My Bavaria trip began with an interesting start: a sleepless night. I’d never been the one who could successfully pull an all-nighter, so getting a 2-am bus from Southampton to Gatwick Airport was quite a struggle for me. The waiting at Gatwick was tiresome, I couldn’t sleep as I was worried I’d miss the flight, and also because I was too excited. 6 am couldn’t have come any longer, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the boarding call.
As soon as the plane took off, I fell asleep, and woke up just in time to see the aerial view of Bavaria. The view of plains of greens soon changed into lines of terracotta-colored roofs, and I couldn’t believe I was flying over Germany, and that I was gonna set foot there, once again. It all felt surreal.
The next thing I remember, I saw a girl in a red coat wave at me at the arrival hall, grinning as I caught her eyes. Marion.
We hugged, and I had a big rush of emotions come over me. Having been able to see her again, in her homeland, was too good to be true. It was unbelievable, and yet there she was, standing in front of me.
Soon we were on the road, chatting and exchanging news as we were driving. I thought we were going from Munich Airport straight to her place in Regensburg, but to my surprise, Marion asked me if I was up for a visit to a monastery, if I wasn’t too tired. And seriously, I usually turned into a monster when I had less than 8-hour sleep (without caffeine too!), but miraculously, I felt perfectly fine this time. I said yes, of course, and off we went.
I didn’t know how far it was, for me it felt like a short drive since we’d been catching up and talking about things happening in our lives. The drive was a bit blur for me, as I wasn’t really paying attention to the signs on the road. Some time later we arrived in Kelheim, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that to get to Weltenburg Abbey we had to cruise the Danube!
We boarded the boat, and cruised along the Danube Narrows (also called the Danube Gorge). I listened to the commentaries while trying to get decent pictures of the surroundings.
We cruised through the low mountain ranges, between the forests and towering cliffs.
The dome-like building up the hill is Befreiungshalle, the Hall of Liberation. Befreiungshalle is a monument on the Michelsberg Hill which was built on the order of King Ludwig I of Bavaria to commemorate the victory against Napoleon during the Wars of Liberation.
It seemed to me that Napoleon had some chronicles there. One of the rock formations that stretched along the Danube Narrows was called the Napoleon’s Suitcase, which had something to do with the time he had to make a quick escape as he’d been losing the battle. The others have names that aren’t any less unique, among them are Beehive (the rock speckled with holes) and Bishop’s Mitre.
The tall, skinny rock formation that stands alone in the above picture is said to be a young girl cursed by a witch who lived in that area. The poor girl turned into a stone, which later would be named Jungfrau (its literal meaning is actually ‘young girl’, but the name of that stone in English is the Petrified Virgin). Being a stories lover, it was quite fascinating for me to hear all the tales about that place.
The little statue on the Long Wall there is Patron Saint John Nepomuk, the patron saint for water and bridges.
After about half an hour, we arrived at Weltenburg Abbey (Kloster Weltenburg in German), the oldest brewery monastery in the world.
We took a scenic walk around the monastery before going into the church.
The church itself was beautiful and serene, with stunning ceilings and detailed interiors. I so badly wanted to take pictures, but it was so quiet and peaceful there that I didn’t want to disturb it with the obtrusive clicking noise from my camera, so I kept it away and just stood there, soaking the calm atmosphere while silently saying my gratitude for the opportunity to be there.
Afterward, we went to the beer garden for lunch. Being a brewery monastery, of course its beer was famous, but as I didn’t really like beer, I decided to skip it (a decision I would later regret. If you go there, do me a favor and try the beer. The bockbier in particular is said to be ridiculously delicious).
Feeling full, we walked back to the riverbank. With time to spare before the boat depart, I took more pictures of the gorgeous Danube while watching people climbing the rocks across the river and kayaking. It was a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining, the temperature was just right, and all people seemed to be smiling.
Marion explained to me that since the monastery was located in the low range, it got flooded at times. On this wall, they marked the highest water levels and the dates it occurred (HW stands for hochwasser, I think. Please correct me if I’m wrong).
On the way back, we passed this beautiful building, and I thought, I wouldn’t mind living there. Sure, it looked isolated, but I really liked the idea of living in someplace idyllic.
The cruise back was just as fascinating, and I was left in awe. It was such a perfect place to kick off a vacation, and my Bavaria trip got off to a good start.
Upon arriving at Marion’s place later that day, I was welcomed with a message on a paper, ‘Selamat datang Dixie!‘ and I had to choke back tears. I couldn’t believe Marion still remembered her Indonesian, let alone writing a welcome message for me. Seeing it all on a paper, after having been away from home for a while was touching. Trust Marion to do something sweet like this.
We had a bit of a rest, and that evening we went to a local pub to watch a soccer match, as I told Marion earlier that I’d missed watching soccer in a German pub. The contagious enthusiasm was second to none, and that night, I experienced that again.
I’d been there for less than 24 hours and already it exceeded my expectation. It was such a good day I thought, it would be hard to top this.
But it got better.
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