Date of Trip: June 2003
Following a year studying abroad in Scotland, I was joined “across the pond” by my boyfriend, who flew with me from Scotland to Frankfurt for a trip through Germany and Italy. This trip report details the first four days of our trip — from Frankfurt to Munich along the Romantische Strasse (Romantic Road). Because we didn’t have a lot of time, we booked a bus tour for the German leg of our trip.
The tour, “Rothenburg and Royal Castles,” was offered by Deutsche Touring GmbH and was probably a little nicer than we needed — the hotels were far more upscale than anything we would’ve booked for ourselves, most of the other folks on the tour were quite a bit older than we were, and honestly I’m not one for organized tours usually; I don’t really like feeling herded around. But we felt like we could see a lot more this way since we had such limited time, and this particular tour wasn’t too tightly choreographed — there was a good deal of freedom in the two main places we stopped, Rothenburg and Schwangau. Overall we were pretty pleased with it.
We flew Ryanair from Glasgow to Frankfurt, where we had an afternoon to wander around town and see what we could. Frankfurt is a largely modern city — I believe it’s the nation’s financial center — but there’s a magical little historic area called Romer or Romerberg (we were a little confused by our map!) that feels just like a little Bavarian town, with traditional architecture, sidewalk cafes and cobblestones.
Just a few steps away is the River Main. We crossed over to the other side and got a nice view of the city’s modern skyline reflected in the river. Not feeling too ambitious, we sat on the grass and felt deliciously lazy as athletic German folks whizzed by us on rollerblades, bikes, etc. along the waterfront path.
We spent that night at the Hotel Kaiserhof, within walking distance of the main train station. I don’t remember much about it, frankly, but it was fine — fairly inexpensive, with no air-conditioning (but at least we could open the windows, and they gave us a fan). No complaints!
We met our tour bright and early the next morning and boarded a pretty nice coach bus (potty, air-conditioning, English-language commentary — everything a spoiled American tourist needs!). We headed south along the Romantische Strasse, heading through one picture-perfect German village after another. We stopped briefly in several — Weikershein, Dinkelsbuhl and Creglingen — all very pretty, but the crown jewel was Rothenburg, a perfectly preserved medieval town where we took a guided walking tour and then wandered around some of the most gorgeous streets I’ve ever seen. It’s surrounded by a stone wall with several towers, there are traditional frame houses everywhere, and flowers spilled out of every window.
We spent the night in Rothenburg at the Romantik Hotel Markusturm, right in the center of town. We loved it, although you should keep in mind that I spent the year staying in hostels, so just about any actual hotel would have looked good to me! However, this one was very nice, with colorful bedding, a lovely view down a historic street and a flowerbox in our window.
One thing we found odd — we had a double bed (or queen or whatever size it was), but it had two separate mattresses, two duvets and no sheets. It was fine, just a little different than what we were expecting.
The next morning we had a little time before the bus left, so we left the walled city and walked downhill to see an old stone bridge over the Tauber River. I’m not sure if Germany was having a drought or something, but the Tauber River was barely a creek at the point we saw it. There wasn’t too much down where we were, though we did meet a friendly cat who must’ve been living in one of the houses nearby.
Then we climbed back up to town and went up into the Roder Tower, one of several towers that were part of the walls surrounding the city. From that vantage point we had a nice view over the town’s red roofs.
The next day we took our bus to Schwangau and had a little excitement, crashing into a BMW on the road. Oops! Those of us in the enormous bus were fine, obviously, but we sent the other car spinning off into a ditch. Everyone appeared to be okay, thank goodness, and we soon got a replacement bus. (My boyfriend and I got into an argument when he wanted to take a picture of the other car — I thought that was taking the project of documenting our trip a little far.)
We spent a good deal of that day on the road, but we finally arrived in Schwangau around dinnertime. There we checked into the Hotel Muller, which was amazing — it was right in the shadow of Castle Hohenschwangau, and we had a balcony from which we could see the castle! Too bad it was pouring rain and we couldn’t really sit out there. Ah well. The room was nice too, though I don’t remember too many details — I’m pretty sure it had the two mattresses and two duvets again though.
The next day we visited both Hohenschwangau (a yellow, fortress-like castle) and its more famous cousin, Neuschwanstein — a traditional white fairy-tale castle that almost doesn’t look real, high on a hill overlooking a green valley and the distant Alps. I wish we’d had time to walk out onto this little footbridge spanning a craggy ravine near Neuschwanstein, which apparently offers a fabulous view of the castle, but alas. Instead we ended up down in the town trying to find a place where we wouldn’t have to sit down (and pay through the nose) for lunch. We found a biergarten (beer garden) offering cafeteria-style food — pretty uninspiring — and when we asked for water, they brought us carbonated/tonic water (eeew — not my thing) and charged us about $3 for each. Ugh. But that’s what you get for not speaking the language…
We had a lovely time anyway; after lunch we had a little time to walk out to Alpsee, which was a lake surrounded by green hills, with the Alps visible in the distance. Folks were out picnicking and walking through the woods nearby…a lovely way to spend an hour or so before getting back on the bus, which took us to…
I wish we’d had more time here! Unfortunately we were determined to see Venice, Rome and the Amalfi coast (more on that part of our trip in another journal), so we only had a few hours to kill before our overnight train to Venice. The weather wasn’t fabulous — chilly and a bit rainy and rapidly getting dark by the time we arrived.
We raced around trying to see as much as we could before night fell completely — we peeked our heads into the famous Hofbrauhaus (Bill bought his dad a beer stein), raced through Marienplatz (where the city’s famous Glockenspiel is) and visited some garden whose name I can’t remember. Once it was dark we visited an absolutely enormous easyInternetCafe to check our email, and then set off for the main train station en route to Venice. But that’s a trip report for another day…
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