport I needed there. Three things I’ve learned here during this past week are that I need to stay relaxed and just make the best of things as they come, even if they aren’t how I expected them. Owning a car would make life so much easier and, if you come to South Africa, you need to like dogs or start liking them because everybody has dogs here in all sizes and they will all come visit you while you are reading a book at the beach. But I have to say that every single dog was extremely well behaved. They interacted perfectly with known and unknown people and dogs.

Dock in Durban

Dock in Durban

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Thoughts on common sense

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I thought common sense is called that because it’s something the majority would regard as smart or correct. But travelling has taught me, that for different countires, you also have to use different degrees of common sense and sometimes it’s worth it to ask again, how their common sense looks like. For example the other night, I was invited to an African braai (another word for bbq) because it was a girls’s going away party. I had only just met the people who invited me that day but everybody is just so friendly here in Umzumbe. So, anyways, I was there and we were talking about how the current safety situation in South Africa is and a girl says, you know, it isn’t any more dangerous as other places if you just behave normal and use common sense. Sounds completely logical to me. But so, I asked her whether she would walk home alone after dark. I meant to add “in Johannesburg“ because I heard that it can be dangerous there but I couldn’t finish my sentence, she right away jumped in “No, of course not! I wouldn’t even walk on my own for five minutes, like here, that’s just something you don’t do.” We were only a five minute walk from the surf house. There only is one road here and everything else is beach and jungle, it’s not like there should be a lot of drunken creeps hiding in the bushes. But you have to listen to these things as a foreigner and therefore I was glad that people here always drive you to places without you even having to ask, just because that’s how you do that here. So much for my common sense. In Switzerland and in many European cities any gender could come and go as they please at any time of the day or night. It would be quite a sad shock if you got stabbed. And I know the basics like: “don’t walk around and look like you have a lot of money or expensive possessions and don’t leave your bag unattended.” But here, we even have to hide our flip flops in the bushes when we go surfing, because apparently, they have been stolen before. I guess, this time it’s not just the tourist guide that tells us these things but the locals actually follow these rules quite strictly, too. Therefore, when I saw a public bus driving by I dismissed the thought of taking that one up to Johannesburg very quickly. It probably would be cheaper and a lot more entertaining but I already learned in Honduras that in some countries, it’s just not safe to use the normal public transport. There, we needed to get from the harbor back to San Pedro Sula and the normal bus was $20 cheaper than the tourist bus. It took my friend Dimitri quite some time and energetic words to convince me, that it really wasn’t safe to ride with the locals because the chance of getting robbed, into an accident or even murdered was so high. These things are sometimes hard to understand for a Swiss person, where even children can ride the buses and trains on their own. But even in that sense, I learned a lot during the past year and I now try to adapt to the local common sense right away if somebody suggests completely unnecessary sounding boundaries to me.

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Yesterday, the ocean had been much calmer. So calm in fact, that there were hardly any waves. But I at least caught a vew good ones 🙂 Today it was a completely different story again. Strong onshore winds that make the ocean very rough but kill all the nice waves. Unfortunately, I therefore had to take a break from surfing and we went on a hike in Oribi Gorge instead. There is a famous gorge swing and a long suspension bridge but we hiked in the less touristy part. All the pictures are from the hike today. Now I keep my fingers crossed, that my surf luck will be slightly better for my remaining days here.

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Welcome to the South Coast of South Africa

Leaving alone to go travelling seems to become harder every time. It’s just so much nicer if you can share the journey with somebody who means something to you as well and not just the destinations (with all the new nice people you get to meet). Because, isn’t as they say the journey the reward? And I was looking at a long stretch of road ahead of me.

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First, I took the train to Frankfurt. Luckily, nobody was on strike this time and I arrived at the airport, with my three hour time cushion still intact. Therefore, I had enough time to enjoy an ice cream and watch the planes land and take off from the visitor terrace.

The Emirates flight to Dubai was agreeable as always and thanks to them, I even had a free meal at DBX. I previously read on the internet, that if you have a layover that’s longer than four hours, you can get a free meal voucher at information desk H, right near gate B18. I guess I qualified for that with my 10 hours. Nobody has ever told me about that, but still, I wasn’t the only person who knew about this by far.
Since my layover was during the night, there wasn’t really any point in leaving the airport (especially when the airport shops are open 24/7) and I mostly tried to catch some sleep. There are loads of these uncomfortable chairs that are enclosed by armrests on both sides but there also are a lot of almost bed-like chairs. So even for me it was possible to sleep for a while.
From time to time I was tempted to hop on a plane that was going to Melbourne. I miss that place. But I stuck to my plan and already met many nice South African people at the gate.

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8 hours later I landed at King Shaka airport in Durban. Already that name made me feel like I stepped right into Lion King country. It took me about an hour to get through the health checks and security. They take that serious here! We even got sprayed with disinfectant on the plane.
It was already dark night at 6pm and cool 14 degrees (compared to the unusual heatwave we had in Switzerland), well yes, its winter here but apparently, it isn’t usually that freezing here because all the locals were complaining. Winter is supposed to be the best time of the year to come surfing here, though, and again, I only ran into friendly people after I landed. An usher in front of a coffee shop even offered me a free coffee, since I didn’t have time to sit down. (Probably I also just looked too pitiable after 34 hours of travelling. The surf house had arranged a seat on a shuttle bus for me and so the pick-up and transport worked out perfectly (180 ZAR on the Margate coach).

Finally, I arrived at the Surfhouse in Umzumbe. A warm dinner was waiting for me and all the people here are really nice and relaxed. The surfhouse is very cute and decorated like you imagine a true beach cottage for surfers. Plus, they have awesome strong and hot showers! There is a beautiful green lawn in front of the house and right behind it is the beach with the waves. I can hear the waves from my room, it’s wonderful.

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Now it’s the evening of my second day. I’ve been surfing twice but that unfortunately hasn’t worked out too well yet. The ocean here is so powerful that it’s quite scary and actually not an ideal place for somebody who still has to learn a lot. Hopefully, it will get better during the next days. But it was awesome that already during the first hour, I saw a big group of dolphins and several whales (it’s whale season here). Today again, I saw whales splashing and jumping at the horizon. As long as the sharks stay behind the net line, I’m fine with that.

After the straining “survive” paddle lesson in the morning, I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon in the hammock and just watching the ocean and enjoying the beautiful colors. I would never get to see something like that if I haven’t left home. Plus, I already got to enjoy some Savanna Ciders in good company, as everybody here is very open and welcoming. That’s why you should travel, even if you are the only person in your environment who still has vacation days left, or nobody else has the money to accompany you. There is so much to see, learn and enjoy. Plus, I don’t have to complain this time, as Michèle will meet me in Victoria Falls in 10 days. Looking forward to seeing you!

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Things that are logical but I wasn’t aware off before I reached South Africa:

  • They drive on the left side of the road like in Australia and England
  • The sun sets early in winter (already at around 5pm)
  • Even though I’m not in a game park, there are wild animals like monkeys and big lizards sitting on the trees
  • “just now” actually means “in a bit”
  • (there was more but I have forgotten for now)

The next adventure lies just around the corner

On 12. July I will fly to Durban, South Africa and go surfing and diving for 7-10 days. Afterwards, I’ll fly to Victoria Falls and start an 8 day safari towards Johannesburg. I’m very excited about finally being able to see some of the African wilderness. In the end, we will spend a few days in Johannesburg and 3 days in Krueger National Park.

Preparations are done and the only thing I still have to do is pack my bag. Plus, the question about whether to take a malaria prophylaxis or just an emergancy medicine is still not entirely answered. What do you think? Have you been to this area and what experiences have you made?

Check back here to find some pictures of the animals I will spot 🙂

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All roads lead to Rome

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In our case the above proverb really applied but actually only from our connection from Switzerland to Milan. As every time I have to go to Milan, something happens that my travel plan becomes more complicated. This time, it was a train crash with two cargo trains that happened in Switzerland and therefore the path I wanted to take was blocked. Due to the long weekend, all the other trains were already overbooked anyways and now even more people had to get on them…I wasn’t sure whether I’d make it to Milan in time to make my connection to Rome, but all I could do was try. In the end, my route via Bern – Brig – Milano Expo worked (although I had to stand in the overcrowded isle of the train from Brig to Milan …) and I met my friends at Porta Garibaldi just in time. They also had to make last minute changes to their travel plans and so 4 people had to take three different routes to get to Milan. Good that these possibilities existed and that we had this 2 hour time cushion.

On the Italian train from Milano to Rome, we had pre booked seats and had a very agreeable journey on a clean and fast train with air-conditioning and wifi. We had bought our tickets during a special offer and had a return trip to Milan for only 24 Euros! We couldn’t say not to that.

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Three and a half hours later, we arrived in Rome, where contrary to Switzerland it wasn’t raining and still over 20° C. Summer had arrived J.

Our connection by metro and bus to the airbnb worked without any problems, too. I didn’t really know what to expect of an airbnb since we did this for the first time. It’s an accommodation you book over a website. It can be anything from a private apartment or house to a dormitory room. This time we had a small room with bunk beds in the basement of a house. Good enough if you only need the room for sleeping and the shower was great!

We had a nice café right around the corner, where we went to have breakfast every day and the baristas enjoyed my attempts in ordering in Italian (I don’t speak Italian at all) since they were not used to tourist in this area and we probably were a nice change to the daily clientele they have. Luckily, Myriam (the one I went to Thailand with and not Australia ;)) knew that the Italian way of eating breakfast is having a coffee and something sweet at the bar, without sitting down at the table and so we avoided the almost 100% price surcharge if we had sat down at a table.

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We took the metro to the Colosseo and were happy to really be in the Rome as we had imagined it. We walked once around it to look for a shorter entrance line but then realized that we’d have to wait in the one, really long line near the arch. The tour guides who wanted to sell us their tours said that the line would take 2 hours but in the end we only waited about half an hour until we had our tickets. It’s a two day pass for the Colosseo and the Forum Romanum for 12 Euros or 8 Euros if you are under 25 and from the European Union.

There were hundreds of tourists but it was worth seeing the ruin of this huge stadium from the insides anyways. Plus, it’s also like a museum with old statues and artefacts. About 1,5 hours later, we met up with our friends (yes, it’s possible to find each other in all the tourists) and then went to look for some lunch. My goal was to eat pizza and gelati at least once every day and I achieved it J. The best ice cream we had was on the side of Basilica di Santa Maria. All the pizzas I had were good but the best dinner all in all probably was the one near the Vatican. In that area are many cute restaurants anyways.

Our days were filled with a lot of walking. Rome is like an open air museum, there is sooooooo much to see and at every corner you find another beautiful church, obelisk, arch, stairway, market or garden. Since there are only two metro lines and we didn’t really figure out the bus plan, we ended up walking everything. It was fun to see all these sights you always see on pictures or on TV in nature.

Pantheon by night

Pantheon by night

To round off our Italian experience, the metro was on a partial strike on the second day. A few Italians had been waiting at the bus stop for 30min already, since the bus might come after all (a few buses were running), so we thought, while we waited for the bus, we could also try to hitchhike into town. After only two minutes, a middle aged guy with a nice car stopped and we had a very agreeable ride to the brim of the city center with a stock broker who turned out to be the age of our parents but looked much younger and was really nice to give us loads of tips about good markets in the city. Have a positive hitchhike experience – check. Now that that was crossed of my bucket list, we could fully concentrate on the clothes market in Sannio Street outside of San Giovanni. If you haggle a little that’s probably the cheapest and biggest market in Rome (at least of the ones we have been to).

Forum Romanum

Forum Romanum

Then, we visited the Forum Romanum. If you want to have a look at everything, you need at least two hours but since the ruins are not marked that clearly, you could just have a look from the fences along the outside and would see pretty much the same things you see on the inside. After walking perceived 10’000 miles we took a taxi to Peter’s Square to meet up with our friends again. It was impressive to see the Peter’s Dome and the huge square in reality. Also, the line to get inside the church was impressive but luckily, we didn’t have to wait since one of my friends knew someone that worked as a Swiss Guard (I hope that’s the correct translation) and he was so kind to bring us inside without having to wait in line. He was also the one who introduced us to the delicious restaurant the night before. It was funny to pass all these guards who speak Swiss German and enter the smallest country in the world, in the middle of Rome. The church is richly decorated and the height of the dome very impressive. Near the front left of the church, there is a stairway down to the tombs of the former popes and then you come back up near the entrance to the big cupola. There are 521 stairs to get to the top and it costs 5 Euros to walk or 7 Euros to take the lift for the first 200 stairs. Although our feet were screaming something else, we decided to walk all the way, that we wouldn’t have to wait in line for the elevator. The first 200 stairs were no problem anyways, since the corridor is quite broad with small steps. It’s probably only the last 150 steps that get really interesting.

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First, you arrive just below the dome from where you can look down on the church floor and all the tourists. I didn’t even notice the people up here before! It’s so high! Good that we were in something like a cave with a fence all the way around us. After that, the corridor gets really narrow. You should visit the cupola before you eat too many gelatis. Plus, the walls are on a slant. The last few meters are steep corkscrew stairs. So, getting to the top is actually an adventure on its own and in the end you get rewarded with a beautiful view over St. Peter’s Square and the city of Rome.

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Of course, we then had to walk back down again and my calves still reproach me for that.

The last day of our four day trip, we wanted to take it easy and just visit the Pantheon and go shopping. Well, when is shopping ever relaxed? Again, we walked a 1000 miles but at least we wouldn’t go home empty handed. Even in the shopping streets there were so many tourists that it had the feeling of a street festival. Apparently, the best time to visit Rome to have good weather and fewer tourists is April but all in all, I was quite happy with our Ascension weekend.

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The journey back was a lot more relaxed since there were no train problems and so I even considered going to the Expo in Milan this year by train again.

City feeling in Porto and surfing in Peniche

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This time, our journey already began in Switzerland. Early in the morning of our first day of spring vacation we Simone and I took the train once across the country fo catch our easy jet flight in Geneva. It was one of the least complicated procedures until I was on the plane that I ever had. For once, I not only worried about the technic of the aircraft but also about the current mental state of the pilot. But despite all the bad news we’ve had during the past year, flying is still much saver than being on the streets and so we landed in Porto without any  troubles.
With the metro, it’s easy to get to the center of town.Our hostel was quite central but the room was so tiny that I wouldn’t recommend it for two people. Since we only had one day in Porto, we strolled down to the wine cellars by the river. We degustated a few port wines from the oldest port wine producer in the Kopke bar. They meant well and filled the big glasses, plus we even received some delicious pralines. The view we had on the streets and the river was a plus as well. Afterwards, we ended up at a weird synchroniced concert with Portuguese folk music and were surprised by a few raindrops.
We had dinner in a small and steep alley and since everything was completly in Portuguese, I didn’t really know what I would receive. But it was ok and plenty of food and for 11€ for two people we were quite happy.
Bookstore that inspired a certain story. Can you guess which one?

Bookstore that inspired a certain story. Can you guess which one?

The next morning, we took the metro to the beach. Unfortunately, it wasn’t  t-shirt weather yet 😦 Actually, the weather the past week in Switzerland had been better.
There was a nice park, a small fort and some surf schools in the water.
In the afternoon, we boarded one of the Rede Expressos buses to Peniche, which worked perfectly. Only when we got out of the bus at our arrival time, we had no idea where we were, since the driver dropped us off at a normal bus stopp. Thanks to two Swiss guys who were on the same bus, we then could hitchhike with the guy who picked them up and drove them to the Surfcastle surfcamp. The office of our camp (Maximum Surfcamp) closed at 7pm already.
From the surfcastle it was only a 2min walk to our camp, where we were welcomed by Simone’s friends whom she met at a surfcamp in Morocco and who now lived in the same appartment with us.

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On Monday morning we had to get our equipment and then got devided into our surf groups. I was a bit dissapointed that I had to go to the whitewater intermediate group yet again but at least I could really work on my turns this week.
The waves are great and we all have lot of fun. I’m surprised how well the wetsuit protects from the cold. Like this we really couls surf in any condition.
In the afternoon, the water is wilder and I have no energy to paddle anymore. When I get hit in hip by my surfboard I decide that it is time to quit for that day. I even need a powernap to be able to function again, my body just isn’t used to so much sport anymore. We have a delicious dinner with a nice view of the bay at Algamar restaurant.
The next day, the water is still wild and so I’m mostly on white water again but the video analysis of us after the course is fun and instructive.
Once we had organized a plate for the oven, nothing was in the way of our delicious selfmade pizza.
In the surfboard factory

In the surfboard factory

On Wednesday, we surfed at a beautiful colored beach with red rocks. The current was quite strong and the waves big, so why did this have to be the first day me and another guy from my group were finally allowed to paddle out to the green water? It took us ages to get past the waves and even once we arrived in the calmer water we only had a short moment to feel proud until we had to start paddling on and keeping up with the current. In the end, I only had the energy to take one wave. By now, every muscle in my body was hurting a lot but the peak of the pain only came the next day and on the fifth day, my body finally started adapting to all this exersise. Because of that, it’s kind of stupid to only attend one week of surfcamp.
After the course on Wednesday, all the surf students were loaded into the vans and the guides drove us around Peniche to show us the beautiful spots this half island has to offer. There are a lot of pretty cliffs and cute fish restaurants. It would be worth it to rent a bycicle and check these places out again.
Afterwards, we had a guided tour in the Fatum surfboard factory, which was pretty interesting.
In the evening, we played one of many rounds of the board game Dog in our appartment.
On Thursday, there suddenly were smaller waves and the current was gone, too. Now it was a lot easier to paddle for unbroken waves.
In the evening we drove to Peniche to have a mouthwatering dinner in the steak house. We all loved our dishes!
On our last day of the surf course we just had one long session since it always started raining again and the wave sets took a long time to come. However, I finally really surfed my first wave…Right in the middle of the green water and in the end I even turned in the right moment to surf on when the wave died at the edge. Woohoo, apparently I had made some progress! I wished I had an ocean at home to keep practicing. In the evening, we even were fit enough to all go out together and dance the night away.
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On Saturday, we made our way to the beach without our teachers and I was happy to be able to catch a few green waves, too. Unfortunately, the find and rain got stronger during the day, that only kite surfers were still on the water and I had my last session without realizing that it would be my last.
On the day I leave, the wheather is still indecisive.
Again, it was no problem to get back to Porto with Rede Expressos, it just took me an hour longer this time because I had to take a detour via Lisbon.
This time I stayed at Oporto Sport Hostel which is right in Rua Catharina and pretty cheap. I can only recommend it.
The next day I started with another delicious breakfast of local pastries and then attended the free walking tour, where I learned a lot about the history of Porto, its foods and drinks.
The guide showed us pretty view points and after the tour I had a much better feel for the city.
I couldn’t stop myself from doing a little shopping but unfortunately, I could hardly buy anything, since I was only travelling with carry on luggage.
For dinner, I went to another tiny Portuguese restaurant which was hidden in an alley. The waitress only spoke Portuguese and I tried to tell her that I wanted a dish with chorizo. She wouldn’t hear any of it and tried to convince me to take alheira (on the tour I learned that this is a breaded sausage with chicken meat, so that the Jews could eat it, too and pretend to be Christians when the Jews weren’t wanted in Portugal.) After the waitress had repeatedly tried to make me understand that this would be the best alheira I would ever eat, I agreed to take it. And oh my God, was this delicious!!! It hopefully won’t be the last one I had.
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Since I read that Oporto airport was open all night, I decided to spend the night there and not have to worry about how to get to the airport early in the morning.
I already went to the departure area at about 10pm, just as the last stores closed its gates. Perhaps I should have waited in the public area a little longer, because there at least Costa Coffee was still open. In the morning, I also realized that there weren’t even any letter boxes on the inside and so I had to hand my post cards to one of the staff who promised to throw them into the mailbox after her shift. Other than that it would be possible to sleep on the wooden chairs if you bring enough warm jackets. It got quite cold. The bathrooms were open, there are some powerplugs and vending machines, so it’s really possible to spend the night. For half of the night I felt like I was alone at the airport except for the cleaning crew (who was friendly and let me sleep) but at around 4am got too cold to lie around and wandered back to the main escalator to find many more people spread out on the benches. The last two hours somehow went by, too and already I was sitting on the plane back to Geneva. Thanks to my new best friends M&M’s I didn’t even have a sugar low on the flight this time and could actually enjoy the view down onto the snow covered mountains.

Castle Neuschwanstein and some tips for any kind of weather

Schloss Neuschwanstein in sunshine

Schloss Neuschwanstein in sunshine

For many, many years I’ve been wanting to see the castle that was the inspiration for the Walt Disney symbol. I’ve heard a lot of things and seen beautiful pictures and therefore had enough time and material to plan a good trip. However, don’t ever make plans without calculating that the weather probably isn’t going to play along. Next time I plan to travel around Easter; stop me!! I remember how last year, we drove along the Great Ocean Road in Australia in fog and rain and then a week later I spent my most freezing night in a tent somewhere north of Canberra. But I was kidding about keeping me from traveling. Perhaps it doesn’t look as picture perfect without sunshine but that doesn’t mean that all the places we saw were less impressive or the people we met less important.

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So, before we left Switzerland, the weather forecast for the area Füssen/ Schwangau, where the castles are located showed rain clouds for the next three days. Therefore, I knew that we probably wouldn’t see the castle in dry weather anyways and thought we might as well go there on the first day and make sure that there would be a tour available for us. On the way there, we even picked up a couple of Swiss female hitchhikers for a while, who wanted to go to Zagreb. I hope they reached their goal soon.

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At Neuschwanstein you can only visit the inside of the castle with a guided tour and you have to purchase the tickets for an exact time at the visitor center at the base of the hill or you buy them beforehand over the internet, where you have to pay an extra order fee.

Even though it was raining and a normal work day for most people, we had to wait in line quite a while. Also, because of the rain, there were no buses running up to the castle and the Marienbrücke (from where you have an awesome view on the castle) was closed because it was dangerous when the grounds were slippery. That sucked but we couldn’t do anything about it.

Schloss Hohenschwangau

Schloss Hohenschwangau

Equipped with our tickets we climbed the steps to castle Hohenschwangau. That was the summer residency of the royal family for many years. Neuschwanstein, which lies a little higher about a 40min walk from Hochschwangau was more like the playground of King Ludwig II. It was being built during 17 years to his special dreamy wishes. He then only lived in it for about 6 months before he died and then the castle already became a museum. So, the story behind it isn’t as romantic as the outside. It really looks like a princess castle out of a Disney movie and is impressive as it towers in the middle of the mountains.

When we started our first tour at 3pm, we were above all glad to be out of the rain for a moment. But it was really worth it to see the insides. Both castles were filled with pomp and expensive things. Especially the bedroom of the king in both castles was very impressive. Not that I could live in such a kitsch room but it was exactly how you imagine the chambers of a real king out of ancient times. It was as if we had entered a parallel universe. After half an hour, the tour was over and then we had 1,5 hours before our tour in Neuschwanstein started. We walked down to the lake, of which I am sure would be very pretty in sunshine. There are a few cafés and a small luxury shopping outlet which was filled with all the Asian tourists.

Schloss Neuschwanstein from up close

Schloss Neuschwanstein from up close

Slowly, we started the hike up to Neuschwanstein. Since there were no buses, it was a real pilgrimage of people up and down the hill. We needed about 30min until we reached the square in front of the castle and were passed by a few horse carriages that were going despite the rain.

Can you spot the Marienbücke?

Can you spot the Marienbücke?

There is a picture platform from where you have a good view on the castle and an impressive glance down into the Pöllatschlucht. Our tour in Neuschwanstein started at 5pm and apparently it was one of the last ones and most people were on their way home already because we were only 6 people on the tour and really could have a close look at all the treasures. This tour only lasted about 20min, since like I said, the castle had never been finished and you only get to visit about five rooms. However, it’s unbelievable how many details there are in these rooms and it’s a pity that such a glamorous throne roomis only used for tourists that walk through it. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the castles. From the window of the top floor, I could make out the Marienbrücke through the fog. There were some people on it that had climbed over the fence just to get a good picture of the castle anyways. We then talked to our guide for about 5min and then also made our way to the exit. When we stepped outside, we couldn’t believe our eyes; it was snowing!!! Plus, the ground was already covered with about 2cm. That must have happened within the last 5min because when I looked out of the window it hadn’t been snowing yet. Now, the walk down was even colder since our clothes were a little wet from the rain before but at least everything looked truly romantic now 🙂

In the snow storm

In the snow storm

We were glad when we finally arrived at our hotel and then chose to have a short walk through the pretty snow and enjoy a good pizza for dinner at il castello in Nesselwang.

The next day, it was as if the weather wanted to play a trick on us, because we were awoken by sunrays. The snow was still there but the sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly. The weather forecast had been wrong! Well, better for us I thought, because now we could visit one of the gorges after all. Yet again, luck was not on our side. The Pöllatschlucht was closed due to danger of falling rocks and the Breitachklamm was closed because there might be too much water now. Well, again we needed an alternative program. We chose to walk around one of the lakes. The scenery at Hopfensee was incredible, since the mountain panorama was mirrored in the water. The whole tour took us about two hours and gifted us with a strong sunburn.

With red heads we continued into Füssen to enjoy an Apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce (and have I mentioned all the good Bavarian beer we could drink everywhere?). With new strength we had a closer look at the historic buildings in the city and then walked to the artificial Lechfall.

Hopfensee with mountains

Hopfensee with mountains

Since the day was still young but we had definitely had enough sun, we decided to go to the thermal baths despite the nice weather we had now. Its name is Königliche Kristall-Therme and it indeed was royal. From most windows of the thermal bath you had an amazing view on Neuschwanstein and now with the sunshine it looked even better anyways. There were several basins with saltwater in them and many different saunas. This was the best thermal bath I’ve ever been to next to the Säntispark. The Säntispark is right near my hometown in Abtwil, St.Gallen and has a wave pool, awesome slides and a really nice sauna area. But the Kristaltherme in Füssen was more luxurious for sure. There was a relax room filled with real gemstones and like I said, the view on the castles was awesome.

Castle in Füssen

Castle in Füssen

In the evening it then started to rain again and the next day there was more snow and rain, so there wasn’t really any reason to stick around. Luckily, it’s only two hours from St. Gallen. Perhaps I’ll be able to stop by in one of the gorges one day when we’re on our way to Munich and the weather is better.