The author, Lily Scott Larsen // © 2014 Lily Scott Larsen
Feature image (above): King Ludwig’s castle, Herrenchiemsee, is a must-visit on Herreninsel island. // © 2014 Thinkstock
I never imagined that at 14 I’d be transported to the fantasy land of castles, cobblestones and cuckoo clocks that is Germany. My grandmother — also known as Oma — decided that it was time I meet my “other” family: the Stolz’s of Traunstein, Bavaria. So off we went: my quirky brother, Liam, my stressed-out parents, Oma and me.
After a 16-hour flight, our cousins met us in Munich and drove us into the depths of the Bavarian Alps. Coming from Los Angeles palm trees and unrelenting sunshine, it was pure culture shock to be looking up at 700-year-old churches that brushed the stars; the monuments gave me chills, especially the stone gargoyles. Landing in my ancestral home of Traunstein felt like a time warp.
Traunstein is a midsize Bavarian village with a wide, 17th-century-style main street where everyone gathers in the afternoon to sit and eat fresh eis (ice cream) for one euro. I have never tasted anything like it. While eating our eis on the main street, we noticed how relaxed the locals were. Little kids run around with no worries, and cars don’t zoom by like at home. The locals take their time to visit and dine. They seem to be enjoying the moment, and we all took that lesson with us.
Another great thing about Traunstein is that not many tourists have discovered it, though it’s just a short distance from so many attractions. Mozart’s birthplace — Salzburg, Austria — is 30 minutes away by car.
The islands of Fraueninsel and Herreninsel on the Chiemsee are just 20 minutes away. On Herreninsel, we visited King Ludwig’s famous castle, Herrenchiemsee, in a grand fashion — via horse and carriage. We were stunned at the opulence that awaited us. My mother said, “Well now you don’t need to see Versailles. This is pretty much it!”
Our Traunstein visit ended all too soon, as we had seven more countries to explore. Though our German family was sad to see us go, I know this is now my second home. It’s also the first place I’ll visit on my next trip across the pond.