Travel in Southern Germany

A friend of mine and I embarked on a little trip in Southern Germany and Austria. Here I present a very brief account of the experience and what caught my attention (or didn’t).

We rented a car and set off from Berlin towards Rothernburg, a small, charming, and rather touristic town of stone and medieval structures. The brief one-day stay didn’t much impress me in any unusual sense. Having not the yearning for miniscule detail, the overall blueprint reminded me too much of other antique regions in Central Europe. The tourist presence, both local and international, can overwhelm.

For a more solitary feel, if claustrophobia is not a burden, there’s an observatory tower at the central plaza (Marktplatz) you can ascend: after first entering a building (itself a pleasant, albeit somewhat creepy concoction of dampness and guild-like aura), ascending a flight of stairs, paying an entrance fee, and then ascending a few more stories of increasingly steeper and narrower steps, you’ll find yourself at a circular watch tower of a comically narrow radius. The sensation was that of being on a miniature ring-like planet with capacity to accommodate yourself and 2-4 other individuals before you end up shoulder-to-shoulder. It can get lonely at the top, as the saying suggests, but that may benefit under the circumstances.

On the contrary, I felt more moved by the 6-hour drive along the autobahn. Now, my relationship with cars or motorization is mostly that of indifference. However, considering the speeds we attained and the captivating scenery full of mountain ranges, endlessly spanning grasslands, wind turbines, and tree silhouettes, I may have missed an occasional heartbeat.

I feel at piece among the wind turbines. The modern three-blade constructions especially inspire visuals of hope, progress, future, and minimalism. Each spins on it’s own accord, or not at all. Transitioning along the road, I discover certain geometrical pleasure in how the structures lay themselves out among the natural landscape. Repetition, rotation, and depth. The same object encountered time and time again with some linear transformation applied to give the environment a feel of rich physical perspective. One might appear behind the other even, the blades spinning at a slightly different rhythm and offset, with the two resembling a discordant mechanical flower of six petals facing indecisiveness in how to deal with the wind pressure.

Traditional wooden wind turbines also inspire pleasant visuals, but more along the contours of the ancient past rather than the looming future. I tend to appreciate either construction really, one serving as means of entering a realm of fantasy or fairy tail, and the other of an idealized future development consistent with own parameters and inclinations. They represent anything but the present.

I hadn’t felt a notably different vibe in Munich from that of Berlin over our 2-3 day stay. I’m largely entirely indifferent to the food or beer culture, as well as the folk music or the respective arts, insofar as the brief stay could inspire. The architecture certainly didn’t emphasize any elements I hadn’t encountered in Berlin or elsewhere, at least at an abstract level. From a spectacle standpoint, however, it was entertaining to observe the masses at a Biergarten or at an outdoor fare.

Mittenwald, on the other hand, left me far less indifferent. The remote village-like feel among the imposing mountain peaks all around, shrouded in fog with visible patches of snow along the top, left a lot to digest. Only an hour drive from Munich, the town provoked a sensation of being transported to another dimension distant from the societal chaos. The tourist presence felt very reasonable, and nothing of the sort in Rothenburg, limited mostly to local tourists. The building structures impressed not with their antiquity, but with the simplicity and yet heart for detail. A narrow meter-wide river spans throughout the central region, with tiny little bridges dispersed along the length. Only a kilometer outside the center and you find yourself among residential housing areas with a rural charm to it, impressive in ways words cannot describe. I recall experiencing similar emotions in Blumen√£o, Brazil, also a Germanic city.

Austria seems mostly a blur. We stayed briefly in Salzburg and passed the last couple of days in Vienna. Having reached a point of saturation common among short, yet overpacked itineraries, Salzburg already fades from memory, and Vienna will too in due time. Vienna, while slightly different in feel from Berlin, again, doesn’t impregnate a sufficiently unique character in relation to other central European cities I recall. (I speak of marginal returns.) The details unique to Vienna would likely demand a longer stay to fully appreciate.