Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Der Schloss Neuschwanstein: Wonderful!!

Just exactly how amazing is this place? Frankly, I don't know where to begin, looking at it and being blown away with all its history and deep iconic beauty can give a writer's block another writer's block. I mean, far from wanting to be a raving lunatic, I really don't know how I can start this off.

I was doing my usual thing, like stumbling around "dugg up" websites, if you will. One of the things that caught my fancy was this story here. It talked about how awesome castles were, and showed the most bad-ass castles you could ever see...ever. (Unfortunately, building castles has died out with most of the world's last monarchies) And the Neuschwanstein, or literally The New Swan Rock, got to me. Not only did it get me right on the face, it led on a string of subsequent wikis and research both in english and german, just to get a grasp on how its story goes. And I seldom read anything more than the comics section.

Originally intended to be a refuge by King Ludwig II, it was alleged to be one of the causes of his deposition in 1886 (it was later used by his detractors to be among the factors that made him unfit to rule: his overly excessive spending on his personal creative projects - a big example of which was this castle, among other buildings.). Today however, it attracts almost upwards of 6,000 visitors per day in the summertime and is open whole-year round except for Christmas. Tourism alone has paid for the castle many times over, even with the 14.5 million euros spent on it since 1990 for restoration and maintenance and visitor-related activities. It is also now owned by the State of Bavaria.

And why the hell wouldn't you want to go there? Even other castles want to go there. Seriously. ^_^ This has been further epitomized as THE castle when Walt Disney used this as the basis for his own Disneyland gigs. All the postcards that you see, the magical, fairy-tale feel, the sprawling imagery of the castle in the middle of an immense forest and overlooking a magnificent view. These feelings that you get are exactly part of the allure of making the trip. While it tells us that some people can go insane with the design, go overboard with the details and spare no expense while being called mad, it wasn't such a big deal if you were really larger than life, and well.. King.

Ludwig II was such an unforgettable character too, but I think I have another story about it, altogether. While most castles had the obvious fundamental function as a fortress, (you know, to keep most people out, protect a few inside) the Neuschwanstein was essentially dreamed up from the first cornerstone to be structurally pompous right from the start. Borrowing significantly from the design of the Chateau de Pierrefonds in France, King Ludwig II decided after a visit there that he could have one of these at home, so he did.

Deep inside it, the Neuschwanstein showed the King's ideals and leanings. He was a romantic and longed for a castle to be constructed in the medieval fashion of the classic German knights of old. It would be his own retreat, this palace of the Middle Ages. In it were also murals or picture cycles that described the works of the composer Richard Wagner, to whom this castle was also dedicated. As Wagner also drew heavily on old medieval lore, Ludwig II saw him as his hero, or some sort of a demi-god. But, even with all the oozing romanticism and medieval style, here was a very modern castle with the latest technology of its time, with provisions for plumbing, new ventilation techniques, electricity, and new incarnations of glass and steel. Hot air central heating, running water in every floor, electric bells for the servants, telephones on the 3rd and 4th floors, and even auto-flush toilets. Auto-flush toilets, in the 1860s? Cool.

I really can't tell you enough just yet, so you should really just go there to believe. Tickets are only available at the Ticketcenter Hohenschwangau, in the village just below the castle. Don't barge in, and it'll save you the extra trip back. Opening hours are from 9 AM to 6 PM during April to September, and from 10 AM to 4 PM during October to March. Also be advised that there is no photography, videography, dogs, or smoking allowed inside the castle. And no ditching the guided tour groups as well. And yes, I am copiously trying to monetize this as a means to augment my silly excuse of an income.

For more information on how to get there and how much the tickets cost these days, please click here for price, and here for directions. Enjoy your trip!

p.s. special thanks to flickr peeps: chinmay_oza, coolwater32, and fgross for the awesome pics!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Storm Warning: Bardagul's Apartment!

Ladies and gentlemen I have bad news. There is a very sad and grueling affair erupting in an old, crummy apartment in Quezon City right now.

That's right, I'm talking about the storm that has hit our home, and every other apartment where guys live with college buddies, believe you me. It happens to all of us. It happens to the best of us. My flatmates a.k.a. the Tongays and I, are whole-hearted proponents of the zen-nature-hippie way of life, and not in an entirely good kind of way. Let's think about that for a bit.

Let me give you a little bit of history. My crew and I have been mates and bros for the past 10 years. Since College. Up until now, well after we have all graduated and started working in the rat race. Yes, it's disgusting, I know. However, I must say that my apartment-folk and I are a responsible group of guys who 'clean' our apartment every Saturday (which incidentally falls after 'The Saturday great Gran Matador party night'.. you know, if some puke needs to be wiped and all.) Okay, so maybe that's not so true, but we definitely sweep it at least once a month. Alright, the truth is we haven't technically turned the apartment inside out with cleaning items yet this year, (it smelled decidedly funky when we moved in anyway) and I believe I used to have five roommates but one is now buried somewhere under old copies of FHM, Stuff, Maxim, UNO mags, dare i say CONDOMS?, DVD Porn Covers, and empty plastic bags from 7/11.

Now, the girls that live in the third apartment of the same building have worked out a sucky system for cleaning up: they take turns to clean each week, or have designated zones of responsibility. Who the hell thinks up these things, anyway?! I'm sure our system of NOT cleaning at all is way better because the girls are constantly bitching about who gets to do the leftover chores. That, and PMS. We guys, on the other hand, have never once fought about it. Here's a short example:

(oh yeah, the names have been changed to geeky Warcraft Usernames to protect the non-existent identities of the people involved.)

Pugiun: Zh'alyen, sayo ba yung brief na may peanut butter don sa lababo sa CR? [is this your brief with the peanut butter in the sink in the toilet?]
Zh'alyen: Yep, uhuh. Bakit? [yes, why?]
Pugiun: Okay lang, tutal baby pa naman to' e. [ah, it's okay then, you're still a baby anyways]
Pikoko: Tongs! I won! It WAS his!

Of course it was his, Zh'alyen's the only fat (but totally cute like a teddy bear!) bastard in our tight nerd herd. And indeed, because the brief was as huge as a tent. If the stain on his underwear were a kind of soup, his would be Campbell's: Thick and Chunky. You could just imagine the soup. Okay, please stop imagining it now, you sicko.

A bunch of guys living in an apartment together is really just a stand-off to see who can clean up the least without dying of an infectious disease. It's all a frickin' mind game. We're all darkly muttering to ourselves: Who's gonna give up first? Instead of cleaning, we find ways to live in peaceful coexistence with nature, hence the Zen-vibe. If my feet start to stick to the wooden staircase steps, I wear slippers. If they start to stick too, I wear sandals, then shoes, then army boots. The list goes on. If huge rats decided to move in the cupboard, we make friends with them and sometimes they help pay the rent.

But of course, we all have our valid reasons not to clean, if you should know:
Oragorn: I'm allergic to dust, I've asthma you see.
Gimu: Sige lang Tongs. My girlfriend will do that for me.
Pornholio: I'm barely here enough to make a mess. (he works a block away)
Pikoko: I don't have time, I'm trying to do my thesis. (And he's been out of school for years.)
Zh'alyen: I'm too young to do any manual labor. (He's hitting 29.)
Pooker: I don't make a mess naman e. (He stinks up the CR real bad.)
Me: I'm so bushed from work, barely had any sleep. (While I'm typing this.)

But basically, the reason why we're all trying not to crack and clean something up is because if that happens, that person permanently becomes the guy who cleans. From then on he'll be expected to clean. Even if Gimu spills Lambanog all over the PCs and pukes all over the floor, he'll think, "Forget about it, Pugiun will clean that up. He always does. This will also be the other guy's thinking even if Pugiun is the nastiest man alive, hasn't bathed for three years, and never had a girlfriend in his college life. Just because he took out the garbage that first time, he'll now be known as the guy with long hair who cleans.

In our apartment we have an XXL-size Rustan's supermarket trash bag that only allows us to empty the trash once a week. This does not change the fact that we empty the trash once a month. The trash tends to pile up until it begins consuming visitors to our apartment. Usually after there have been many olfactory injuries, I come back to find that the trash is gone. The trash isn't gone because one of us took it out; it'll be because the trash becomes repulsed by the living conditions and goes to reside somewhere cleaner, such as under a bridge. (Okay, so Pugiun finally took it.)

Furthermore, the floor in our living room has not been cleaned in the traditional sense since April Boy Regino had a career. For us, cleaning the floor means kicking the larger chunks of bread under the seven PC tables where we put up our gaming network. The good thing about it is that if we get trapped in our apartment during some freak nuclear accident, we'll have at least a two-month supply of food lying on the floor. Our technique for cleaning dishes, on the other hand, is to leave them at various locations around the place and hope that eventually they'll get together and take a group bath. Or until Pugiun freaks out.

Now on to the bathroom. To put it simply our bathroom could easily be used as a torture chamber. If visitors were locked in our bathroom, we would hear constant screams of, "This horrid stench is burning my nostrils!!," or, "WTF?!, it's a tooty-fruity flavor!" or, "Gawd! There's a half-life in that thing!" and, "I just stepped on something squishy yet crunchy, and hairy!" Come to think of it, I was the one who said that.

I also recently realized that our bathroom downstairs is growing hair. I don't know why or how, but our bathroom could be the spokesperson for Mane and Tail™. We just stopped putting a mat because the mossy tile floor has grown its own. Besides, the formerly soft and brown rag has turned into a crispy, flaky brown slab anyway.

I could go on, but something tells me my boss is already behind me and is about to breath fire on my ass and put me two inches closer to being fired. If this were the same as when I was caught sleeping for the fourth time, then I'm definitely screwed.