We had spent our last two vacations in the wonderful and varied country that is Italy. The better half thought that it was time for a change, so we shifted our gaze northwards from Italy to the Central European countries. We had ten days of vacation time to spare so after much deliberation and chopping and changing itineraries, we finally decided that we would visit the Bavarian city of Munich in Germany, the Alpine resort town of Kaprun in Austria & Prague, the beautiful capital of the Czech republic. Interspersed in between these three were one night stays at Salzburg & the Czech castle towns of Českÿ Krumlov and Karlštejn.
The itinerary gave us a healthy mix of big cities and small towns with an Alpine resort as a cherry on the cake. We flew out of Mumbai on a Lufthansa direct flight to Munich. I usually don’t complain about flights, but the seats on this Lufthansa flight were the worst I had ever seen. Being almost 6 feet myself, the negligible leg space meant that I hardly got any sleep on the flight. Not an ideal start to the vacation, but for us the adrenaline rush of starting the vacation got us through!
I had bought a Partner airport Day ticket from Munich airport to the city which gave us unlimited rides in the public transport network of Munich for the day. We took the comfortable train from the airport to the City centre of Munich. We got off the train and walked the short distance to our Hotel am Viktulienmarkt.
We had booked the hotel as it was in the heart of the old town & gave us freedom to move around and see the sights whenever we wished to do so. We reached the hotel at 8 am. I had mailed the hotel about my early arrival but didn’t expect them to give us a room till the normal check in time of 3 pm. To my utter disbelief they had my room ready and we freshened up and left for the first sightseeing of the day, the Nymphenburg Palace and gardens.
Munich has two palaces, the compact Residenz located right in the city centre and the sprawling Nymphenburg palace and garden complex located at the edge of town. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had the day ticket for the public transport, so it was a no brainer that we chose the palace with the gardens as our first place to see.
The helpful reception staff at our hotel directed us to the tram stop literally across the road, which had a tram which took us right to Nymphenburg. We bought some fresh croissants at a cafe nearby and enjoyed the tram journey to Nymphenburg.
We got off at the Nymphenburg stop and walked towards the huge palace complex visible from a distance. The first thing that struck me was the beauty of the waterbodies in the vicinity and more importantly the number of aquatic birds in it. Thankfully I had carried my trusty 300mm with me and it proved to be very useful as our visit went on.
After taking a few photos of the beautiful complex with my ultra wide lens I put on the 300mm and had some fun with the swans, greylag geese and numerous other birds in the waterbody in front of the complex.
It was a beautiful sight, the magnificent palace in the background, blue skies overhead and birds peacefully floating across the lake.
We wandered for some more time in the front gardens which had trees & flower beds in full bloom providing a colourful foreground to the muted colours of the palace itself.
We then bought our tickets to see the interiors of the palace and went inside to see the summer palace of the Wittelsbach dynasty that ruled Bavaria. The palace till today continues to be a home for the descendants of the former kings of Bavaria. Only a part of it is open for tourism and shows the baroque architecture that was in vogue in that period.
The central stone hall with its high painted ceilings , gilded walls and beautiful chandeliers is made for photography. Since we were here early before the tour groups descended we got the palace relatively empty, ideal for taking photos
We moved through the rooms displaying the living quarters of the royal family. After seeing so many palaces which are more opulent in my own country except for the grand rooms everything else seems like more of the same. Room after room of royal portraits which are beautifully done, colourful wall hangings and opulent pieces of furniture.
We admired the opulence for a while and moved on. Before leaving for the even bigger gardens at the back I couldn’t resist take another photo of the great stone hall this time from the other end.
We then moved out of the palace and entered the beautiful and sprawling gardens at the back complete with canals, beautiful statues and well manicured lawns. On such a perfect day I would rather be out in these beautiful gardens than in the palace itself.
Walking down the central avenue, every few metres was a photo opportunity. Beautiful statues, the symmetry of the complex, birds dotting the complex gave me so many good photos that the tiredness of the long flight was soon forgotten.
The beautiful canals provided a perfect setting for a walk and an opportunity to take some photos of the better half.
Now it was time to turn my attention to my favourite winged beauties and put on the 300mm. In Europe you don’t expect to see more than a gull or a tit here and there and the ubiquitous swan gliding the water bodies. But here I got more than ten species of birds in a single morning, a very pleasant surprise.
At few places the water seemed to shimmer like liquid metal and it was just spectacular.
We walked through the gardens for a while before reluctantly turning back to start our journey back to the city centre. It was lunch time and the tummies were starting to grumble.
We had spent more time in the beautiful gardens than in the palace itself. But when nature provides you with a beautiful morning you don’t waste it indoors.
We were heading towards the tram stop when the continuous chirping of a bird on a rooftop of a house. It was a common chaffinch. This one seemed offended that I was leaving without taking his photo. So I changed the lens and took photos of this noisy little bird.
As soon as I put away the camera, the chaffinch flew away. It was as if it was waiting for me!! Happy with the mornings sightseeing we took the tram back to the city centre to search for a hot meal and continue our exploration of Munich.
But that is a story for another post for some other time, some other day.