This trip I decided to spend two jet lag nights in Munich, or rather Freisling, a small town near the airport. This time I decided to take the train from Freisling to Fussen and the onward bus to Hohenschwangu and Mad King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein (New Swan Rock) Castle. I priced out second class rail and bus connections at €58 but the lady at the ticket counter said that I didn’t take the commuter train into Munich for the connection until after 9 AM I could get a Bayren Rover Card good for one day for just €39. It would get me on first class rail as well as the busses. I took the deal, waited 30 minutes at the station and got the 9:02 to Munich.
I was sitting near two guys from Cancun who had figured out all the connections. In Munich I followed them to the right platform and the first class car, which was the upper deck of a regular car It had curved glass observation windows. A group of recent high school graduates on their grand tour took the seats in front of us. I did the same thing 51 years ago, but on second class rail, and I carried a LOT less stuff than they did. One girl with a “Best ever seen, the class of ‘15” T shirt had one of those beautiful faces with a strong jaw line, solid chin and Meryl Streep nose. She could affect that bored, superior expression that only a teenage beauty queen can muster. She immediately closed the shade on her window, blocking the view of those in the seat behind her as well and those across the aisle, plugged her headphones into her smart phone and started working it with both thumbs. This girl must have had a hell of a data roaming plan. (Thinking of it, she was not so different from some kids on my trip with noses in a book all through the Alps.)
We traveled through rolling farmland toward the snowcapped Alps. I’ve traveled this region before but noticed many more small solar farms sited in fields, some with sheep grazing between the panels. There were also windmills, not the big farms of Austria, Spain or Denmark, but single or double mills on individual farms. Many of the high pitched roofs with Southern exposures were covered with solar panels. I had read Germany had instituted a cottage solar industry and it seems to have taken hold.
The kids, other than the girl with the smart phone, were watching intently. One said “Look, it’s the Rocky Mountains.” I thought he was kidding, he wasn’t. (Actually I found this prettier than the Rockies because we were on the wet side of the range. The farm fields were so green and the German farms so picturesque.) Another kid argued that these couldn’t be the Rockies because the Rockies were in the American West. These must be the Appalachians. This conversation seemed very serious, no touch of irony. I was beginning to think that the networking beauty queen was the only smart one in the group, she at least was quiet. Than one nerdy looking student said; “Look you guys, both ranges are in America, we’re in Europe. These are the Urals.”
I generally do not like interrupting others’ conversations but I felt I had to speak up for geography. Before I could one of the guys from Cancun said “You’re all are wrong, these are the Alpalacians,” a far better answer than I could have come up with. One of the kids said: “The Alps are in Switzerland, is Germany close to Switzerland?” Someone thought it was so these may be a German extension of the Swiss Alps, the Alpalacians. They thanked the Mexican. An adult chaperone was amazingly quiet during this exchange. All I could think of was: “See what happens when legislatures cut education.”
This conversation got the beauty queen to look up from her smart phone. She lifted the shaded, turned the phone around and took a picture of the Appalachians, Rockies, Alpalacians, Alps, whatever.
This is the first part of my family letter. To read the second half please click here. to read about Neuschwanstein.