The Alps

Thursday: Off to the Alps

Thursday morning we packed up, bid farewell to Frau Lee and and headed off for our next stop, Reutte, Austria. It was a pretty long ride and rather than heading straight there we took a slight detour to Lindau on the shore of the Bodensee (Lake Constance) a large alpine lake at the junction of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The weather turned out better than we expected–partly cloudy and in the 60’s. We got our first view of as we headed down the autobahn towards Lindau and a better view from the shore of the lake in the old town, which is located on an island connected to the mainland by a causeway.

While there were some tourists (mostly retired Germans), I had the impression that it is probably packed on nice summer days. We originally planned to eat a light lunch at a cafe overlooking the waterfront, but the prices convinced us otherwise and we split a nice, and more reasonably-priced, wrap at a place a few blocks inland. Then off to Reutte. We stayed on the Deutsche Alpenstrasse (German Alpine Road) long enough to get some nice views, then headed back to the autobahn in time to get to Hotel Das Beck by seven.

Reutte is a small resort town, with not much happening in the evenings. Our hotel doesn’t have a restaurant, only a winebar/cafe. Herr Beck, our host, recommended a couple of nearby hotels for dinner, and we headed just around the corner to Hotel Goldener Hirsch. After dinner we had a glass of wine in the wine bar at our place. We sat for a while and chatted with Herr Beck and some of the locals at the bar.

Friday: Laundry and a Castle

Our streak of good weather had to end, and so it did. We woke up to rain, so we decided to do laundry. We were directed to another hotel about a mile away with a coin-operated laudromat. We had a bit of trouble with closed streets because it was a holiday (May Day, kind of like our Labor Day) and they were setting up for some sort of festival. When we got to the hotel with the laundromat, we found a lot of sheep and a few cows staked in a park across the street. The newly sheared sheep were happy about being tied out in the rain, so there was a lot of bah-ing going on.

In the hotel we paid an outrageous price (28 Euro for two loads!) and settled in to wait. Anne listened to her audio book while I finished my Rhine blog. Afterwards we wandered around the fair and watched the animal judging for a little while, but it was still raining so we didn’t last long.

We dropped off the laundry, then headed of to two of the most famous castle in Bavaria, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. We stopped in F├╝ssen on the way for a pizza. Then we drove the last few miles to the castles.

Remember all the “missing” tourists at all our German stops up ‘til now? It turns out they were all at these castles! We drove slowly to the parking area, dodging clusters of people wandering randomly through the street. Then to the ticket office, where I waited in a 40 minute line while Anne went geocaching. Unfortunately, the earliest tour available for Neuschwanstein, the castle we really wanted to see, wasn’t until 6:15 PM–almost four hours away. So we settled for Hohenschwangau at 4, plus a Neuschwanstein reservation for the next morning.

Hohenschwangau was built in the 1830’s by Ludwig’s father, Maximillian on the ruins of a medieval castle destroyed by Napolean. The castle is luxorious, with lots of romantic artwork. The nicest feature of both castles is that almost all the furniture and artwork is original. They went directly from being lived in to being tourist attractions without any intermediate step. The tour was about a half an hour and entertaining, but without much depth.

After the tour we headed to a nearby brewpub for dinner before heading back to Reutte. This dinner broke my streak of every dinner since we entered Germany including at least one form of cabbage. Even the Greek restaurant in Bacaharach had included slaw in the salad! No doubt there is still time to get another streak going.

Saturday: Another Castle and the Highline

Saturday dawned gray and drizzly again. Since there was no sense in heading up the Zugspitze, we didn’t feel bad about heading back to castle number two. Hohenschwangau is very nice, but it took Ludwig’s eccentric genius to come up with the over-the-top Neuschwanstein. It was only one-third complete when he died, and he only lived in it for 172 days before perishing in mysterious circumstances.

After grabbing lunch at the same brewpub where we had dinner last night, it was looking a bit brighter out, so we headed back to Reutte to the Ehrenberg Castle complex, which includes the ruins of three medieval castles, along with a museum (aimed mostly at kids) and the Highline, a suspension footbridge that runs high above the valley between two of the castles.

It was a steep hike up to the Highline. When we got there we found that the bride was basically a metal version of the rope bridges you see in Tarzan movies (or The Bridge at San Luis Rey for those who read it in high school). That is, it was a floor suspended from two thick steel cables. There were some anchor cables on either side to keep it from swinging too much, but it definitely moved around when we, or other people, walked on it. Anne wasn’t sure she liked it. We did make it across, even after it started to rain again when we were half way across. The good new was that we were treated to a rainbow when we made it to the other side.

After we crossed back we climbed a bit higher to explore one of the ruined castles, with parts built between the 13th and 18th centuries. It’s hard to imagine the work that must have been involved in building a castle on top of a mountain in the year 1250, but they managed it somehow. Much like along the Rhine, Reutte was on an important trade route dating back to Roman times, so evidently there was money to be made in taxing and controling that trade.

By the time we got back down we were pretty tired, so we got dinner and made an early night of it. Tommorrow we’re off to Italy!

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