A brief overview:
Newark, NJ to Frankfurt, Germany airport
4 nights - Valwig (Cochem)
2 nights - Schonach (Rothenburg ob der Tauber)
4 nights - Ramsau, Germany (Berchtesgaden area)
Munich, Germany airport to Newark, NJ
A link to some of our trip photos:
It started with a late afternoon flight from N.J. to Frankfurt on Lufthansa, which was on time and went very well. We actually had all the middle row seats to ourselves. Very nice. We booked the flights directly through the Lufthansa website and the rental car through www.gemut.com, which we picked up at the airport.
Day 1 - We landed at 6:30am (on a beautiful sunny day), went to the Avis counter, where we were handed the keys to a Seat Leon (it’s a car, a pretty nice car) and were on the road by 7:45am. After brief stops to walk around Bacharach and St. Goar, we headed for Braubach and Marksburg Castle, the only “hill” castle on the Rhein to never have been destroyed. After crossing the Rhein from St. Goar on a ferry (2 people with car, 4 Euro) and parking our car at Marksburg (1.50 Euro), we took the first tour we could, which happened to be in German. When the girl giving the tour overheard my wife say something to me in English, she filled us in as best she could along the way. Beautiful castle with a commanding view of the Rhein below. If your in the area, this is well worth a visit.
A note before we really get started...just so I don’t become redundant throughout the report, we can highly recommend all the places we stayed and places we had dinner. Not a bad one, nor mediocre one, the entire trip, with the exception of Mc Donalds. That’s right, we went to Mc Donalds one night after a long day. Don’t think I didn’t read the recent thread about this. Sometimes it’s just a convenient option. Not the best option, but convenient.
On to our first hotel, where we’d spend our first four nights. We crossed the Rhein by ferry once again, this time to Boppard and arrived in Valwig (5 min. across the Mosel from Cochem) at the Hotel Rebenhhof around 3 pm. A very nice place in a vineyard setting. We were greeted by Cecilia Diederich, who along with her husband, own and run the hotel. They are just putting the finishing touches on their wine stube and wine tasting room, so it wasn’t open yet. Looks like it’s going to be very nice. We were shown two rooms and decided on one on the first floor with a small balcony facing the steep slopes of a vineyard. Each morning they serve a very good breakfast buffet here. Overall, it was a very pleasant stay and would recommend it to anyone seeking a little peace and quiet with easy access to Cochem and all the Mosel towns. Later on, we had dinner at the Hotel Vonderback along the beautiful riverside promenade in Cochem.
(Driving time from Frankfurt airport to Cochem would have taken a little over 2 hours without stopping).
Day 2 - Burg Eltz and Cochem
Waking to an overcast day, we set out for Burg Eltz, following the driving directions in our Rick Steves’ book. (Yes, Rick Steves’ book...I read that thread also). We parked our car (1 Euro fee) and proceeded down along a paved footpath (also used for a shuttle van for those who choose not to walk) until there before us...the quintessential medieval castle in the picture perfect setting. Just what you’d expect a castle to look like. Stunning. Even more dramatic on a gloomy morning. I will warn you that the walk is about 20 to 30 minutes, most of it steeply downhill, which means the walk back is...uphill (we took the van back up - 1.50 Euro each). We went on the very interesting tour (I think it was at least, again in German) and just
marvelled at how well preserved this castle is. Mostly unchanged for about 700 years and furnished as it was for basically the last 500 years. Incredible. There is, of course, a gift shop plus an outdoor cafe in a courtyard of the castle. I highly recommend all who are in the area to make a visit here. Again, don’t miss this one, it’s simply amazing to see.
Spent the afternoon and evening walking around Cochem and along the riverside. Touristy but very charming old town, with Cochem castle perched above it. Take a walk along the bridge over the Mosel at night to really see the beauty of this scene. Now that’s a picture postcard if I ever saw one!
Day 3 - Trip to Trier and Bernkastel-Kues
Awoke to a partly sunny day and hit the highway towards Trier. First stop, the Roman gate...Porta Nigra. Very impressive, even with the main street and cars running alongside of it. A walk through the gate, into the pedestrian zone and to the people filled bustling main square. Here my wife sampled some wines (I actually don’t care for wine) and bought two bottles. Next up was the Cathedral. A massive, beautiful Roman Catholic Church. We spent about an hour here trying to soak it all in. Not easy to do. On to the Basilika, Costantine’s throne room and the largest single room structure from Roman times (that’s what I read at least). Unfortunately, we were a bit disappointed, as it was very plain and quite bare. Basically a huge, almost empty, brick building. Oh well, Trier is quite large and busy, not really a place for us to linger, so we’re off to Bernkastel-Kues. Upon crossing the bridge over the Mosel into Bernkastel, we instantly liked it. A bit like Cochem actually. Very nice pedestrian zone, cobbled lanes, old half timbered buildings, shops, etc. We had dinner at Pizzeria Italia, which is very nice, walked the streets and after a brief stop in Zell, back to the hotel. I should mention that at dinner I ordered a “coke” and received a glass of wine instead. Assuming it was just a miscommunication, I had wine with dinner. I have to admit, it wasn’t bad.
Day 4 - Beilstein and Cochem
It’s a very short (15 min.?) drive to the extremely charming small “town” of Beilstein from Cochem (Valwig). We walked the town and then took the easy walk up to the church overlooking Beilstein. A very beautiful view of the river and surrounding countryside from up here. Check off another place we would definitely come back to. We returned to Cochem for a walk around the old town and a Cappuccino at an outdoor cafe. After a brief stop back at our hotel to relax, it was back to Beilstein for an excellent dinner at Zum Treppchen - Das Kartoffelhaus.
Has anyone noticed all those little “motorized carts” on rails running through the vineyards. Wow, some of these “tracks” are nearly vertical!
Day 5 - Cochem to Schonach (Rothenburg ob der Tauber).
We left around 9:30am and took to the highway until Wurzburg, where we got onto the Romantic Road. Not to get off topic here but we’ve never seen so many “windmills” out in the countryside. They seem to be all over the place. Obviously they’re not as prevelent in places we’ve been, as we were amazed by how often we came accross them. Anyway, we arrived at the Gasthaus Zum Rappen, in Schonach, around 3 pm. What a find! Beautiful, new looking place in the countryside. After relaxing on our balcony overlooking farmland that stretched to the horizon, we were off to Rothenburg,15 minutes away. After wanting to see for ourselves what all the hype was about for the longest time, we weren’t disappointed. At least not by the cobblestone streets, old half timbered buildings, the walls, towers, etc. Storybook stuff. What was a disappointment was the scale of commercialism that is Rothenburg. Over the top and relentless, in my opinion. After dinner at the Ratsstuben, we awaited the start of the Nightwatchmans tour at 8pm. Cheesy, perhaps, but very entertaining, informative, well presented with a bit of humor and without a doubt the highlight of our visit to Rothenburg. Please, do yourself a favor and walk the town for an hour with Hans Georg Baumgartner, the Nightwatchman. The tour is 6 Euros per adult and he sells his dvd’s of the tour. We’re sorry we didn’t buy it while we were there. I will order it through his website though.
Day 6 - Herrgottskirche, Dinkelsbuhl and Rothenburg
Another nice day, so after a great buffet breakfast, we set out for something that was a “must see” for myself... Tilmann Riemanschneider’s wood carved “Alter of the Virgin Mary”, carved between 1505 and 1510, located in the Herrgottskirche, 1 km south of Creglingen and about 10 min. or so from the Zum Rappen. The church itself is very unassuming and understated outside, but walking in and seeing this Alter was absolutely breathtaking.
We then drove down to Dinkelsbuhl (which was further than I thought from Rothenburg). Dinkelsbuhl is another walled town, but with much less of the mass tourism of Rothenburg. We found Dinkelsbuhl to be a very quaint, old town. For a pleasant respite, walk along the path next to the stream running alongside of the wall that surrounds the town. Back to Rothenburg to see the Crime and Punishment Museum and St. Jacobs Church, which houses yet another masterpiece by Tilmann Riemenschneider. The Crime and Punishment Museum was very interesting. Lots of exhibits and information about medieval law and what happened when you broke them. St. Jacobs was another fabulous church which the highlight, for me at least, was another huge wood carved alter by Rimenschneider. This alter is actually up some stairs in the back of the church. Once again, don’t miss this. Dinner once again at the Ratsstube and then back to the Zum Rappen to prepare for the next days drive.
Next up... Ramsau, Berchtesgaden, Zell am See, Bad Reichenhall (wonderful!) and King Ludwig’s Neues Schloss Herrenchiemsee.
Day 7 - Shonach (Rothenburg) to Ramsau and Berchtesgaden
Another sunny day and the long drive to Ramsau (Berchtesgaden area). We left around 9:30am and were driving the ring road around Munich at noon. After another hour and we were off the highway and driving through beautiful Alpine scenery on our way to Ramsau. By 2 pm we were checking in o the pension Mayringerlehen (for 4 nights) where we spent 3 nights last October. We were warmly greeted by Johann (he and his wife Sabine own and run the place) and immediately we felt we were at home. This happens to be our favorite place anywhere. Besides the fabulous scenery, the gorgeous mountain views from our balcony, terrific buffet breakfasts, it’s central location to so many places, it is really the warmth and friendliness of Johann and Sabine Grassl that makes this place so special. After settling in and soaking in the views from our balcony, we headed off to Berchtesgaden for a walk around town and a ride over to Konigssee for our McDonalds take out. What’s really interesting about McDonalds is that wherever you go in this world, not only does it taste the same, you can count on your order being given to you wrong. At least they’re consistent in all respects.
Day 8 - King Ludwig’s Neues Schloss Herrenchiemsee
An overcast sky with an on and off light drizzle most of the day. An hours drive and we’re boarding the steamship from Prien/Stock to Herreninsel and King Ludwigs “Versailles” Palace. After a 15 min. cruise (3.50 Euro p.p.) you arrive at Herreninsel, buy your tickets (7 Euro adult) and either walk the level 20 min. paved road to the palace or take the carriage ride (3.50 Euro pp) each way. Just some info on this....walking is almost as quick as the carriage ride. After seeing Neuschwanstein and Linderhof recently, I have to say this palace is really impressive. So glad we finally got see this. I thought Linderhof was over the top, until I saw this. Incredible. There were no crowds and a total of 5 of us taking the English tour. One of the benefits to travelling off season I guess. Even with the lack of crowds, it took a total of three and a half hours from when we boarded the ship until our return to the dock in Prien/Stock. On our way back, we took a detour and spent a couple of hours in the charming old town of Traunstein. I know, I never heard of it either. It reminded me a little bit of Bad Tolz. Very broad pedestrian zone with an incredible church. Worth a stop if your in the area. Dinner was at the Gebirgshausl in Bischofwiesen/Engedy, just down the road from Ramsau.
Day 9 - Bad Reichenhall
Another nice day and I’ll tell you, if you are in the Berchtesgaden/Salzburg area, stop in Bad Reichenhall. Went here just because we saw the sign... and loved it! (It’s a 20 minute drive from Berchtesgaden) One of the nicest old towns we’ve been to. Beautiful pedestrian zone, especially how it looks at night. Although we didn’t see any “attractions” here, aside from the beautiful church in town, it is just a very pleasant place to spend a day and have Capuccinos at an outdoor cafe. Dinner that evening was at a restaurant called Don Camillo, right next to the church. Fantastic place, reasonable prices with great atmosphere. Probably our favorite on the entire trip.
Day 10 - Zell am See, Austria
A gorgeous day and the perfect place to spend it was Zell am See. Even though most of the town was closed (there were a few cafes and restaurants open) the real attraction is the location. Have I said stunning too much in this report? Well it was just that. A very nice old town and lakeside walks with this beautiful blue lake blending into green hills topped with snow capped Alps. Here, again, is a very worthwhile church to see in town, although I forget the name of it. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Ramsau to Zell am See. After returning to our room balcony to relax a bit, we once again drove to Bad Reichenhall and had our “last” dinner in Europe again at Don Camillo. We liked it that much the previous night.
Day 11 - going home
We left the Mayringerlehen and Ramsau around 10am and pretty much drove straight to Munich airport in just over 2 hours. Dropped the car, and waited for our 3:15pm uneventful flight home.
We saw many things... castles, old towns, beautiful scenery, etc., but what truly left an impression on us was the warmth and friendliness we recieved from the people we met along the way. Whether it was the owners of the pension we were staying at, the people at breakfast, a waitress or the person at the counter of a bakery, all of them were friendly and made us feel welcome. I think that’s what we’ll remember most of all.
Thanks to everyone for all the help in planning this trip and for taking the time to read this.
Mosel/Rothenburg/Bavaria Report with photos
A brief overview:
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