“Hallo.” “Hello,” we replied as we handed over our passports. Without ever looking at them the customs agent opened them blindly somewhere in the middle, and stamped them followed by a quick, “Bye, Bye.” The stamp on mine was on top of others and pressed so lightly it was barely distinguishable. Leanne and I looked at each other in amazement as we cleared customs. I don’t think he even knew our nationality. We had now entered Germany after our flight to Frankfurt from Vancouver.
We had started the first part of our trip. The plan was to rent a car and drive portions of the famed Romantic Road followed by a visit to the tiny country Lichtenstein before ending in Zurich where we fly-out for our next adventure. We were offered two options for the rental car (same rate) a VW Passat or a BMW Wagon. We went with the BMW which had a front to back sun roof and built in GPS. It seemed fancy at the time until we were on the road and remembered that Germany has phenomenal domestics. The majority of vehicles (including the taxis) on the road were by Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche.
Our first night we stayed in a beautiful hotel just outside the centre of Frankfurt. We wandered along the river and into the city the first evening and again the following morning after having been up since 2AM with insomnia from our jet lag. This is unfortunately common for us when we go through with a 9-hour time change. We left midday and drove to Würzburg, the official start of the Romantic Road. We wandered through the city and had lunch there before making our way towards Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
I must admit, I love driving in Europe. Germany in particular has exceptional modern highways, the autobahns, with sections without speed limits. It is something else to be driving somewhere well beyond 150kph and to see a vehicle approaching in the review mirror only to fly by seconds later at some incredible speed. I also love having GPS. It is perfect for exploring and we took a few Ausfahrts off the main road to wander into villages while never worrying about getting lost. One of the great discoveries was Weikersheim. It was a tiny medieval city with a small river beside it.
We eventually arrived at Rothenburg and drove the tiny cobbled roads into the heart of the old town to our hotel. They quickly unloaded us and drove the car to their garage. We wandered the old city walls, admired the castle gardens and had a great dinner that evening. The following morning we explored some more and went to the criminology museum with all of its ancient history of torture devices once a part of the towns past. This is a popular tourist destination for good reason and well worth the effort to visit it.
Our next stop was Dinkelsbühl. We parked outside the city walls and wandered through the old part of town. Rain came in and we ducked into a restaurant for lunch. We sat amongst locals and had yummy, filling dishes with fresh chanterelle mushrooms. We left and drove to Nördlingen on the recommendation of a local. While it had been sporadic since mid day, the rain returned as we arrived. We drove through what we could and then hit the road to head directly to Füssen, the village beside Germany’s most famous castle, Neuschwanstein. We had an early night and an early morning. It was a beautiful day and we made it to the castles ahead of the crowds. We went up to the common viewpoint on Mary’s Bridge, but carried on and hiked for a half-hour up and above it for some spectacular views. The trails were easy to follow, but we were completely alone on them. The hike was rewarding and it was a real highlight for us.
We left Füssen and drove through the Alps to the mountain resort town Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We wandered the streets and ate at an outdoor café before carrying on to Innsbruck. The drive through the mountain passes provided the scenery and winding roads that I was hoping for. We explored Innsbruck that evening and had al fresco dinning in the old town. The next day we drove to nearby the nearby Swarovski Crystal Worlds simply so I could take a photo of the manmade fountain outside. We left there and went straight to Lichtenstein. We drove through over 30km of tunnels on the way. The transit infrastructure here is very impressive. Crossing the border into Lichtenstein was uneventful. The border guard looked at the German license plate of our rental, glanced at us and waved us through. We had lunch in town and carried on to Zurich.
This was our second visit to Zurich and as we drove through town we reminisced about our time here six years ago during the Street Parade. We went to the incredibly impressive Dolder Grand Hotel to check-in. As we arrived they let us know that the hotel was very full and our booked room was unavailable, so they moved us up more than three classes to a grand suite on the top floor with views over the golf course, the lake and the city. We enjoyed the hotel so much we didn’t return to the city. It had one of the best spa areas we’ve ever used. We loved the pool and the hot-tub. I will post some photos of it that I took with our waterproof camera. They will be located here with the others.
We left the next morning to the airport where we dropped off the rental car with almost 1000 new kilometres on it.