Friday, June 26, 2015

Our German & Swiss Road Trip

The most important part of our German road trip was ticked off in speedy fashion, 200kph. Now that we had returned to a more manageable and fuel economic speed we made our way further south from Berlin with no real plan, just a few ideas of places Stefan suggested we could stop.  The autobahn was quite informative. A large yellow sign for every historic attraction and an illustration of it existed at nearly every exit, and they all looked equally interesting, so that didn't really help us decide where to stop. We did eventually call at Erfurt. 

What we stumbled upon was just a magical town, with a huge market filled square and two huge towering but opposing cathedrals. The daunting and cavernous medieval presence these structures  had over the whole space was like nothing I have witnessed before. Opposing the cathedrals and lining the maze of narrow streets was a myriad of tall, wonky and colourful traditional buildings. We explored the streets, climbed amongst the historic hilltop fortress and enjoyed a bratwurst. 

A hold up further on our drive held us up for several hours at a stand still on the autobahn only just short of Bad Camberg, We read, slept and peed om the road side, it actually was quite a relaxed traffic jam.

We took a drive with the boys, Mickey and Stefan the Sunday before the wedding to Cologne. More of a working city, but still littered with history and prestige. We just explored and enjoyed our good company. A thousand or so steps took us to the top of The Dom Cathedral, which provided an amazing vantage. We enjoyed a few fresh K├Âlsch beers, a beer that can only be so named if it comes from Cologne, tasting amazing right from its source.

Amy, Thomas, Mickey and Stefan with the Dom of Cologne in the background


Heading off for a big week on the road after the wedding, we again didn't have a true plan, just a bit of an idea and we'd see what we came across. En route to the Black Forest, we called into the Spa town of Baden Baden, an elegant spot with beautiful gardens shouldering the river through town with an opulent French influence. Jumping headlong from there onto some awesome driving roads, winding up into the dense dark forests. We quickly climbed to a fair elevation and rewarded with vistas out to the west toward France. Ending the afternoon with a beer in a high mountain town of Freudenstadt at the local brewery Turm-Brau, meaning Tower-Brewery. It was my favourite drinking experience in Germany. Their unfiltered pilsner beer was the genuine thing, in ceramic steins right from where it was brewed.

We made it to our planned destination Freiburg in the early evening, with no maps or booked accommodation, just the address of a backpackers. I was surprised at the size of the university town as we aimlessly drove the city in search somehow of finding the backpackers. In rush hour traffic we circled the town completely lost and not knowing what to do until we stumbled right upon the street of our planned accommodation, to our delight and surprise. Unfortunately, they had no room left but allowed us to sleep in the lounge area, along with a few other unprepared travelers. The town was again another stunner with bustling streets, bars and restaurants. The streets were littered with cyclists, trams and pedestrians. It was a little cultural gem, of youth and history. 

Interlaken, Switzerland was only a short drive the following day. The Swiss alps rising from the horizon, growing and towering are just such an impressive sight, with our tent backpackers nestled right amongst it all. This was our most expensive accommodation for the trip, and actually the most expensive we have ever paid for one nights accommodation, and it was also by far the most basic and despite being summer, we were treated to some wild mountain weather for the stay. Thunderous rain and wild wind managed to blow open the flap door several times overnight, making for a chilly but exciting night. It was nice to warm up in the spa pool, minus the menacing twenty school children having a water fight around us.

Heading up to Grindewald at the base of the Eiger, we were witness to Switzerland 'for-real.' Green pastures dotted with log-cabin villages beneath soaring mountains with vertical glacially carved walls where waterfalls hailed down from above. This place is spectacular. We climbed steps carved through tunnels into the rock then poked out behind one of these great waterfalls and climbed a steep goat trail at the end of the road, literally, and were rewarded of a vista to die for. 

Driving toward Wettingham to visit the Swiss Devos, we were rewarded with one of the most spectacular drives. We continued to be rewarded with these incredible drives throughout Switzerland and further along in Southern Germany while driving off the AutoBahn. What the car beats the train or bus in this situation is that we probably made 10 stops on this couple hour drive, each time with the most remarkable view. Also the switchbacks were fun to drive in our little Spanish made Seat Ibza. Along with the drive, we had a lunch stop in Luzern. We had a sandwich lunch by the lake and took a nice stroll through the historic city, walking the old town walls, crossing the picturesque bridges and happily watching life go by around us.

Once in Wettingham, we enjoyed a fun couple of laid back days with Richard Deverson, and the young Devos, Alexia, Mattias and Natasha. Quite an entertaining bunch, who would be a bit cheeky or shy and try speak only German to us. It was great to spend some more time with my god daughter, Alexia, and we were particularly impressed to attend a little musical recital, which the children preformed the violin and clarinet spectacularly, we'll happily be the audience rather than the performer, solid nerves kids. We just generally got to play and mess around, but we surly gathered a few disapproving looks from locals when we started booting round the soccer ball in the historic town streets.

It was cool just being a kid for a few days, we went to the swimming pools and did flips off the diving boards, went on the watersides, where Amy had a mishap with her bikini, and even had a play around at underwater hockey. Yes it is a sport. Natasha was set on making paper airplanes all weekend long, and we masted the different techniques to achieve the best aerodynamics. We explored the area in the family minivan, found craft beers and finished the visit off with a family fondue. Looking forward to catching you Swiss Devos again soon.
Natasha Getting into the Fondue

From Wettingham we headed back toward Germany, with one interesting diversion for 20km or so crossing a small corner into Austria, where we choose to leave the Highway and take side roads as to avoid buying a registration sticker for the highway, one which we had already forked out ‎€50 on entrance to Switzerland and didn't see it being worth that same price again for the quick flash through AUT. So we had a slightly slower journey through Austria, but yet again this was the second time that I have journeyed through Austria and not touched soil. 

Schloss Neuschwanstein
Arriving at Schloss Neuschwanstein, the real Disney castle, we were quite blown away with the crowds. However the castles were well worth the crowds, and it wasn't hard to lose some of the crowds on the strenuous climbs up to the castles. Both King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles were spectacular. Walking the trails and seeing them in perspective at the base of the Alps, you can understand why Walt Disney used them as inspiration for is own Castle. Heading off North on the Romantic Road and eventually getting lost was a relaxing and scenic way to end the evening while headed for the Tent Village in Munich. With a stop in a town somewhere along the way and getting our schnitzel fix on, served by a cheery lederhosen-clan man. Just a random town, but again filled with its own timeless character you seem to stumble upon everywhere in Europe.

Just another German town.
One full on action packed day in Munich and we ticked off all the good stuff. Mainly beer related, but hey we're in the home of beer! Once again, our night was spent in the tent, this time being a bunch of huge circus tents with sleeping rolls on the floor, but once again, we had some wild weather. No dramas, they provided unlimited blankets, I think we each had about ten. While in the city, we did the free walking tour, learning all the usual historical notes and followed on after to a tour of our own jumping from brewery to bar to brewery. Haupfbrau, Augustiner, Schneider and I can't remember the others. I have heard that many people have similar memory failure in this city. 

That's about how it felt.
Heading North for a night in Manninheim to stay with our friend Martin, we stopped for a somber and reflective morning walking the grounds and reading the displays at the Dachau concentration camp. Not much needs to be said, but it is a necessary visit. With a good long drive to follow, it gave us ample time to process all that we had just experienced. We made it to Martin's following a serious case of being lost, and we jumped on his suggestion of heading to the local brewery for some well needed stress relief. A few mugs of there keller beer, meaning cellar, an unfiltered helles lager the way beer should be drank and we were spinning yarns of the good old times back at university, of life back where we all met. We stopped for a quick look around Frankfurt the following morning before our flight out of Europe. Lacking slightly the Germanic feel of smaller or more famous places, the center was clean and very modern, typical for a financial capital. We were stoked though to come across a market fair in the center of town. It was a perfect way to end a fantastic 3 weeks in Germany.

1 comment:

  1. Didn't know you had a God daughter Thomas. Fondue and castle Neuschwanstein, two of my great loves. Good times. Louis