Just Another Day in Bavaria

By Ernie Witham   |   December 6, 2018

Brunhilda did not like our diversion, “Make a u-turn, Dummkopf!! A u-turn.” German GPS units can be quite touchy.

We were on our way to Linderhof in the Bavarian countryside to see one of King Ludwig II’s many palaces. Ludwig was known as der Märchenkönig – the Fairy Tale King. He also held the titles of Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria, Duke of Franconia, Duke of Swabia, and Crazy Ludwig. The last title bestowed upon him by Bavarians who watched him spend gazillions building “castles in the sky.” These huge “mistakes” are now some of the largest tourist attractions in Bavaria.

It was a small sign that caused Pat to turn left instead of right onto the narrow country road, sending Brunhilda into a tizzy. The sign said: Andechs Monastery.

“Feeling the need for some religion?” I asked.

“Nope, beer.”

“That’s the same thing!”

Andechs Monastery and church was built in the 1400s on a “Holy Mountain” where lengthy pilgrimages have been going on since the 1100s. All on foot, with no iTunes or ear buds. Benedictines took over in 1455 and began saving souls and brewing beer. They are still doing both today. 

“Should we drink first or climb the steeple?” Pat asked.

I looked up at the 14-story tower that I was reasonably sure did not have an elevator. “Maybe we’d better tackle it sober.”

Remember the scene in Mel Brooks’ movie, Blazing Saddles, when the sheriff and posse are riding through the sagebrush and come upon a small tollgate that says they must pay 10 cents to pass? No one has a dime so they can’t pass until someone goes back to town to get a bunch of dimes (rather than just go around!). 

Well, we climbed the first flight of stairs of the steeple and came to a turnstyle. It was one euro to continue. Neither of us had a euro. Wonder what the penalty is for jumping a Benedictine Monastery turnstyle? Damnation? Or worse, no beer. Guess they must have seen the movie because they had a change machine nearby. 

Ten stories of winding stairs later, the way up had gotten much narrower and steeper and we were practically going hand-over-hand. We thought about quitting but I was determined to get my whole euro’s worth. Finally, we reached the top, sure that not many others could have completed such a pilgrimage. That’s when we saw the guy holding a heavy-looking six-month-old baby. He wasn’t even breathing hard!

We looked out the small windows, three of which were covered with mesh, I guess to prevent someone who thought it too much work to go back down the traditional way from jumping. The fourth window had a telescope. I looked down on the courtyard. There were people milling about, trying to decide whether to climb the steeple. If they asked, I was going to tell them it was a piece of cake. 

I took some photos and we climbed back down, backwards for the first few floors, then went to a huge biergarten and had monk-made Dünkle bier. It was heavenly. 

They also had huge fried pig knuckles with skin attached or platter-size thick slices of ham with sauerkraut and dumplings and full liters of beer! We didn’t have time to gnaw, so we opted for kraut salad, kartoffelsalat and a pretzel. 

We made two more stops, one at another Benedictine Abbey at Ettal with an amazing church that didn’t require climbing, and we had cheesecake and café at a cheese factory. 

Then we drove on to Ludwig IIs Versailles at Linderhof just in time for the last tour. It was beautiful, but had two large cranes behind it, ruining every photo. Ludwig lived at Linderhof by himself (and 200 servants, of course). He never married, lived by candlelight, even though there was electricity available. He had a dining room with a table that could be lowered to the kitchen below, filled with food and raised for a banquet – of one. He also had a mirror room that you could see dozens of yourself in, I guess so he could stare at himself and say: “Why do they call me crazy?” 

We headed back to the car and told Brunhilda she could lead now. She seemed skeptical, but took us safely home.


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