Munich was the first stop on my 10 month trip for a few reasons, firstly because the flight was cheap, but secondly and probably more significantly in hindsight, it is an excellent place to base yourself for a prolonged period (read: jetlag fixing time) due a number of top-notch, easily accessible day trips. One thing you need to know before reading further is the most economical way to reach them is using the Bayern (Bavaria) ticket for train travel. This ticket is €23 for one passenger (in 2nd class) and then an additional €5 per person (up to 4 people total) – if you can drag other people along it makes it significantly cheaper per person! The condition with this ticket is that on Monday to Friday you can only travel after 9am (til 3am the next day) and on Saturdays, Sundays and public (bank) holidays it runs from 12 am (again til 3am the next day).
On with the list!
1. Castles – Neuschwanstein/Hohenschwangau
The incredibly famous Neuschwanstein fairytale castle along with it’s definitely-worth-a-side-trip neighbour Hohenschwangau castle are both located just south east of Fussen – this is where you will need to catch a train to from Munich hbf. Once you get off the train, chances are there will be a large number of people doing exactly what you are, so it’s quite easy to follow the crowd to the bus stop where you will need to catch #73 towards Steingaden/Garmisch-Partenkircher or #78 towards Schwangau – if it looks like a bunch of tourists are jumping on, it’s probably the right one (your Bayern ticket will also cover this bus).
As I visited in March (beautiful time to visit – snow around but not too cold and miserable) I did not bother with pre-booking any tickets, buying the “King’s Ticket” at the ticket counter, I probably had to queue for about 5 minutes. This was €23 and included a guided tour of Hohenschwangau followed by Neuschwanstein (you couldn’t see them in the reverse order). They space the timing so you have plenty of time to walk up the hill to Neuschwanstein between the tours, this takes 20-30 minutes (there are also motored and horse-drawn methods at an expense if that tickles your fancy). In the end I actually enjoyed the tour of Hohenschwangau more – the tour guide we had was brilliant and I felt there was a lot more interesting stuff to see. Neuschwanstein was beautiful (though incomplete) and worth the visit nonetheless.
As I was not able to fit Austria into my schedule properly during my trip, the realisation that I could do a day trip to visit Salzburg from Munich was very exciting. Especially as I’m quite a big fan of The Sound of Music (who isn’t?) and I couldn’t wait to see some of the filming locations. And to top it all off you only need the Bayern train ticket! So again, simply take the train from Munich hbf to Salzburg. I then utilised google to find a map like this to plan out my route (note the train station is to the north, the fortress to the south and nearly everything else in between). I started in the Mirabell Palace gardens, past Mozart’s house and birthplace, around a bunch of churches and then went into the fortress. Entry to the fortress is €12 which includes an audio guide and furnicular ride. Essentially you’re let in as a group and everyone listens to their audio guide as you get shuffled around by a guide – unique way of doing it but I enjoyed the tour and especially the stories you get while standing on the rooftop (not to mention that view!). By the time I had finished it had well and truly begun to snow and I was feeling the jet-lag, so my day was done, a great way to peep into Austria.
For someone just beginning to really immerse themselves in European history, both recent and medieval, Nuremberg absolutely captivated me and is one of the places I’ve made plans to visit again. Same old story to get there – train from Munich hbf, Bayern daily ticket. I did quite a bit of googling and came across this amazing free audio guide tour of the city (and struggled a lot to relocate it again to write this post so have saved it here just in case it goes disappearing on me again). This kept me well an truly entertained for the first half of the day and introduced me to my favourite roundabout ever. In the afternoon I caught the #9 tram from the hbf to stop Doku-Zentrum to visit the Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds. It’s €5 to go into the museum and I would highly highly recommend it if you have any interest in WWII history. I spent a couple of hours wandering around and contemplating everything. Being a little bit crazy, a little less jet-lagged and a little bit stingy I then made my way to…
4. Rothenborg Au Tauber
This classically fairytale-esque town deserves a full day to explore and enjoy the charm. I unfortunately decided I would try to squeeze it in after a full day wandering Nuremberg. They are quite close
, which is how I justified it to myself – it would save me €23 for another Bayern ticket and I had heard that the best time in this town was night anyhow because of all those other day-tripping tourists. I managed to arrive around an hour before sunset so I had a quick wander around and sussed out my top priority: a walking tour with the Night Watchman. As far as free (read: tip based) walking tours go – this was
definitely up there for me, not to mention the incredible cuteness of the town we were wandering around. There was something quite magical about this place and though I only spent 4 or so hours there, it is another place I’ve already made arrangements to return to.