Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Heidelberg, Munich, Paris...

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Flag of Germany  , Hesse,
Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Memory's a stone's throw away from a moment in time.My 12-cities-18-days-tour in Germany, France and Austria were fleetingly thrilling moments of wonder and adventure. I let my eyes travel, my mind ponder and my soul be still along this wonderful excursion.

Some highlights of this tour included Occupy Frankfurt, Edward Munch show in Schirn, Frankfurt, UEFA Championships League Final Munich 2012 pre-game party, Heidelberg hype, Musee Max Ernst in Bruhl Mitte, Da Vinc's St. Anne in Louvre, soccer game in Allianz Arena Munich, King Ludwig II Castle in Neuschwanstein, Tosca in Opera Koln, homeless night in Fressling, Austria, spectacular Salzburg, and impressive Paris and Versailles.

Frankfurt Messe was my first stop and Paris would be my last. My itinerary was sort of improvising on the go, filling in the blanks between Frankfurt and Paris.  It was not as difficult as I would have considered due to the fact that train ticket machine was very friendly with choices of different languages including the most popular one--English. Nonetheless, I sometimes needed to ask for directions on ground level and strangers I met were very helpful and spent time taking out their i-phones to show me the map and the way.

First day in Frankfurt, I was quite annoyed by constant sirens of police car since Occupy Frankfurt was heating up. Luckily, the weather was goregous and a detour to biking along the riverfront In Frankfurt was a bliss. Also what amazing happening was a visual feast of 140 works of Edward Munch at Schirn. Munch was one of my all-time favorite artitsts and seeing so many of his works in one visit  was a dream came true. Unfortunatley, Occupy Frankfurt was brewing to a high contact of confrontations with numerous arrests days after I left for Heidelberg.

Just 1.5 hrs train from Frankfurt to Heidelberg, an idyllic and rustic countryside, old castle, bridge, ruins and relics added to the beauty and glamour of this old historic town.   

Public transport (easy-going once you understood them:- U, S, DB, ICE, Thalys etc.) got me to a vibrant city, a city full of life--Stuttgart. An exhibition of Turner, Monet and Twombley was creative juxtapositions of curator's choices in Stuttgart museum. Not until I saw with my own eyes during lunch time, I couldn't believe how many locals loved chow-mein; a long, long line-up from the restaurant to all the way out to the streets. My next stop after Stuttgart was not far away, though -- Munich, 2.5 hours on the fast train.

Dadaist Marcel Duchamp's three influential years of creation in Munich was celebrated in an underground subway musee.  In addition, Max Ernst's surrealism at Bruhl Mitte (an hourly ride from Munich) were enigmatic and fun.

Allianz Arena in Munich was a famous sports stadium, its legal capacity was 6,9001, including standing room. UEFA Championships League Final Munich took place in this spectacular stadium May 19, 2012. Undoubtedly, Bayern Munich faced lots of pressure to win in his home turf.  30000 Chelsea fans were reported to land in Munich. Wth an enormous influx of soccer fans, I was hesitated if I should have made a detour. "Don't be." was a hunch and I did not miss the big time drama of a soccer event. All the pre-game party was jolly fun and the game was outrageously exciting and a tour de force. This Final was determined by a killer of penality kicks. Chelsa striker Drogba who brought the game to a high drama by heading into the net a beautiful goal in a crucial moment to tie the score and minutes later, he fouled and lost a penality kick to Bayern Munich. However, Robben missed the best scoring chance and totally doused and disappointed Bayern fans. Nevertheless Bayern fought a real good match with all the fans at the end of their tethers."The soccer ball was round," as the cliche said. Munich grieved the loss of this huge championships tournament in the coming days, the city was in dead silence morning after. Expectedly, Robben was fiercely and loudly booed when he played against Bayern in his first appearance three days after the UEFA loss.Needless to say, he was not forgotten and forgiven as a culprit who blew up all the party fun and street parade for missing the most critical penality kick in the match; not to mention the hope, honor and glory of being UEFA Championships Munich Final 2012 in its home turf was dashed. 

Now let's move on to the idyllic nature of Neuschwanstein. A day trip from Munich to Neuschwanstein where King Ludwig II built his castle in the midst of the Alps was a change of scenery from hustle and bustle of city life to a reclusive royal life.Two hours train ride to Fussen via Buchole, then a local bus would take visitors to the bottom of the Alps. A good hike to the castle, soon eyes wide open to magnificent details of royal fixtures and grandiose.
King Ludwig II died young at the age of forty. Next to his bedroom was a private chapel. A stunning picture of Jesus Christ as the King of all kings was etched in my memory after this visit. At the top of the picture was a depiction of Jesus Christ, beneath Him were four kings--three before Ludwig II and last one including Ludwig himself. Young King Ludwig II was a music lover, particularly an ardent admirer of Richard Wagner. The latter was invited to perfom numerous times in his kingly court and was fortunately commissioned and supported by King Ludwig II in his bumpy musical carreer. 

Munich was my mid-point home base and from Munich, I travelled to nearby cities. I went to Koln before leaving Germany.

Koln Cathedral, Musee Ludwig, Opera Koln was quite sensational. More than 90 works of Picasso in Musee Ludwig including La Celestina was part of its permanent collection. German expressionists like Kirchener, Max Beckman, Blue riders like Kandinsky were definitely not excluded. Besides all the seeing, something good was waiting for all ears -- Puccini's Tosca in Opera Koln. Quite a remarkable evening of performance, indeed.

Some Dos and Dont's
Print out train schedule in ticket machine to plan your next trip ahead of time
Always take notice of the platform number, bear in mind that some are for local, some regional and some for cross border ( U, S, DB, ICE, Thalys, etc.) 
Make use of museum locker for storage and baggage storage in a public transport system
Always compare hotel/motel/hostel rate-- one hotel in Munich charged 300 euros, a block away 60
Check out last minute ticket for concerts and events, some steals such as a half price ticket for a soccer game and a 10 euros for opera, not bad at all.
Spare change for snacks and drinks in vending machine
Always spare some time and money for contingency
Roissy Bus from CDG Airport Paris to Opera Metro, 10 euros

Don't get on a public transport without a ticket, hefty fine resulted
Get up earlier and avoid line-up if you're a museum goer
Don't test your luck of not making reservation for your accomodation

This was my second visit to Paris and last time I.M. Pei's pyramid was not yet built in Louvre. I must admit that despite the efficiently functional distribution of the mass underground, I did not appreciate much of this incompatible glassy but not classy, triangular structure standing in the midst of classical Louvre, not to mention that the dusty glass windows were not something pleasant to stare at and room temperature heated up easily with a big crowd under a scorching sun. Back to the heart of Louvre: Da Vinci's St. Anne, Du Berry's the Book of Hours were two highlights among many exhibitions in Louvre, one would not be disappointed at all. Neither were that of Artemisia's bloody and brutal visual drama and Maillol's paintings and sculptures in Musee Maillol.

Paris was, is, and always will be a paradise for artists and art lovers. Montmartre and Montparnesse were never a cul-de-sac for ambitious artists. Cezanne, Degas, Renoir, Picasso, Braque, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Bonnard, Courbet, Manet, Monet and many more had already made their definitve marks in art history. Nowadays, art lovers flooded the galleries and museums to relive the golden and glorious moments in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

Matisse's colorful series and variations in Pompidou, Degas' seductive nudes in Musee D'Orsay, Modigliani and Soutine's melancholic milieu of obscure ordinaries in Pinocotheque, they were what's on now in Paris art scene. Wait in line and get your revoir.

Exhausting jaunt but real fun and learn a lot along the way.What a happy return to Paris and Versailles. A wanderer's strategic stroll's wisely by chance.
toute l'heure. DANKE

(Itinerary: Frankfurt-Heidelberg-Stuttgart-Munich-Neuschwanstein-Bruhl Mitte-Salzburg-Fressling-Augsburg-Munich-Koln-Paris-Versailles-Paris)

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