Sunday, January 06, 2008
Munich and a Viennese New Year
For those of you beginning to wonder, “I thought this was a blog about Linköping and Sweden,” I kindly ask that you indulge me for one more week as I finish a great holiday trip…
After London and Salzburg, my journey halfway complete, the final two stops on my swing through continental Europe for Christmas and New Year's took me to Munich, Germany and Vienna, (back to) Austria. Though Salzburg is in the middle of these final two stops, and not the most efficient itinerary, things other than geography were important and this also gave me more time on smooth trains riding through the Bavarian and Tirolean Alps – never a bad thing and a nice breather in the midst of a demanding travel schedule.
"München" is Bavarian country, which traditionally means lederhosen, all kinds of “wurst,” big beer steins, bread loaf-size pretzels, a little yodeling, Alps and an uproarious good time had by all. While I didn’t see (too much) lederhosen, all the other things were true and my Munich experience will be remembered for the large amount of people in a fairly small area (Munich is actually smaller than its reputation, for sure), the crystal clear days, the fairy tale castles, my Italian entourage at the Hofbräuhaus, and the satisfaction of being a tourist, but because of my time in Sweden with Germans, actually having friends to see and spend time with in their native country. A big thanks to Frauke and Christoph for your warm German hospitality in the middle of a cold and snow-filled morning.
After three quick days in Munich, it was off to Vienna to celebrate the New Year with the Viennese (and a whole lot of others as it turned out). Vienna seems to get overlooked on many American’s Europe itineraries. Most Americans wouldn’t even know Vienna as the capital of the Hapsburg dynasty/Empire, which ruled Europe along with a few other families for almost 600 years!
Now Vienna relaxes as a former world-changer content to revel in an architecturally grand city with a café and leisure culture second-to-none (even Paris). Never too far from waltzing music, the traveler to Vienna is simply charmed by the palatial buildings, elegant cafés, sprawling parks and greenery (or so I am told when it’s not winter), music and opera culture and regal atmosphere.
Throw in a celebratory holiday like New Year’s and it makes for quite the party. Despite the typical alcohol-laden license for recklessness that so many unfortunately adopt on New Year’s Eve, my New Year’s in Vienna will be remembered for the citywide ballroom (see picture) and thousand person Blue Danube waltz at midnight, ringing in the New Year as only the Viennese can.
“Prosit Neujahr” (Happy New Year) and next week we return to Sweden to continue our exploration and enjoyment of all things Swedish.
1. The Munich skyline generally consists only of Our Lady Cathedral in the distance and New Town Hall in the foreground.
2. I took a day excursion deep into the Bavarian Alpine region in search of "Mad" King Ludwig's fairy tale castles. This is Neuschwanstein, built in the late 1800s for the sole purpose of looking like it's out of the imagination of children.
3. A funny thing happened when I went to Munich's famed Hofbräuhaus. Before I knew it, I was joined at the table by 10 Italians and the party was on! Bongiorno - Viva Italia!
4. The streets of inner-city Vienna during the holidays are a spectacle of lights portraying the best of the ballrooms for which Vienna is so famed. "May I have this dance?"
5. Rathausplatz, city hall square, in Vienna where the New Year was welcomed to the tune of Strauss' The Blue Danube waltz. Vienna? New Year's? Perfect.