June 12, 2016

Bavaria, Germany 2016 – Itinerary and planning (11 days)

Went to Germany recently and was requested by some friends to share the itinerary… and I thought, why the hell not make this a thing in my blog? So here it is. But before you proceed, read the disclaimer…

Disclaimer:
– This is a summer trip, made for June 2016. It won’t work for winter.
– This was planned based on 3 pax – my wife, my then-9-yo daughter, and myself. If you’re planning for a of group more than 4, this probably won’t work for you.
– This trip has a lot of hiking at mainly these 3 areas: Fellhorn-Kanzelwand (2 peaks), Nebelhorn and Neuner köpfle. No theme parks, no zoos, no sunny beaches. This won’t be for you if you have a small child in your group.
– The trip requires one to be reasonably fit to do it (as I’ve learnt the hard way…) and requires some special gears (tough hiking shoes, outdoor jacket, hiking poles)
– There will be some side trips at Munich, Schwangau, Lindau and Frankfurt areas as well. You’d see them below.
– You’ve gotta know how to fucking read a map. My wife for example, isn’t good with maps. If she’s going alone, it’d be the last time I see her. I use both maps and GPS (sometimes unreliable) to get my bearings right. Despite the advent of cellphones, I sometimes find paper maps more convenient.
– Hiking trip and a lot of walking. Prep yourself to be outdoor. Raincoats/jackets, travel umrellas, hiking shoes/gears, etc.
– A lot of train and bus rides as well. If you have motion sickness (like me), you’ll be in for a tough time.

(expect a long post after the jump)

Prep
Bayern/Bavaria Ticket: Is a group day-ticket for unlimited travel throughout Bayern/Bavaria region on local mass transports, trains & buses, at stipulated hours. Day ticket: 9am – 3am. Night ticket: 6pm – 6am (next day). Allows up to 5 pax traveling together. You’d save shitloads with this ticket. Buy online, print it out, keep your printed tix in a waterproof folder. Website for info and booking – here.

Inter-City Express (ICE) train: ICE train is a fast train, but not as fast as a bullet train. Not covered by Bayern Ticket. Purchase ICE train tickets 3 months in advance, up to 10x savings. If you come in from Frankfurt, you need an ICE train to Munich (unless you can teleport). Purchase ICE or all train tickets here (DB website).

Lodging: Book all your lodgings in advance. Prices are jacked up in the summer, and most popular places can get full pretty quick. You wouldn’t want to go there without a place to sleep. Places like Munich / Frankfurt can be expensive, you might want to opt for AirBnB deals or hippy hostels. Get something with a kitchen, so that you can cook your own meals to save some more moolah.

Mobile assist: Get yourself an offline map app like OsmAnd, which uses openstreetmap and allows you to navigate without having an active internet/data connection, just plain old GPS. It’s free for first few map downloads, and if you think it’s awesome enough, pay for the app. It’s many times cheaper than a GPS device.

Bus schedule: Download offline copy of Oberstdorf bus schedules into your cellphone (get them here). Or you can head into a tourist information center at Oberstdorf to get a hard copy instead.

Day 1: Arrival, Munich City, prep for Day 2

I planned for in/out via Frankfurt because air fares were cheaper but I have to admit, it wasn’t really a good idea. The trade-off was to waste one whole morning commuting from Frankfurt to Munich on the ICE train because the 2 cities are so goddamn far. If I get to choose again, I’d plan to arrive via Munich and fuck those expensive tickets.

Anyway, the idea was to stay near the Munich Hbf. It’s the main train station and the central hub of all transportation in the city. It would be easier for us with the luggage and I was glad I found one via Airbnb that was just 5 mins’ walk away (hotel can be very expensive at Munich). But the down side of this plan was, the surrounding area around the Hbf is quite seedy. There are a lot of hobos and vagabonds around which can be disconcerting to some, not to mention the casinos and what I suspect – whorehouses. I was ok with it though. It wasn’t paradise but it was definitely better than paying thousands in a kiddy theme park only to get dragged by a gator into a bog.

The time I finished with the check-in would have been past lunch and I planned to walk east from the Hbf towards Neuhauser Straße, to visit the magnificent churches along the way – The Bürgersaal, St. Michael, The Frauenkirche – ending my walk at Marienplatz (Mary’s Square). Around the square, are several historical and beautiful buildings which I planned to visit if time permits – Neues Rathaus (townhall), St. Peter’s Church, Heilig Geist, Asamkirche. I ended only visiting half of the places because it was raining heavily and cold that afternoon, which dampened the mood.

The evening was supposed to be at Viktualienmarket, and I planned to dine at one of the beergarden there. A good meal to be washed down with a pint of dunkel and we’d walk somemore to the city. I went there alright, but the outdoor benches at the beergarden were all wet, and those under giant parasols were taken. So we decided to buy some grilled ribs and roasted chicken and feasted at the hotel (for only a fraction of the price at a restaurant, and had enough to prepare for Day 2’s breakfast). Then an early rest for an extremely early next day.

Day 2: Munich to Fussen, visiting Neuschwanstein / Hohenschwangau castles, Alpsee lake, St Coloman church

The original plan was a whole day for Munich to cover further out of the city but after much thought, I decided to make a day trip to Hohenschwangau to visit the famous Neuschwanstein castle. The day was planned extremely early to avoid the dreadful hordes of tourists there, so we came out at 4.30am to catch a train from Munich to Fussen. Of course, it’d make more sense to just leave Munich and stay for the night at Fussen – because it is nearer to the Day 3 destination. I chose not to, because it’d have been difficult with the luggage and I wasn’t so thrilled about that. So, I made this a day trip instead and decided to use the 1st half of Day 3 to cover Residenz Munchen (if you’re at Fussen, the whole of Day 2 and morning of Day 3 would have been a Hohenschwangau agenda).

Hohenschwangau can be reached by bus once at the Fussen train station, and you will be dropped near the ticketing counter for the castle tours – Neuschwanstein (son’s awesome castle) or Hohenschwangau (dad’s boring castle). I didn’t plan for the tour(s) because it was expensive, short and no photography allowed (more like a rip off to me). It wasn’t a good enough deal for me so I skipped it. But if you wanted the tour(s), you can buy the tickets here before heading up to the castles (recommended to purchase online because the queue is mad after 9am). The tour will be given a designated time, and you need to be at the castle up the hill on your own, which can be reached by bus for a fee, or a 30 mins hike up. I’d recommend take a bus up and hike the fuck down.

The castle itself was a magnificent building, best appreciated through Marienbrucke (Mary’s bridge) for a good view of the massive castle. If the bridge’s closed (like the time when I visited), there’s a small path before the bridge that leads to a viewpoint which will get you the same view. Just walk to the castle when the time’s up for your tour. A few scenic viewpoints are on the way as well, knock yourself out with your camera. We had a great time there, especially when it was early and there was barely a soul there. There are a few hiking paths in the surrounding area for you hardcore sickfucks, one even leads to a peak of a cable car station of a nearby mountain called Tegelberg, offering super awesome views along the way. Head down the hill once you’re done, and tour the Hohenschwangau castle (adjust your time accordingly). When we were walking down, we could see hordes of zombies tourists (most from China) only started to walk up the hill (thank fucking God I planned to come earlier). Then we did the Alpsee lake, which has swans and some colorful ducks. The area’s a hiking paradise with spectacular views. (by the time we left the lake, the place has already been invaded by tour buses full of tourists from China, and the town was in chaos).

For lunch, there are plenty of restaurants there. As for us, we just stopped by a stall (quite hidden from the area) for some curry wurst / bratwurst and a locally brewed beer, and continued towards St. Coloman’s church. Walk or bus, up to you (we walked). The route offers viewpoints of the castle and the mountains from a different angle, which isn’t photograph-able if you’d taken a bus (and almost no tourists there – save for a few who visited on their own on rented cars). So, decide. St. Coloman is a unique and beautiful church, looks majestic during sunset (a friend stayed for the night to do that, but I didn’t get the opportunity). I planned to just hang out under the giant tree at St. Coloman for maybe an hour, but ended up spending more than 2 hours there relaxing and chatting with a family of locals (who surprisingly have not heard of Malaysia, but knows the place called ‘Penang’).

At about 3pm, we took a bus back to Fussen and a train from Fussen to Munich. We planned to squeeze in a visit to the famed BMW museum at Munich, but by the time we reached Munich, we’re almost dead of exhaustion and retired early instead.

Day 3: Residenz Munchen, Asamkirche, travel to Oberstdorf, prep for Day 4

We checked out early, kept our luggage at the reception. Then we took the subway to Odeonsplatz. From there, it’s just a walking distance away to Residenz Munchen, the royal-palace-turned-museum. This place is dope, we spent 2 – 3 hours here getting eyegasm after another, marveling at the lavish things people would do to feel important. It’s the 2nd most impressive royal palace I’ve seen in my life (1st has to be The Forbidden City of China). Ticketing info for Residenz Munchen can be found here.

When we completed the Residenz, I decided to make a small stop at Asamkirche (Asam’s Church @ St. Johann Nepomuk), which I missed on Day 1. So we walked south-west towards the end of Sendlinger Straße, to the obscured once-private one of a kind church. The first impression was that, its interior looked morbid (the exterior looked ordinary though), and upon closer look, you’d appreciate the fine details of its beauty. In a way, the atmosphere inside the church reminded me of the game Diablo… and I witnessed something incredible that day. If you’re in Munich, do visit this church.

Once done, we went to get our luggage, and headed to the train station. Planned for lunch at the Hbf (shitty place), and then took a train (and a couple of bus transits) to Bad Hindelang, a quaint little town east of Oberstdorf. My initial target was to stay in Oberstdorf, but the place was already fully booked a few months back so, I had to settle for a lodging a little further away.

We got ourselves a nice duplex apartment at Bad Hindelang. Be it Bad Hindelang or Oberstdorf, most lodging hosts provide a privilege card called The “Allgau Walser” card, which entitles you free bus rides across the region – up until Immenstadt and adjacent towns in Austria. If for some fucked up reason you booked a place with no such privilege, expect to pay for all your bus rides and rue the day you were born for being so stupid. Because of the travel, it would have been late in the afternoon and nothing much to do except go out to get roam the surrounding place (Oberstdorf would have been more happening than Bad Hindelang), and take the opportunity to do some groceries as well. Meat and sausages are dirt cheap. Beers too. Just to note: Grocery stores here are pretty retarded, they close at 7pm. Go before 7pm. You can skip this if you plan to splurge in restaurants every meal. We settled for an early night’s rest because there’s a lot of hiking to do on Day 4.

Day 4: Fellhorn / Kanzelwand

[note: weather dependent on this point onwards, you can swap around the itinerary depending on weather conditions. Check weather forecast here.]

Morning: Took a bus and headed towards Kleinwalsertal (a valley in Austria), and got off at the Kanzelwandbahn bus stop. The Kanzelwandbahn Talstation (cable car station to Kanzelwand) is just right across the road from the bus stop. The cable car fare is damn expensive, but well worth it considering the fact that it is saving you from having your legs going blitzkrieg on you for carrying your ass up that darn mountain. Price info can be referred here (try not to get a heart attack from the price). I read from around that some hotels/lodgings in the area provide special privilege cards (not Allgau Walser card though…) that offer tremendous discounts (or was it free, forgot) for the cable car ride, so do some research (my Allgau Walser card only entitled to EUR 1 discount).

Once up there, it was all hiking mode. There were still snow left when we went there, so it was quite a view. We plotted our hike with Openstreetmap, and I even prepared a gpx route plot. First we made a short hike to a viewpoint called Rote Wand, and had a fix of goddamn relaxation there. Then we tried to hike up Kanzelwand peak, but decided to turn towards Fellhorn as the weather was becoming inclement. The plan was to hike all the way to Fellhorn, scale the peak if the weather still permits and then hike down towards the cable car middlestation for a ride down. But at about 3/4 of the way to Fellhorn, rain started to pour hard on us, and we had to give up the hike. We eventually took our late lunch at the station, and rode the cable car down from Fellhorn’s Gipfelstation.

Note: this is a physically taxing and long hike, at least for me. It’s about 4 – 5km, consists of both descending and ascending steep slopes. Some paths might be covered with snow, like what we encountered (depending on the time of the year), which can be dangerous at some point. That’s why it is important that you have hiking shoes (not just some jogging shoes with poor grip) and if possible, a hiking pole. However, even though it was exhausting, the hike was very rewarding and the view of the mountains is nothing short of majestic. Oh, and at some point of the hike, you’d get to play with the water aqueducts with stoppers and wheels along the slope – which is unique and fun – which also keeps you going.

With a good weather, you can actually hike all the way back down to the base station on either side. There are literally tracks everywhere for you to do that. You can check out the map for the network of tracks here. This should keep you occupied for the entire day (just buffer some time to get back to your lodging, check the bus schedule for the last bus home).

Day 5: Breitachklamm

[I didn’t make it to this hike but went to roam around Bad Hindelang, but this was in my original plan.]

Breitachklamm is a canyon hike, along (mostly) man made platforms (some suspended) by the rapids of water from the mountains. My plan was to hike from the direction of Oberstdorf (north-east), all the way to Walserchanz, Austria. It’s just about a 2km hike, but most of the way are in ascending slope, so it’s going to take some effort. Also, factoring in some time for taking photos, the overall duration should be about 2 – 3 hours, or perhaps even longer if you decide to stop and do something fancy there (picnic? make out in nature? etc). In the hike, I expect fresh cool air, sound of raging water and unique view of natural formation of rocks. It’s going to be refreshing and one of a kind experience. Too bad we didn’t make it due to the severe thunderstorm. We didn’t have waterproof hiking shoes and visiting there would have risked our subsequent hiking plans, so we eighty six-ed it.

To go there, just take a bus from the Oberstdorf bus station (it’s pretty understandable now, that this is the central station for you to go anywhere) to Breitachklamm. It’s just about 8 minutes away from the bus station. Take the number 9, 13 or 9744 bus, and tell the driver “Breitachklamm” or show him a map then point. From Walserchanz (exit point of your hike), take a bus back to Oberstdorf and you’ll be set for the day. If you decide to venture further than Walserchanz, you can check the map where to exit and locate a bus to Oberstdorf, and tally it to the schedule. You wouldn’t want to come out way after the last bus has departed. It’s going to be frigging sad.

Day 6: Mittelberg – Hirschegg – Riezlern

The 3 towns of Kleinwalsertal valley are tourist towns in Austria, only accessible via Germany. Along the towns, are shitloads of cables cars or ski lifts up various mountains. But on this Day 6, I chose to relax our aching legs by hopping these 3 towns to just be visiting tourists. There are a lot of guest houses there, restaurants, and shacks around the meadows of wildflowers with snowcapped mountains in the background (it’s even more beautiful in winter). This kind of scene would have made wedding photos look epic and the envy of your bitch friends. But then, the 3 towns also kinda reminded me of the small town at the base of some mountainous region called “Hope” in Rambo First Blood.

The 3 towns are just located slightly further than that Walserchanz place in Day 5. Just get off from the bus at Mittelberg, and walk to Riezlern. Even though it’s about a few km’s walk between the 3 towns, you won’t feel it because the fantastic view of the valley will keep you going. We had a great time walking through the valley (we did it on a Sunday, and it was literally deserted there because most shops are closed on Sundays in Germany). If you’re in need for a rest, just head to any of the taverns/pubs there, and have a big ass pint of dunkel (dark beer), you’d be alright again. Just head back when you’re done with the place (or too drunk to appreciate the scenery).

We’re done by about lunch time, and went back to do a little cook out at the apartment.

Day 7: Nebelhorn

The cable car station to Nebelhorn is just a walking distance away from the Oberstdorf bus station, so you can just walk there. Cable car fare up to Nebelhorn is the most expensive of all the planned places. It costs about EUR 32.5 without discount for a round trip. For some people, that’s about the price of a kidney. You can of course choose to hike up to save yourself some money (or a kidney) but, trust me, it’s near impossible if you’re a doughy dude like me (my legs were still aching from the Kanzelwand – Fellhorn hike). Just pay for the cable car, and go all the way up to the gipfelstation to witness why they call Nebelhorn ‘the panoramic mountain’, just like how we did it. It’s going to take your breath away (not due to the thin air but the beautiful range of mountains in view).

You can also opt to ride only 2/3 of the way up to the 2nd station called – Hofatsblick (name’s also an anagram for “Fat Ho’s Lick” or “Lick Fat Ho’s”), and hike the rest of the way up. It isn’t too hard to do that so, it is a viable option (all the fat ho’s can still do it). I’d have done that if it wasn’t closed that day (the restaurant at the top station was closed for remodeling, and there was a chopper there doing some concrete piling work). Or you can buy a one way ride up to the top and hike all the way down. I’ve seen some very old people did that and they seemed very happy trotting down the mountains all by themselves. You can refer to the map to pick your best route down. Because I chose to cable car round trip, I managed to get down from the mountain by noon, and headed over to Oberstdorf for a relaxing lunch and some souvenir hunting. By the time I was going down on the cable car, the place was already chock full of local tourists (mostly geriatric Germans), so I reckoned the trip down in the afternoon would be damn congested… so, plan your time well. If you choose to hike down, it should be fine, but will definitely take up the entire afternoon.

After Day 7, you can opt to change your lodging to another location, since the remaining of the days will be done outside of the Oberstdorf region. I was at Bad Hindelang, and I’d have picked to swap Day 8 and 9, then stay over at Lindau on Day 9, if given the chance to change the plan again.

Day 8: Lindau

Lindau is a town located on an island in Lake Constance (known as Bodensee in Germany), that borders between 3 countries – Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The lake is so huge, that you’d think it is a sea (the lake’s nice but is as filthy as fuck). To get there, you’re required to take a couple of train transits from Oberstdorf. Check the DB website to plot your route.

Since it’s a small tourist town here, it is relatively easy to explore Lindau. We just went wherever the crowd was. You’d be smack dab at the promenade once you exit the train station and you’d see throngs of tourists (again, mostly old people) from all around. The famous landmarks nearby are the lighthouse (Neuer Lindauer Leuchtturm) – which you can climb all the way up to (for a small fee), the Bavarian lion statue (Bayerischer Löwe), Mangturm (older lighthouse tower, with a fake Rapunzel’s braid hanging down), and many more. There’s a ferry service that offers trips to Switzerland (on the opposite side of the lake), check that out if you have plenty of time to kill, or plan to stay overnight there.

Once we’re done with the lake side part, we roamed the town to soak in the atmosphere (by the time we turned to the town, we’ve already gotten quite a tan). The place reminded me a lot of Penang – sunny, bright blue sky, lots of cafes, restaurants, narrow streets, cobblestones, a couple of nice old churches. Everything’s nice and sunny. Lindau at night by the lake is known to look spectacular, but since I didn’t stay over, I didn’t get the chance to check it out. We left at about 3pm to catch a train and a couple of bus transits back to Bad Hindelang.

Day 9: Tannheim / Iseler (Oberjoch)

[Like Breitachklamm, I didn’t make it to this hike. We had the worst weather on Day 9, that we stayed mostly indoors]

Tannheim is in Austria, but it’s over to the east and just a 20 mins bus ride away from Bad Hindelang. Like Nebelhorn, we planned to fork out some money to take a pricey ride of cable car up to hike Neunerköpfle. The place purportedly offers a great view of the Tannheim valley, and it’s a popular destination for paragliders there. I’ve actually seen this place in one of the programs on Discovery Channel, about a family’s adventure on a hot air balloon. It looked surreal when it is filled with snow. You can check out the website here for your ticket prices, hiking options and the activities you can do there.

To go to this location, you’ve got to take the bus towards Oberjoch, a small town further than Bad Hindelang to transit and directly go to Tannheim from there. If you’re using DB website, search for Tannheim in Tirol Kreisverkehr, Österreich.

When we eventually get back to Oberjoch for a transit, we planned to stop by Iselerbahn for an open air ski lift up a hill in Oberjoch to kill some time. Unlike Tannheim, the ski lift’s fare here is much cheaper. Then we’re supposed to get home to pack for Frankfurt the next day. But we got the whole day to do that and again, did some cookout.

Day 10: Frankfurt

The trip back to Frankfurt is a long one. We chose to leave a day earlier to leave us enough buffer time to catch the flight. It’d have been risky to leave Bad Hindelang / Oberstdorf on the same day we’re flying home – because if we were to miss one transit, we’d be totally fucked in the hintern. So we left a day earlier instead, and that also allowed us to have enough time to visit Frankfurt before heading home.

The trip to Frankfurt would take almost the whole day. A couple of regional train transits, and an ICE train to Frankfurt itself. By the time we checked into the B&B Hotel near the Frankfurt Hbf (which is a shithole, by the way, much worse than Munich Hbf), it was already close to 6pm. We made use of the 4 hours remaining daylight time to visit Paulsplatz and Romeberg square for some photos, then we walked over to Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew (Frankfurt Cathedral). There was a choir singing the time we reached there, and the echoing sound in the main hall was simply amazing and mesmerizing.

We then went for dinner right next to the cathedral and settled at around 8.30pm. Then we crossed the Main river through Eiserner Steg pedestrian bridge and walked west along the Main river promenade enjoying the skyline view and the cool evening air. The place didn’t get dark until it was way past 10pm, and there were tonnes of people hanging out there to walk their dogs, making out, having beers and parties, etc. The place was damn happening! The time we reached the hotel, it was already 11pm and we passed out in exhaustion (again).

Day 11: More of Frankfurt, Fly home

I dedicated the final day at Frankfurt for shopping. Our flight was at 10pm, so we literally had the whole day to do that. We checked out around noon, kept our luggage with the hotel, and went out to first visit the Alte Oper (old opera house, which is a unique building) for some photos. Then from there, we headed to Konstablerwache and started to stroll west on Zeil Street, which is a mile-long shopping street (pretty much like Singapore’s Orchard Road or KL’s Starhill area). The plan was to shop till we drop for 6 fucking hours, collect our luggage and head to the airport.

And we already dropped when we were at the 4th hour mark, and we did not even cover half of the malls/shopping centers there. We did though, cover some noteworthy places, like MyZeil mall, which has a really unique architecture that I’ve never seen at anywhere else before, and a super happening street – Große Eschenheimer Straße – which is a flea market for FOOD there. There are literally shitloads of foodtrucks selling fresh produce, cheeses, sandwiches and wines at cheap price, and you’d be spoiled for choices here. The time I went there, the EURO 2016 fever was just beginning and there were stalls around the area promoting soccer related activities. It was a very fine day.

When we were done, we were more exhausted that the hike we did at the mountains. At the airport, all the 3 of us were at the verge of passing out (we eventually did, on the flight. Slept for 8 straight hours on the plane).

*****

Email me if you’d like to have the detailed copy of itinerary in Excel (that includes public transport schedule and some budget info)

michaelooi  | places  | 

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