The weather threatens to be frightful but our day turns out delightful


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Europe » Germany » Bavaria » Oberammergau
April 26th 2018
Published: June 2nd 2018
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Where's the Kofel? Where's the Kofel? Where's the Kofel?

Morning dawned with some rather questionable weather in the air. Although rain threatened throughout the day it was never more than a drizzle for just a few minutes at a time. At least I got to try out the new rain sensitive wipers.
After spending the night at the Hotel Wittelsbach in Oberammergau and enjoying their nice breakfast buffet we were on the road by 9:00 am.

Again I had an itinerary for the day planned in my head and again it all went out the window. Initially I had hoped to go up to the NATO School in Oberammergau to see if I might check out the old WWII underground bunkers that once housed the research facilities for the ME262 jet. The Allies didn't know about their existence until the town was liberated at war's end. On many previous visits to the town I had always seen plenty of directional signs for the school. This time none were to be found as we drove up and down the narrow streets of Oberammergau. A light rain had begun to fall and the temperature was significantly lower than the near 80 degree weather we had had in Munich the day before. It remained cloudy all day but the heavy rains never came.

I soon gave up on that plan and moved on to Plan B. We left the village and headed South toward Ettal then West on St2060 toward Linderhof. All of our
A breakfast fit for a WittelsbachA breakfast fit for a WittelsbachA breakfast fit for a Wittelsbach

I believe this was the only morning I accepted the offer of hot chocolate at breakfast. It felt like a cold day was coming. Each morning in Germany, Czech Republic and Austria I made myself similar breakfast sandwiches with the always fresh rolls, local cheeses and deli meats presented at the buffet. Fresh butter was also on hand. And of course, the omnipresent soft-boiled egg.
previous visits to Mad King Ludwig's hunting lodge had been made in the Winter. This visit we hoped to see the highly praised gardens and grounds of the estate. Hopefully the many fountains that were boxed-up in wood for the Winter would be operating and I might get some pretty photos. When we arrived at the parking lot there was already someone collecting parking money even though the palace didn't open for another hour. I wouldn't be getting on the grounds for free this time.

On to Plan C since I didn't feel like sitting around outside the parking lot all morning. Nor having to pay for just a few minutes of picture taking. We continued down St2060 toward Austria's border. We particularly love this road because we have fond memories of the days when the border between Germany and Austria was guarded. We loved going down the road with a bit of trepidation as we approached the border guards. Usually the German guards would just wave us through as we held up our US passports without even glancing inside our car. The Austrians seemed less happy to welcome us. They would study the passports, ask a few
Heading for LinderhofHeading for LinderhofHeading for Linderhof

Unable to find directional signs for the NATO school we drove out of Oberammergau and toward Graswang and beyond.
questions and maybe went inside their guardhouse as if there were a problem just to annoy us. We never had our car searched but I had heard of folks that had their suitcases opened, trunks thoroughly examined and seats pulled out when crossing. They might be delayed for hours. The Cold War was a fun time. And the Austrians were on our side...sort of.

This road is fun to drive because it's narrow, deserted and follows the course of the Linder creek. The creek becomes a river during the Spring thaws and we saw evidence of its power all along its banks as tons of gravel and rocks had piled up on the roots of trees and parts of the road. There are plenty of twisty sections as you head through an avalanche zone toward a wildlife preserve. After crossing into Austria this nature park is the home of a wide variety of birds, miniature deer and marmots (?). Today we only saw a couple of black kites circling above. With the ugly weather we opted to continue in the car instead of taking a nature walk along the creek bed. Today we would not get in our 12,000
A common sight in rural BavariaA common sight in rural BavariaA common sight in rural Bavaria

Everywhere we turned huge stacks of firewood were stockpiled on every farm we drove past. Winter had ended but still the woodpiles were immense. The area is full of forestland but it is mostly tall pines. I would never expect that to be an efficient fuel for heating. I assumed it would be too full of sticky sap causing creosote buildup, but everyone was using what was abundant and every building we entered had huge ceramic woodstoves.
steps on the Fitbit.

Soon we came by the Plansee, an alpine lake that never seems to warrant a visit by anyone else but us. I think it's emerald green waters nestled below the snow-capped mountains is absolutely breath taking but there is never anyone else on the road when we've visited. In Summer it must be a different story as there are campgrounds and Zimmer Frei signs along the road.

Another reason I enjoy this route is that we arrive in Austria without needing the Autobahn Vignette. From the Plansee it is short drive to the town of Reutte. For some reason travel writer Rick Steves is obsessed with Reutte. Back in the 1980's he was recommending it in his Neuschwanstein chapter as the cheaper alternative to accommodations in Füssen, Germany. I can find much cheaper and hotels just as nice closer to Füssen and in towns with more landmarks of interest. . One thing Reutte is very good for is cheaper gas. On this excursion we made a quick stop at a Jet gas station that advertised 1.24 for 95 Super which was almost .20 per liter cheaper than the prices in Germany. Sorry, but
Swollen on the riverSwollen on the riverSwollen on the river

The road we took followed the normal course of the Linder creek. Problems come during the spring thaw when the creek becomes a river of melting snow and ice. Rocks and uprooted trees litter the area.
that adds up when one is on a senior citizen vacation. We only needed 21 liters as we were getting tremendous gas mileage of over 30 mpg according to the BMW's computer.

Of course we had to head back into Germany and on to Neuschwanstein to take the obligatory European Delivery photo with the castle in the background. No way was I gonna pay for a highway Vignette to drive the 6 miles from Reutte into Germany. Instead we drove back into Germany via the more scenic L396/B17 two lane road which mimicked the Lech river's run through farmlands and mountains. Right at the border there was a scenic overlook with the Lech Falls tumbling just below. We made a quick stop for photos and to view the waterfalls from various angles. It is well worth a stop.

By now the big breakfast had worn off. We found a Lidl store on the outskirts of Füssen where we gathered provisions for our continuing expedition. This was when I discovered the useless cup holders in my 2018 X1. I couldn't fit a medium sized Coke in that tiny space let alone a 32 ounce Slurpee back at home.
The brilliance of German road engineeringThe brilliance of German road engineeringThe brilliance of German road engineering

First of all, note that this is a lane and a half wide tertiary road in a deep valley gouged by glacial waters yet somehow there are no potholes anywhere. Those orange poles with the white bases rise above the snow on the ground to show snowplow drivers where the tarmac ends. In the Spring, in fact it happened as we were driving elsewhere, road crews remove the flexible orange poles and store them until next Winter. The bright red paint scheme alerts drivers to the fact that a bridge is there. No ugly road signs. no litter and no dead critters laying near the street,
The center console had nothing capable of holding anything more than a 12 ounce can...maybe. Very disappointed. We also picked up some of the food item souvenirs we had promised friends and family. I was amazed by how many people were shopping on a Thursday morning. Does Germany have an unemployment problem?

From here it was on to Neuschwanstein for our new baby's photo op. The place was inundated with buses. We had hoped to stop for awhile to maybe enjoy a beer at one of the restaurants below the castles, but we could barely drive through to the parking lot. Along the way we felt like we were in downtown Beijing. Nearly the entire throng seemed to be vacationing Asians. And most were waiting for the carriage ride halfway up the mountain. People were milling around everywhere including the middle of the street. Nearly everyone obliviously posing with selfie stick in hand. Rather than face manslaughter charges and car repairs I decided to get my new car out of there immediately. We headed down the road toward the staging point for BMW ED photos. Fortunately the car was still relatively clean and most of the tourists hadn't discovered
The snow is still melting at the higher eleavtionsThe snow is still melting at the higher eleavtionsThe snow is still melting at the higher eleavtions

Small waterfalls were visible in every direction. It was so isolated and quiet out here that I could hear the sound of the water tumbling from above when I got out of the car to take this photo.
this area. But shortly after we stopped and got out to take our pictures, other cars followed and stopped to take theirs. It was crazy.



Part of my plan for the day was to take a Rodelbahn ride and/or a cable car up the Tegelberg so that we might get a different view of the castles. Naturally the ski area where both operate was closed for the nest two weeks. On to Plan D. After heading away from the Royal Castles we stopped a couple of other times at deserted lay-bys for more photos and no sooner would we stop than another car would follow us and get in our picture. I needed a beer.

Back on the B17 (Romantische Strasse) we drove Northeast to the Wieskirche pilgrimage church. Again there was no one on the road in front of us and we made good time. Here we ran into the first of many pay-to-park lots that didn't used to exist. Not only has the German economy bolstered itself by requiring you to pay to park almost everywhere you go these days, but they are also charging in virtually every bathroom you encounter. Even restaurant
ImmaculateImmaculateImmaculate

Even at this turn-off there was no garbage. The stream was totally clean except for the foliage torn up by the once roaring waters.
toilets aren't necessarily free any more. No wonder the Euro is so high. The throngs of tourists need to get rid of that great German beer and are leaving the facilities a mess. Constant cleaning is necessary. Just as we were putting the stub for our parking ticket on the dash of our car, a bus pulled into the lot. Tourists began to spill out. We nearly sprinted for the tiny little restaurant next to the church-in-the-meadow. We sat and enjoyed our beers and my potato soup until the busload had finished their 20 minute stop at the Wieskirche. Then we were treated to a totally deserted visit of the interior. The inside of this church is exquisite. More pictures taken then on to the next stop.

I wanted to continue my circular route back through Oberammergau then head South to Ettal monastery followed by ending the evening in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Just outside Oberammergau, right off the B23, Gail spotted a sign for the Sommer Rodelbahn. Despite having some trouble finding exactly where it was we drove into yet another deserted ski area with yet another pay lot. I was reluctant to enter because the place seemed closed but then
Arriving at the PlanseeArriving at the PlanseeArriving at the Plansee

We were now in Austria. Our alpine road brought us to the banks of this dark green mountain lake. Every time we've come this way the weather has been the same: dismal. I wonder if it ever looks sunny here with that big mountain looming in the background.
we saw a group of school kids standing near the ticket booth. We were doubly lucky - not only was this Rodelbahn up and running but the school kids were busy getting yelled at by their teachers when we got to the ticket window. Nothing worse than having a bunch of kids in front of or behind you on one of these rides. They either hold you up on your run or run into your sled as you rocket down the track. I should've known this was a very special Rodelbahn when the cost of two tickets was 22€. We boarded the chairlift with not another soul in sight. I kept looking back to see where the school group might be. Before long I was getting too concerned about the drop below us to worry about who was behind us. I expected maybe a 5 minute ride to the top of the run. Instead it was endless. We just kept ascending. Up up up. Soon we were above the snowline and it was getting very cold. Finally after more than twenty minute we reached the top. After a quick toilet stop (free) we headed over to the start line. These sleds were totally different than any other Rodelbahn or Alpine slides we had taken before. These had seat belts and double brakes. The track wasn't a huge sliding board but more like a roller coaster with rails. And it was incredibly steep. Of course I let my wife go first. The attendant had me wait a full 30 seconds before releasing me to go. Next came the Ride of the Century. It was amazing. My ball cap flew off and I was able to catch it and hold it in my mouth for the rest of the ride. I applied the brakes freely and firmly. It felt like I was doing 60 mph. I wasn't but more than a few times it felt like the back end was coming off the rails. It was a nice long ride with plenty of banked turns, spirals, drops, tunnels and unexpected twists. Well worth the money. A speed gun at the bottom of the run clocked me at 24 mph.

Time for more beer. This will be a common theme from here on out: do something fun for a few minutes then relax with beer for an hour or two. Next
In and out of AustriaIn and out of AustriaIn and out of Austria

After a quick little ride through Reutte and a stop for cheap gas, we headed back into Germany near Füssen. Right at the border we encountered the Lechfall where the Lech river tumbles out of Austria into Germany.
stop was in Ettal. At one time I really really loved the Ettal monks' Hefeweizen beer, but my cast iron stomach ain't what it used to be. We stopped at a jplace next to the abbey where Gail enjoyed a Dunkel Weizen and I quaffed a half liter of Helles. For most of the trip I stuck with Helles. The few times I strayed I regretted it. I found the Bocks too hoppy and the wheat beers a bit too sweet and cloying. Good old boring Lager is fine with me. After we had been sitting awhile a priest or monk (not Catholic so I have no clue) asked us something in German. When we replied in English that we didn't verstehen he switched over to his limited English and we had a nice little chat where we learned about his experiences as a child just after World War II, his run-ins with US military personnel stationed near his home, our common military experiences, and his affinity for Ham radio. He also told us about Vesper services at the abbey church that would start in a few minutes.

After paying our bill we walked over to the abbey
LechfallsLechfallsLechfalls

The flow seemed high here, no doubt because of the rain earlier in the day. Due to the high concentration of salt and ground minerals the river is either an unnatural gray after a storm or an aquamarine blue in calmer conditions.
and attended the church service. It was only supposed to be 20 minutes but since it was in Latin and we had no clue what was going on it felt like it lasted an hour. There were two other parishioners in the entire church. When the service ended I was hoping to take some pictures of the magnificent interior but we were quickly chased out by a not so friendly monk. Glad I didn't give an offering.

We went back to the same restaurant where we had drunk our beers earlier and had very tasty and affordable dinners. After praising the chef for the food he comped us each a shot of Schnapps and laughed at our reaction to its taste. We might have stayed longer if we hadn't been the last customers there and the place was about to close. We finished our eventful day with a twilight walk through the streets of Oberammergau. I had never seen the town so empty. Not even in February. It was serene. Church bells tolled every few minutes. The smell of wood mixed with cow manure filled the air. The shops were beautifully decorated and lighted. Best of all, my wife
Maximillian II of BavariaMaximillian II of BavariaMaximillian II of Bavaria

Father of Mad King Ludwig who started to build all those beautiful castles that were never finished, Maximillian II was actually a beloved and respected king who successfully maintained Bavaria's independence while most other Germany duchys and kingdoms were being absorbed by Bismarck into one country. He was a very fair-minded albeit deliberate ruler who tried to steer his country on a steady neutral course. He was also a great patron of the arts and lover of nature.
didn't find anything she wanted.


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The Lechfalls bridgeThe Lechfalls bridge
The Lechfalls bridge

Gail was eager to walk down to this bridge to take pictures from it. I realized there was no point. The bridge IS the picture.
An unfamiliar view of FüssenAn unfamiliar view of Füssen
An unfamiliar view of Füssen

I don't recall ever seeing this town from this angle before. It looks much more like the fortified city in its description on Wikipedia. We didn't venture into the old part of town this time because traffic and parking were a little crazy.
Just one of too many shots in front of NeuschwansteinJust one of too many shots in front of Neuschwanstein
Just one of too many shots in front of Neuschwanstein

Our car was still relatively clean at this point so she looked pretty posing beneath Neuschwanstein. Some sun would've helped but it also meant nobody else followed us down this particular road. Not until we had shot about twenty pictures each.
Apparently my car is uniqueApparently my car is unique
Apparently my car is unique

When I first posted this photo on a BMW fans' website someone who is way more into cars than I pointed out that my car had emblems on its trunk that other BMW X1s in the USA don't carry. That's fine with me.
Just the castle this timeJust the castle this time
Just the castle this time

Last summer when we were in the area and the summer before there was scaffolding on different faces of Neuschwanstein. This year all those repairs appear to be finished.
Sparkling little beautySparkling little beauty
Sparkling little beauty

Again. I'm still not a fan of black. Snore.
I promiseI promise
I promise

This is the last view of the new car in front of the castle. Note the fact that there are no scratches on the passenger's side of the car at this point.
Pilgrimmage church of St. ColomanPilgrimmage church of St. Coloman
Pilgrimmage church of St. Coloman

This is when we started pulling off the nearly deserted road to take a picture or two when all of a sudden vans full of Asian tourists would pile out of their vehicles next to us wielding their selfie sticks. Before we drove up nobody gave these sites the slightest notice. As inadvertent tour guides we should've passed a hat looking for tips.


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