A day in Deutschland

Carina Zhao/Staff

I have fantasized about my first trip to Europe since I was a little girl. Gondola rides through Venice, sipping an espresso on a random, perfect street corner with a view of the Eiffel Tower, shopping in London, visiting the Louvre — just your average ol’ American’s dream of attempting to live like a chic European. With that being said, I was quite surprised (and a little dismayed) when my parents announced that we would be flying to Munich, Germany and then taking a one-hour train ride to the countryside village of Ruhpolding, where we would stay in a family-owned bed and breakfast for two days.Germany 5Once we arrived, I found that, as usual, my disappointment was misguided, as I had already begun to fall in love with the charming little town, tucked snugly between a family of lush hills — the kind that make you feel alive with the sound of music. The narrow streets were lined with cream-colored houses topped with red or brown roofs, each one expertly adorned with potted flowers perched on the balcony. The owner of the bed and breakfast presented us with an impressive array of cold-cut meats and cheese, two staple foods in Germany, and we consumed them with all of the European sophistication we could muster up: using our hands and washing it down with a tall glass of beer.Germany 6After settling in, we met up with my aunt and her family, who had just flown in from Shanghai. Fortunately for me and my parents, my uncle is a highly disciplined man, capable of two things that my family simply lacks: planning and time management. So when he told us to be waiting outside by our rental car, a badass BMW minivan, we were more than happy to oblige. We proceeded to make the 20 minute drive to Lake Chiemsee, which probably should have taken 45 minutes, but we quickly learned that in Germany the speed limit is essentially up to the driver’s discretion. We ate lunch at a restaurant overlooking the lake, and we asked our waiter, a jolly and eager middle-aged man, for their most popular dishes. And from that moment until our very last day in Germany, we ensued on a serial pork-and-beer-ingesting spree, taking no prisoners. Of all the different forms of pork we had, from bratwurst to schweinsbraten, pork hock (a joint in the pig’s leg) was the family favorite. After eating like pigs, we hopped on a ferry heading to the island of Herreninsel and its sister island, Frauenchiemsee.Pock HockIn Herreninsel, the six of us hiked about a mile along a grassy trail, completely shaded by huge trees, and at the end we turned a corner to find Herrenchiemsee New Palace in all its firm, imposing glory. I think all of our jaws visibly dropped because of how suddenly it appeared and how grandiose the palace was, complete with a meticulously tended garden and sculpted fountains. That was one thing that struck me most about Germany — the beauty in symmetry and order. Each small detail served a purpose, such as the potted flowers atop the balconies, requiring you to take a step back in order to appreciate a grander image.Germany 2From Herreninsel, we took another ferry to Frauenchiemsee, which was my favorite of all the places we visited. The island was like something out of a fairy tale – charming, warm-colored cottages sprinkled throughout, local folks walking from their homes to the neighborhood fresh fish market, gardens bursting with every color flower, tiny trinkets and wind chimes hanging from the trees. I told my mom I wanted to get married there — because I’m a girl, and we like to think about this stuff, OK? After a couple of hours of walking around and basking in the sun on a huge field of grass — Memorial Glade style! — we stopped for coffee and apple strudel at a Yelp-approved cafe.Germany 1The German countryside provided me with everything I did not know I needed. The small town of Ruhpolding was at once bustling with life and peacefully still, and the nearby islands were quintessential in allowing us to drown in the lull of local life while also feeding our touristy excitement. Not to mention, I had never felt fatter and happier. For those of you who are looking for another side of Europe to explore, this is your place.