We were rewarded for our 3am wakeup in Barcelona with some spectacular views as we flew over many of our recent stopovers such as Marseille and Nice as the sun rose before spectacularly crossing the Alps. Slightly less spectacular than doing so in the car but definitely more relaxed and a great perspective on such an intense mountain range.
We arrived in Munich on time and I brushed off my sweet primary school German skills to buy us some train tickets and navigate our way in from the airport to the main train station and onwards towards our home for the next two weeks in Schliersee. We were riding on the Bayerische Oberlandbahn (BOB for short) a cool little train that splits into three parts and heads in opposite directions once it gets out of the city. My German was not up to scratch to understand this process so we ended up getting both confused and lost at the completely wrong station before finally making it to our destination and checking in.
We were staying at Karma Bavaria, a beautiful and traditional alpine resort affiliated with our holiday club (the same as our stays in Crete and Isles of Scilly) and Jess managed to get our room upgraded to one with a giant balcony that just happened to have the hotels Christmas tree on it and spectacular views up to the mountains.
On our second day we woke up early, had the most delicious muesli known to humanity (German supermarkets are awesome) and went out to circumnavigate the Schliersee lake. We were rewarded with crystal calm water and a crisp blue morning, definitely jacket and gloves weather but not at sub zero temperatures which was greatly appreciated.
The town of Schliersee is situated on the side of the lake and there are hiking trails all the way around it as well as over the mountains to the neighbouring villages. It was beautiful all of the way around and it is hard to do it justice in photos.
There are a variety of exercise stations situated along the trail, all with great scenic outlooks so you have something to look out whilst working up a sweat. It was too cold for us to take on most of them but Jess was more than up to the challenge on the balance beam, despite a small wobble that had her looking a lot like the little cartoon bloke on the sign.
The lake has little rest stops all along the track and we had a bit of a snooze in the sun before continuing on, this was our favourite spot that we discovered up here and we came back several times with our e-readers to soak up some sun and relax by the lake.
In summer the lake is super popular for water sports, it was too cold whilst we were there so they were all closed up and there was nothing to rent out so no kayaking on the lake for us. There were also heaps of little over water bungalows that people hire out as holiday rentals in the summer, they looked really cool, definitely an option for next time.
As a tourist staying in the area we were gifted free bus passes for the region (paid for by our city tax no doubt). We made the most of these to visit many of the surrounding villages throughout the course of our stay. One of my favourite destinations unsurprisingly was Slyrs, the local whisky distillery.
For a very reasonable price we could do a self guided tour and received a tasting tray at the end. As well as checking out the 12yo and their Whisky Liquer (Jess’s favourite at 30% with honey and vanilla notes) I tried their sherry matured offerings as well as the Alpine Herbs Liqueur. The Alpine Liqueur is incredible, completely unlike anything I have tried before and I’m desperately hoping it is distributed in Australia!
There is a place in the mountains, far from any town, that folk make a pilgrimage to visit. It is not a church, it is in fact the most famous cake shop in the whole of Bavaria, Cafe Winklstuberl.
We set off here on a day trip, initially got off at the wrong bus stop which led to a rather delightful 40 min walk along a river with excellent views to distract us. As you can see once we arrived we ordered some cakes and gluwein (mulled wine) before settling in. The portions are huge, what you cannot see is how utterly delicious their food is, as well as the hot chocolate and gluwein, everything was awesome. I went with the Black Forest cake and Jess tried the traditional marzipan cake for which the cafe is famous. Both were delicious, however Jess quickly discovered she is not a massive fan of marzipan so I ended up eating both and literally (not literally) rolled back to the hotel.
I was fortunate enough to have my 30th Birthday in this wonderful part of the world, highlights of the day included heaps of birthday messages from people back home as well as a couple of surprise videos organised by Jess and cut together by my brother Aran and his wife Michaela. Totally got me by surprise and so very appreciated after almost seven months away from home!
The other highlight was the night hike nature adventure with local guide Horst, best described by Anthony from the hotel as “cool but weird and something you won’t do anywhere else”. We weren’t really sure what we were getting ourselves into when we jumped into his car and headed up the mountains and into the sub zero night with another young couple from the hotel. We were particularly surprised when the blindfolds came out…
It turns out that Horst really really likes nature and wanted to help us get in touch with the wilderness and experience it with all of our senses. This was achieved over the course of four hours, seven kilometres and a variety of different activities designed to take us out of our comfort zone. The first activity was walking through the forest blindfolded with no way of navigating other than listening to a tiny bell that he rang ahead of us on the path. Jess and I were quick studies and got out in front of the pack, Jess was the teachers pet for stopping to wait when he went back to find the others further behind us on the path. I thought I should have gotten bonus points for estimating where to go using his last position in front of us, then continuing forwards on my own. Apparently that wasn’t a good survival skill and I was lucky not to fall into the river… I’ve heard it both ways.
We also did an exercise where he went up the track and we had to follow after a delay and try and find him in the darkness (Jess won again) as well as navigating by touch following a line threaded through the forest up and down a steep hill through the trees. We both did well on this one despite me nearly being decapitated several times…
We had heaps of fun and did a few more exercises, we did the entire hike by moonlight without having to resort to the headlamps and safely managed to make it back to the warmth of the hotel by midnight in time for a quick whisky liqueur nightcap before bed.
We went back up to Spitzingsee, the location for our night hike, the next day to check it out with daylight and found that Germany’s highest lake was completely frozen. After I spent half an hour throwing gradually larger rocks at its surface in an unsuccessful attempt to break the ice we set off to recreate our hike and circle around the lake.
Jess tried her hand at some slack lining with mixed results and after considerable walking we found some snow. Unfortunately not real snow, they had an artificial snow machine running to try and get at least one run open for all of the skiers. This year just happened to be the first time in almost forty years that they didn’t have a foot of snow at Christmas. Unfortunate indeed for us as the main reason for heading up here was to experience snow, go snowboarding and have a white Christmas.
After checking out the condition of the snow we decided we’d have to give snowboarding a miss for this trip and instead went for another walk around the other side of the lake. As we headed off an epic mist rolled in over the lake which made it an interesting walk, afterwards we headed back for our nightly ritual of a long session in the hotel’s super hot jacuzzi before booking an impromptu trip into Munich the next day.
We jumped onto our friend BOB and made our way back into Munich, we checked into our hotel and headed straight out to explore the world famous Munich Christmas markets.
The first one we visited was the medieval market, when we arrived it had only just opened so it wan’t too badly packed out. We came back later on in the evening and it was so busy that we couldn’t even get in so I’m glad we came here first!
The market consisted of themed cabins selling all kinds of food, drink, medieval weapons and handcrafts. All of the staff were dressed up in medieval clothes and there were heaps of random things such as a giant goat man running around with a lute chasing kids and weird witch twins.
My highlights of the market were definitely the food and drink options though. Heaps of incredible wursts (German sausages), pigs on the spit in at least 30% of stalls as well as wild boar and every other type of meat imaginable. I had a wild boar hot roast roll as well as a few wurst rolls and washed them down with some mulled wine cocktails.
My absolute favourite was called “Thor’s Hammer” and consisted of a large ceramic tankard of hot wine mixed with a variety of spices and a double shot of scotch. Did the trick in terms of not feeling the cold, that’s for sure. I followed that up with a spiced wine, orange juice and rum concoction that had a sugar cube on the side which melted in when the guy set the drink on fire with his blow torch. Super delicious and I may have been drunk by lunch…
After the medieval market we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the rest of the cities markets which essentially all ran into each other and almost entirely covered the entire city centre. It is a beautiful city, everything was delicious and everyone was having heaps of fun. It was a really chilled out and happy atmosphere and I’m so glad we made the effort to go in and check it all out for a couple of days.
We kept exploring the city into the evening and ducked into a restaurant called Prinz Myshkin, we didn’t know at the time but it turned out to be an Asian fusion vegetarian restaurant. We had a couple of amazing curries with samosas before heading home to bed to get ready for the big event the next day.
Monday the 21st of December was officially Star Wars day for us. After hearing all the rave reviews and realising we couldn’t dodge spoilers until we got back to Aus I had gone online and searched and searched for an English cinema in Munich. Most cinemas in Europe show movies dubbed into the local language but it is possible to find cinemas that host OV (original version) screenings.
The cinema experience was pretty epic – beer is served before, during and after the film. They have nachos with a hot cheese sauce and their popcorn flavours included cheese and bacon. The cinema only had one screen and was exclusively showing Star Wars for a three week block and all of the staff were super into it. Not nearly as much as the German cinema goers though. The atmosphere was awesome, people are silent for large parts of the movie but go nuts (screaming, clapping, cheering & fist pumping) when something big happens. We both loved the movie and afterwards headed out for more food from the markets before heading back to Schliersee.
Christmas is a massive deal in Germany and the biggest day for celebrations is Christmas Eve. Our hotel was keen to give everyone a traditional German Christmas experience so had lined up a full day of activities for us.
We kicked off by reading christmas tales to ourselves and our hotel manager. We had been led to believe it was a big event and many people go and share Christmas stories from their cultures. That would be when the snow is piled high against the doors and windows and people are trapped inside. This year the weather was spectacular, and thus everyone but us had chosen to explore the outdoors rather than go to the event. It was still good, we had more chats with the rather lovely hotel manager who gave us gluwein and cookies.
Later that evening the famous Scherlirsee male choir came to sing carols on the balcony with a giant bonfire, this was the christmas experience we had been looking for! We also snuck in a delicious meal (perhaps the best carbonara on the trip to date) at a local establishment before going home to call our families (it was christmas morning in Australia). It was hard to be away from everyone at Christmas. Luckily we had each other and a catalogue of christmas movies (Jingle all the Way, Love Actually) and snacks.
On Boxing Day it was time for us to pack our bags, jump on the train and head for Berlin to meet up with Sarah and our Contiki crew for a big finish for the trip. We had a great time in Schliersee and loved exploring the Bavarian Alps, I think we will definitely be back in the future!
That’s all for now. The next blog will cover the final leg of our travels, our Contiki tour from Berlin to Budapest via Prague and Vienna. After that we’ll be flying back to Aus and recommencing normal life with jobs and rent and stuff… gross ; )
As always a big thanks for reading!!
LF & JT