Facing the dawn, my aircraft descended at Paris International Airport in France. Following more than a decadal traverse through the skies, as I disembarked the cabin, a fragrance of cologne intermingled with the crisp air enveloped my olfactory senses, akin to a tonic dispelling my weariness. The long-anticipated sojourn to Europe is at last on the cusp of commencement.
1 Embark on a journey to Paris! Explore an orangery and acquaint yourself with the art of crafting macarons.
Antecedent to my departure, I perused the transient courses proffered to tourists on the institution’s official website. These encompassed captivating subjects such as an initiation into French culinary arts, the realm of French confections, and the delicate nuance of red wine appreciation.
Having stowed my belongings at the lodging, I pivoted and meandered into the burgeoning city. At the eighth hour in the morning, beside the Seine River, a bustling tableau unfolded—vehicular traffic, discourse among pedestrians, and the melodic twittering of birds amidst the verdant foliage. Tracing the avian serenade, I raised my gaze and espied, on a balcony distant yet proximate, the resplendent pink roses cultivated by a household in full bloom. The denizen, clad in pajamas, clasped a newspaper and cradled a cup of coffee, poised to indulge in a leisurely matutinal interlude.
The seats in the Tuileries Garden, at this juncture, were not yet teeming with individuals attending to avian companions. Traverse through the garden, relishing the vibrant mythological sculptures lining the path. The nerves, taut from a sleep-deprived night, find repose in this moment. Anticipating the impending throng, I entered the Orangery Museum situated at the terminus of the garden.
An abode of art housing numerous authentic works by Monet, the exhibition hall, upon ingress, confronted visitors with the visually arresting 17-meter-long masterpiece, “Water Lily.” A solitary photograph falls short in encapsulating its entirety. Linger before the canvas, endeavoring to discern the emotional cadence in Monet’s brushstrokes. The first floor of the orangery boasts creations by Paul Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, and other maestros—each employing distinct artistic techniques yet collectively exuding a captivating allure.
While the orange grove caters to the common tourist, for the aficionado of art, it serves as a mere appetizer. Should you yearn for a more opulent artistic repast, the Palace of Versailles, ensconced on the outskirts of Paris, stands as an exemplary choice.
Built during the reign of King Louis XIV of France, the Palace of Versailles boasts a nearly three-century-old legacy. Aligned with the Forbidden City, Buckingham Palace, the White House, and the Crumlin Palace, it attains distinction as one of the world’s five grandest palaces. Sculptures, murals, and renowned paintings adorn its 2,300 rooms, suspended from the ceiling, adorning corridors, or gracing the three walls of chambers. Within its confines, time seems to languidly drift, heralding an artistic feast for the senses.
In a city adorned with numerous Michelin-starred establishments, apprehensions about neglecting one’s palate dissipate. Yet, my anticipation is heightened as I look forward to delving into the inner sanctum of the restaurant’s kitchen.
Le Cordon Bleu, founded in 1895, stands as one of the globe’s preeminent culinary institutions. Perusing the short-term courses for tourists on the college’s official website prior to departure, I elected to partake in the macaron-making course. The maestro of the kitchen elucidated the requisite steps, guiding us with patience throughout the creative process. A span of two hours elapsed in this culinary odyssey. Astonishingly, the resultant macaron possessed a sweetness devoid of cloying excess. The initial bite revealed the crispness of the outer shell, followed by the velvety touch of chocolate cream, an ephemeral delight that lingered on the palate. An involuntary expression of awe escaped my lips.
2 Embark on a sojourn to the “lucky” pig museum in the Black Forest.
On each odyssey, my perusal of a museum serves as the optimal conduit for acquainting myself with a city. While I have traversed numerous distinctive museums, the “Pig Museum” unequivocally altered my perception of such institutions and my understanding of swine.
The Black Forest, also denominated the Teutonic Forest, nestles within the mountains of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. This expansive forested mountain range spans 160 kilometers from north to south, commencing at Pforzheim in the north and culminating at the border between Germany and Zurich in the south. Interconnected by myriad winding mountain roads, diverse towns of varying architectural styles punctuate the landscape.
My itinerary involves traversing from Paris to the Black Forest in Germany, a journey spanning approximately 580 kilometers and consuming six hours. Factoring in intermittent halts, the sojourn is expected to culminate at the Black Forest hotel by evening. After a night’s repose, we embarked on the mountainous route the subsequent day, promptly arriving atop Tottenauberg Mountain. Descending from an elevation of 1,386 meters, an alpine cascade cascaded down the precipice. Enveloped by the forest, inhaling the crisp air, witnessing the aqueous descent striking the rocks—the mist intermingling with sunlight to form a rainbow—a pristine natural beauty that embraces without reservation.
The northern expanse of the Black Forest metamorphoses into a sought-after winter resort in Germany. In seasons devoid of snow, it transforms into an idyllic realm for hiking and cycling. Concealed beneath the arboreal canopy lies a 1,250-meter-long aerial trail, interwoven through the mountains and culminating at a meticulously designed observation tower. If autumn hues deepen, standing atop the watchtower unveils the kaleidoscope of colors—ranging from verdant green to resplendent orange, crimson, and finally, regal purple.
Proceeding southward from the Black Forest, Stuttgart, Germany’s sixth-largest city, unveils itself. Renowned globally as an automotive hub, the city houses the headquarters of two major automobile conglomerates, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. The city’s emblem—a black horse galloping across a golden field—inspired the iconic prancing horses featured on the logos of Ferrari and Porsche.
However, upon checking into the hotel, the reception divulged an esoteric museum—The Stuttgart Pig Museum. This revelation immediately kindled my intrigue and curiosity. On every journey, immersing myself in a museum remains the quintessential means of comprehending a city. While I’ve explored numerous distinctive museums, the “Pig Museum” undeniably redefined my perspective on such establishments and broadened my awareness of porcine creatures.
The Porcine Museum is ensconced within a structure errected in 1909, which once served as the erstwhile administrative edifice of the antiquated abattoir. In 1992, the slaughterhouse met its demise, and the administrative edifice underwent reconstruction. Come May 2010, the Porcine Museum ceremoniously opened its doors to the public. Its nomenclature derives from the Teutonic expression “Schwein haben,” signifying “there is a little pig” or “fortunate.” Since the medieval era, the porcine creature has been perceived as an emblem of good fortune, a belief persisting through the annals of time.
The museum comprises two tiers and is compartmentalized into 27 exhibition domains. It curates an assemblage of approximately 30,000 “porcine”-related artifacts, encompassing tomes, graphic novels, playthings, and more. From the dissemination of scientific erudition to the historical interplay between humanity and swine, to peculiar and whimsical themed displays, the 27 exhibition domains masterfully elucidate the museum’s motto: “Kunst, Kultur und Kitsch” (Art, Culture, and Popularity).
Furthermore, I indulged in the most delectable pig’s trotters ever savored on European soil at the museum’s gastronomic establishment.
3 Galas and fables in Munich coinciding with Oktoberfest
The populace strolled and imbibed with tankards in hand, engendering an ambiance that gradually swelled with warmth. As the procession infiltrated the venue, a cacophony of trumpets resounded, flags undulated in the hands of revelers, and a father elevated his progeny overhead.
Embarking from Stuttgart and progressing southward, upon reaching Munich, we fortuitously aligned with the inaugural day of Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest, renowned and revered. At the stroke of 11 in the forenoon, a procession of floats and the brewery’s ingress rite unfold. By noon, the mayor of Munich inaugurates Oktoberfest by tapping the initial cask of beer outside the Schottenhammer (German beer brand) pavilion.
In anticipation of securing a superior vantage point, I arrived at the Teresian Lawn prematurely. Astonishingly, though the ceremony loitered on the horizon, the entire lawn was already replete with attendees. The Oktoberfest venue resembles an expansive amusement park with myriad grand and petite beer pavilions. Within these pavilions, libations, roast poultry, sausages, pork knuckles, and traditional Bavarian fare are customary. Foremost among them is the “Hall Brewery” pavilion, also distinguished as the renowned “HB Beer” pavilion. Additionally, amusement apparatus like Ferris wheels, roller coasters, and carousels abound, alongside stalls vending memorabilia such as beer steins or snacks. The denizens frequenting Oktoberfest attire themselves in customary Bavarian regalia. The revelry unfolds as attendees traverse, libation in hand, and the atmosphere evolves into genial warmth. As the procession infiltrates the locale, trumpets herald, flags flutter, and a paternal figure hoists his offspring aloft.
Germany’s Black Forest is a resplendently picturesque enclave. Stuttgart, not merely an automotive hub, houses the Porcine Museum, an even more astonishing marvel.
Post a nocturnal repose, we embarked on a sojourn to the illustrious Neuschwanstein Castle in proximity to Munich.
En route along country lanes, the silhouette of Swansea Castle emerges in the distance—a splendor of whiteness amidst verdant peaks, solemn and unadorned, distinctive in its singular style. After traversing for approximately ten minutes, we reached the hamlet at the base of Neuschwanstein Castle. At this juncture, parking must be at the designated site, tickets redeemed, and the official bus boarded for the ascent. A caveat: given Swan Castle’s immense popularity, tickets necessitate advance online procurement, along with a designated time slot.
Concerning Neuschwanstein Castle, prevailing media narratives predominantly feature the tale of this grand edifice. Notably, Disney’s emblem draws inspiration from Neuschwanstein Castle. However, this locale harbors two castles—Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein—confronting each other across the mount, distinguished by divergent hues and architectural styles.
The architect of Neuschwanstein Castle was Bavaria’s “Fairy Tale Monarch,” Ludwig II. He was a sovereign devoid of political erudition yet brimming with an artistic temperament. From infancy, he harbored a profound affection for various operas and theatrical productions, composing numerous songs extolling benevolence—a narrative crafted to triumph over malevolence.
Ludwig II’s formative years transpired within the confines of Hohenschwangau Castle. Upon maturation, he embarked on the construction of Neuschwanstein Castle, navigating a brutal contest for regal prerogatives, ultimately culminating in neglect. In 1886, he succumbed to self-inflicted demise through drowning in Lake Starnberg. During this juncture, Neuschwanstein Castle remained incomplete.
Fortuitously, subsequent to the castle’s fruition, the interior design and embellishments preserved the romanticism and aesthetics coveted by the monarch. Photography within the castle is presently proscribed, permitting beholders solely an in-person encounter.