We missed our alarms but fortunately woke up around 6:15 today. The bus had to be packed and ready to leave by 7:15, so this left us little time to wrap up our activities in the room, get down to breakfast, and then out the door. Fortunately we made it on time.

I think the hotel we stayed at in Würzburg was very nice. Very modern, which is normally not to my taste but it worked great for me this time. When Shannon went out to dinner, I took a shower that I didn’t have to climb into, it was a walk-in. The toilet was in a separate little room, and there was a sort of mini-kitchen/sink area. I turned on the German TV for the first time and watched half of a 2nd season episode of Star Trek The Next Generation. The Germans apparently prefer to dub all their shows, not using sub titles with the English voices remaining. I also saw a couple minutes of a cop show, and a game show, both of which were of native provenance.

After breakfast, we set off on a 4 hour bus ride into Bavaria and down to Obergammerau. As we went along, the topography gradually became more mountainous, and the trees started to mix in pine with the oak. When we got into Bavaria itself, it really was a beautiful place. If you’re an American, Bavaria is the Germany you see in your imagination, most likely due to Bavaria (and I think Hesse?) being the portions of the country controlled by the US after WW2 and before West Germany was incorporated as a counter to East Germany.

The houses here are white plaster, but often painted with scenes or other embellishments on the sides and around the windows. Everything has shutters as well, and theyr’e actually functional, not purely decorative. We saw more cows in this region, and lots of chopped wood piled up everywhere. Maybe these houses are largely heated by wood during the winter. At least one house I saw had smoke curling up out of the chimney as we went past. The roofs are mostly red-orange clay tiles. There are also many balconies.

The bus pulled into Obergammerau near the Passionspiele Theater. Passionspiele means Passion Play. Every 10 years a huge portion of the city of Obergammerau participates in an amateur production of the Passion Play. More on the Passionspiele later.

A few of us followed our guide Thomas who wanted to show us one of the most famous of the painted houses, which is called the house of Pontius Pilate. It was being renovated, so I couldn’t get a perfect picture, but you could see the intricate detail on the paint. At this time, the group was free to wander for a while, so Shannon and I went into a couple shops, one of which was a Christmas Store, similar to the one she had visited the day prior in Heidelberg. It also started to rain at this time, and I regretted not having my jacket.

After a bit of shopping, we went to the Wolf Hotel Restaurant for lunch. I had 2 pairs of wieners with house bread, which was basically some hotdogs and rolls. Pretty good though. Shannon had a pork cutlet that was not breaded and fried, but maybe pan-seared, with mushrooms, cranberries, and spatzle, which is small German shell noodles in a white/butter sauce. Several other members of the group ended up in the same hotel restaurant for lunch. Shannon and I tried two of the local liquers with lunch, Wildsau which was like a raspberry vodka or something, and Odl, an herb liquor. The Odl was syrupy and slightly tan in color. I liked it a lot. Shannon didn’t care much for either.

From there we rejoined the larger group to get a guided tour of the Passionspiele Theater. The lady who took us around had been a participant in a minor role back in 2010. The town was afflicted with plague in the 1600s and offered to God to perform a passion play every 10 years if he would relieve them of the plague. The plague stopped, and the citizens made good on their promise, nearly every decade other than a few times when the government forbade it for various reasons.

The town of Oberammergau has a population of roughly 5500, and approximately 2500 of them will take part in the Passion Play each time it is performed. The theater has a seating capacity of 4500. The play is performed numerous times during the appropriate season.

To participate in the Passionspiele in Oberammergau, you have to either be born in Oberammergau or live there for 20 years. This is due to the high demand people have to participate in the Passion Play from outside the area.

There are two different actors who play each of Jesus, Mary, and Mary Magdalene. In addition to the roles you would expect, there are hundreds of crowd members and choir singers. There are also scenes from the Old Testament performed as “Living Pictures” where the actors stand motionless as a live painting. The tour guide also informed us that after receiving bad press a number of times in the latter half of the 20th century for the play being antisemitic, they with members of the Jewish community from New York who helped them rewrite the script.

After another bus ride of 45 minutes or so, we were ready for the trip to Neuschwanstein Castle, which I anticipated to be one of the highlights of the trip. The bus dropped us off by where the tickets were purchased by Thomas. Visitors have the option to walk up the mountain to the castle, which the map says takes about 40 minutes, or ride up in a carriage. I foolishly thought we could walk it, but fortunately Shannon convinced me to ride up in the carriage, which cost 8 EUR per person for a round trip up and down the mountain. I never would have made it to the top walking.

Even after the carriage ride, there’s still a good 10 minute hill climb to get to the top. The views were incredible though, and the pictures I took of the outside from various angles cannot do the castle justice.

We got a 30 minute guided tour inside, which did not cover much of the actual castle itself, possibly because it has been undergoing renovation since 2016 which are expected to be complete this year. First thing you have to do is climb a spiral staircase to the 3rd floor. We saw the throne room, which is made to look like an Orthodox church. The king’s bedroom was also extremely ornate. There were wood carved features everywhere, including the canopy bed and a reading chair, both of which were meant to look like Gothic cathedrals. The king had running water fed from a spring up to his 3rd floor room, thanks to the pressure and elevation from a spring higher up the mountain. The king also had a chapel, which was dedicated to Ludwig IX, who is actually King Louis IX of France, or St. Louis, the namesake of St. Louis, MO.

There were many swan-themed decorations around the castle, which is the heraldic symbol of Ludwig II’s family. We then went up to the 4th floor which was a singing room, or something like that. A very ornate ballroom. Then we descended the servants stairs down to the 2nd floor to pass through a gift shop, then another staircase down to the bottom level where you’re greeted with another gift shop, then you exit.

Unfortunately, the last horse carriage leaves around 6pm as we came to find out, but at 5:50 when we got down to the horse carriage pickup area, there were no more carriages and we had to walk down the mountain. Though this was certainly easier than walking up would have been, it nearly wiped me out, and I was the last one down. However in-shape you think you are before going on a trip like this, more training is surely advisable. If Shannon had not brought us electrolyte packets to mix with water, I don’t think I’d be surviving this trip. They’re definitely the only thing keeping me from getting cramps every night.

20 minutes on the bus later and we arrived at the Hirsch hotel to check in. Shannon gave me water mixed with an electrolyte packet, then another. While I rested she went next door to a grocery store and picked up some snacks for us to enjoy. I had a banana, which should help my potassium levels, and also she got me some beef sticks, the name of which was translated as “cattleland hunter.” Rindlanderjager or something like that. Best beef sticks I ever had. She also bought a couple chocolate and waffle cookie type things, and a snack pack of various crispy bits of matter with savory powders on them.

A few more thoughts on the Germany we have seen so far. As far as fauna we have seen, mostly it has been birds that I’ve noticed at this point. In the Rhineland I saw herons in various places, also pigeons in the cities. I heard doves, but have not seen them. There have also been swans in the area around Heidelberg, including, I’m pretty sure, black swans. I haven’t seen any squirrels or chipmunks or deer or anything like that.

The hotel we’re staying in is called Hirsch, which means Deer. It is in the city of Füssen, which I wish I had more time to enjoy. I wish I had more time with Bavaria in general. This is probably the most “German” hotel we’ve been in so far. The shower drains into the wall/floor. There is a shelf toilet with 2 buttons as you expect. There’s a drying rack for the towels, and also the floor is heated, which is nice.