Like a treasure chest of pop-up fairy tales, the Bavarian Alps unfold to reveal hideaway castles, their dreamy turrets and towers reaching for the velvet clouds.
We take a 30-minute hike up the mountains toward Neuschwanstein, the whimsical getaway of the child-like King Ludwig II.
As the backbone of inspiration for Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Neuschwanstein has forever left its stamp on popular culture. But nothing could be further from a Walt Disney fairy tale. King Ludwig's life was a tragic story... there was no happily-ever-after. One evening he was found dead in a lake with his mysterious death ruled as suicide.
Grand city halls... every European town has them. The Marienplatz, at Munich.
Unless you can't simply wait to get high on beer, Munich is not the place for you. The Marienplatz is about the only glorious landmark worth seeing in the famous city of Oktoberfest.
In Würzburg, a lesser-known city, we found peace.
Vineyards running up the terraces on hills, leading to a fortress way up high.
Like a painting — the Marienberg Fortress overlooking the Alte Mainbruecke bridge.
A servant boy brings a letter to the Würzburg Residenz, palace to the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg.
Its exterior majestic like any other palace in Europe — and here you may think that if you've seen one, you've seen them all — but the Würzburg Residenz! Its exquisite interiors are unmatched.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its grand staircase, the White Hall, and its sequence of rooms in increasing degrees of decoration (known to intimidate visitors to the Prince!). All these culminates in the masterpiece that is the Mirror Cabinet and the Green Lacquered Room. Do the names fascinate you already? No pictures of the interiors are allowed, so you'll have to see it for yourself. And by gosh, in this instance seeing is believing! ;)
In the garden, a statue of a putto fighting with a faun.
Time to wine and dine... decidedly un-German fare.
Trout and seafood at a Swedish fast food chain slowly taking over Deutschland.
A sculptor wisely chooses to rest his artwork beneath the shade of a tree.
After lunch; we set foot on the Alte Mainbruecke bridge toward the Marienberg Fortress.
Up and up we go, the many flights of stairs... a better soldier can march on with dignity but not mere peasants. We huff and puff;
To the top of the hill, where the once-was drawing bridge awaits us. Pictured in the foreground is a niffy art installation of tree roots snaking up a concrete slab, which I couldn't take my eyes off of.
Like a mouse in a maze, we start crawling along the outer walls toward the center of the fortress. Where grass and trees now grow, there was once a river.
This is the entrance to the heart of the fortress.
And what treasure does the fortress so jealously guard? An amazing view of the city, which we admired from its gardens :)
We take the Bayern train to the medieval heartland of Romantic Germany.
Except for the cars and modern electricity, everything about the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is preserved from the Middle Ages.
We scaled the town walls of stone, trying to imagine from our ancient perch of a lookout people from the 1400s strolling up the same streets.
In 1488 the mayor of the town resided in what is now known as Marien-Apotheke, the local pharmacy.
No ordinary character, legend has it that the mayor had drunk three liters of wine in a single gulp to save his town from Swedish invasion. A view of the town center, from the town hall.
We wandered through the charming cobbled-stone streets, tranquil in our pursuit of nothingness. Gradually, it begins to rain. There is a little bit of sad fragility, this rain, that lends itself to the charms of Rothenburg.
A series of three clocks, installed during various periods on the facade of the City Councilors' Tavern. When the clock strikes, you can see a reenactment of the famous drinking scene through the windows.
The pointy, spiny rooftops of the Burgtor Gate; hard to believe that once upon a time, this fantasy-like kitsch was the order of the day.
A few steps beyond the gate; see the mask on the wall? In olden times, hot pitch would pour forth from the mouth of this mask onto unwelcome visitors. This is why the mask and the strip of wall directly beneath it is darker than its surroundings.
Klingen Tower, framed on both sides by a row of ancient houses. Note the pulleys sticking out of the roofs of each house; these were used to hoist sacks of food up into the attic.
A medieval town is incomplete without a criminal museum, depicting the various forms of medieval torture and punishment.
But gore is not my cup of tea, and I refused heartily to pay a dime to scare myself. So we braved the rain and hiked to the outskirts of the town, where we could admire the view of the entire village.
See the city walls running along the length of the town? I would have loved to complete my walk along the city walls. But before we knew it, the day was done and we headed back to modern civilisation.
At Potsdam, where a sinister cluster of dark statues on the roof of the Neues Palais reminded me of waiting vultures.
Potsdam itself is home to eleven castles. The most famous of these is the French-sounding Sanssouci summer palace, which means "without a care".
Beautifully crafted atlantes holding up the roof of Sanssouci.
Figs and trellised vines grow along the terraces up to the palace.
Photography by my dearest Edmund and me.