Friday, 20 May 2016

Bavaria, Germany - Day 1

In July, 2015 my wife Cheryl and I traveled to Munich in Bavaria, Germany. At the airport we rented a car and drove down to Oberammergau near the Austrian Alps where we stayed for three nights giving us two full and two half days to explore the country side and then back to Munich for another two nights before flying to Naples in Italy.

We had a full program as we wanted to visit Mad King Ludwig's Castles, go to the top of Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, walk up the Partnach Gorge and explore a few towns and villages.

This post contains at least 50 images made on the first day of our Bavarian adventure!

Munich Airport
After a long & tiring 10 hour plus flight from Johannesburg we arrived at Munich airport early on a Thursday morning. We bought something to eat from a cafe and inquired about the whereabouts of our rental company. It turns out that there is a much bigger shopping center outside of the main airport building with lots of restaurants and shops, with much a bigger variety, nicer and cheaper offerings than the airport itself.

This annex to the main airport building is quite modern with covered arena and interesting themed restaurants.

With all the terrorist threats of late in Europe its always a welcome sight to see airports filled with policemen even if they are only passengers like the rest of us...

Below a few more images of the large and modern shopping center adjoining the main airport building. All the images were made with my new, at the time,Canon Eos M3 and 22mm f2 lens.

I couldn't believe the long queue at Avis/Budget and whilst my wife volunteered to stand in the queue I took a quick walkabout with my camera to make my some of my first photographs in Germany. My son also asked me to get him a German National team football jersey and I thought I might be lucky to find a shop that could sell me one..turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be..I found a huge FC Bayern Munich fan shop, but alas they don't sell any German National football team jerseys!

Above: Rentals for the well heeled....

Our rental car came with a build in GPS but none withstanding all my research beforehand I managed to set a course to Oberammergau that took us right trough the center of Munich! Normally I would enjoy looking at the city, but this was my first time ever driving on the 'wrong side of the road' and as feared I was quite nervous because the roads are narrow and the car was wide and Cheryl had to keep on reminding me to keep right ...once we hit the Autobahn I relaxed a bit and could enjoy the landscape rolling past me.

We stopped for a rest and a beer (non -alcoholic) and a chance to catch our breath after the ordeal of driving through the city at one of the famed truck stops on the autobahn. To my surprise it was much like our own, just perhaps with fewer and rather tired looking facilities.

Above: B&W conversion of an image of the staircase winding down to the ablutions. 

Above: Still smiling after a hectic drive through the center of Munich and a 10 hour cramped economy class flight!

Above: Cheryl having a beer in front of our Skoda Octavia rental. It was a rather nice car with all the mod cons including GPS, rear camera and a  frugal yet powerful diesel engine. I asked for a station wagon because we had two large suitcases plus a couple of pieces of hand luggage and from experience I know that the smaller cars boots are not big enough for two large 'international flight' suitcases. I also wanted everything hidden away from preying eyes....


So after a two hour drive from Munich airport, including an hour pit stop we eventually arrived in Oberammergau about 126km south from Munich airport depending on which route the gps decides to take you on.

Below is a few links to Oberammergau tourism websites:

We had booked a three night stay in Pension Zwink which is a small family run hotel within walking distance of all the tourist attractions of Oberammergau itself and a very good base from with to explore the region 

We had made our booking through -  - although I see they no longer accept bookings for the Pension Zwink on their website. Below is an alternate website for Pension Zwink. 

Herr Josef Zwink himself is very friendly and helpful and serves a hearty breakfast that will get anyone through the best part of a busy travel morning! I can sincerely recommend Pension Zwink as a base from which to explore not only Oberammergau  but Zugspitze, Neuschwanstein Castle, Partnach Gorge Linderhof castle to name a few. The Hotel also has free parking which was a plus for us.

After carrying our luggage up to our first floor room with balcony we had a quick shower and a change of clothing and then went in search for a place to buy something to eat. Of course I took my camera with me and whilst Cheryl was looking for a place to eat I was soaking up the architecture and 'feel' of Oberammergau...

Above: Unlike South Africa where the farms are large and far away from the towns and cities I was amazed to see that the farmers lived and worked right in town. Just around the corner from Pension Zwink I found this tractor and barn.

Above: Just a very short walk from our Pension we managed to find this little bakery and promptly ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and a cold drink and sat outside on the pavement observing the goings on of a small German town... We returned many times in the few days we were here. That's me reflected in the window and my long suffering camera assistant sitting on the right...

Above: Oberamergau is famous also for its painted facades and the hotel above was typical of the painted houses found here. The theme is usually either religious or a fairy tale usually accompanied by bright colored flowers hanging from the balconies with a wooden picket type fence and bicycle....I saw this same scene repeated many many times...

A landmark in Oberammergau is the Rokoko Catholic Church of St Peter and Paul consecrated in 1749. We took a breather and just sat inside on the hard wooden benches for a while admiring the beautiful and serene interior. I always make a point of visiting churches wherever I travel and although a Protestant myself I find the Catholic church interiors quite beautiful with a palpable and holy atmosphere and it almost always is a cool and quiet respite from the hot European summers and the tourist crowds ...and what better place in which to say a little prayer of thanks for a safe and interesting journey so far?

More info here at:

Below: Small yet colorful gardens abound in Oberammergau...

Linderhof Palace (Schloss Linderhoff)

So after our first tentative exploration of the beautiful town of Oberammergau we returned to our hotel for quick snooze and to recharge our batteries before our next stop which was to be Linderhof Palace.

Linderhof Palace is the only completed castle of three build by Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. It is a mere 13km from Oberammergau and a pleasant drive on a quiet but narrow rural road. We arrived just in time for a quick half a hour tour of the interior - no photographs allowed - after which we explored the extensive grounds and gardens with many statues, buildings, caves and viewpoints.

Below: The only photograph I managed to take of the interior of the castle after which we were politely informed that no photographs were allowed. I can recommend the tour and compared to Neuschwanstein the crowds were almost non existent...

Above: 'Nec Pluribus Impar' - the virtually untranslatable motto of Ludwig but apparently meaning something like 'alone against all'....

The grounds of Linderhof Castle is very beautiful with wonderful vistas of the castle from all sides. 

We were only able to see the interior on a guided tour but thankfully the queues were very short and no booking is necessary. We bought our tickets to the tour at the entrance to the Palace a short walk from the tree shaded parking area which was free of charge.

Some more info on Linderhof Palace is available here:

Below:  A selection of photographs from our leisurely walk through the extensive gardens of Linderhof Palace

Below:  Images from the exterior and interior of one of several 'little refuges' build by Ludwig on the northern side of the park, the intricately detailed 'Moroccan' house.

Below: Three views looking from the rear and over the roof of Linderhof Palace towards the stairs, fountains and statues on the front side of the palace.

Back in Oberammergau we went for an early dinner at a garden restaurant and had our first 'proper' German meal of roast pork, dumplings, cabbage & crumbed veal. Bavarian food tastes just to much like bland home cooked meals to me and I enjoyed the alcohol free German beer a lot more than the food! cheryl on the other hand thought the food was great!After dinner we went for another exploratory walk through the colorful little tourist town.

 Below:  Some more photographs of our last walk on our first rather hectic day in Germany...

Below: Oberammergau is quite famous for its woodcarvings but we searched in vain for a plain wooden cross...the carvings are very elaborate and all the crosses depicted a crucified Jesus figure...also the prices were a little steep for us paying as we were with our steeply devalued rand. There were many many shops selling woodcarvings and there were quite a few life size carvings - like the one below- displayed in the windows and outside the shops.

Below: The view from our balcony at the hotel Zwink. The Kofel, Oberammergau's signature mountain with its barely visible cross became a sort of beacon for us on our drives through the country side and could be seen miles away... 

Here is some more info on the Kofel...

Technique & photography:

Below a pic of me with the two cameras I brought with me on my European holiday. My favorite camera is hanging from my shoulder, a Canon Eos 6D plus the EF 40mm f2.8 'pancake' lens. In my hand, my then relatively new backup and small 'carry everywhere' camera a Canon Eos M3.

I also brought with me a 24mm L tilt & shift lens, a 70-300L & 17-40L zoom and 80mmf1.8,  a M3 to EF lens adapter, 22mm f2 lens and the standard zoom plus a tripod. All this plus my chargers, Mini IPad, hard drives etc all fitted in two smallish camera bags, a Lowepro rucksack that I have on my shoulders below and a Lowepro shoulder bag. My tripod travels in my suitcase or over my shoulder when i'm using it.

Of course I never actually carry all of that with me on a daily basis. I usually prefer just the 6D plus 40mm lens or the M3 plus 22mm lens. I would select, depending on where we would be going for the day, a suitable lens or lenses and camera combo. In Germany it was a bit different because I could pack everything in the Skoda's boot and take it all with me.

This all may sound like a lot of stuff to bring with me on holiday, but I am primarily here to photograph, I suppose one could say I experience Europe through the lens...its not really an optimal way to travel but that's how I do it...I often envy people that can just travel without making constant recordings of what they see...and I must say the selfie crowd can get to be quite intrusive and bothersome sometimes, but then again I suppose I am not really much different!

Generally though I find that I work best with a camera and one lens...I don't like having to make too many decisions on which lenses to use and my eye also gets tuned to the field of view of one lens, I have a lot less to carry and everything is just easier - less is more - But going to a castle like this I did carry the long and wide zoom with me as well, just in case.

As for the photographs I made on my first day in Germany, well to me they look more like average travel photographs and is a nice reminder of our first day there and to show you the reader what Bavaria looks like - but nothing more really.

I found the architecture and landscape in Bavaria a overwhelming at first sight, a bit too much like 'chocolate box' photography....a term we used at photo school to describe 'syrupy sweet' photographs.... so my first day was used mostly as a settling in period, a time to get my 'eye' sorted and getting used to the almost too pretty scenery of Germany.

So this is more of a travel than a photography post...

After having thought about my statement above I thought maybe I should give some of the photos from the first day another go...but in B&W this time... 



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