Happy Halloween lovelies!
Here in France, Halloween was a trend that hit about ten years ago and has faded back out ever since, so the only pumpkins, ghosts, skeletons and bats I get to see this year are hanging from the ceilings and doors of expat hubs like Irish bars and Disneyland. I’m bummed out as Halloween is one of the BEST HOLIDAYS EVER.
Ahem. Sorry. I get passionate about these things. In any case, in an attempt to make up for the lack of natural celebration, my British friends and I are going to spend the day making our own spook-tacular October 31st, starting with a trip to the Parisian Catacombs, having a bit of a Halloween party at a flat, and then probably off to one of the aforementioned Irish bars. I am attempting to dress up as Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games, but it’ll be a bit of a modified attempt because I’m not particularly interested in spending a lot of money…so…even though that’s a really easy costume to get spot-on, mine will probably…not be.
In any case, on to the actual post!
Back to Germany we go, with day two of my adventures with Sean. We decided to spend the first part of this day exploring Sean’s actual city, Ulm/Neu-Ulm. The cities are sister cities separated by the Danube River, but often referred to as one and the same. Given the fact that this meant we had no early train to catch, we slept in…probably a bit later than advisable, but, whatever. Our vacation, we do what we want…YEAH! (…sorry, won’t happen again.)
We started off the day with a really lovely stroll from his home to the center of Ulm along the Danube (Donau). As I mentioned in my last post, Germany is in full fall swing with incredibly bright, beautiful trees full of color that just made this walk so beautiful. There were tons (and I do mean TONS) of ducks floating along the river, speed-walkers (because apparently people don’t realize they can just jog, I don’t know) and every now and again a sweet older couple strolling along with us.
We made our way into the main plaza in town to the legendary Ulm Münster, a Lutheran church that apparently used to be a Roman Catholic church…it shows. In any case, Sean originally described this massive thing to me as a Satanic church, but he was only joking. However, the night I arrived there was a bright full moon illuminating it from behind, and what with the rather austere gothic appearance on the outside…I thought perhaps this was an accurate description, and was expecting a bit of a grim interior to match.
Wrong wrong wrong.
The inside of the church-as I discovered was often the case in Germany-was painted white with pastels, airy and absolutely serene. The ceilings soared far above what I could have expected from the outside, and stained glass windows let shades of color dance on the walls. It’s pretty ethereal inside, I must say. The church is decorated with religious figures as well as what we assumed were patrons or philosophers, shields, carvings…a whole number of things. I cannot express enough how surprising it was to find that after seeing the outside, and again….the height of the ceilings is just incredible. We made some rounds through the room so I could snap photos everywhere, and then each lit a candle at a small alter. Afterwards, we began The Climb.
What’s that, you say? What “climb” am I on about? Oh, perhaps I forgot to mention. This already impressive church actually has the highest steeple in the world (on a Christian church, at least, can’t speak for other things). Oh, just kidding, Wikipedia tells me it’s the tallest church in the world, not just the steeple. 738 steps to the top (143 m/469 ft). And if you’re willing to pay 4 euros (2.5 for students or children!) you, my friend, can haul ass to the top.
The trip is marked by incredibly narrow twisting stairways that barely allow two people to pass, so you’d better hope to go when it’s not crowded or you’ll be pausing often–then again, with so many stairs going upwards, perhaps you’ll find that best. There are three main platforms where you can pause and walk around the outside of the steeple, one of which allows you to peek in and look down at the church bells, and the second stops on a roof. This is the end of the main part of the climb and where many choose to rest and take in some incredible views of the surrounding city. (Allegedly on a really clear day one can see all the way to the Alps…we did not have such a day, apparently, in spite of sunshine.) We chose, after a few minutes’ rest, to power on up the last leg of the climb, an even narrower singular tower that leads to an incredibly tiny viewing ledge. The ledge goes 360 degrees around the tower so theoretically you can walk around and view the city from that height all over, but the reality is that it gets so cramped with people up there that you almost can’t even move. We made our way around by trying to politely hint that people needed to move OUT of our way, and then climbed the long, spiraling staircases back down. Warning: You might walk away from this dizzy. You will definitely walk away with slightly shaky legs after the descent.
We left the church finally and, after a brief stop for snacks (found Hazlenut Chunky kitkats, SCORE) we made our way to the train station and headed off to Munich…at 2:30 PM. Meaning we arrived at 4:30. Meaning…well…we missed a lot of opportunities to DO things. However, we decided to optimistically wander around and just take in the city, so we headed out. By sheer dumb luck, we managed to find our way onto a main pedestrian street full of shops on shops on shops, musicians, restaurants, and several churches-a few of which we curiously peeked inside only to find that they were just as enchanting and bright as the Münster. It was lovely. A bit more walking led us around to a plethora of food shops and a marketplace, past a statue of the lovely Juliette of Shakespearian fame, and finally, by complete accident really, to Marienplatz, a main plaza of Munich where the local Rathaus (government branch, is what I gathered them to be) is located in a rather old and ornate building, complete with a dragon statue and bright red flowers popping out of boxes on all of the window sills. We took many a photo and finally decided to make our way to our only real destination of the day, the Hofbrauhaus.
THE Hofbrauhaus is a beer hall in Munich that dates back to some time in the 1500’s. As in, 200 years before the USA was even a country. Whoops. In any case, it’s now wildly filled with tourists, but it’s a classic joint meant to represent old-school bavarian food, drink, and music (not to mention the waiters in lederhosen and beer maid outfits…as you will, Germany, as you will) and so we decided we needed to pop in. It was my birthday, after all (surprise, forgot to mention that) so we figured it was worth the small splurge since prices were a bit more than usual.
We walked into the hall, which had low arched ceilings and hefty wooden picnic tables all over the place, past a live Bavarian band, dodging waiters, pretzel-sellers, and large groups of tankard-flailing tourists to a quieter spot in the back where we settled in. We immediately decided to go full on tourists just to go with it and therefore asked for the English menu…I’m not mad about it. I decided that I must indeed have meat (Bratwurst with a side of potato salad, please and thank you) but also couldn’t just go to a beer hall and NOT have a pretzel, so I got one of the smaller sizes of those, as opposed to the MASSIVE ones being sold by girls walking around with entire baskets. We each went for a half pint of the cheapest beer on the menu, which was a house brew I believe, and tucked in.
And of course, dessert had to happen. Birthday, remember? So a nice apple strudel it was, although admittedly the sauce and whipped cream, though perfect in texture, lacked any flavor whatsoever. Throw some sugar in there guys, it’s not like I NEED my arteries or anything!
Whilst we were dining the area around us began to fill up, and soon the two tables behind us were crowded with English speakers. We had a few small exchanges such as giving them our English menus and whatnot, and noticed that…some of them were quite American, and others quite Irish. At some point or another we had an interaction again with a long haired, choker necklace wearing American who we learned was from California, and who did rigging and lights for the traveling show.
Wait, what? What show?
Oh. Celtic Woman, of course!
…HOLD THE PHONE YOU WORK FOR WHO?!?! (Says Becky practically jumping over the bench). Turns out the entire group was made up of the roadies and musicians for Celtic Woman, who I have seen in concert in Indiana a few years back and admire greatly, although I admittedly don’t have any cds of theirs or anything. The actual singers weren’t there although I believe they intended to come later, but we chatted with the group and I got a little iPhone picture of myself with the wonderful bass player who was delightful (and Irish, so…doubly delightful!) As we were leaving we were invited to their show the next night, but alas, it was not feasible. Missed opportunities. However, it was a crazy happenstance of fortune to meet them, and was the icing on a delightful (metaphorical) birthday cake.
And now that you’re all completely sick of reading, I shall leave off with the writing.