The Road to Rothenburg

After a light chocolatey breakfast in Füssen…

Yum
Yum

we were on the road again, this time to Fürstenfeldbruck, described online as a “German rural district” – but there was method to my rural madness. I was finally, FINALLY, going to meet Simone of “Lady of the Cakes” fame! There’s always something a bit odd about telling people that you’ve got this great friend that you’ve never actually met in person, so I was happy to be able to rectify this bloggy problem. I also had the good sense to snap a couple of cake shots so I’d make a good first impression (four years later).

Caaaaaaaaaake.
Caaaaaaaaaake.

Simone chose the Romantik Hotel as our meeting point – don’t worry, she didn’t try to jump my bones – and when we arrived, there she was, sitting at a table in a beautiful courtyard. She had brought her brother along, I guess as protection in case Manfredas and I turned out to be psychos.

Romantik
Romantik

Disappointingly, neither of them was dressed in traditional Bavarian garb, but we managed to have a lovely time anyway. Manfredas summed it up nicely afterwards saying it was like watching two old friends who just hadn’t seen each other in a few months catching up, rather than two people who’d never met before in their lives. And, as you would expect, Simone chose somewhere with delicious food…

Chicken in some sort of sauce with potato gratin
Chicken in some sort of sauce with potato gratin – and a flower.

Sadly, after a couple of hours, it was time to say goodbye and hit the road again. I think Simone was probably relieved to see the back of me as I was struggling to hold in the yodels at that point. After a brief stop in Dinkelsbühl, which is just as cute and dinky as it sounds:

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we drove to our final destination of the trip – Rothenburg ob der Tauber – arriving just before sunset. Rothenburg has long been on my list of places to visit, being a medieval town with flower-covered, half-timbered houses lining the pretty cobbled streets. We dropped off the car and our bags and hit the town walls for a sunset stroll.

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At this stage, we were pretty hungry again, so we found a likely-looking spot in the town centre and refuelled on Flammkuchen – and wine. Unfortunately, all of the outdoor seating areas shut down really early because of the residents so we decided to head back to the rooftop terrace of our hotel to watch the stars with a bottle of wine instead.

The next morning turned out to be a glorious day, providing the perfect backdrop to this gorgeous town.

I even managed a dungeon escape…

Ha HA!
Ha HA!

Against my better judgement, I agreed to climb to the top of the Town Hall, which promised spectacular views over the city and surrounds.

Gulp.
Gulp.

To say the stairs are precarious would be an understatement and all of my leg muscles were screaming by the time we reached the top – which turned out not to be the top at all. No, after a grinning man relieves puffing, red-faced you of €2, you have to haul yourself up the remaining steps, through a trapdoor and out onto a 1-foot wide ledge. The views were well worth it though.

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If I had thought getting out there was bad, getting back in again was ten times worse. Manfredas – bless him – had to take my bag as I tried to angle myself to squeeze back into the gap and down the ladder backwards, with handles roughly the size of staples to hang onto. With sweaty hands, this was NOT easy.

Me: How many people have died doing that? 

Grinning man: None. 700-year-old fitness studio.

Me: Harumph. 

After the most-deserved glass of wine ever, it was time to drive back to Berlin.

To sum up – lakes, castles, mountains, The Sound of Music, amazing food and wine, yodelling, beautiful towns and cities, meeting a blogging buddy, countless border crossings, a “mad” king, flowers, flowers, flowers, trick fountains, great company that doesn’t mind me singing and shouting “ROAD TRIP!” sporadically, ladies’ bottoms and a sex gag machine – if there’s a better way to spend a trip, I can’t think of it.

 

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Linda does Linderhof (and Neuschwanstein)

If you’re wondering why we chose to stay in a random little pocket of Austria, the answer is that Heiterwang is just a 20-minute drive from the world-famous Neuschwanstein Palace, but with much friendlier prices than on the German side of the border.

Unfortunately, the fabulous weather we’d be enjoying had come to an abrupt end, and we drove there through torrential rain under an angry, cloudy sky. But, even in crappy weather, the palace doesn’t fail to impress.

The first glimpse
The first glimpse

The only way to see the inside is on a guided tour and thankfully we’d reserved tickets as the queues were insane. They advise you to get there an hour before your tour time – with good reason. On a nice day, there was a chance we might have walked up there but with the rain still coming down by the bucketful, we decided to take the bus instead.

The ride is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Winding roads, steep drops and a driver with a lead foot on the accelerator. Still, we made it to the top in one piece.

View of Hohenschwangau
View of Hohenschwangau

There’s still a pretty steep walk up from the bus stop, and you have to battle your way through oblivious Japanese tourists. (Signs in the town are actually in Japanese, too.) But we made it with around 20 minutes to spare before our tour, which meant a 20-minute stand in the rain as you can’t get in until your designated time.

Tour group number 464 was herded through and then 465 was called. Our tour guide was a German girl with a love of using continuous tenses for everything. There was also a rather annoying man who roared translations at the rest of his party who clearly couldn’t understand a word of English.

The tour itself was underwhelming and took just 25 minutes in total. It felt a bit like being on a factory conveyor belt. Only around a third of the interior is furnished as all work stopped after the mysterious death of “Mad” King Ludwig at the age of 40. And while it was interesting enough to hear the details of some of the craftsmanship – it took 14 carpenters 4 years just to make the bed – it could have been so much better. When you’ve got a character like Ludwig on your hands, an entertaining tour should pretty much write itself. As it was, it was a bit like the “bad sex” of palace tours – in, out… Huh, was that it?

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We left the palace and walked through the drizzle to Marienbrücke.

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If you have a fear of heights, I would definitely not recommend this but the bridge is where you get the “money shot” of Neuschwanstein so it’s worth braving it.

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We got the bus back down and hopped into the car again. With the day still being but a pup, we decided to make it a Ludwig-themed one and go check out Linderhof as well.

Manfredas: If you see anything you want to take a photo of, just yell “stop”. 

Me: Cool, O… Jesus Christ! STOP! 

We had arrived at Plansee.

Wow...
Wow…

I’d been impressed by some of the other lakes we’d seen, but this one literally made my jaw drop. The weather had cleared up a bit and the reflection of the mountains in the water was nothing short of heavenly. We proceeded to drive for around a minute, stop again, jump out, take a photo, drive for another minute, stop, take a photo… This went on for some time and it is now clear to me that Manfredas has the patience of a saint.

Me: Where are we?

Manfredas: Well, we just passed … so we’re about 5 minutes from …

Me: No, no, I mean which country are we in? 

This was around the 4th time we’d crossed the Austrian-German border that day so hopefully you’ll understand my stupidity.

By the time we made it to Linderhof, the palace was closed for the day but we were kind of palaced out anyway so we were content to just wander around the gardens for a while. This was the only palace that Ludwig lived to see completed and I reckon he must have been pretty pleased with it. It’s almost as nice as my flat.

Not too shabby, Ludwig
Not too shabby, Ludwig

With the gardens, he attempted to recreate Versailles but, as I’ve never been, I can’t really say if he succeeded. They certainly are very, very pretty though.

I think I would have liked old Ludwig if I’d met him. After Wagner met him for the first time he said, “He is unfortunately so beautiful and wise, soulful and lordly, that I fear his life must fade away like a divine dream in this base world”. People say that about me all the time too…

After all of the touristy madness of the day, it was a relief to get back to our quiet little town, settle on the balcony with a glass of wine and listen to me mooing and baaing away. After that got tired, we headed back to Sunnawirt for more delicious food and pan piping.

Turkey and an edible flower!
Turkey, baked apple and an edible flower!

There wasn’t any yodelling that night as Paul was a bit worse for wear, having been on the red wine for God knows how many hours. Instead, we got a private tour of the rooms from his wife which was great. If I’m ever back Heiterwang way, I’d definitely try to stay there.

As we were on the road again the next morning, we had to call it a night – but not before I yodelled all the way back.

 

 

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Yodelling…

The next morning, after a light breakfast on our sun-soaked balcony, we were off to check out the sights of Salzburg. We walked past a little market that had more tat than you could shake a stick at and on towards Mirabell Gardens. I’m not quite sure what was going on here…

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Butt, butt, butt

but there was an awful lot of cheering and everyone seemed delighted so it was all good. The gardens were absolutely gorgeous – colourful flowers, beautifully manicured lawns, fountains, a palace, and a shady beer garden – what more could you want?

Leaving the cheering butt ladies behind (ahem), we continued to our main goal – Hohensalzburg Fortress. Over 900 years old, it is the largest completely preserved castle in Central Europe. It’s also quite high above the city so thankfully, a funicular goes up there. (Yes, I’m that lazy.)

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There’s no saving your legs once you get to the top though – it’s all up and down stairs and up and downhill, but the views make it worthwhile. (I warn you now, this post is going to be a little photo heavy and may induce some feelings of jealousy.)

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I think you could safely say that Salzburg lucked out on the beauty front.

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We headed back down into the city and amused ourselves over lunch at the burka-clad women going into the Prada store. Seems like a bit of a waste to have a wardrobe packed with designer gear that you have to cover from head to toe… But Prada holds zero interest for me – what I really want is the lady version of this:

Seriously, how hot would I look in one of those?
Seriously, how hot would I look in one of those?

As you’ve probably gathered by now, if there’s a slightly off-the-wall way of seeing a city, you can be pretty sure I’ll find it. And thanks to Manfredas, we had signed up for Fraulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour. This is a 3.5-hour tour that takes you through the city, exploring all of the locations that were used in “The Sound of Music”. Seemingly, over 300,000 people come to Salzburg every year just because of SOM. Madness. But the tour is possibly the most fun you can have with your Lederhosen on.

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Our tour guide, Sharron, was absolutely fantastic. She really brought the film to life and was chock-full of interesting tidbits about the city, the film and the actors – and all of this interspersed with outbursts of yodelling.

Dodgy Mozart, tucked away on the edge of the city where the tourists won't find him
Dodgy Mozart, tucked away on the edge of the city where the tourists won’t find him

As we rode through a park, she switched on the movie soundtrack and we all looked like (happy) nutters belting out “The Hills are Alive…” as bemused passers-by looked on. Even if you know absolutely nothing about the film, I would still recommend this tour. It’s a fabulously fun way of seeing the city and the stories from behind the scenes of the movie are hysterical. Here’s your chance to test your SOM nerd abilities and see if you can identify any of the locations:

After loading up on Schnitzel, it was back to our favourite dive bar where, once again, the sex gag machine didn’t disappoint.

I don't even...
I don’t even…

Even though the place was empty, we merrily chatted away with our toothless Indian friend until closing time. He seemed to enjoy the conversation as he gave us a bottle of wine at the end of the night. Then again, we probably helped put one of his kids through university…

The next morning, it was sadly time to leave Salzburg but, have no fear, there was plenty of pretty awaiting us on the road to our next destination.

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Fernsee

We pulled over in the stupidly scenic town of Ellmau, located at the foot of the Wilder Kaiser mountain range. Not surprisingly, this backdrop has made it the most popular filming location in the Tyrol region.

They also do a mean Apfel Strudel.

YUM :)
YUM 🙂

Back on the road, we stopped at Fernsteinsee, one of the most popular diving spots in Austria. To say it’s beautiful is a bit of an understatement.

This part of the world is, quite frankly, ridiculous on the stunning scale. I’d hardly had time to recover from this epic loveliness when I was hit with a view of Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. We even managed to have the dumb luck to get there just in time to see a rainbow over it.

The redneck cast of Deliverance was hanging out in the parking lot staring at my legs so, after photographing the mountain a silly number of times, we were off to our final destination for the night – Heiterwang.

Heiterwang is barely a blip on the map, with a population of just 524 people. It’s surrounded on all sides by the Alps and is amazingly peaceful. The only sounds we heard were the ringing of sheep bells and the mooing of the cows – and me mooing back at them.

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The receptionist recommended a place to eat, where there was a good chance that we would also hear live music.

Me: Will there be yodelling? 

The answer was yes and the decision was made. We walked through the fields to Sunnawirt, where the owner, Paul, was delighting guests with his yodelling skills. YESSSSS.

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I joined in, a kid at another table thought he was yodelling by just yelling “YODEL, YODEL, YODEL”, and the scene was set for the perfect evening. The food was absolutely amazing and the atmosphere was lively. After a couple of glasses of wine, this seemed like an important thing to do:

Very mature
Very mature

Paul whipped out his pan pipes and we listened to the sound echoing back from the mountains. We finished the night, chatting to him, his wife Elizabeth, and a lovely couple from Swabia. And I yodelled a bit more, much to everyone’s dismay.

And now I’m off to write to the Austrian Tourist Board to see if I can get a job there…

Road Trip: From Schechen to Salzburg

With the Germans on the road in their camper vans or off stealing sunbeds in Mallorca, there’s nobody left in Berlin for me to teach so it seemed like as good a time as any to take a holiday myself.

Our first main destination was to be Salzburg but that’s a bit of a monster drive from Berlin so we decided to overnight in a pretty little Bavarian village called Schechen.

Our little Gasthaus :)
Our little Gasthaus 🙂

You knew you were in Bavaria the moment you walked into the bedroom…

God is watching you, you unmarried sinners...
God is watching you, you unmarried sinners…

Still, as much as they like a good pray, the Bavarians are also rather partial to a good party, which is why you shouldn’t be overly surprised when you come across something like this:

Chuckle. Bavarians.

Anyway, after a walk around the town centre (approximately 2.5 minutes), we headed back to our Gasthaus which also had rather a nice beer garden. It seemed to be a pretty popular spot with the locals – it turned out to be the only spot – so we sipped our drinks and tried to understand what in the hell the other guests were saying. Bavarian, if you didn’t know, is not at all like “normal German” so it was a total mystery to both of us.

I ordered a Schnitzel which turned out to be the best one I’ve ever had. But still, I’m no match for German portions and the Schnitzel won, as bloody usual. It was while I was trying to wash it down with wine that I was attacked by the most vicious mosquitoes I’ve ever come across. Maybe they couldn’t understand me telling them to “Fuck Off!” in normal German and English so I ended up being bitten 10 times in under 10 minutes. We retreated to our room and hoped God would protect us as we slept…

The next morning, after a gigantic German breakfast, we were on the road again. With the sun shining and the temperature around 30 degrees, we decided to stop off at Lake Chiemsee, which was absolutely lovely and jam-packed with frolicking Germans. Clearly this is what they’re up to when they’re supposed to be at English lessons…

After almost burning my arse off on a seat and almost freezing my feet off in the water, we set off for Salzburg. This is where the Bavarian countryside starts to get really pretty and I was ooh-ing, aah-ing and singing the whole way. Lucky Manfredas…

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Ooh…aah…

Just before the border crossing, we pulled over to buy the sticker you need to have on display if you want to drive on the Austrian Autobahn. Manfredas also pulled two hi-vis vests out of the boot – seemingly you need to have them in the car to drive in Austria. (And that’s it for “Linda’s Random Facts You Probably Aren’t Interested In” – for now anyway.)

We arrived at our AirBnB apartment at around 2pm and met with the cute Polish-Russian host couple, who gave us a little guided tour, handed over the keys and then headed off to Italy for a couple of days. After a quick freshen-up, we hit the streets. The flat was in a great location so after around five minutes, we were in the centre of the Old City.

Cute idea!
Cute idea!

Salzburg has to be one of the most dreamily-located cities in Europe – it lies on the River Salzach, is renowned for its Baroque architecture and is surrounded by the Alps on all sides. Some guy called Mozart was also born here…

DSC01520The city is known for being incredibly rainy but we were in luck and it was blue skies all the way. After lunch at the perfectly named “Wein & Co”, we caught the bus to Hellbrunn, home to a palace, a park and trick fountains. I’d read about the trick fountains online and was intrigued so we bought tour tickets (you can only see them on a guided tour) and prepared to be amazed…

What I wasn’t prepared for was how wet I would get. While you’re admiring the fountains, the tour guide sneaks over and switches on jets of water that hit you from all sides. You never know where they’re coming from next so it’s either a laugh or a squeal a minute. The best you can try to do is find a dry spot to stand in but there’s really no way to avoid getting wet – which is a bit scary when you’ve got a nice camera or phone in your hand. One Chinese girl screamed her way through the entire tour, which was massively entertaining.

We didn't volunteer but also didn't escape...
We didn’t volunteer but also didn’t escape…
Thankfully not a trick fountain.
Thankfully not a trick fountain.

After drying off a bit in the park, we caught the bus back into town for some dinner and to find somewhere to watch the opening match of the Bundesliga. We settled upon my favourite kind of bar – dodgy – at the end of our street. There was no football, only some local characters and a semi-toothless Indian owner.

We chatted a bit with the locals who weren’t asleep and despite me calling one man’s tattoo a “tramp stamp”, we were invited back the next evening for a drink and a tour of where the locals go on a Saturday night. On a trip to the unlockable ladies’ loo, I came across something you probably don’t find in the guidebooks…

A SEX GAG MACHINE!
A SEX GAG MACHINE!

Of course, I couldn’t resist. I’m not sure when the last time it was used was but Manfredas told me every eyebrow in the bar raised when they heard the “clunk, clunk” of the coin dial. Still, I wasn’t disappointed:

Clearly enchanted by my cackling, the owner gave me a quite nice beaded necklace he found in a drawer.

Dodgy bars are always the most fun.