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Published: September 23rd 2012
After a wonderful time in Berlin, we headed off in search of new adventures in Germany. Picture a nation with over 80 million people in an area the size of Montana and you’ve got a quick reference for size of it all. But of course there lies much diversity in this land and we soon found this out.
We are excited by train travel. This is most likely because there are so few to travel on in the States. The notion is quite romantic to us, so we started our voyage out of Berlin to Munich on the Ice train. Relaxing and decadent. It is said this train can go 180 km per hour. On this voyage, it did not. Too many stops and not enough straight track to allow for full throttle. We sailed along the countryside fairly quickly and it was a smooth ride. We opted for the quiet car, where cell phones and conversation were not allowed. It was lovely. We watched the countryside roll by, played a few hands of cards and read in the quiet of the cabin. A little over six hours later we rolled into Munich to begin another part of
our German adventure. Driving the Romance Road
West of Munich is the Romance Road, a part of the land that conjures up images from dreams, with rolling hills, pastoral settings and walled cities that beckon us to another age. The drive from where we were staying to these walled cities offered us an opportunity to drive the backcountry roads and experience the small villages along the way. Every few kilometers is another town which is just like the previous one in that they are clean, cute and always have a big curve right in the middle of town on the main street. It’s amazing how many times we encountered this. It almost seemed like at one point in the distant past, the King of Prussia or whatever mandated that all small towns in Bavaria cannot have a straight road in the middle of town.
In just a few days, we took in two of the famed walled cities, Rothenburg ob der tauber and Nordlingen, where the center of town is a market place surrounded by the largest church in town, shops and small hotels, each unique with flowers adorning the windows
in the early autumn sun. Hollywood would have a tough time dreaming up these environs and we were fortunate to encounter and none of the crowds that would normally be present during the summertime. Good for us as we sampled some wonderful Mediterranean grape leaves, artichokes and stuffed mushrooms from a vendor in the central marketplace.
Within the confines of the walls rests at least one church, and in Nordlingen we climbed the 375 or so steps which revealed a view encompassing the countryside as well as the fact that the city sits on a meteor crater from over 15 million years past. Kind of a gentle bowl-shaped contour along with a view of over 90 surrounding communities. The drive back to our digs in Ichenhausen included a stop in Ulm, where we somehow made it up over 700 steps of the cathedral’s spire to take in yet another stunning view, which included the Alps off in the distance and the Danube. The stairs are challenging when you’re in your fifties, but the view is worth it. Travel tip #208
: don’t take the travel guide’s advice as a bible of travel. Our guidebook said
the cathedral’s staircase closed at 1545. We rushed to make it on time, only to discover that they were open until 1745.
Our base for these adventures was a family-run place in Ichenhausen named Weisses Ross Garni that we heartily recommend. The accommodations were superb and we were awoken each morning to church bells. The hotel had an Italian kitchen, which served some spectacular food. The staff was so nice and courteous and truly made us feel at home. In addition, this town offered a traditional German restaurant within walking distance where we also enjoyed a spectacular meal. Parking ticket, funny or frustrating?
We consider ourselves law-abiding citizens, but yet ended up with a parking ticket.
As we drove into Nordlingen, we read all the signs and attempted to figure out what we to do. In days past we had successfully figured out how to use the parking vending machines but this lot did not have one of those to offers. From reading the signs, we figured we were allowed to park for 1 1/2 hours for free. We noticed a blue clock dial on the dash of
all the cars around us. Luckily we found a dial in our rental car. (Remember here that this is foreign to travelers from the States) We were parking at 1135am so we set the clock for 1pm. We had looked at the car next to us and their dial was set for noon. We assumed we were to set the time we should return. Yes, you guessed, it. This did not turn out well.
We were shocked returning to our car at 1240pm to find a ticket. Not only that we could not figure out why we got the ticket. We took the ticket and went to the police station, which was only about a block away. He politely explained to us that we were supposed to round up to the next half hour and set it for the time of arrival not departure. Ugh! The officer then informed us the ticket was not from the police department but from City Hall. That is where we needed to go to pay the ticket. He is it is just down the street. Go to the center square and look for the big grey building. Simple enough on the
surface. Pay the 5 Euro and be on our way.
Wandering for 10 minutes and not finding the big grey City Hall building, we went into the information center. They told us it was up the street to the right in a big yellow building across from an ice cream parlor. We found a building that could have been it but it was closed. We continued to look…. Wandering the streets….asking for help, but very few people had any idea where the town hall was located. They kept telling us to go to the police station.
We wandered, asked for directions four separate times and each time we headed off down the street. “You can’t miss it,” they all told us, but indeed, we did each time. As it turns out one of the yellow buildings we had been to was indeed City Hall. They were closed for a two-hour lunch break.
We finally found someone who said we could go to any bank and pay the parking fine. We attempted to pay it at two different banks—one said that we could not we would have wait until City Hall opened
at 2pm and the other was charging us an outrageous fee to assist us.
Ok, by this time MJ was frustrated because in a small town few people seemed to know where the City Hall was located. After walking in circles Dave instructed her to wait in a sidewalk Café while he took care of the ticket. She waited for Dave’s return sipping bitter lemon. Ironic, no?
It was very anticlimactic in the end. Dave walked in when the City Hall re-opened, explained the situation to the nice lady, who promptly told him, “you’re a tourist, no” and took the ticket from him, wrote a quick note on it, and sent him on his way. 90 minutes of wackiness later, your heroes are back in the car and headed out of town, grateful to be……headed out of town. The Eagle’s Nest & and a bit of history
After a few days on the Romance Road, it was off to Berchtesgaden and the German Alps. If you have heard of this locale previously, it may be because at the top of one
of the peaks surrounding this area is the Eagle’s Nest. Still not sure what we’re referring to? This is where Hitler had his mountain retreat. The Tea House at the top along with the road was constructed in 13 months as a gift for the Fuhrer’s 50th
birthday. Spared from destruction after the war, it is worth the journey up the mountain as the views are absolutely stunning.
The area around Berchtesgaden reminds us of the Smokey Mountains and Gatlinburg, with it’s rolling hills, valleys and peaks, minus the trashy attractions, of course. We stayed up in the hills around Berchtesgaden in a lovely hotel with a stunning view of the valley and mountaintops. Peaceful and serene, we took time out for a down day where we took a massage and read while occasionally looking up at the view and marveling at abundant colors and beauty. Beautiful lakes and rives are abundant in this area. Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial
Just outside of Munich is the town of Dachau, which unfortunately is better known for its infamous concentration camp that was in existence for over a dozen years. Originally built for political
prisoners, it housed more than just those opposed to Hitler and eventually had over 200, 000 inmates, most of whom were treated badly. This was not an extermination camp like Auchswitz in Poland and yet 42,000 died. Most from torture and neglect.
Visiting this site is a somber event to remember the lives taken, blood spilled, and tortured souls memorialized. Inhumane treatment beyond the imagination took place here. Dachau was also a training camp for the SS soldiers, who were the thugs of the Nazi Party. Reading the history of this tragedy is complex but standing here taking it all in is nothing but depressing on a large scale. Once again another example of man’s inhumanity to man. Observations:
Fall is in the air and the leaves are slowly beginning to turn. It is lovely in late September. Another week or so and the full colors will present themselves as fall officially arrives in this region.
We have been surprised that many places in Germany do not accept credit cards. Certainly the businesses save money be doing so, but it means that you have to stop at the
handy ATM and keep some cash with you all the time. This is the direct opposite of Iceland, Greenland, and Denmark, where they take cards everywhere.
We’ve noticed a baby boom in Germany. Lots and lots of couples with babies and strollers. Grandfathers with strollers. Everybody’s is pushing them around and believe us, there is a baby in every one of them. A smart marketing strategy for the stroller manufacturers would have them advertising like mad here, for the market is strong for their product.
The Germans as a whole smoke more than most. We’ve seen cigarette vending machines just off of sidewalks in the smaller towns. Something you just do not see anywhere else. Lots of cigarette butts on the ground, which appears to be in direct competition with the neat and tidy surrounding of this country.
The German people have been extremely friendly to us and assisted us many times with directions when we were lost. When we are on a corner studying our map they often stop to help.
When we travel to foreign me make a genuine attempt to speak the language. On this
Cute German towns
trip we have been surprised by the large numbers of people in Iceland, Greenland and Denmark who speak excellent English and who are often tri-lingual. In Germany, we noticed a decreased number of people speaking English, which surprised us because of Germany’s status in the European union and the business world. One gentleman laughed and told us that they learn English in school from the time they are 10 years old, but it depends on how much they continue to use it. He said Germany has a large population and all TV shows and movies are dubbed into German. He said in the Northern Europeans countries that we had visited the population is small and so it is to costly to dub movies into their native language so they are exposed to English a lot more than Germans. That really made sense.
Along the roadways we have seen many wind turbine farms and solar farms. It seems as green energy is being embraced. Places we stayed:
Weisses Ross Garni -Ichenhausen
Alpenhotel Dennlingen-- Bechtesgaden
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