Recently, we left Italy and entered the German-speaking world of the Tyrol. South Tyrol is actually in Italy, so it’s a little strange seeing signs in German first and then Italian. After a restful stop in Innsbruck, we’ve taken a short journey to Munich and arrived in Germany’s southernmost major city. Munich is famous for many things, including Oktoberfest, a huge festival of beer and bratwurst in the city centre. Historically, it’s important too, but unfortunately I didn’t stay there for very long. I didn’t get to see much of the city, other than a little ten minute walk around the Englischer Garten.
This is actually one of the most popular things in Munich, despite the name meaning “English Garden”. You’d think you’d find plenty of those in London, but it’s more to do with the style than the location. For instance, an Italian garden is one with lots of symmetrical patterns and straight paths. An English garden, on the other hand, is designed to look like a natural woodland. Here and there, of course, it has little bridges and pavilions that people can sit and enjoy. You’ll find lots of different bushes, trees, and flowers. This type of garden was hugely popular in the Victorian and pre-Victorian age, and the most famous landscape gardener of this style was Capability Brown.
What makes Munich’s Englischer Garten different from all the parks across Britain is that it’s absolutely massive – it’s bigger than even Central Park, which stretches ridiculously far. It also has lots of unique buildings, such as a Greek-style temple, and a tower built from Chinese pagodas. You can go up this one, which makes it extra fun. The park dominates the city, so it can be accessed from lots of U-Bahn stations. I wish I had more time there!
The reason I didn’t spend much time in Munich itself is because I was seeing something I’ve always wanted to see. My dream was finally coming true – I was going to see Neuschwanstein castle, an iconic castle at the edge of the mountains. It was built by the King of Bavaria in the late 1800s, as he wanted to build his very own fantasy palace. These days, it’s the real-life Disney Sleeping Beauty castle, and when I saw my father’s pictures of it as a child I got very, very excited. What kid doesn’t want to go to the world’s most famous castle? Oh, and it’s also the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” castle, so you should definitely know about it.
Granted, it’s not particularly interesting if you like battles and knights, but the whole area is beautiful. Even if you don’t like castles (there is another one just across the road, pretty much), there’s a tranquil Alpine lake that visitors can explore. But you must book in advance – we didn’t, and we were only just able to get on one of the last tours. If you book in advance, you can plan your trip properly. The castle is 2 hours away from Munich by train, so you’ll need to do book and plan in advance if you want a stress-free day!
When you get there, though, you’ll feel like you’re in a story book. The interiors of both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castle are magical and charming, and you’ll learn a lot about pre-unification Germany. Even if it’s not a dream come true for you, it’s absolutely unique, so you won’t find anywhere like it in the entire world. Nor would you want to – a landscape like this one should not and cannot be copied. Once upon a dream, I believe they say…