So this weekend, a group of 5 of us (Nick, Eric, Max, Andrés, and myself) headed to Donaustauf to visit the temple of Walhalla, which is the German way of spelling Valhalla (the Norse “Hall of the Fallen” in which all of the Viking warriors go to prepare for Ragnarök, in which many of the great gods, such as Odin, will die). I’d seen pictures of Walhalla before, but I wasn’t really prepared for how colossal it is.
But before I start on Walhalla, I need to talk about the road trip.
So we woke up SUPER early to get to the airport to pick up our rental car – a tiny little 5 seater Škoda. Due to some miscommunication and late wake-up times, we missed our bus to take us to the airport. Once we finally made it there, we got our car, then headed back to the center to pick up sunglasses and passports and stuff.
We got on the road a little while after we were trying to, and we ended up getting stuck in a HUGE traffic jam. There was most likely a bad pileup – traffic was dead stopped and there were probably 6/7 ambulances and firetrucks just flying through traffic. The cool part, though, was that BY LAW, at any point that traffic is stopped, the cars MUST make a large alleyway, a ,,Rettungsgasse” or “rescue alley” for any emergency vehicles that need to fly through – this is not only in emergency situations, but whenever there is bumper-to-bumper traffic. In the US, ambulances and firetrucks generally have to blare their horns and still get caught in traffic from people that don’t move, but in Germany, you can be banned from driving for a month and get a hefty fine if you don’t do this, even if there’s no emergency. Since, in the US, there’s no law, people often aren’t ready to pull off to the side in emergency situations, but here, it’s a regular thing. Here’s a video of what it looks like, and why it’s so efficient.
They take this rescue alley very seriously, and people were off on the shoulder (as you can see in the video) to avoid blocking traffic. It was pretty cool, because EVERYONE obeyed it, and it made the “operation” quite a lot faster.
Anyways, once traffic finally freed up, we were on our way to Walhalla, but our trip ended up adding on another 45 minutes – so, with the delay in the morning and the traffic jam, whereas we were supposed to get to Walhalla at ~10:45, we were now arriving at 12:45.
Once we got there, we were quickly blown away by its colossal nature. It is HUGE. It overlooks the Danube/Donau, and it is phenomenally beautiful. It peeks out of a forest-like thing, and over this big hill, and you get a wonderful view of the Danube and the surrounding area. Also, it reminded me of what I imagine the Parthenon, in Athens, would have looked like in its “heyday.” Which makes sense, because it was modeled to look exactly like that.
After waiting around outside, the memorial opened, and we were able to go inside. As it is a memorial to famous Germans who have died, there are some big names, and some not so big names outside of Germany. Albert Einstein, for example, has a bust (which he himself signed – no one else did this!), same with some kings of England, as well as some artists, poets, military leaders, kings of old kingdoms in Germany, musicians, and people who went against the Third Reich. In fact, I just wrote a report on one of the resistance people, Sophie Scholl, who was a student in Munich who led an organization called ,,Die Weiße Rose,” (or “The White Rose”) which distributed anti-Nazi leaflets; ultimately, her and all of her friends were beheaded when they were caught.
Afterwards, we headed back outside and took a few more pictures:
We later headed to Donaustauf, the tiny little town in the shadow of Walhalla.
Donaustauf is a tiny little town – not touristy at all, which was nice, and no one that we interacted with spoke any English, so Max, Andrés, and I ended up translating some stuff for Nick and Eric. We had a really delicious meal (Cordon bleu for me) and hung out and talked for awhile. I hadn’t traveled with Nick or Eric, but I’m good friends with them, so it was nice being able to take some stress-free time out and hang out with them.
The whole day was incredibly stress-free; it was one of those days that just makes you glad to be alive. Delicious food, amazing scenery, and good friends – nothing could dampen the mood. We had no itinerary, which was also nice, so after lunch, we saw some ruins of a castle on the hill overlooking Donaustauf, so we decided to take a look (reference the black and white drawing I posted earlier on this post). We didn’t know how to get up, so we asked a very friendly and helpful old German lady if she could direct us, and she did so gladly. We made it up the hill, but it was cold and the snow on the ground had frozen over, so it was a little slippery to climb up, but we made it eventually! It was pretty cool; the castle was from the year 500 (so REALLY old), and it had a great view of the surrounding land. We hung out in the ruins for a pretty good amount of time, just adventuring around, taking pictures, and having a good time. Nick enjoyed it a lot because apparently a lot of the English countryside looks very similar (he’s from England).
We then headed down by a church and walked out to the car. There were a few cemeteries, and there were some people who died fighting in WWII, so instead of a regular cross signifying their death dates, it was an Iron Cross, which I thought was pretty interesting.
We headed back up to Walhalla to get some pictures at sunset – and let me tell you, it was phenomenal.
After awhile just relaxing and talking in Walhalla, we headed back to the car, where Max was learning how to drive stick in the parking lot. Andrés drove us to a little town outside of Munich called Pilsing, where we went to Max’s grandparents’ house.
It was a really fun time – traditional Bavarian food (pretzels, leberkäse, beer) and told a lot of jokes. They hardly speak any English, so the entire night was joking around in German, them telling us stories, and us actually having a good conversation in German! We translated a lot for the others but there was still a lot that we couldn’t quite understand – their Bavarian accents were fairly strong – but Max’s grandparents provided a great meal and a really fun, enjoyable time. We also found this creepy doll sitting on a bookstand, next to a book titled Das Ende Unserer Zukunft, which translates to “The End of Our Future.” It’s a really blurry picture (it was dimly lit) but it was pretty funny.
We hung out there for a LONG time – we were supposed to return our car by 8:00 pm (it was non-binding so we had no stress to get back in time, but we didn’t want to get charged for a second day), but we ended up hanging out at Max’s grandparents’ house for around 4 hours, so when we finally hit the road at 10, we booked it to get back. However, since Max had just started driving stick, we didn’t go on the Autobahn for much of it, so we were hindered by an 80 kmh speed limit (~40 mph? I think?), so we ended up getting to the rental garage in the airport around 12:10. The rental place was all locked up, so we had to drop the keys in this underground bin thing that’s for after-hours drop-offs. Our biggest worry at that point was the lack of buses running, but we ended up catching a bus that took us relatively close to where we needed to be, albeit not exactly. We hopped off at a different stop in Old Town, checked out who was out that night, and then headed back to the center promptly afterwards.
It was a really relaxing, stress-free day of travel, and it was a much needed (and much wanted – I’d wanted to go to Walhalla for the longest time) break from everything. Not having an itinerary and having good friends along the way made the day incredibly enjoyable.
So what’s coming up? Well, tomorrow (TOMORROW!) I leave for Italy and Greece for two weeks – we’re hitting a lot of landmarks, and if all goes to plan, Nick wants to go sailing in Greece, so that should be a lot of fun. Other than that, I haven’t planned any trips for when we get back from Spring Tour, so I’ll guess we’ll see where it takes me!
That’s all for now,
Mit Liebe aus Walhalla/With love from Valhalla,
Hab’ i’ die Ehre = “I have the honor” – a Bavarian greeting
“In My Life,” by the Beatles. Great song, and also on our road trip playlist.