August 16, 2017

Deutschland - sechs Tag

I woke up on day six anxious to get to the viktulienmarkt. The kids wanted to visit Sea Life and Munich's only cat cafe. We decided to separate and meet up later in the day. I arrived downtown and immediately perceived a noticeable lack of people for 11am. I walked past the Marienplatz and arrived at the open market to find not one thing open. I walked across the street to a Starbucks, ordered an iced peach green tea (yum!) and inquired about the lack of activity. I was informed that it was a holiday, Assumption, only observed in Bavaria. Just my luck. I decided to enact plan b - tour churches and other landmarks
After about a two mile walk around the immediate downtown area and three scoops of the gelato (hazelnut, tiramisu and peach), I bought a subway to ticket for the English Garden, Germany's Central Park. There were a lot of sunbathers and picnickers, presumably locals. I read that there was a Japanese tea garden and headed that way when Sassy texted to say they were at the cafe. It was only a 15 minute walk away so I decided to meet them there. We only saw two of the six resident cats - one lounging on a table, another on one of the many towers. The cafe was vegan - I ordered bruschetta, Sassy a salad and Chunky had tofu eggs with bread and a smoothie.
We decided to go to the Deutsches Museum (science and technology). It was only open for another hour so it was free. Chunky enjoyed the exhibits while Sassy and I cruised through and waited outside. Next we grabbed a quick bite to eat and rolls for the next morning. Chunky and I decided to head back to the house as we were tired while Sassy explored the Englischer Garden, including a locals surfing spot.
Day 8 is our last day in Germany - we plan to get up early to visit Dachau Concentration Camp and then to Rothenburg before returning to Frankfurt.

August 15, 2017

Deutschland - fünf Tag

Day five can best be summarized in three parts. Part one was spent in the natural beauty of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. After a local bistro breakfast we headed to the Eckbauerbahn, 2 person gondolas built for the 1936 Winter Olympics, up one of the main ski mountains. There are several hiking trails to take back down and we chose one that included Partnach Gorge (about 4 hours start to finish). This was one of the most scenic experiences I've ever had, with many waterfalls and rapids, and a favorite of this trip. We all decided that we would definitely like to come back to G-P and then head south to Austria and Italy for more passport stamps and mountain views.

Chunky had hopes of swimming, but the Eibsee was packed and it would have delayed our arrival to Munich significantly. Part two was driving, a little over two hours, and arriving at our AirBnB. It wasn't a spectacularly pretty drive, but it was interesting as the nav system had us take an odd combination of back roads and the autobahn to a metropolitan area. Our AirBnB home was just inside Munich's city limits in the southeast. We were greeted warmly by the mother of the two daughters who rent their rooms out of their family home. Cecelia could not have been any nicer and the room was actually an apartment with seating area, kitchenette, 5 beds and a huge bathroom. Perfekt!

Part three was Munich's inner city. There was a U-Bahn (subway) station just a short walk from the AirBnB with city center stations only 15 minutes away. We took the U downtown and headed for the famed viktulienmarkt. I was really looking forward to grabbing street food and buying some trinkets, but it was almost 7pm and the kids wanted to sit down to eat. We decided to go to Hofbrauhaus so Sassy could be with her people. I had bought Sassy an authentic Bavarian dirndl as an early Christmas gift in Freiburg. Cecelia lent me one of her own drindls (for photos only, I didn't dare go out in it for fear of spilling food or splitting it open) and lent Sassy a blouse for underneath as we decided to buy at a later date and make due with a tee shirt. Cecelia was excited for us to experience the culture. Hofbrauhaus did not disappoint! It was bursting at the seams with people and we thought we were out of luck when I spotted a table of five older gentlemen, most dressed in lederhosen. Sassy asked in German if the three of us could sit at one end and they welcomed us in. Little did we know what an honor this was. Only one spoke a little English. Sassy did a great job of interpreting. All had beautiful steins - some engraved, others with enamel tops.They made fun of me when I ordered Radler, half beer half lemonade (shandy in the states but this is SO much better), and when I acted hurt they all toasted me anyway. They even bought us shots before they left. I received kisses from almost every one ❤️ We were surprised when they returned, cleaning their mugs and holding small locks. Then we noticed behind them were stein "safes". Evidently these are coveted spots for regulars and these gentlemen have a standing date at their reserved table on Monday and Friday evenings. I was so touched by their generosity that I prepaid the first round for their next meeting. Hope they are pleasantly surprised :)

Tomorrow is another day in Munich. Wir lieben Deutschland ❤️🇩🇪

August 13, 2017

Deutschland - vier Tag

We began day four with another breakfast in our hotel (most included in stay). The kids wanted to take a detour to nearby Friedrichshafen on the shore of the Bodensee and home to the Zeppelin Museum. After a short walkabout we headed for the famed Neuschwanstein Castle, 2 hours further west. Another beautiful drive - the kids love the views from the car as much as the stops.

On the way we saw the opportunity to take a gondola ride up a peak near the ski village of Pfronten. I'm afraid of heights so this was big for me and I loved it. Breathtaking views, fresh air and sunshine. 

I had read enough about the castle tours to know it was a hurry up and wait game. We arrived, dropped Sassy off at the ticket booth, parked about 1/4 mile away on the side of the road (free parking!) and met Sassy back at the booth to find her still in line. We ate brats at a sidewalk cart and headed for the castle. I wanted to take a cramped, stinky bus for €2 but no ... they wanted to walk. I almost died! It was a straight incline and I did not have proper footwear nor hat and I have bad knees. Did I mention the brochure estimated it was a 40 minute walk? I should have a body like Heidi Klum tomorrow - TBD. After a cramped, stinky bus ride down (yasss!) we headed to the Museum of Kings - we skipped Hohenschwangau castle but took pics from below - Sassy and I toured while Chunky dipped his feet into the Alpsee.

We drove another hour to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, home of the 1936 Winter Olympic Games and Germany's highest peak, Zugspitze. It is stunning! The view from our balcony -

We had dinner at the resort owners' favorite restaurant, Mukkefuck Bistro. Chunky and I both had the house made cheese spaetzl with leeks (plus enormous side salad) and Sassy had schnitzel with a type of potato salad. Chunky and I thought it the best meal of the trip so far (my prosecco with rhubarb was also delicious). Sassy's favorite meal was in Weingarten the night before. G-P was intended as a temporary picturesque stop, but the kids want to hike the local gorge tomorrow before heading to Munich. The fun continues!

August 12, 2017

Deutschland - drei Tag

Day three was definitely the most laid back so far. We ate breakfast at the hotel in Karlsruhe then headed fo Freiburg. The origins of Freiburg date back to the 12th century. It has both French and Swiss influences due to this being the intersection of all three countries (they even share a local airport). I'm awestruck every time I think about the history of these places. We visited the cathedral and Munsterplatz with the largest outdoor market I've ever seen. Cobblestone streets and quaint buildings everywhere. I knew there would be cobblestone, but didn't realize it would be basically the only thing we walked on. We ate at a nice cafe in the platz - Sassy loved what she ordered until she found out it was liver ;) and got the sense that Freiburg is more of a German tourist destination vs. foreign - lots of folks walking their dogs and children who were "sailing" boats in the bächle.



Next we drove two and a half hours east through the mountains of the Black Forest. Pictures don't do this justice. We weren't even on the autobahn, only two lane roads through the countryside. We saw fields of sunflowers, corn, hay, etc. and little towns that seemed to pop up in clearings out of nowhere. It was an amazing experience.

We arrived in Weingarten about 6:30pm. This is a small suburb of Ravensburg. We walked through the most beautiful cemetery, to the Basilika, the largest Baroque church north of the Alps and approximately half as long as St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and then to a little cafe where we had yet another delicious meal.

Tomorrow is Neuschwanstein Castle and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

August 11, 2017

Deutschland - zwei Tag

Day two started out great with breakfast at our Frankfurt hotel. There were breads, jams, honey, Nutella, pastries, meats, hard boiled eggs, cheeses, vegetables, cereals, juices, yogurt, muesli, coffee (espresso machine!) and even champagne. I could get used to this :) After breakfast we headed south for Heidelberg. It was not a long drive, but it was my first driving experience outside the general airport area so definitely interesting. The roads, including autobahn lanes are VERY narrow. There is a lot of crisscrossing - you'll be on the right side of the road then cross incoming traffic to get on another street to be on the left, then switch shortly thereafter to be on the right again ... very confusing. And there is a yellow light before it turns green in addition to before it turns red.

It wasn't on the "suggested" schedule, but the kids really wanted to go to the Heidelberg zoo. I was reluctant at first, then thought "why not?" and I'm glad I did. It was larger than I expected for being in the city and was very well laid out. Rain again today so not busy at all We saw a few animals we hadn't even heard of before let alone seen - a fossa, southern ground hornbills and many other birds.

After the zoo we set out to find the castle and cable car. I found a reference to Königstuhl in the German travel app I've been using and we lucked out . This is a hill in the mountain region and though it was cloudy and rainy, the views on the way up and seriously twisty drive were well worth the trip even though we couldn't see anything once at the top. From there we sought out the castle and were rewarded with an  entrance to the cliff railway, called a funicular, which connects the top (where we'd just been), the castle (schloss), and the old town at the bottom, Kornmarkt.

We took the rail down to Kornmarkt for something to eat first. We walked cobblestone streets lined with beautiful buildings and delightful gift tents. We ate a hearty lunch of jumbo whea"t pretzel, sausages, sauerkraut, fries and beer at a quaint restaurant that caught our eye. Next we walked to the Neckar river to view the famous bridge and its monkey. Chunky is now addicted to espresso so we stopped at a cafe before making our way back to the rail. The castle was our next stop and the guided tour (in English) was well worth €10.

It was about 4pm when we headed further south to Karlsruhe for the night. It was a bit of a white knuckle drive due to pouring rain, the aforementioned narrow lanes and LOTS of traffic, but I'm rather proud of myself for getting us there without any honking or lights flashing. The kids both napped in the car, but we were all pretty tired upon arrival, but hungry so decided to take the tram from just across the street from our B&B to downtown. There are A LOT of railways / train stations and I am so impressed with their cleanliness and efficiency. I took a wrong turn once downtown so we walked quite awhile before righting ourselves to a restaurant I'd seen on wiki travel - Cafe Emaille. It did not disappoint and was close to the train stop for a quick ride back to the hotel.

Next stops are Freiburg and Weingarten.

August 10, 2017

Deutschland - eins Tag

Earlier this year I got a bee in my bonnet to do a family vacation, just Sassy, Chunky and I, which we haven't done in 6 years so long overdue. I asked each cherub to name three places in the U.S. they'd like to visit - I got six distinctly different places. Then I asked each to pick one from the other's list. I wasn't super stoked about either of their choices - Colorado and Alaska - so I was back to square one thinking of someplace we'd all want to visit. The answer was easy - Germany. We have German heritage on my father's side and paternal side of my kids' father, plus Sassy speaks German (high school and college). I knew it wouldn't be cheap, but it's a big, great world out there and I was really hoping for a special cultural family experience. I started with plane tickets and planned the rest over four months ... 8 nights, 8 cities and one rental car.

We left for Frankfurt via short layover in D.C. I upgraded our seats to be in our own row with bulkhead seating behind midsection bathrooms. We planned to go to sleep right after dinner was served to arrive ready to hit the ground. Unfortunately, none of us got more than a couple hours of sleep - airplane noise and seated position are not ideal conditions.

We arrived about 7:30am local time, tired but anxious to begin exploring. We knew the forecast called for rain, but were undeterred. We decided to head for the hotel to see if we could check in early. I had a funny feeling when we got stuck at the airport exit after picking up the rental car. We had to call for help and it took several minutes to straighten out - a technical glitch, not user error, but foreshadowed the next two and a half hours. The rental car was manual transmission (stick) and there was no display anywhere on the dash or nav of what gear I was in. I just kept watching the RPM gauge and feeling the gears shift. We got on an autobahn road according to iPhone directions to the hotel and were arguing about whether we missed a turn when all of a sudden there was a strong odor and the car would not shift at all - we were coasting on a 60+ km/hr road with a huge truck flashing its lights close behind us! In the pouring rain! After several attempts to move (car started but would not engage a gear), a service call, polizei call (two cute policemen!), waiting on the side of a busy road for over an hour in the rain, tow, and new rental car (automatic) we were on our way. I have no idea if I'll be charged for the tow and service - though a little rusty, I learned to drive and have had several cars with a stick shift, plus had made it onto the autobahn without issue so though a new car there was obviously something wrong.

Third time was the charm for finding the hotel which is in an area close to the airport so new it doesn't register on GPS yet. Thankfully we could check in early (before 11:30am) and the clerk took pity on us after hearing of our ordeal so gave us free shuttle tokens so we could leave the car for sightseeing. We took the hotel shuttle back to the airport to catch a regional train to city center (€10 for all day multi person pass). It was only a short walk from the train station to historic old town. There we visited Römerberg (former city hall plaza) as well as St. Nicholas (medieval Lutheran) and St. Bartholomew (gothic Catholic) churches. This area was largely destroyed by Allied bombing on March 22, 1944 - photographs and preserved building fragments / reliefs are displayed throughout. St. Bartholomew's is also called Kaiserdom as it was used for crowning many kings. Chunky and I both lit candles, I sat in a pew and said a prayer, and we casually walked the stations of the cross to marvel at the architecture.

We ate late lunch/dinner at a traditional restaurant in the plaza - onion soup, cheese plate, bread and beverages. The decor was kitschy medieval. The most fun was overhearing and talking to other travelers - conversations at every table are fair game for commentary from fellow patrons. One  gentleman was Canadian on holiday from his job in Japan en route to Austria and Croatia, while another couple were on holiday from Italy.

Jet lagged we returned to the hotel where my cherubs have been asleep for nearly 7 hrs already and it's 12:30am. The plan for tomorrow is early breakfast at the hotel then south to Heidelberg and Karlsruhe. Hoping my prayers earlier today are answered for the rest of the trip.