Sunday, June 19th: Castles in Fussen; Austria for dinner

We left Munich for another day trip…to Fussen this time. Fussen houses the famous castle from which the Disney castle was modeled. We toured both that and another castle. The town is gorgeous!

After our hikes up and down the mountain to tour both castles we headed to Reutte, Austria for dinner. It was about a 20 minute drive to get there and well worth the time. After dinner we ended up taking a scenic route back to Munich, a route which wound us through the Alps and at one point ran alongside one of the lakes.

Munich…(day 2)

We got a late start today, but made up for it with everything we fit in…I cannot imagine how we could have crammed in more if we had gotten any earlier of a start!!

So, have I mentioned our time in Germany is more or less centered on beer and cars -not always in that order…?? The BMW-Welt and Museum was the first stop on our agenda. As with Audi, we ate in their on-site restaurant…the food here was just as wonderful as the café at Audi’s museum. [I know it may seem odd that we traveled all this way to Germany and end up eating in car museums, but the quality of the food is top-notch!] We were unable to schedule a factory tour here because they were totally booked and had been well in advance of when we called. However, the museum was open, available and worth the time. I loved seeing some of the older cars on display…there is something nostalgic about their shapes and colors! I especially enjoyed their special exhibit of ‘car art’. They have several BMWs on temporary display which have been painted by various artists – there is even one painted by Andy Warhol.

Next on the schedule was Olympic Stadium and Park, the setting for the 1972 Olympics. There is a tower here which overlooks the city, and we rode to the top to see the views and take some pictures. This vantage point offers a 360 degree view of the city. From here you can see Theresienwiese – the field where Octoberfest has taken place since it began 200 years ago. (I marvel at how I spent time researching and writing about Munich’s 200th anniversary of Octoberfest just this past September…and here I am less than a year later in the city itself! Funny how things work sometimes!! )

Leaving the stadium, we took the train back into the city center for a self-guided walking tour. We began at the ‘Ratskeller’, a pub/restaurant located in Marienplatz (Mary’s Square) where we sat for a quick snack and pint to map out our path…one must not be hungry or thirsty for a historical trek!! We wound our way through town, stopping at the Old Town Hall, St. Peter’s Church (the oldest church in town), Viktualienmarkt (an open air market…this was my favorite stop!), the Pedestrian Mall, and finally Frauenkirche – a Gothic-style church built in the 1400s. We had dinner at ‘Nurnberger Bratwurst Glockl am Dom’, one of the many restaurants scattered around the perimeter of this church. This very Bavarian-style restaurant was wonderful for both food and atmosphere. Their specialty is their wood-grilled sausages, which I ordered. It came with a side of German potato salad (mmmm). My boys all ordered a sampler platter which was filled with roasted pork loin, crisply roasted duck, sausages and pork belly (OMG, so delicious, especially the skin!), along with potato dumplings, bread dumplings, and kraut. Of course we paired this with pints of lager (for good measure…). And all this served up by a friendly wench dressed in appropriate Bavarian attire. A perfect end to a perfect day!

Ingolstadt and Munich…

Thursday we left Rothenburg and headed to Ingolstadt to visit the Audi museum. We had a fabulous lunch at their cafe (I mean really delicious!). We are headed back to Ingolstadt on Monday for the Audi factory tour so my son – an avid Audi fan – can get a behind-the-scenes look at things. He also wants to visit a school there which he hopes to attend after graduating college (he wants to design car engines for Audi…). So this is a big deal for those of you wondering why we are spending so much time in Audiland…

Munich was our next stop. We arrived late afternoon on Thurday, and after a brief snafu with the hotel (they had one room reserved instead of two), we were checked in. Before I delve into Munich, let me tell you a little about this hotel. First, it is one of Munich’s newer hotels, set a little on the outskirts of the city center, so not bad pricewise. I chose it because it looked a bit artsy and fun (oh, ok, and because it was one of our cheaper choices!). Little did I realize that the beautiful artistic wall mural featured online was actually a glass partition between the shower and the room! Not so bad for a married couple (ie. my husband and I), but not quite as exciting for our boys who are sharing a room…Other than this minor detail and some internet connection issues (and two twin beds joined as one for my husband and me), it is not a bad little place, and it is very conveniently located near both the train and bus stations.

Once the check-ins were complete we headed into the center of town for drinks at the famous Hoffbrau Biergarten, a huge beer hall filled with people (mainly tourists), lagers of beer and pretzel wenches dressed in lederhosen. Also present were handlebar-mustached men clad in German attire and an oompah band keeping the masses entertained with their jovial German music. And of course there were plenty of the US younger crowd who are of drinking age here (yet not in the US)…one of whom I was lucky enough to hear in the bathroom stall next to me after she had partaken of a bit too much of the lager. Ah, but I digress! We enjoyed our liters of beer – Dunkel (dark beer) for me – as well as a platter of various sausages served with sauerkraut and mustard, and a pretzel from one of the beer wenches.

We consulted our handy-dandy Rick Steves ‘Germany’ book for a dinner recommendation and found Jodelwirt Pub. Upstairs there is a small area to eat and drink. You can eat/drink downstairs, too, but all the good action is upstairs. They speak little to no English here, and there is an older, heavy set man playing the accordian, singing and telling jokes in German (at least everyone seemed to be laughing, so I assume he was telling jokes…). Here, we enjoyed a noodle dish with bacon that was absolutely delicious! Between the food and the entertainment, it was a very ‘Bavarian’ experience. After dinner we headed back to the hotel in the pouring rain, drenched but sated and happy.

One final note regarding Munich’s public transportation system…it seems to be more or less on the honor system. We bought a group ticket which covered the four of us on the train and bus system over a three-day period: all this for the quite economical price of 22 Euros (group rate meant we had to travel together). This gets us all over town and even to Dacchau and back(another post to come on that later…). However, not once has anyone made sure we had a ticket, and no one seems to be policing the station to make sure riders have paid. Our 3-day ticket only needed to be stamped on the first use (by machine), but no one made sure it was stamped, and there is no stile for us to pass through with our ticket to verify its validity…seems odd to me….

Aaaaaannnnddd……we’re off! The journey begins!!!

We are off on our 5 week journey across Europe!!! We left Tuesday for the very long flight across ‘the pond’, landing in Frankfurt first thing Wednesday morning. The four of us fared rather well, and soon our luggage and rental car were retrieved – allowing us to be on our merry way!

Our first stop was Wurzburg. After a quick coffee and snack to revive ourselves at one of its cafes, we visited St. Kilian’s Cathedral and toured the town for a bit. Dirk Nowitsky was born in this town – an appropriate first stop for us Dallasites after the recent (VERY recent) NBA title the Mavericks snagged…

We left Wurzburg for Rothenburg by late morning…and this is the part it got a little tricky. Despite my husband’s ‘extra-OCD –special map planning’ and all of his back-up plans to assure us of a speedy (think autobahn) and non-eventful drive, it wasn’t exactly as smooth as planned. Oh, speed was definitely involved (again, think autobahn), but smooth? Not as much. We circled around several times after realizing we had programmed in the wrong Rothenburg town into the GPS. Arguments ensued about who knew which direction we were headed, and which Rothenburg town we needed to find…they were all so convinced their way was the best way…I sat back and tried to watch the scenery as it flew past, hoping not to get one of my headaches from all the noise…So for those of you out there planning a trip to Germany, there are several Rothenburgs in this country, and you should make sure you know which one you want to visit. Lesson learned for us!! And we eventually made it to the correct town, mild hearing loss and slight tension the only signs of the previous battle…

Rothenberg is a beautiful walled-in town and very well preserved from waaaaayyyy back when. Parts of the town were bombed/destroyed in WWII; however, the city center and most of the town were saved from much damage.  We arrived to our hotel, Hotel Herrnschloesschen, by 1:00PM and were able to check in early (thankfully…we we so tired and in need of freshening up!!). This was one of the nicest places I have ever stayed! Everyone we encountered was so friendly and welcoming and ready to help in any way we needed. Upon our arrival they guided us to their stunning garden in the back of the hotel and provided us with complimentary drinks (beer for the boys; German sparkling wine for me) while they took our luggage to our rooms and gathered our keys (real keys, not cards!!). It was a welcome treat after such a long flight and drive.  Although the hotel is set in one of the original buildings of the town, the inside has been recently renovated and the rooms have most modern amenities one might be seeking. Our rooms did not have air-conditioning; however, I believe a couple of the rooms do. Although I admit, that evening was beautiful and sleeping with the windows open allowed us to wake to the chirping birds in the morning. Who wants A/C with that option???

After a short nap to refresh ourselves, my husband I headed for a stroll around town. We grabbed a pretzel to tide us over until dinner, and then meandered through the cobblestone streets of town. We stumbled upon a beautiful garden when we peeked through one of the several gates located in the town walls. Soon, it was time for dinner…we gathered the boys and went straight to Hell! Ok, the restaurant was ‘Zur Holl’??? which we later learned means ‘The Hell’…it is a beer garden and restaurant offering decent German food…Following dinner we headed to the town center to meet up with others for the daily Night Watchman’s tour. The Night Watchman shows up clad in his watchman attire (robes, hat and carrying a special axe-like weapon, horn and lantern). He took us around town pointing out historical details which occurred at various places – all with a bit of a comical twist! It is well worth the Euros spent to take this tour…we walked a bit of the town’s wall afterward. It goes completely around the city (hey, it is a walled-in medieval town!), and one can walk the perimeter of the town on top of the wall. There are openings built into the wall to allow the city to be defended – slits to shoot arrows and holes to pour burning oil on ones enemies…perhaps this place hasn’t always been as friendly as now…

Sated from a lovely dinner and the tour now over, we headed back to our rooms for a much longed for night of rest. Breakfast was included with the hotel, and we chose the option to have it served in our room (no extra charge). This was one of the best breakfasts I have had in a very long time. My eggs we perfectly cooked, sunny-side up as requested, bright orange yolks staring up at me…we also had ham, fresh fruit, yoghurt (plain, unsweetened, and fresh – so yummy!), muesli cereal, fresh squeezed orange juice, and an assortment of breads. The boys added meat and cheese platters to their list of selections – also fabulous!

Thursday morning we visited the Criminal Museum and took one final stroll around town before heading on to our next destination…tata for now…Ingolstadt and Munich to follow….