Sunday, October 23, 2011

Romantische Strasse

And speaking of Germany... After leaving Munich we spent the day driving along the Romantic Road, a motorway connecting 27 medieval towns. It wasn't feasible to try to stop in even a handful of the towns so we chose just three.

Our first stop, Landsberg am Lech, was just a bit south of Kaufering, where we had been staying. Landsberg is a lovely walled town dating back to 1800BC. We spent the morning exploring, taking in the buildings which are hundreds of years old and are mingling with more current things like satellite tv disks and IKEA delivery trucks.

We chose a little restaurant right on the river and had lunch outside, enjoying the sunny fall day.

And then it was off to our next stop- Augsburg. Augsburg is the 3rd largest city in Bavaria so we had to narrow down what we wanted to see. We chose to visit the Fuggerei which is called the oldest social settlement in the world. It was established in 1521 as a neighborhood for the needy. Rent for one of the 140 apartments is still just one Rhine gilder (.88 Euros) a year and three prayers a day for the founder and his family.
It's a really interesting settlement, the alms houses are the originals and one is set up so you can see how small they are inside. Since there was no electricity back when they were built each door has a rod which activates the door bell and the handle of each rod is unique so people could feel which one was theirs. The whole neighborhood is a little town within the city and is walled off with private entrances for the residents.

After enjoying a beer in the Fuggerei cafe we were back on the road to our final destination of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This is perhaps the most popular of the towns along the Romantic Road as it is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Germany.

We were staying 2 nights at The Burg Hotel which is built right into the town wall and has amazing views of the valley. We had been warned about the day trippers who clog the tiny streets so we were looking forward to having the town emptied out during the evenings. That evening was spent dining outside under huge trees with glowing gas lamps. Not the best meal of our trip but great atmosphere.

We spent the entire next day enjoying the town. We climbed the tower at the Rathaus. This was the scariest view ever. You climb up a rickety wooden spiral staircase and literally have to crawl out the hatch onto the bell-tower walk. The circular platform holds 4 at a time and is barely wide enough for one. But the views were gorgeous!

After lunch we walked the city's wall- you can go almost completely around Rothenburg although for Dayne it was a bit uncomfortable as the ceiling beams were just shorter than he is tall which meant he had to cock his head!


Rothenburg is also known for their Criminal Museum. It's filled with all means of implements for torture and punishment including chastity belts,  drunk tanks, racks and weapons. We got quite the education in medieval torture.

And, although it's not as grand as the Glockenspiel in Munich there is a clock and sundial on the outside of the "Councillor's Drinking Room" where every hour two figures appear at the chime drinking steins of beer. 

We took advantage of the lovely terrace at our hotel, some leftover gin and cheese from the house in Kaufering and had aperos at sunset outside.


The other big attraction is the Night Watchman's tour. This takes place at dusk when the watchmen use to go around lighting the gas street lamps and locking up the entrances to the city. Although a bit hokey there is a lot of history and it's quite a fun walk. It just so happened the night we went was the largest attendance he'd ever had, what happened to all the day trippers leaving at night?

After the walk we had a delicious dinner at Zur Holl which is in the oldest original building in town, dating from 900.
The town is just impossibly cute and we were really glad we decided to stay a couple of nights to take it all in.

The next morning we drove to Frankfurt to catch our train to Hamburg. I drove 180km on the autobahn. It was a serious thrill, and this was in a crappy Opal rent a car. If only I'd had my Saab!!

Lovely photos of the Romantic Road area here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

More to Munich than Beer and Lederhosen

In 2 days it will happen again. Huge kegs will be tapped and millions of people will gather in massive tents to sing and drink and party. Oktoberfest! I'm thinking back to last year when we were just 2 of over 6 million who celebrated the 200th anniversary of this event.

But of course there is more to Munich than just Oktoberfest. Bavaria is a stunning region with lots to see and do. We spent one day driving out to see the castles in Schloss. On the way we stopped at Wieskirche, litterally the church in the meadow. What had started out as a tiny little chapel for travelers to worship in has grown into a much larger church, but still in the middle of a meadow.

On to Schloss to see the magnificent, if somewhat crazy, castles of Hohenschwangua and Neuschwanstein. You buy your combined tour tickets, which are timed 2 hours a part. We visited Hohenschwangua, had some lunch and beers and then took the horse and buggy up the mountain to the fairy castle of Neuschwanstein. Our horses were so slow that we were late to our tour and luckily were let in to another- the last of the day. As we left the castle doors were locked behind us!

One day we took the train out to Dachau. When we got back in town we climbed to the top of St. Peter's tower where we got our first real look of Munich and how large it is. We had beers at an outdoor bar in the Marienplatz and were treated to the show that the beautiful Glockenspiel puts on. And also the show of all the tourists who jostle to see it in action.

We really loved exploring the Viktuallenmarket with it's many stalls and vendors selling fruits, meats, liquors, seafood, plants, etc.  And the area had lot's of restaurants with tables in the sun to choose from for lunch.

We visited the crypt where the royal tombs are kept in St. Michael's Church, saw the Devil's footprint outside the front of the Frauenkirche, walked up the grand Maximilianstrasse to see the theater and opera and even stopped in the Odeonsplatz where the Nazi's first gathered and demonstrated before sitting and taking in the beauty of the Royal Gardens. And then we had cocktails at the famed Schumann's Bar, not beer but delicious classic cocktails.

But on our last day the lure of Oktoberfest was too strong and we headed back to the Theresienwiese. We wandered around the rides, had beers outside at the Lowenbrau house and finally entered the Augustiner Tent.

We made friends with Otto who let us share his table, a table he has had a standing reservation at for 13 years. He explained that his wife had passed away as had many of his friends but he continued to come and enjoy the music and the beer and remember the fun of his past. Other family members joined him as the night went on and he let us stay all evening with them. And this time we ate our roast chicken early. The rest of the evening we hoisted steins and sang and danced. Prost!
More photos of Munich and the area here

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Summer Camping

Oh summer I miss you and you've only been gone 1 week! As with every year, a weekend favorite of ours is to go camping. This year we broke in Dayne's new tent down at Moss Creek Campground which is basically across the river and up in the hills from Hood River, OR. This is a long drive for a Friday after work (6 hours with traffic!) but we had a reservation so we didn't worry about rolling in after dark. It did lead to the "I can't wait to see this in the light" situation that we've had so many times in so many places. This turned out to be a very pretty (and quiet as the weather had threatened to be horrible) campground.

Saturday was gorgeous so we jumped in the car and headed across the gorge and up to Mt. Hood. We'd never been and were interested in seeing the Timberline Lodge. Built in 1937 the lodge really evokes that rugged PNW feel. The mountain and the surroundings are stunning! Sunny summer day and snow on the ground? Cool!

As we enjoyed a bit of happy hour back at our campsite later we saw and heard an owl in the trees above us and then a deer walked thru the grounds by our site. Yeah! Wildlife spotting :)

Our plan was to visit Mt. St. Helens the next day on our drive home but the torrential rains finally arrived so we skipped the "two mountains, two states" plan.

On our second camping trip friends Matt & Jen came along and we picked the much closer Cle Elum River on a hot sunny weekend. Jen and I went out earlier in the day and landed a nice camp spot right on the water. The boys arrived in time for happy hour.
We spend most of Saturday on the "yachts" floating around the river, spying herons, ducks and huge osprey.

And of course no trip to Cle Elum is complete without a stop at The Brick in Roslyn, WA's oldest continuously operating saloon complete with running spittoon. Roslyn has a little farmer's market on Sunday that we hit on the way out of town also.

Back at our waterfront site we watched the sun set and fended off the mosquitoes, Matt especially put his foot - or should I say thumb- down on those little pests and then watched as the sky filled with stars!

Oh summer! Oh camping! Can't wait to do it again next year!

All camping photos here and here