Best was Tower of London with it's Crown Jewels, including the Kohinoor. It was fabulous. I was impressed the way the buildings have been preserved over the centuries. The Big Ben was beautiful... the carving is so intricate- no replicas or photos come anywhere close to showing the fine detail. Thanks to the Frommer's guide I was able to see the changing of the guard at the Buckingham Palace.
Some of the furniture is original too. It was a nice quiet place... though not having read much of Shakespeare I wasn't fully able to appreciate it I guess. Last was Oxford. The guide really went gaga making it out to be the best university in the world. I disagree with that statement, but didn't interrupt. We visited some of the colleges: Brasenose college. It's amazing to see that people still live and study in these buildings which are several hundred years old. Overall it is a beautiful university town, with a very pleasant ambience of academia and learning.
When I first saw the Eiffel tower I was surprised at its big size. At 300m it really towers over it's surroundings. We stood in the queue for a long long time... as it slowly snaked over from one level to the other. Finally we were rewarded with the great view from top, although in retrospect I would say that it wasn't worth it.
The clock goes off twice a day at noon and at 5pm. The figures in the clock tower start moving, the clowns start dancing and the knights start warring! It's amazing that they had such complex clocks built a long time ago. Later before returning to the hotel I picked up my rental car: a Ford Mondeo stationwagon. Unfortunately I was unable to get the BMW upgrade that I'd been trying for as they had run out of BMWs! However the Ford was fairely new car with just 800km on the odometer and it was quite spacious.
We took a walk along the Salazch river and to the Dom, which is another old basilica. It had a beautiful ceiling and it was free (they asked for a voluntary donation, for which my 2 DM was happily accepted). That way the continental Europe is so much cheaper in comparison to Britain, where entrance to the St. Pauls cathedral is about 10 GBP per person. Since there was still time, we went over to the Lake Herrenchiemsee (see photo below:
It's a huge lake set amidst the Alps... which could be seen in a distance. Later I read that it's the largest lake in Germany by volume and is consequently called the Bavarian Ocean. The ferry ride across the lake to the Herrenchiemsee palace was unforgettable, with the Alps in a distance and white sailboats dotting the blue lake. The palace could be reached by a horse drawn carriage. The palace itself couldn't be completed as Ludwig died. He had modelled it after the Versailles palace of Louis XIV, the Sun King, of whom he was a big fan. The fittings were quite opulent, with huge marble baths almost like swimming pools and fountains and gold leaf covered doors etc. After seeing all this opulence we weren't surprised to know that he'd probably been assassinated by dissatisfied subjects.
Anyways so we reached Garmisch-P. a small town set amidst the Alps. It was very picturesque, with the usual old cathedral with "onion-style" domes and pretty houses with sloping roofs and flowers in the windows. We took a cable car to the Alpenspitz, one of the highest peaks in this area. Then tragedy struck: my camera's battery ran out and I couldn't get a replacement, so I couldn't take any photos of our journey or of the towering Alpine peaks (though still nothing in comparison to the Himalayas). Then I drove around thinking of making it to Fussen to see Neuschwantstein, a famous Bavarian castle, but it was getting late and there wasn't any direct route to that castle so we decided to turn back and instead went to Lindenhof Castle, another of Ludwig's retreats. Finally at night I returned the car and we said goodbye to Munich as we boarded our train for Rome.
The dome designed by Michaelangelo stands out, and the square itself with it's columns in an ellipse by Raphael is another Renaissance classic, representing the all encompassing embrace of Christianity. Inside I saw the famous sculpture: Pieta by Michaelangelo. We saw some other castles, and minor churches, finally getting off at the Colloseum. The size was quite impressive.
As big as any stadiums of today... Amazing that it was built such a long time ago. Then, we saw some ruins of ancient Roman temples, where apparently Caesar was murdered. To see Rome after having seen various Roman ruins all over Europe all the way from London brought to me the immensity of the Roman empire, in a way no maps or history books ever could.
Since we didn't have much time, we quickly breezed through looking out for the main attractions like Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and some others like the Winged Victory. Louvre is truly greatest of all musuems. They have such a fabulous collection of art. I was however dissappointed that the titles were only in French and not in English also as in rest of Europe. Later in the evening we caught the Eurostar back to London.
Overall it was a very good trip. I've been amazed at the way mummy and papa have been able to walk the enormous distances required to walk and the amount of stair climbing that has to be done in subways. They have a lot of stamina.