The Romantic Road, Germany


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June 14th 2012
Published: June 14th 2012
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Sunday, 10 June – Prague to Nuremburg

It was raining when we got up and checked out, but by the time we reached the Vysehrad Castle (Prague’s second castle), it stopped within 2 minutes of us getting out.

Vysehrad Castle is enchanting. It’s also covers a massive area but where Prague Castle was about ornate detail and screaming “filthy rich palace”, Vysehrad is more secluded, quiet and reflective. It almost felt like a monastery if it weren’t for the fortifications and bastions of a military operation. It has a cemetery that still gets used, so perhaps that attributes to its peaceful mood. There were also significantly fewer people, so that was a welcome change after being suffocated by the masses yesterday. The bastions were imposingly thick and again it was an impressive display of architecture given it was built from the 10th to the 14th centuries.

The sky remained dry until midday, after we’d said our goodbyes to Kat and Ken at the airport. There were no tears but it did feel strange as it seems like we’ve been travelling together for the whole time. We are so fortunate to see them twice and can’t thank them enough for experiencing Prague with us.

The heavens opened within 2 minutes of leaving the airport and stayed with us for another 3 hours until Nuremburg, when it stopped 5 minutes before we arrived. That is the story of this trip. Every time we have gone to sightsee outside, the weather has held until our sightseeing was over. God has been so good to us.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the scenery in the Czech Republic. For some reason I imagined it to be a flat country but it certainly is not. Who knew?! And if Germany is known for its millions of commercial windmills, CR must be known for its sizeable solar panel farms, which often look like lakes from a distance.

Sun-Wed, 10-13 June – The Romantic Road (Nuremburg, Bamberg, Wurzburg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Regensburg)

I’ve decided to group the below towns for the sake of efficiency rather than keep a daily journal, as they are all very similar in style and share similar endearing qualities that I don’t want repeat regularly.

Nuremberg - is nice in a different way to the other cities we’ve visited. Where Berlin is edgy, vibrant and grungy yet showing glimpses of splendour, Dresden is a little fairy tale like (almost too clean and perfect to seem like a real city) and Prague is, well, somewhere in-between. In contrast, Nuremberg feels like a modern city where people work, live, shop – a working city, and yet one with a charming centre. A centre surrounded by stone walls, populated by wide, sweeping streets, large squares surrounded by charming buildings centuries old bustling with people watching football. It still has an amazingly impressive fortress overlooking the town, and yet it’s a great mix of old and new. The new buildings have been constructed in such a way as to blend in with the old – similar colours, design languages, sizes, building materials and roof lines. Sometimes you have to look twice to see that a particular building isn’t hundreds of years old – it fits right in.

We were there on the last day of the Nuremburg Bierfest so we experienced a family version of Oktoberfest on a smaller scale and even cooler than the beer was the fact that it was held in the dry moat around the fortress. We spent 3 hours in the DB Museum (German Railway) because it’s always cool to play on steam trains. One new thing I learnt was that Hitler forced DB to build the autobahns in the 30’s for its biggest competitor – trucks.

Bamberg (Unesco) – set over two arms of the fast flowing Regnitz River, it has narrower streets and feels more intimate than the larger cities of Dresden and Nuremburg. It’s a medieval town whose heyday was in the 12th century. Like Brugge, it is connected by a series of bridges that criss-cross back and forth, making for cute photos and warm fuzzy feelings. The squares are smaller and it lends itself to getting lost and finding your bearings just as easily. The river had kayak gates set up on the rapids and we were hoping to see some people using the course, but unfortunately not at that time. It was compact enough to see in 2 hours, but an overnight stay would have been perfect.

Wurzburg – pronounced “Vortsborg”, set in a wide valley on the Main River with a fortress high on a hill overlooking the town. It’s a University town and really just a smaller version of Nuremburg. However, the highlight and reason people go is the Wurzburg Residenz and Court Gardens (Unesco). This is a magnificent Baroque palace – one of the largest and most beautiful in Germany, built by the Prince-Bishops in the 1700’s. It consists of a main building with north and south wings. The wings were devastated in the March 1945 bombing where 5000 people lost their lives in 22 minutes of raids. The main part survived but the wings were destroyed. It’s been fully reconstructed and restored to its former glory so everything looks as extravagant as it did when the palace was first completed. Your first sight is a grand staircase capped by a vast fresco covered ceiling, which happens to be the largest vaulted ceiling and fresco in a European Palace. The state rooms and various halls were some of the most ornate and richly decorated we’ve seen anywhere. It’s a nice change to not have to use your imagination to recreate the scene in your mind. The postcard perfect landscaped gardens have three themes – French, Italian and English. They are a wonderful retreat and I loved them even more when I saw squirrels. I would have to say that this is my 2nd favourite palace behind Versailles.

For dinner we had traditional Franconian fare – I had asparagus soup and Polish style asparagus and Dwayne had Franconian wine soup and bratwurst with sauerkraut. The soups were definite highlights.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber – this is the jewel of the Burgs and cute as a button. It’s the best preserved medieval walled town in Germany. 1150 – 1400AD was its golden age although current times can’t be too bad – 2.5 million visitors a year. Mind you, we were expecting another Prague experience and were relieved when the town was somewhat empty. There is a famous Christmas shop here and €100 later we came away with several ornaments for our tree. There are many arched towers over the entrance roads , higgledy piggledy houses and several points at which you can climb the stairs up onto the wall and walk around the covered, inside walkway (only 2 persons wide). It is surprising though, that it’s free to walk the walls at any point and wander up and down inside the towers. Most other places have charged an entry fee or required a guided tour but this town seemed relatively free of opportunists. It has a beautiful view over the valley, where we saw our first deer.

We dined at a restaurant that had a passion for potatoes, with potato soup and potato mini rosti's with vegetables. It was a delicious meal. Goodbye weight loss.

I have to mention that when we were on the autobahn, two Mercedes came up swiftly behind us. We let them pass and tried to keep up but with our foot flat to the floor at 200kph, they still pulled away and were out of sight within 60 seconds. That would be a fail for our pus bucket.

Unlike the weather, we had bad luck today. Our trusty digital camera decided that it would no longer open its lens cover so is out of service until we can get it repaired at home under the warranty. We made the decision to buy a low end Sony to tie us over, but it will still set us back €99 that I would have preferred to spend somewhere else. However, it is either that or forego photos for the last half of the trip. We’ll have a spare camera when we get home if anyone wants to buy a cheapie?!

Regensburg (Unesco) – whilst this is not technically part of the Romantic Road, I have grouped it here because it is a burg. It overlooks the Danube River so is another stop on the river cruise itinerary. We only had 2 hours there to look around so it’s hard to pass judgement, but it didn’t wow us or endear itself to us in the same way the other burgs had. The main square has another impressive church and medieval architecture, but we felt it lacked the grandeur of Dresden, the open squares of Nuremburg/Wurzburg and the cuteness of Bamberg/Rothenburg. It did have the narrowest lane ways of all the towns but I’m not sure that’s enough to list it as a must see. Maybe we would have perceived it differently if it were the first burg we’d visited, but I still think it’s the least charming out of all of them, regardless of what order you see it in.

Overall, I have loved the burgs and we have misjudged how much time we needed in this area. We should have given two nights to Dresden and Nuremburg and another one night each to the other burgs.

I’m creating a new travel rule: When the first draft of an itinerary is done, leave 10% free as flexidays or down days. There always seems to be more to do in these places than we originally gave them credit for.

It’s easy to forget that there is seeing and there is doing. Anyone can see a city in a day, but can you do a city in a day? I think not little puppy.

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