Jen And Ryan Travel Europe 2014 Part 2
August 7, 2014 0 Comments
Day 7: Das Rhein!
A travel day. A last breakfast in bed in our Bruges apartment and then a bus ride to the rental car agency on the edge of the city. We picked up our Mercedes with a much needed GPS navigation system and set out on the Belgian roads. We made our way through the countryside and enjoyed the amazing rest stops… with super nice bathrooms and cafes/restaurants. The sandwiches you can get at a gas station in Europe are better than most restaurants in the US. I don’t know why.
In the early afternoon, we crossed the German border and started south along the Rhein river. Our little rental car meandered through the small river towns, all with a river view and a tall building in the center. The Rhein is beautiful. The towns are quaint.
Jen And Ryan Travel Europe 2014 Part 2
We quickly found Sankt Goar and our little hotel on the river. The room was amazing. The windows, with a view from the bed, have full vista of the Rhein and castles across the river. Our little 3rd floor patio was practically on top of the river. Amazing views! We walked into town to get a bottle of wine and then spent a couple of hours just watching the boats go by on the river. Incredible.
Walking back into town, we grabbed dinner on a little patio in a back alley. Pizza and nice conversation with another couple sitting on the patio and we were happy to be in Sankt Goar. As we finished our meal, the storm hit. Full rain, thunder, and lightning! The walk back to the hotel was wet but we grabbed ice cream and ate it in the rain, a silent protest to the weather.
Returning to our room, we turned off the lights and watched the lightning over the Rhein. Each flash illuminated the castles across the river. Sharp cracks of thunder made it all the more dramatic. I pulled up a chair to the window and cozied under my comforter while Jen watched from bed. We both tried to capture photos and video of what was going on, but nothing gave it an ounce of justice. The experience was once in a lifetime.
But the storm passed and our day was at an end.
Day 8: Around Sankt Goar
We wanted a relaxed day, so we gave it a shot. In the end we still did quite a bit. After breakfast and some sitting on the river, we got in the car and made the scenic drive over to the Mosel river valley. Here we would grab lunch (sausages and potato salad) and sample some more of the regional Riesling wine… Germany through and through. We continued the drive up to Burg Eltz, supposedly one of the coolest castles in the region. It was. We had a great hike in and out along with a fantastic tour of the castle.
That evening we once again spent time watching the river and enjoying the Rhein from our patio. We caught a late dinner downstairs and called it a day.
Day 9: Castles of the Rhein
We were up early. Our complimentary hotel breakfast digested, we were off to walk up to Burg Rheinfels, the largest castle ruin on the Rhein just above our little town. It was a hike up to the castle but the ruins were worth the trip. The castle had been huge and I was reminded of the scale of the Maccu Piccu ruins. This had once been a city. The castle was “blown up” by the French in the 1800’s after they captured it. Sad but there was still a lot left to see.
We then caught a train down to Bacharach. This is one of the prettiest, oldest, and most scenic villages on the Rhein. Once again we made the hike up to the castle above town (called Furstenburg). This castle was a bit more like a chateau… and we had awesome views of the river as we sat in the biergarten. We quickly made our way down from the castle to make the train down to Bingen in time to get on the boat back up the river.
Bingen was less scenic than the other towns. We walked along the waters edge into town and made our way to a little wine cafe with a view of the river. Our last glasses of riesling and we picked up the river paddle boat. This was a 2 hour river ride back to Sankt Goar with an amazing view of each castle along the way. In two hours we passed around 10 castles, including Burg Rheinstein and the castle at Kaub sitting in the middle of the Rhein. This was the boat ride I had looked forward to. It’s amazing how many huge, old castles sit on the hills above this river. Truly breathtaking.
A last dinner at our favorite Italian place in the village (very few options here) and we said good night to our little home on the water. We were sad to go.
Day 9: Road To Bavaria
Covering more of Germany, we would be driving our car to the southern border. The drive was beautiful, and as we neared Austria, the terrain got even more interesting. We were both seeing the Alps for the very first time. They are extreme, and as awe inspiring as the Rocky Mountains.
We slowly wound our way to the small mountain town of Fussen. After a comedy of errors in finding the ticket location for our castle tours (for the next day) and finding the hotel, we were mentally exhausted. We parked at the hotel and found our room. We would basically hang out in the room, find the local grocery to stock our fridge, and go out to have some good German food in the restaurant connected to our hotel. It’s all we could muster.
We closed out the night watching Germany’s version of “So You Think You Can Dance” that was much more in a “You Got Served” style dance off. All in German. We were laughing our asses off.
Day 10: Bavarian Castles
We were up early and got our standard breakfast at the hotel. At this point I was getting sick of hard-boiled eggs, but who am I to complain? Today we would see the most epic castle of all… Neuschwanstein. This was a creating of Mad Ludwig II’s (although he really wasn’t that mad, he just gets a bad rap). This castle is Disneyland on A LOT of steroids. After the big castle, we were scheduled to visit the original castle down the hill that Ludwig grew up in… Hohenschwangau.
We made up to the town of Hohenschwangau by 9AM and had tickets in hand for our tours. We made the hike up to the big castle and started snapping pictures with the rest of the tourists.
Neuschweinstein is enormous. Nothing we had seen to date was quite like this castle. And it was in perfect condition. Beautiful. With the rushing river below and the jagged mountains all around, you can see why the King of Bavaria picked this spot to build his ultimate castle.
The tour was great and the inside of the castle was as spectacular as the outside. 14 woodcarvers spent 4 years alone in the master bedroom.
After the tour we made our way down to the base of the castles and hung out in a biergarten for some food and to kill some time. A short rest in the car and then we took the afternoon hike up to the other castle, where the family had actually lived. This tour was great… I got a great feeling for how the family lived and spent their time.
That evening we walked around town and found a restaurant table right by a two man jazz band playing outside. We sat and had some great German food while listing to a gypsy jazz band. Sort of an enchanted evening, as the sun had come out after the short rain storm.
Alas, another day on our journey had ended. We found ourselves at the hotel for the last night in Fussen… the realization that our trip was nearing an end.
Day 11: The Romantic Road
The Romantic Road out of the alps is a must see. A rural country and mountain road through the greenest of scenery. Absolutely beautiful. We had a peaceful drive through the countryside and meandered our way up to the Kloster Andechs Monastery. Right near a scenic lake was a monastery that brewed beer and had one of the biggest and best beer gardens in this region of Germany. We found the remote monastery and made our way directly to the beer garden to sample the beer and share a giant pretzel. I can say I was once again in beer nerd heaven (how many times on this trip now?).
A walk around this huge monastery and the upper beer gardens, and I fell in love with the place. We hadn’t left and I already wanted to return. But we hit the road and made our way to Augsburg.
Augsburg was disappointing. From the hard to navigate town center, to the parking, to the mediocre restaurant, to the scenery. We had found the first town we disliked. After barely escaping the parking garage we got the hell out of dodge. We got back on the Romantic Road and headed to our destination of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The direct translation means “red fortress above the Tauber (river)”. And we found it to be exactly that.
Okay, Rothenburg was nearly impossible to navigate… but it was amazing. The entire city is enclosed by a very intact defensive wall. Every road in is through a guarded tower. After some creative navigating and deep breathing, we found parking and our apartment.
Setting out on the town, we started exploring sections of the walls and towers. The views down into the river valley were amazing. This entire city was built on a cliff.
Rothenburg and this area is where Christmas as we know it today originated from… and they celebrate it here in some fashion year round. It felt like Christmas in summer walking the streets. Either way, this town was perfectly charming and fun. We found a little pizzeria and had a late but relaxing dinner before calling it a night.
Day 12: Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber
A mellow morning with breakfast at the apartment… we made our way to the north point of the city to start walking the city walls. While Rothenburg is small, the city wall that encloses the town is enormous. There is a giant wall all the way around the city and a park outside that where the moat used to be. We started walking and kept walking till lunch time. By then we had made the hike around the entire enclosure, meandering through towers and gate houses. Very fun.
We grabbed lunch at a little bar/biergarten on the outskirts while we sat in the sun and enjoyed the day. Later we would do some Christmas ornament shopping and check out the shops in the town center. After that, it was off to the crime and punishment museum. It was fascinating to see how unfair and extremely twisted the justice system was not so long ago!
We shook off the creeps from the torture museum tour and relaxed in the town square before heading to dinner. For another change, we found a small sushi restaurant. After dinner we watched a movie and fell asleep in the bed.
Day 13: Wurzburg
Off we went in our rental car. Destination Wurzburg. This small city was about 45 minutes from Rothenburg and we were ready for a little more lively scene. Wurzburg delivered. Parking was a lot outside of town center that was an old series of fortress walls. Yes, an old fortress can be a parking lot in Europe… I kind of like that. We made our way into town and across the main bridge with beautiful views of the river and city center. Wurzburg was very much hopping on a Tuesday.
A walk down the central corridor and across to a square with a buzzing food market. We inspected several churches and I found that Wurzburg had the best ones in Germany (at least that I had seen). After an hour or two of checking the town out, we sat down to rest for a moment.
We were done. Totally beat from 2 weeks of seeing and doing a lot. I had researched biergartens in the area and we made our way towards a spot I had been excited about. This little park/garten was called Wurzburger Hofbraukeller (highly recommended) and it was exactly what I was looking for. We sat in the trees, drank their brewery made pilsner, and gobbled down german sausages (beer brats for me and currywurst for Jen). The sour kraut was the best I have ever had. After a couple of beers in this place, I was as happy as I possibly could be. This was Germany for me… and it was almost over. Cheers to that.
That night we just found a simple German restaurant and had a light dinner. We were ready to get out of the small town of Rothenburg. Though we had a fantastic day, the lack of real food options and mass hordes of tourists were wearing on us a bit.
Day 14: Frankfurt
Back on the Romantic Road early for the drive to Frankfurt. This was our final destination and the city we would be flying out of. Though our batteries were drained, we were cautiously optimistic about it. Frankfurt would be our first true city in Germany.
Smooth sailing with our car drop off and train into town… and we found ourselves at the hotel before check in. We took a short walk towards city center and found a little Italian place. Jen ordered a huge plate of grilled vegetables and we spent the next 30 minutes devouring them. Jen was thrilled to be having the food she missed… as there is not much in the way of veggies in Germany. Of course the espresso and tiramisu at the end of the meal helped.
We returned to check in and found the comfy bed. We read and napped for a couple of hours as we had to recharge if we were going to do anything in Frankfurt that afternoon.
Once we woke up, we headed out for a walk around the city. Frankfort has huge shopping squares and pedestrian streets. And castles juxtaposed with skyscrapers. All along a beautiful river lined with museums and cathedrals. After a lot of walking, we found Romerburg Square. This is the most famous spot in the city and there was a live band playing. The plaza had been converted to a biergarten of all things. We obliged.
After a beer there we stopped at another spot for a shared pretzel and dunkel (dark beer). It was dinner time so we found a legit German spot that had been recommended to us. I ordered ribs (dry and amazingly good) and Jen got a huge filet that cooked at our table on a stone. The food was amazing.
We rolled out of there, grabbed dessert to go, and headed back to the hotel. It was time to quit. We were saturated.
We ate chocolate cake while watching What About Bob on Jen’s laptop. The cake was not good and the movie was worse (I had forgot how bad that movie was!). And that’s how this trip ends.
Sigh… All in all, it was amazing. Amsterdam is now a special place for us and one of the best cities I have ever visited. The junk food in Belgium is top notch and worth every splurge. And Germany is far more beautiful than I had ever imagined. That sums it up.
Today we start the long trek home. Trains, airports, planes, and a town car from LAX to San Diego. We have first class lounges and flights to make the travel more pleasant. I type this as I sit at the Franfurt airport, sipping on coffee and waiting for our flight.
I’m excited to return home, sleep in my own bed, and see Riley (my boxer dog)… but am also sad that this incredible journey is over. These trips are trips of a lifetime. And each one is both an epic undertaking and an epic experience. So much seen, felt, and experienced. Many obstacles to overcome with foreign travel like this… but that’s part of the fun!
I guess it’s time to start planning next years big trip. I can’t wait. There’s a huge world to see!