Apologies but this will be a bit longer post once more, wrapping up the final two weeks of our Germany Road Trip.
When we left Trier, we had the next stop sorted – 4 nights in Ettenheim, near Freiburg in the Black Forest. It turned out to be a good base to explore this beautiful part of the country. But beforehand, we stopped in Heidelberg on the way – the direct path to the Black Forest would have been through France but at this point the borders were still closed. Heidelberg is a nice student town in Southern Germany and the longest pedestrian-only shopping street in Germany, the big castle over the city and my first crepes with Yogurette and strawberries is what I remember it for. We walked up to the castle and also had a look at, and stood on, the largest whine barrel in the world.
When we arrived in Ettenheim later in the day, we were positively surprised by the excellent accommodation we booked via AirBnB again. The best feature (next to the massive TV) was that it had a table tennis room downstairs, which we made good use of during our time there. The kids are getting pretty good at it now!
The plan for our first excursion through the Black Forest was to drive through the Kinzig Valley to then head to Triberg to visit German’s tallest waterfall. We just made it into the Kinzig Valley when we saw the first few storks flying around and before long we saw dozens of them. They were sitting (and nesting) on power lines, soaring around and a lot of them were in the fields looking for frogs or whatever they could find. Never seen so many in one place! We had our own snacks while watching them and then headed further on our trip – straight to the first cuckoo clock house. I guess that’s what the area is famous for, and boy did we see some cuckoo clocks! Small ones, decent sized ones and massive ones. We saw and even went inside the worlds largest cuckoo clock and heard all sorts of chimes and cuckoo sounds. Quite cool really but we didn’t buy one. I think it will get annoying quite quickly when you have one in your living room.
In the afternoon we made it to Triberg. It was always a tall ask to top the Iguazu Falls which are still fresh in our minds, but it was a nice but steep walk up to them, and they are some nice waterfalls. We got promised to see loads of squirrels and even bought peanuts for them, but in the end we only saw one. We also saw another woodpecker and finally managed to get a decent picture of it. The way was pretty steep, so Oma waited at the top for us to pick her up with the car. On the way down we had a quick stop at a bird show, peeked over the fence and saw a baby Eurasian Eagle Owl, already very big. Heading back to Ettenheim we passed just another picturesque valley and stopped for a short walk along a little creek. Good decision as we saw one of the birds I wanted to see down here, the white-throated dipper (Wasseramsel). Pretty full on day and we were all happy to be back in our accomodation, having another round of table tennis.
On our second day in the Black Forest we caught up with some old friends of Jennifer who now live down here. The plan was to make our way up to the Schauinsland viewpoint, a walk of about 6KMs. Well, that’s what the sign at the bottom said, straight next to the gondola for the lazy fellas to get up. About 12KMs later we finally reached the top, the signs on the way switching forth and back between distances at will it seemed. It was a very nice walk though and nobody complained, especially not after recharging with a decent Flammkuchen and some drinks on the way up. Oma did great and was certainly happy we bought the walking sticks a couple of days earlier. At the top we all enjoyed a nice ice cream, enjoyed the view and then took the gondola down again.
Next to the cuckoo clocks, the Black Forest is also known to be an excellent stretch of road for motorbikes in particular but also for all sorts of other sport cars it seems. It was good fun just to sit back and see (and hear) them racing through one bend after the other, or just marvel at the bikes parked at the restaurants. Not the first time I really missed my little red sports car over here…
We certainly deserved a treat or two after the long walk and Jennifer’s friends had just the perfect idea to wrap up the day – visiting a “Straussenwirtschaft” or short “Strausse” for dinner. A Strausse is a pub run by local whine growers at time of harvest, offering their own produce accompanied by local food. The place was just fantastic, lots to do for the kids who also filled up their bellies scavenging all the cherry trees around the place.
After the full on day before, we decided to take it a bit easier and just heading down the road to the Taubergiessen nature reserve for a walk. Although we didn’t see a kingfisher, we had a great half day. We started our walk at the (non-operating) ferry across the Rhine into France and headed along the old Rhine. The Rhine has been straightened out a long time ago to make it easier for boats to carry their goods but some old parts of the Rhine are still there and a great place to watch birds. Next to the Eurasian Blackcap we saw the re-backed Shrike and plenty of herons, swans and shags.
In the afternoon we headed to Ettenheim itself as though we stayed there for a few days, we actually hadn’t been in the historic centre itself. And it is definitely worth a visit with its old church and “Fachwerkhaeusern” (half-timbered houses). Of course we had an ice cream and also watched the white stork chicks on top of the church via the webcam. Later in the day, Jennifer’s friends and their kids came along for a round of table tennis and dinner, and just like that our time in the Black Forest was nearly over.
Our next stop for another 4 nights was Lechbruck, our first stop in Bavaria. As we say up North, Bavaria starts just South of the Elbe river – but now we actually made it into Bavaria. But beforehand we stopped at Titisee-Neustadt for our last Black Forest picknick at a beautiful lake before visiting an old school friend of mine, now living in Bad Waldsee. It was great to catch up after so many years, the kids got along great and we were treated to an excellent lasagne. But in the end we made it to Lechbruck and we moved into yet another nice accommodation, surrounded by the typical cows with their bells around their neck.
I mentioned it before, travel is not cheap and the weather is inconsistent… and here we go – forecast was rain for the next three days. Great! We would have had a very nice view into the mountains from our living area but instead we just saw clouds. Well, we can only make the best of it and despite a little drizzle we headed off to the #1 tourist highlight in any Germany travel guide and must do on any Asian tourist bucket list… I am talking of Schloss Neuschwanstein of course. The fairy tale castle build by the crazy (officially crazy that it) King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the late 1800s, now showcasing on the Disney logo. And what can I say, would have anyone told me that this would be the highlight of our trip through Germany, I would have laughed and probably slapped him. BUT, it was awesome and it was the highlight of our trip.
One of the key reasons we started our trip in early June was that due to Corona no tourists were in the country and the school holidays haven’t started yet. And it paid off big time at Schloss Neuschwanstein. Usually you have to wait hours to get to the Marien bridge to get a good look at the castle but now we just walked straight onto it. Usually you have to have tickets months in advance, now we turned up in the morning (quite late) and had a tour in the afternoon. Pretty cool really, especially if you see the markers and lines were usually thousands of tourists would line up.
It was a drizzly morning and seeing the castle in the mist was quite eerie. You get the first look at it from the road leading into Schwangau and of course we stopped and started to take pictures. In the end we took hundreds of pictures of the castle, crazy!
After easily finding a car park, we got our tickets and then all of us headed up the 40 minute walk to the castle and then the Marien bridge. The castle really looks like out of a fairy tale book and the location it is perched on is just spectacular. One or two pictures later and having stocked up on the appropriate merchandise, we headed back down into a restaurant to wait for our tour to start. Due to the rain and Oma not liking going downhill we decided to take a horse cart which was fun. One of the horses (not sure if it was Bubbie or Nero) turned on their turbo (very respectable fart!) and off we went. Oma wasn’t keen to see the castle from inside so she stayed down and waited for us. The tour was better than expected, only 10 people per tour, one starting every 5 minutes. Usually there are 30-60 people per tour and everyone gets a small speaker to be able to listen to the guide. Not required for us, we all stood on our spots marked with a big dot when we stopped but otherwise had plenty of time to have a good look around. Unfortunately no pictures allowed inside but for me the chandelier (massive!) and the flush toilet and sink stood out. And swans, swans everywhere with even a swan room. Very cool indeed, and we all had a great time, Josina even scoring a Neuschwanstein T-Shirt. Well, that was it – or was it? No, jumping ahead a few days – the day of our departure to Wuerzburg, of course the sun finally showed for the first time and we made the decision in the morning to head back to Schloss Neuschwanstein for just a few more pictures, this time with sun and blue skies. And yes, it looked even better!
Our second day in Lechbruck, we drove over to Bad Toelz where my mum wanted to visit an old schoolfriend of hers. On the way we stopped at the Pilgrimage Church of Wies (Wieskirche) which looked already quite nice from the outside but was truely amazing from the inside. Prettiest church I have seen so far! Later that day, it was nice to meet mums friends and after lots of cake and strawberries, we headed into the historic part of town nestled along the Isar river whilst the old folk stayed back and chewed the fat about the good old times I am sure. When we drove back to Lechbruck in the afternoon I told everyone to look left as there was just another white stork and we hadn’t seen one for some time, when Jannik said that the stork was all black. Good thing we turned around to check it out, headed back to the spot as there was, next to the white stork I saw, a black stork which is much, much rarer to see. Well done Jannik, we even managed to snap one or two pictures before it took off.
The next day we headed to Landsberg am Lech visiting an old friend from study times in Berlin, and we had a great day with him and his family. Just when we were heading into town to visit the historic part, a massive rain cloud moved in and we made it just inside a bakery or we would have been absolutely soaked. So we didn’t see this town yet, which is a good reason to come back I guess.
And just like that it was time to head to our last 4-night stop to Wiesentheid, near Wuerzburg, but not before a quick stop at Schloss Neuschwanstein as mentioned.
On the way we first visited Dinkelsbuehl and for me this is definitely in the top 3 of the trip. Such a beautiful, small town with pretty much only half-timbered houses in the historic part of town. Just amazing and even better now without being absolutely crowded with tourists (like us). We walked along the wall circling the historic part of town, then strolled through town and had yet another round of crepes. Next stop and just down the road, the much more famous Rothenburg op der Tauber. Both small towns are very similar and both towns are usually brimming with tourists as mentioned, but now it was just nice to have an easy stroll around and enjoy the places. After a quick stop at the barber for me (it was looong overdue), we made our way to our accommodation.
This last accommodation was pretty cool as it was a guesthouse within a horse riding school with plenty on offer for the kids. Horse riding of course, table tennis, swimming pool, pool Billard, badminton, walks, and more. And even better we also met my sister Gela and her husband Juan here to spend a few days together. We arrived pretty much at the same time, had dinner and then explored the place a bit.
Our first day trip was to Nuremberg, with our first stop there being the old Reichsparteitagsgelaende – the old Nazi Party Rally Grounds. We first went inside to a very well made, very sobering historic exhibition about this very dark part of German history. Very informative and the kids (and us) learned a lot and asked good questions. Later we drove into the historic part of town and visited the Kaiserburg and the Schoener Brunnen (nice fountain). At the fountain you had to tap or rotate a golden ring which brings you luck, and we all did that of course. After having another round of crepes with Yogurette and strawberries and stocking up on more yummy bread, we headed back to our place to have enough time to enjoy the pool and play some games.
The next day was just another big day again. First up in the morning, horse riding lesson for the kids. Turned out it was for us as well, as we had to guide the horses around and that sounds easier than it is. The horses main focus was to get some food so we had to pull their heads up again and again with quite a bit of strength to tell them that it was walking time, not eating time. After a while we got the hang of it and all three kids had a go on the horses, and all did very well. That’s one promise kept to Jella as I pinky promised her that we would do some horse riding somewhere and sometime during our gap year.
After horse riding we packed up and headed to Bamberg, and I think this is my favourite town of all of them on our trip. Absolutely stunning, easy going place even with a part called little Venice. First we strolled along the river and little Venice, then headed to the old Town Hall located in the middle of the river connected by bridges to both sides. Later we even managed to find a spot in a restaurant with a view to the old Town Hall to have a meal and some drinks before heading back. We wrapped up this action packed day by lighting a large fire and eating way to many marshmallows expertly cooked by the kids. After all that action we decided to stay home the next day and just play and relax. The next day Gela and Juan headed further South (where we just came from), Oma and I dropped off Jennifer and the kids in Fulda to take a train straight to Berlin, and we drove all the way back to beautiful Schleswig-Holstein. It’s fair to say that Oma was very happy to be back home. Me too, so I stayed for a few days before heading to Berlin as well.
And that’s it, Germany Road Trip done and dusted. It was a fantastic time travelling around with Oma, we saw plenty of new places and I finally made it to Bavaria. Not a bad place after all, way too many Bavarians of course – similar to Australia if I think about it. No, no, just kidding. Really enjoyed the time down there, great place for a holiday. And it was great to be back on the road after 2 months!
Now we are in Berlin for a couple of weeks, then Cottbus to visit Jennifer’s dad before spending a bit of time at the Baltic Sea again. Who knows what’s next after the school holidays… if possible we would like to get to Portugal and Venice at least, more of Europe if possible but let’s see how things play out.