by - Gary and Debby Jones, Georgetown, Texas

Traveling to Europe always requires extensive research and planning, especially when another couple relies on you to lead the way. We had spoken with Gary’s sister Julie Kelly and her husband Mike several years ago about a trip to Europe in 2009, to celebrate some milestone anniversaries and birthdays, but we had to postpone for various reasons. In October 2010, the four of us concluded that we wanted to spend two weeks in Germany and Austria. The first order of business was to secure our flights, which was accomplished in November, and then we played with our itinerary until we nailed down the following:

§ Three nights in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
§ Four nights in Salzburg, Austria
§ Four nights near King Ludwig’s castles in southern Bavaria or Austrian Tirol
§ Four nights in Bacharach am Rhein, Germany.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Since we live in Georgetown, we decided to overnight with Julie and Mike at their home in Katy, so we could drive together the following day to our departure airport, Houston Intercontinental (IAH). We drove from Georgetown to Katy on a very hot afternoon, enduring another of those miserable 100 degree days that plagued Texas this summer, and witnessing the aftermath of fires along Texas Highway 71 near Bastrop. We arrived in Katy about 4 PM in time for dinner with Julie, Mike, and their daughter Katie. The hours after dinner were spent reviewing our packing and various checklists. All was in order: the Kellys and Joneses were well prepared for the trip, all fairly lightly packed, so no bags need be checked.

Wednesday, September 14 - Thursday, September 15, 2011

This day was Departure Day. We were up early, experiencing a mixture of anticipation and excitement. Julie, the only one of us who still has a nine-to-five job, got a ride to work with her carpool, so Mike drove us to Julie’s office, located near the airport, to pick her up, and then we all went to the Park and Fly where we left his car while we were away.

Our flight was at 6:30 PM and we were inside IAH just after 4. Surprisingly, check-in and security screening were fast and easy. We had nonstop Continental Flight 46 from IAH to FRA. The flight really went smoothly, although it took ten hours. Fortunately, we had selected very good seats on the 767 aircraft, so we all got some sleep. We arrived at the Frankfurt Airport safely and on time, so that made it a good flight. In-processing at Frankfurt was very easy, with no lines at passport control and no customs inspection.

We spent a little time obtaining some Euros from an ATM, and then got our car from Avis, a diesel Opel Zafira, a relatively large SUV-like vehicle, just the thing for holding the four of us and our luggage, plus offering excellent fuel economy.

Driving to Rothenburg, we encountered a Stau (traffic jam) on the A3, which resulted in a delay of 90 minutes. We arrived in Rothenburg much later than we had expected, about 5 PM, and Gary took a wrong turn, so to correct his mistake he had to drive through the old town (Altstadt) on the way to the Hornburg Hotel, which afforded Mike and Julie a brief overview of the town. After finally locating parking lot P4, we arrived at the Hornburg. Debby and Gary had stayed there ten years ago, and we thought it would be a comfortable and convenient first stop, as it is located just outside the old town walls. We were checked in by charming Gabrielle Wetzel, who showed us to the two ground floor rooms that Gary had requested when making the online reservation. Debby and Gary were given a large corner room, while Mike and Julie had a smaller room next door, the room our daughter Robin had when we stayed at the Hornburg in 2001. We regrouped briefly, and then walked to the Altstadt for dinner at the Gasthof Goldener Greifen. Some of us had sausage and sauerkraut, with beer and wine, a good first German dinner, but Julie ordered chicken, which was very overdone and was the worst meal she experienced on the trip.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Breakfast began at 8 AM, and the four of us were ready for it. Frau Wetzel laid a good Frühstück including soft boiled eggs as well as a substantial assortment of cereals, yoghurts, cold meats, cheeses, breads and jams.

We decided to walk to the shopping center where the Kaufland supermarket was located to purchase picnic items, drinks, and various toiletries in large sizes. We also found a Vodaphone store in the same center and purchased a somewhat costly cell phone (59€ + phone time). Because the phone was expensive to use, there were no English instructions, and it did not work in Austria, we should not have purchased it, but the idea was to have a phone for calling home, making restaurant reservations, and informing the next guesthouse if we were going to be late for check-in.

We brought our purchases back to the hotel, and then walked to the Altstadt to further explore the town. First, we went to St Jakobs Church to see the famous Riemenschneider altar piece and explore other areas inside the church.

Then, we walked over to Käthe Wohlfahrt and spent a couple of hours shopping there.

We walked a short section of the Rothenburg town wall and then had our picnic lunch on a table in the Hornburg Hotel’s garden. We talked to proprietor Martin Wetzel, Gabrielle’s husband, about his dogs and his trip to the states 20 yrs ago. He speaks good English, but his very cute 9 year old son, Carlo, who was there as well, spoke only German.

After lunch, we split up. Gary went to the train station to purchase Tages-Tickets for a train trip to Nürnberg the following day, Mike stayed at the hotel to rest a swollen leg from the flight over, and the girls walked back to town to do some more shopping.

We reunited at the hotel and went into town for dinner at the Rathaus Restaurant. We had pretty good meals: Wiener Schnitzel, Sweineschnitzel and Sauerbraten. Following dinner, we waited for the Nightwatchman's tour. While it began to sprinkle, Mike, Julie and Gary were able to complete the tour without getting terribly wet. Debby did not take the tour; instead, she returned to the hotel because her foot was hurting.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday was planned as a day trip to Nürnberg by train. After breakfast we walked five minutes to the Rothenburg Bahnhof to catch a 10 AM train. The two Tages-Tickets that Gary had purchased the previous day cost 15.60€ each and covered the round-trip regional trains between Rothenburg and Nürnberg, plus all local ground transportation in Nürnberg for two adults – a very good deal. The trip from Rothenburg to Nürnberg required 2 changes – at Steinach and Ansbach – which were easily accomplished, and with no more than 5 minutes of waiting between trains. After arriving in Nürnberg, we walked through the Altstadt as far as the Hauptmarkt, where there were lots of food, beer, wine and crafts booths set up for a special Altstadtfest in the central pedestrian area. For lunch we bought a huge cheese pretzel and Nürnberg sausages (little sausages about the size of your little finger, served 3 on a bun).

We then caught bus number 36 to the Nazi Documentation Center, located south of the city center. We spent a couple of hours walking through exhibits while listening to an audio guide. The documentation center has a wealth of information on the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s, including some interesting films, many of which featured Nürnberg, the site of annual large party rallies. It began raining quite hard while we were in the center, but by the time we had finished looking through the museum, the weather had cleared. We decided against walking through the extensive rally grounds and Zeppelin field, but we did spy the Tribune structure across the Dutzendteich lake.

We took tram number 9 to the Bahnhof, and then regional trains back to Rothenburg. At the Rothenburg station, Gary hailed a Mercedes cab to take us back to the hotel; it was well worth 5€ to save tired feet from more walking.

For dinner, we went to the Zum Rappen restaurant, next door to the Hornburg, and had a terrific meal. Their specialty was Pfannkuchen ... basically crepes. Debby had a pizza topped crepe, Julie a bacon and onion stuffed crepe, Gary pork medallions with crepes in a mushroom cream sauce, and Mike curried chicken skewers surrounded by rolled crepes. The restaurant’s English menu translations were somewhat amusing. For instance, Mike's chicken was described as “chicken spit with curry sauce”. He decided to chance it, and it turned out to be a very tasty dish.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

It was raining when we awoke this morning, and the rain continued all day long. After having our last breakfast at the Hornburg, complete with smiley face soft boiled eggs dressed in little crocheted chickens, we loaded up the car and bade good-bye to Gabrielle Wetzel. We drove down the Romantic Road to Dinklesbühl, but we did not linger in the town, and in fact we didn’t get out of the car, as it was raining pretty hard.

From Dinkelsbühl, we found our way to the A6 Autobahn, heading towards Nürnberg, then other Autobahns took us south, around Munich and on to Salzburg. Rain accompanied us the entire way, but we felt very fortunate that we didn't encounter any Staus. We saw several very lengthy ones in the opposite direction. We had a picnic lunch in the car, sitting at a rest stop along the Autobahn. Mike drove the last hour or so, accomplishing his dream to drive on the German Autobahn, albeit in an Opel SUV instead of a Porsche!

We arrived at our next destination, Haus Reichl, in suburban Salzburg at 4:15 PM, having been guided there by our trusty Tom-Tom GPS (which we have named “Loretta”), who took us along some one lane roads around the airport, until we reached the Haus, located at the end of a lane off the Moosstrasse. Even though Loretta sometimes used the narrowest roads, she was a definite asset in getting us from Point A to Point B every time!

Franziska Reichl greeted us and showed us to our two Zimmer up one flight of stairs. Mike and Julie had the room we shared with Robin 10 years ago, and Debby and Gary’s room overlooked the front of the house where there is a large meadow. We saw several small deer playing in the lush green grass ... obviously it hasn't forgotten how to rain in this part of the world, a stark contrast to bone dry Texas.

For dinner, we followed Frau Reichl's suggestion and went to the Gasthof Reiterhof two km south of her place down the Moosstrasse. The dining room was interesting, situated on the second floor, overlooking a horse riding ring. While we ate, a trainer led a couple of horses through their paces. Mike and Debby both ordered the evening special, chicken breast covered in almonds with lingonberry sauce, while Julie and Gary had other dishes. Dessert was delightful: we all shared an apple strudel, a cream cheese torte and some blueberry pancakes. Our waiter, apparently the owner as well, spoke very good English, and he told us he had attended a restaurant and hotel school at Disney World for a year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

We woke up to rain, which didn't stop until about 6 PM, unfortunately. We had a nice Frühstück and bought 4 Salzburg Cards from Frau Reichl, which allowed us free entry into Hellbrunn Palace, our first stop of the day. Hellbrunn was located quite close to Haus Reichl, but to get there Loretta once again took us down small one lane roads, where cars do-si-do when meeting one another. We took a guided tour in English of Hellbrunn’s gardens, complete with trick water fountains. The archbishop who built the palace must have been somewhat sadistic, as he added all kinds of ways to get unsuspecting guests wet. The gardens would have been beautiful if the weather had been better. After the outside tour, we toured the house with audio guides ... mildly interesting rooms. At the end we saw the “16 going on 17” gazebo from The Sound of Music.

From Hellbrunn we drove back to a little church near Haus Reichl, where we parked the car (for free), following Frau Reichl’s suggestion, and then we took a bus (covered by the Salzburg Card) into the city center. We explored old town Salzburg on foot, taking in all the recommended sights. We walked as far as the Festival Hall, which was locked tight, so we could not enter. Coming out of the cemetery at St Peters Church, which inspired the set for the cemetery scene in The Sound of Music, we had a lovely and hearty (but pricey) lunch at St Peters Stiftskeller. Julie and Debby had very good roast pork, Mike had a spicy goulash, and Gary had carrot and mango soup and a salad as well as some of the roast pork. This beautiful restaurant has supposedly been serving meals for 1200 years. We checked out the upstairs rooms where Mozart dinner concerts are held, and they were very nice!

We took the funicular up to Hohensalzburg Fortress and spent an hour or so exploring. The views from the fortress were fairly good considering the fact that it was still raining. There was a small marionette museum that we viewed briefly. After returning down the funicular, we found an ATM to get some more Euros to pay the bill at Haus Reichl the next day, spent some time trying to locate a cell phone store to top off our minutes, and then walked across the river. Mike and Julie went to Mirabell Gardens, while Gary and Debby rested in the lobby of the very nice Hotel Sacher, where most of the guests seemed to be Arabs. After Mike and Julie rejoined us, we went for lattes and Sacher Torte at the Cafe Bazar, described by Rick Steves as the closest thing to a Viennese coffee house in Salzburg. Located right on the Salzach River, the Café Bazar had a great view of the river and the city with the fortress looming above it. We enjoyed Salzburg being beautifully lit up as day turned to night.

We had experienced a very full day of sightseeing in the rain, and since we had had a big lunch and then later in the afternoon coffee and cake, we decided to skip a large dinner. We went to Hanusch Platz, located the bus that would take us to the Moosstrasse, retrieved our car at the church, and drove the short distance back to Haus Reichl. We spent some time reorganizing and getting ready to depart the next morning. The following day we would leave Haus Reichl, take in the Berchtesgaden area, and then relocate to a Sheraton resort on the Fuschlsee for the next two nights.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Upon awakening we discovered clouds and drizzle once again, which would put a damper on the sightseeing we would do this day. After breakfast, we said good-bye to Franziska Reichl and set off for Berchtesgaden. We drove to the town, got some information at the Berchtesgaden Bahnhof about tours to the Eagle’s Nest, and decided to drive a few miles to Obersalzberg, the gateway to Kehlsteinhaus, the Eagle’s Nest. Apparently Obersalzberg was completely destroyed by the Americans in the early 50's so that it would not become a mecca for Neo Nazis. As a result, there's not much there except a Documentation Center and a bus service up to the Eagle's Nest. We decided we had gotten plenty of Nazi info while in Nürnberg, so we skipped the center and went right up to the Eagle's Nest. There had been 7-8 inches of snow a day or two before, and the views at the summit were completely obscured by clouds and fog. We bought a panoramic picture of what we should have been viewing!

We had lunch in the Kehlsteinhaus main room, complete with the red marble fireplace mantel that GI's had damaged as they chipped away for souvenirs after the war. We stayed at the top about 1 1/2 hrs, then caught the bus back down, retrieved our car, and drove to the Königssee nearby. The weather was improving, so we parked and took a walk through the tourist-trap town beside the lake. Before you reach the lake from the parking lot you must walk through an extensive shopping area.

After spending a short time at the Königssee, we drove to Maria Gern, a small town with a beautiful church that we had heard about from BavariaBen. Maria Gern is situated way out in the country, in a beautiful mountainous setting. We managed to get some good still pictures of the church and the gorgeous area around it. Gary had also been shooting video on the trip, so he got some good footage here.

Loretta guided us very nicely toward our final destination of the day: the Sheraton Fuschlsee-Salzburg Hotel Jagdhof, in the Salzkammergut. To get there, we drove back towards and then around Salzburg on the A10 and A1 Autobahns, at rush hour, so we had a bit of heavy traffic. After the A1 turned east of the metro area, ten miles further down the road we found our Ausfahrt, and then we journeyed down peaceful, beautiful roads to the Sheraton. The Sheraton turned out to be an awesome spa hotel on the western end of the Fuschlsee. Julie had procured rooms for both of us couples using Starwood points, so she scored big time with this wonderful find. The Sheraton hotel, with its beautiful bedrooms, spacious baths, and Wellness Center, was a luxurious change from our usual Zimmer.

After getting settled, we drove to a nearby Billa grocery store to buy a few provisions for breakfast and lunch the following day. Having heard from front desk personnel that there was a good Italian restaurant in the area, we found Edenbergers Cafe am See in the nearby town of Fuschl am See, at the eastern end of the lake, about 4 miles from the hotel. The restaurant offered a nice change from German fare. Mike and Julie split a pizza, Gary had spaghetti Bolognese and Debby had tortellini in a cream sauce with ham and zucchini. Julie discovered Radler, lager beer and lemonade, which she loved!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The day dawned bright and sunny, so after taking some pictures, the four of us had breakfast in our room, consisting of food items purchased the previous afternoon from the grocery store: croissants with raspberry jelly, juice, and coffee (maker in room). Forgoing the expensive hotel breakfast allowed us to have a simple repast for many fewer Euros. After breakfast, we drove off on a tour of the Salzkammergut. We first explored the Schloss Fuschl, just down from our hotel, on a little peninsula into the Fuschlsee. The Schloss is in a beautiful setting and has lots of history, beginning in 1491. During the Nazi era, it was confiscated by von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s foreign minister. The rightful owner having died at Dachau, the property became a luxury hotel in the 1960’s, and played host to notables such as Khrushchev, Gerald Ford, and Anwar Sadat.

We then drove past the Fuschlsee to the Wolfgangsee in order to get to the Hallstättersee. One lake (See) after another! There was a bad wreck at a major intersection in Bad Ischl, but Loretta did a great job of getting us through the town on an alternative route. We stopped for a picnic just before entering Hallstatt at a beautiful spot with a picnic table right on the lake.

After arriving at Hallstatt, we found a parking lot and then walked through the town. We decided to take a boat trip on the lake, which took about an hour. What spectacular scenery! The views of Hallstatt from the water were indescribably beautiful. The day spent in the Salzkammergut was absolutely wonderful and definitely checked one off our bucket list.

We started back towards our hotel around 4 PM, stopping at a grocery on the way for a few more provisions. We returned to the hotel around 5 PM, and then went to the Wellness Center. What a refreshing and enjoyable way to cap off the afternoon! We checked out all the free amenities. There were many different "experience" showers, a salt sauna, a Finnish sauna, and steam room. The spectacular swimming pool had an infinity edge and a much needed jacuzzi. We felt quite pampered even though we didn’t have to pay for any of the special massages or treatments!

After showering and resting awhile, we drove a short distance west to the town of Hof bei Salzburg and found a small cafe for a little dinner. The food was basic pub grub but well made. Julie’s Wurst came with numerous cuts along the sides so the sausages resembled a caterpillar!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our two nights at the Sheraton were over, and it was time to return to Bavaria. After having breakfast in Mike and Julie’s room, we packed up the car and left the hotel around 9:30 AM. We drove west on the Austrian A1 to connect back into Germany on the A8, then south through the Tirol towards Innsbruck. We left Autobahns at Innsbruck, to take smaller mountain roads back into Germany to Mittenwald, where we stopped for lunch.

The drive was spectacular, the mountains getting bigger and bigger as we drove along.

In Mittenwald we had a bountiful lunch at a hotel in the center of town. We sat at an outside table, enjoying the beautiful sunny weather. We drove on through Mittenwald, looking for some indication of violin making for which it is famous, but never saw anything at all. We were anxious to get to Hohenschwangau, so we didn’t seek out the violin museum there.

We drove to Reutte, Austria, and encountered a short Stau where there had been a rock slide. We made it to Hohenschwangau about 4:30 PM and checked in to the Gasthaus Weiher, meeting elderly Frau Oswald. Our rooms adjoined each other on the second floor and had a common balcony that looked out to Neuschwanstein ... an incredible view! The furnishings in each bedroom seemed to be designed for gnomes or very short people, as they were all very low to the floor, making getting in and out of bed a real challenge! We talked to some girls at the Weiher who told us we could probably get on the last tour of the day at Schloss Hohenschwangau, so we walked over to the ticket building and did just that. The tour was by audio guide, about 30 minutes long, and did not include the boyhood bedroom of future king Ludwig II. All the rooms we viewed had romanticized paintings on the wall portraying German legends from the misty past. These paintings helped form Ludwig’s fascination with German mythological heroes, and were the stuff of Wagnerian operas.

We took the long walk down to the town of Hohenschwangau after the tour, circling by the Alpsee. We stopped at the Hotel Mueller’s restaurant and had some cake and coffee for our dinner, still not very hungry after our good sized lunch. We walked back to the Weiher about 8 PM. The nighttime view of the beautifully lit Neuschwanstein from our balcony was gorgeous.

Friday, September 23, 2011

We were up around 7 AM. Although it was a bit foggy, the weather looked promising. We had breakfast in Frau Oswald's Frühstück room. She had a nice spread, complete with soft boiled eggs. She even had a candle burning on the table … a nice, homey touch. We had determined that this day was our best chance to visit the Zugspitze and also get our laundry done, so we set a course in Loretta for the Hotel Maximillian in Reutte, where we dropped off two laundry bags. For 16 Euros per bag the hotel was willing to wash, dry and fold our things, and when we returned at 5 PM the laundry was done. While we usually wash underwear in our B&B rooms, we need a laundry to do shirts, slacks, and so forth about midway through a two-week trip.

We decided to take a train to Ehrwald, Austria, in order to ascend the Zugspitze. We parked for free at the Reutte train station and purchased a Bayern day ticket, which was the cheapest ticket available. The round-trip fare was 31€ for the four of us. Close to the small Ehrwald station was a bus stop, where we caught a bus to the Zugspitze lift – 2.50€ per person one way. The area around Ehrwald was just spectacular, surrounded by mountains. We bought our tickets for the lift, and found that the cost per person was cheaper than we expected, 22.50€ rather than 34€, a special price for Oktoberfest! We learned later that the cost from the German side would have been 47€, so we got an especially good deal! The lift up was really wonderful, and in short order we were at the summit of the highest mountain in Germany. We saw Alps in all directions and a good sized lake below us. Even though we snapped lots of pictures, we doubt that a camera can possibly capture the awesomeness of the scenery. We were fortunate to have had a gorgeous day to go to the Zugspitze.

After arriving at the top, we found the Austrian side had a very smoky indoor room, complete with band and large liter beers for Oktoberfest. We spent only a couple of minutes there and then walked across a short outdoor walkway to the German side. Instead of spending our time in a smoke-filled room, we opted for the spectacular outdoor views. We had dressed for freezing weather, but the sun was warm and there was no wind, so we were comfortable. After some time spent admiring the scenery, we decided to find a table and have our picnic. Frau Oswald had given us a plastic bag and suggested that we take the rolls, cheese and ham left over from breakfast for a picnic lunch ... a very nice gesture. While picnicking, we spotted a 30-ish couple walking by. The guy was wearing a Phillies ball cap. We commented on it, and invited them to join us. They told us they lived near Cherry Hill, NJ, and since we used to live in Philadelphia, we ended up talking to them for an hour or so and exchanged addresses.

After lunch, the lift took us back down the mountain, we retraced our bus/train route, and made it back to our car parked at the Reutte Bahnhof. After picking up our laundry, we returned to Gasthaus Weiher and had a little wine and cheese on our balcony.

We decided to try the Gasthof Zur Post in Schwangau, a BavariaBen suggestion. We had a great meal there! Gary and Debby had the daily special: beef noodle soup, roast beef with red wine sauce, Spätzle, and a salad. Mike had roast pork with red cabbage and a dumpling, while Julie had pasta with four cheeses (like a very good mac and cheese).

Saturday, September 24, 2011

We woke up to another somewhat foggy morning, but it quickly cleared. The views from our balcony of the castle blanketed in fog were really extraordinary. Gary and Mike drove over to reserve tickets for the second English tour of the morning at Neuschwanstein, and then returned for breakfast. Mike, Julie and Gary took off for the tour, while Debby decided to stay behind and just enjoy the castle views from the balcony. This gave her some time to regroup, work on this journal and relax while reading for much of the morning ... very nice!

The castle-goers enjoyed seeing Mary’s bridge and then touring Schloss Neuschwanstein. They returned to the Weiher just before noon, and we then had a picnic on our balcony before venturing any further. After lunch, we set out for the Wieskirche, a 30 minute drive of beautiful, lush green fields with a mountain backdrop. We spent an hour or so at the church, admiring its Rococo-style, over-the-top decor. It was much as Debby and Gary remembered it from our first trip there in 2001, but the area around the church is much more commercialized now. There was a vocal rehearsal going on inside the church, so we were able to hear the organ and experience wonderful acoustics. We took lots of pictures and videos inside and out.

We then drove back towards Schwangau, stopping at the Tegelberg Sommerrodelbahn (luge). The area was alive with all kinds of sports and fun activities. There were swarms of hang gliders and parasailers taking off from the top of a mountain. It was great fun to watch them. We bought tickets for the luge, and all of us gave it a try. The luge was pretty crowded, so speeds were kept down. It’s fairly tame as luges go ... so we survived! We returned to the Weiher for a couple of hours of sunning on our balcony, reading and doing a little maintenance.

For dinner, we drove into Füssen and ate at the Hotel Kurcafe. The nicely appointed indoor/outdoor dining room was quite a change from the more rustic German restaurants in which we had been eating. The menu was quite varied and included wild game and fish. Gary had a small mixed grill with beef, pork and turkey in a skillet with roasted vegetables, Mike had roast beef, Julie and Debby each had a pan fried trout, complete with head and bones. For dessert we split a Spaghetti Eis and a Schoko Becker, a huge chocolate sundae in a beautiful tall glass.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

We were up and at breakfast by 8:30 AM, and about an hour later we were off to Oberammergau and the Linderhof castle. The weather was spectacular, and the beauty of the countryside continued to wow us. It is so lush and green with the mountains in the background. The drive took us past the Wieskirche area and then we continued to Oberammergau. It really is a charming, but very tourist-driven town. Since it was Sunday morning, there were few people around when we first arrived. We visited a couple of wood carving shops as they were beginning to open, managing to find a few things to buy.

We walked over to the passion play house, a large theatre. Several of the costumes from last year's play were on display in the lobby, as well as many pictures from previous performances.

From there, we continued on to the Linderhof, another of King Ludwig's castles. For a Royal estate, the building is very small, as Ludwig apparently had no desire to entertain others but just be a recluse there. His dining room table, which was raised up from the kitchen fully set, served only one person. The entire castle was reminiscent of Versailles, which Ludwig greatly admired. The gardens and fountains surrounding the castle were beautiful. Mike and Julie climbed up to see the grotto while Gary and Debby rested a bit, and then we all had a late lunch at an Imbiss near Linderhof’s ticket booth. Most of us had curry wurst and pommes frites … quite strong with curry, but very good.

After leaving Linderhof, we stopped briefly at the Ettal Monastery. We bought a couple of beers which the monks make (there were many kinds to choose from), and a couple of bottles of Schnapps, also made by the monks. We enjoyed them later on our balcony back at the Weiher.

We drove back to Hohenschwangau, with a quick stop at the Echelsbacher Brücke with the Ammer river running far below.

After returning to the Weiher for our last evening, we decided to have sandwiches, made from the breakfast leftovers, and other goodies out on our balcony, watching hang gliders circling above Schloss Neuschwanstein in the early evening. It’s quite something to have a spectacular view and entertainment from one’s balcony.

Monday, September 26, 2011

We had Frau Oswald’s breakfast one last time, packed up leftovers for yet another picnic, and left Hohenschwangau around 9 AM. Frau Oswald is getting on in years, and we can’t imagine she will continue running the Gasthaus much longer. Crusty on the outside, she really is quite a sweetie on the inside. She mothered us in numerous ways during our 4-night visit with her, even giving Julie some pills and hot tea when she complained of a bothersome cough.
We made our way via the A7 Autobahn to Ulm, arriving there about 10:30 AM. We drove to the Ulmer Münster cathedral and parked right alongside it, following Loretta’s directions. We couldn't find any indication that it was a no parking zone ... but of course it was, and when we left we had a 10€ parking ticket.

We spent about an hour looking around that awesome cathedral. The carved choir stalls are especially spectacular, as is the carved screen around them. We thought there was to be a noon organ concert, but we were told the organist was off that day. We did not do well in the live music department on this trip! That was unfortunate, but the stop was certainly not a loss.

At the TI, where we found bathrooms, we watched an interesting short video, portraying the history of Ulm and the cathedral in particular. Loretta navigated us back to the A7 Autobahn, heading towards the Rhine Gorge. The scenery changed quite dramatically ... leaving the mountainous area we had been in for the last week, transitioning into much flatter industrial and agricultural areas. As we got closer to the Rhine we began seeing more and more vineyards. Along the drive, we stopped for fuel and ate our picnic lunch at a rest stop along the Autobahn. We exited the A61 Autobahn at Bingen, and took a B road beside the Rhine to Bacharach, arriving there about 4:30 PM.

Mike drove through the cobblestoned little streets up to the Pension im Malerwinkel, the last lodging of our trip.

We walked back downhill to the heart of Bacharach, to the Bastian Winegut, where for 20 Euros we got a selection of 15 wines to sample. Herr Fritz Bastian has passed on, but his winery continues. We bought a couple of bottles of wine that we especially liked during our tasting.

For dinner we wanted to try Cafe Rusticana, which is recommended by both Rick Steves and Ben's Bauernhof and, according to the proprietor, Let's Go as well. Dinner was very good. All entrees came with a highly herbed vegetable soup and a nice salad. Gary had meatloaf, Mike a vegetarian stuffed pepper, Julie and Debby both had roasted chicken, accompanied by pommes frites. We concluded our meal with a couple of apple strudels with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Malerwinkel’s proprietor, Herr Vollmer, served us breakfast at 8:30 AM, after which we were down at the KD cruise dock around 9:30. We bought round-trip tickets for the 10:15 cruise to St. Goar. We boarded the boat but then sat at dock quite awhile. An ambulance arrived, and paramedics came aboard, but after awhile, they left without a patient. Finally we got underway about a half-hour late. We had found chairs in the bow of the boat, along with quite a few Japanese tourists.

It was a beautiful day for a cruise. We enjoyed the scenery, vineyards, and castles along the way. Debby was taken with the town of Oberwesel, but we still haven't explored that intriguing town. In St. Goar, we shopped a bit, and then caught the “silly” tourist train up to the castle.

We spent a couple of hours exploring Rheinfels Castle, using the Rick Steves self guided tour. It is really interesting to imagine what life was like in a castle under siege. The views of the Rhine valley from atop the castle are spectacular. We were struck with the variety and number of various modes of transportation on the Rhine: all kinds of barges, ships and tourist boats, plus train tracks and highways on both sides of the river.

We had lunch at a pizza place in St. Goar, sharing 2 pizzas for the 4 of us. After finishing lunch, we caught the boat back to Bacharach. The boat was jam packed, and it was very hard to find a place to sit down. Gary and Debby finally went inside to the bar to find chairs.

After returning to Bacharach, we walked to the small grocery store to get some picnic supplies for the next day before walking back to the Malerwinkel. The guys napped while Julie and Debby enjoyed the wine we had purchased from Bastian’s in the hotel's garden while going over our trip report. Eventually the guys joined us.

We went to dinner at the Kranenturm restaurant, sitting outside just inches away from the trains going by, which made for loud, interesting entertainment! Mike, Julie and Debby tried the house specialty, pork medallions in a Riesling cream sauce with mushrooms ... excellent! Gary had a very good Jägerschnitzel, giving his mushrooms to Debby ... yum. On the walk back to the hotel, we stopped for a gelato ... what fun.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We had breakfast around 9:00 AM, and then went for a drive to the Mosel. It was a very foggy morning. Loretta took us on a long Autobahn route rather than going directly west across country. We traveled north to near Koblenz, then back southwest towards Cochem. When we arrived in Cochem, a large market was taking place, so the town was quite busy. We walked along the river, poked about in the market, and picked up a few brochures at the TI. Debby managed to find a dental pick at the market that she can use as a tool for her stained glass projects ... interesting!

After leaving Cochem, we drove down river 3 km to Klotten, to have lunch at the Zur Linde, where we had eaten a very good meal 4 yrs ago. It was another beautiful day, so we found a table at their very nice outdoor eating area. Gary had pork with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. Mike had a Putenschnitzel, Debby had a chicken cordon bleu and Julie had bratwurst. We all enjoyed our meals very much.

We then drove south along the Mosel, back through Cochem, past Beilstein on the opposite side of the river, and finally crossed over the Mosel at Zell. Zell is the home of Zeller Schwarze Katz wine, which we used to drink many moons ago, and their vineyards were proudly marked up above the town. We walked along the river, and then stopped at an outdoor gelateria for ice cream, a nice mid-afternoon treat! Tours are offered at Zeller Schwarze Katz at 5 PM, but we decided that we didn’t want to chance driving after dark, so we didn’t stay to tour the winery.

We drove back to Bacharach cross country, taking less stressful A and B roads and seeming to require much less time for the return trip. The road took us up on high ground, beautiful country used mostly for agriculture and wind farms with a great many windmills. We reached the Malerwinkel about 5 PM.

Since we had eaten a big lunch in Klotten, we had a picnic dinner in the hotel’s garden.

Afterwards, we walked into town and had drinks at the Post Hof, formerly a post office in olden days where the post riders changed horses in its courtyard. The guys had coffees and the girls had glasses of wine. Debby tried Federweisser, new wine available only at harvest time ... fairly sweet and interesting, but cloudy in appearance.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

After breakfast we walked into Bacharach and spent the morning shopping and taking pictures. It was really nice just to stroll and sightsee without any itinerary. The Joneses and Kellys split up, each couple wandering as they wanted, finding interesting things to see and/or buy. Debby and Gary purchased a neat pewter wine stopper, a wooden teddy bear puzzle, and some interesting glass pieces at a stained glass shop. We walked down to the Bahnhof, where we found some guys working on the tracks (welding we think) and experienced some high-speed trains roaring past. We then spent a little time down by the river, watching the water traffic there. The river gorge was quite foggy until noon, but the surrounding hills cleared much more quickly.

For lunch we met up with the Kellys and went to a bakery to buy some ready made sandwiches and a good linzer tart for dessert. We ate on a bench on the street, while people watching.

After lunch, we decided to buy a bottle of wine at a wine merchant, Weingut Abthof, and drink it in the Malerwinkel’s garden, while reading. It was a nice, relaxing afternoon, and the view from the garden was just wonderful – the old walls and tower with the vineyards up the hillsides and deep blue sky above will give us special memories! We then began to get somewhat organized for our trip home the next day :(

For dinner we went to the Altes Haus to partake of our last German dinner. We were the first ones to arrive, which was fortunate because the one waitress couldn’t handle all the customers who came later. After finishing another great meal, we decided to walk down the street for one last gelato.

We passed a man looking in the window of the wood burning shop. Debby and Gary had heard from the shopkeeper, Frances, earlier in the day that BavariaBen had been in Munich and would soon show up in Bacharach. As Debby kept looking at the man, she thought he looked like BavariaBen. We finally went up to him and asked him and found it was actually Ben in person! We chatted with him for awhile, learning more about his life and travels. It was really amazing to run into him! We assured him his website had been very helpful to us for over ten years in planning trips. He posted a report from one of our previous trips: “The Great Europe Trip of 2007”, and we expect he will post this one.

Friday, September 30, 2011

We were up about 6:30 AM, finalized our packing and loaded up the car before having breakfast just before 8 AM. After checking out, we drove through the cobblestoned streets of Bacharach, and then along the Rhine to Bingen. Loretta directed us very well to the Frankfurt Airport, and we were very thankful that our trip back to the airport went much more smoothly than our experience on our first trip from the airport towards Rothenburg ... no Staus this time! Our Avis rental agreement receipt provided directions for getting to rental car return, so turning in the car went very smoothly.

Our entire airport experience went very well, with no long lines or hassles anywhere. Four years ago we had a hell of a time, apparently because we were flying American, but this time we were on Continental, and they couldn’t have been more accommodating, except for a chaotic boarding process. We made it to the gate with 2 hours to spare, so we were able to do a little duty free shopping and have a little snack.

Our flight went smoothly, but spending a total of 11 hours on a plane is a very loooong time. We could have broken up the trip by changing planes on the east coast, allowing us to get out of a plane and stretch our legs, but the whole trip would have been longer that way.

Passport control at IAH took an hour. We were really surprised at the numbers of people in line. It also didn't seem very well organized. Many people who were not US citizens ended up in our line, delaying the process considerably.

We retrieved the car from Park and Fly and drove back to Katy, stopping at a Mexican restaurant for dinner. Reentry to Texas was tough – the restaurant was loud and boisterous, quite a difference from the usual relaxing ambiance we had been experiencing!

Our trip went very well in almost all respects. We were able to do much of what we had planned, even though none of us is as young as we used to be! It will take us a week or more to recuperate, and then it will be time to start thinking about our next destination!

Bis zum nächsten Mal - Auf Wiedersehen!

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