A Winter Wonderland : The German Bavarian Alps

If you're based in Munich and are planning on traveling around the area outside of the city, your best bet is to buy a Bavaria pass.  We hopped on the train with ours and headed south into the beautiful Bavarian Alps, all the while talking about how much we could definitely see ourselves living in this part of Germany:

We arrived in the town of Kempten, the largest town in the Bavarian region of Allgäu, and was picked up by my German pal, Gunther, the self-proclaimed German Mark Twain. Gunther and I met in Western Ukraine, and he graciously invited us to his part of Germany for some great hospitality (like, enjoying the finest bretzels (pretzels) in Bavaria, and a tour around his sweet town):
One of the highlights was enjoying some Allgäu Kasspatzen, a noodle dish made with local mountain cheeses that is to the Bavarians what mac-and-cheese is to us. It was to die for:
Gunther then took us back to his place to meet his family, and his lovely wife, Claudia, fixed us up with some great German Christmas snacks:
With our bellies full and warm, it was time to defy the awful weather (think heavy snow which turns to rain before it hits the ground...ugh!) and head out on a road trip into the mountains:
We even went on a bit of an easy hike over the river and through the woods (and in the dreaded snow-rain) in search of a crazy museum that Gunther wanted us to see:
This museum, buried in the snow and up in the hills, was started by a former priest who realized that priesthood was not his ultimate calling, but instead building a zany museum housing his many, many collections of "beautiful things," part of which is his acquisition of over 100 antique sleighs and carriages.
It's free to enter and completely unmanned. In fact, when we arrived, we were the only ones at the whole place (I'm not sure why...it was a perfectly fine day for a trek out here). When you enter, the lights and music automatically turn on, and you're whisked away into a musty maze of eclectic, arranged hoards of "beauty." Nothing creepy about this at all...
This, folks, is the place where all faded mannequins and cheap, plastic foliage go to live out their final days. The sheer size and tackiness of it all was so intriguing and fascinatingly bizarre:
Needless to say, that was one of the strangest places we've ever been to, and we thank Gunther for deeming it a necessary stop!

From our base in Füssen the next day, Jacob and I decided to walk the 12 kilometers to the little village of Hohenschwangau, which is famous for its castles:
The last time we were here was in 2002, and it was a rushed day trip from Munich to take in Neuschwanstein Castle, the tourist highlight of the area. This time, we decided to tour the smaller Hohenschwangau castle instead, and make a hike up to Neuschwanstein just for winter photos:
Hohenschwangau castle was built in the 19th century by King Maximillian II of Bavaria. It was the primary childhood residence of his son, King Ludwig II, the future builder of Neuschwanstein.
The castle itself looks out over the gorgeous Alpsee Lake:
A nice, hearty Bavarian meal warmed us up and kept us going for castle #2 of the day:
Built in the late 19th century by then King Ludwig II, Neuschwanstein Castle is not only the epitome of European castle-views, it was also the inspiration behind Cinderella's dreamy castle at Walt Disney World! King Ludwig was quite the character, and the mystery behind his death and the castle itself is a fascinating read (found here).

So, this is what we were hoping for in terms of seeing Neuschwanstein Castle again in the wintertime (left photo), and this (right photo) was the reality of our day there: scaffolding, gray skies, and closure of the scenic bridge (for "the photo") for the season:
It was comforting to know that this wasn't our first trip to Neuschwanstein, and had a shot of "the photo" from the spring 10 years ago, but I was still hoping for a beautiful winter shot. Instead, we were confined to the less popular side of the castle, which was still a nice view.
After another 12km walk back from Hohenschwangau, we were greeted with a pretty little Christmas-y downtown scene in Füssen:
The Bavarian Alps is definitely one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to, and we have made some serious plans to return in the future, preferably during the spring or summer months as we missed out on a lot of the mountain views with the gray skies.  There's no doubt, however, that this part of the world is stunning, no matter which season you plan on traveling there.