In Texas, we have something called “Texas Pride”. Now, I’m not saying that Mozambique, Estonia, Arkansas, Hungary, or The Philippines don’t have pride. I’m merely saying that no where else in the world will you find “Texas Pride”. Or so I thought. To steal a line from ESPN’s (Coach) Lee Corso… “NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!”.
So, what IS “Texas Pride”? In my opinion, it’s when you’re in Queenstown, New Zealand; Barcelona, Spain; London, England; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Guanacaste, Costa Rica; or more recently, Lake Bled, Slovenia, and somebody asks you… “Where are you from?” and you simply smile and say “TEXAS”. I’ve heard the same question asked to others, and I’ve heard “Switzerland”, or “Sao Paulo, Brazil”. But most commonly, you’ll hear “we’re from the US”. Then they might mention their city and state (i.e. Little Rock, Arkansas).
You’re probably scratching your head wondering “what’s the difference?” and “why does he keep mentioning Arkansas?“. I’ll tell you. My Alma Mater – Texas A&M is playing Arkansas this weekend in Dallas, Texas. I’ve been distracted by college football all week! Oh, and so the difference is… Texans are Texans first. Americans second. It’s not arrogance. It’s just “Texas Pride”. Sorry. The Bavarians proved to me that they have that same bloodline of pride. Bavarians first. Germans second. And after spending some time in Bavaria… I understand.
Small confession. It took my wife (Anna) and I over 10 hours to get from Munich, Germany to Salzburg, Austria. If you live in Texas… that’s about the same distance from Austin to San Antonio. In other words… well under 100 miles. 115km to be exact. If you look at a map of Germany, it’s quite easy to see why Munich is considered The Gateway to Bavaria; so, as bad ass as it is to travel mach 5 with your hair on fire at 200km/h on the Autobahn… we wanted to take “the road less traveled” and visit Schloss Neuschwanstein – The Walt Disney looking castle. It’s common sense that if you want to find a castle on a mountain, you have to drive to the mountains. Our first stop… The Bavarian Alps.
Now before I get too far into my wordy story, I want to share some insight about our general attitude when we travel. As a rule of thumb, we only truly care about TWO things:
1. Enjoying and appreciating our destination.
2. Knowing where we’re sleeping each night.
Other than that… NOTHING is set in stone when we travel.
Looking like a couple of Cheshire Cats, we grinned from ear to ear in anticipation of our visit to Schloss Neuschwanstein. Two Texans in Munich, Germany, driving a Swedish Volvo V60 D5 with a British navigation system we called “Margaret”. I quite fancied her; however, I’ve been fooled by a pretty voice before. Let’s not bother with that story. Anyway, moving on. We made the decision to stop at the 700 year old Bavarian town of Füssen. What I’ve discovered about travel is… The greatest surprises in life are the adventures never expected. Situated at the southern end of the Romantic Road, Füssen is an absolutely charming and well preserved Medieval town. It was quite easy to see why it is considered the romantic soul of Bavaria.
Arriving early that morning, we leisurely strolled along the town center’s uncrowded pedestrian streets and narrow lanes. One charming vision of art and beautiful architecture after another. From the base of the town center, we embarked on what I can honestly say, without hesitation was the BEST cafe mocha I have ever had in my life. Served at a small cafe in Füssen Bavaria by an Italian man. Could have just been the atmosphere. Or perhaps it was his meticulous preparation and care he put into making each of us a glorious cup of coffee. Sure, he was Italian; but, he showed us Bavarian Pride! I think one of the things I most admire about practically ALL Bavarian cities, towns and villages (correct me if I’m wrong), is the architectural and religious presence of a church. Religious or not, it is hard to deny the beauty and historical value this presence serves in Bavarian society. I, myself made it a point to say a prayer for friends, families, and those who came before me to the Basilica, as part of my appreciation for my destination. As if you couldn’t already tell… I’m a fan of Füssen.
After a slow and pleasant walk back to the car, I programmed Margaret for our key tourist destination… Falkenstein Castle. Pulling out of Fussen and making our way around a few roundabouts, something felt a bit off. Or as my Cousin Roger from England would say… “well dodgy!”. Nevertheless, I’d like to believe that Margaret was smarter than I am; however, when she had me pull off the main road up a mountain path that looked like somebody’s driveway, we decided it was best to pull over and see where the heck she was taking us.
I vaguely recall Anna asking me to check the map again. Yeah, “Falkenstein Castle”. It was showing the destination was only a couple kilometers away. Anna being the smart person she is, quickly identified that you can see Neuschwanstein Castle from miles away. Like a fool… I had typed in FALKENSTEIN CASTLE, located in the Texas Hill Country – built by Texas businessman, Terry Young and his wife, Kim. The irony of it all… there really IS a Falkenstein Castle in Bavaria. The highest castle ruin of Germany.
WE WERE LOST! Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit here. You’re never truly lost if you have a physical map and a car with a navigation system. Overall, probably the best mistake we made during our vacation, because we found our way through a portion of Bavaria that we may never have seen. We discovered pristine alpine lakes and views, and in all reality, we weren’t that far away from Neuschwanstein Castle after all. Once again… The greatest surprises in life are the adventures never expected.
Walking up to Neuschwanstein Castle has got to be one of the most awe inspiring feats of architecture I have ever seen in my life. Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain is truly impressive. So is St. Mark’s in Venice, Italy; however, Schloss Neuschwanstein poised amongst the Bavarian Alps was absolutely incredible. It was obvious that King Ludwig II was clearly off his rocker when he had this place constructed. I’ve got some more architectural wonders to check out during my lifetime that I’m sure will surpass this experience – The Vatican, Taj Majal, and Taktsang Palphug Monastery (“Tiger’s Nest”) in Bhutan; but, for now… Neuschwanstein was fantastic!
I don’t recall how many hours we spent at Neuschwanstein. The day was getting long, so we called our residence for the evening at Hotel & Villa Auersperg in Salzburg, to inform them… we’d be a little bit late. If you’re ever visiting Salzburg, I highly recommend Hotel & Villa Auersperg. Warm, friendly, and attentive staff. CLEAN rooms. Sure, air conditioning is absent; but, it’s Europe. I live in Texas. No Austrian heat can phase me. Plus, even in May, the nights were cool with an awesome breeze, so we slept with the windows open. Care to learn more about my thoughts on Austria, you can check out one of my previous blogs: Austria! Well, then… G’day mate!
Although time was irrelevant, we started feeling a bit like the cast of Gilligan’s Island. Just a bit off the map. A few jaunts through some beautiful winding Bavarian roads along the Deutsche Alpenstraße and we found ourselves in Bad Tölz – another unspoiled village that drew us with its amazing charm.
I’m not Bavarian. I don’t live in Germany. But, in my opinion, and from my short stay in Bavaria… I would define “Bavarian Pride” as “An unbelievable preservation of culture, history, architecture, cuisine, sociability and hospitality within a magically picturesque region of Germany”. Bavarians first. Germans second. In summary, and my recommendation if you should find yourself in Bavaria… Take your time. Get lost!
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