Upon leaving Munich we picked up a rental car to get around the rest of Bavaria and the Black Forest, which has been wonderful. We had reserved a car in the rental class that included Volkswagen golfs, and Justin was pretty excited about the idea of driving a good German car on the autobahn. Turns out the rental company didn’t have any golfs left, or any other VWs for that matter. Instead, we got a Korean Hyundai. Ha. Justin, somewhat pleadingly, asked the lady at the desk if there was any way of getting a VW, and she said ‘no, their lot was rather empty’ (which was true). Justin laughingly said, “do you know where we are, this is Germany!”
Poor guy. He was definitely a little disappointed at first, but it turns out our car has some good guts to it and it’s a diesel, which is great. It took a little while but he warmed up to the Hyundai in the end. It’s been quite nice to have a car to get around in, especially between these smaller towns which have limited transportation options.
After Munich we based ourselves in Reutte, Austria for a couple days. From there we explored the Neuschwanstein castle region and it’s accompanying town, Füssen, which was quite adorable. We stopped for dinner there and met two lovely German ladies who were sitting next to us. They said their English wasn’t very good but in fact they did just fine, and we had a good chat about the area, about Canada, and traveling in general. I really do wish we spoke some German though. It didn’t really matter when we were in Munich because most everybody spoke some level of English, but it has been a little bit more difficult in the smaller towns, albeit not impossible. For example, we were puzzling over a menu last night, with some success. We surmised that schwein equals pork, like our English word swine. So I was able to figure out that I wanted pork tenderloin medallions with spätzle (which is like a form of pasta). I couldn’t quite figure out what the fettuccine pasta dish was that I saw on a couple tables around me as nothing in the menu resembled pasta or anything like it. Turns out the restaurant did indeed have an English menu, so after some comparison we realized that the word ‘nudeln’ meant noodles. Too funny!
I’m getting ahead of myself though. Here are some pictures of Füssen
Another highlight of this region was the Biberwier summer luge track (“sommerrodelbahn”) in the mountains that we barreled down. At 4,250 feet it’s Austria’s longest luge and a lot of fun. The carts had good braking systems and I went down pretty slow the first time, but the second time just went for it and it was a lot of fun. Side note: keep your mouth shut or you might get some bugs in your teeth! I don’t have any pictures of the way down because we didn’t feel like having the camera along, but I took a video of Justin on his last run and grabbed this frame from it.
We didn’t really have a chance to explore Reutte itself, as the afternoon we had free was dominated by a thunderstorm and heavy rain (which in it’s own way was pretty cool!). The thunder sounded like it was rolling down the mountains like a giant bowling alley. However, we did have a chance to hike up the Ehrenberg Castle ruins which overlook the city. Our pension (another word for a small family run hotel here in Austria/Germany) sits right underneath it and our balcony had a great view of the ruins.
The hike was not long from where we were, and we made it up in under an hour (with me lagging a little because I seem to have come down with a bit of a cold). The view from up top was spectacular, even if the wind was a little cold. The castle itself has a long history, from Roman to medieval times and Swedish invasions to modern day squatters being the reason for the roof being removed, causing the decay of time to quicken on the wall. There’s not much left but crumbling walls and room for the imagination to expand on what once was.
I have to also mention a little place called Hotel Maximillian where we had dinner two of our three nights in Reutte. It came recommended and it sure met and exceeded our expectations (hence the double visit). Best schnitzel I’ve ever had, and Justin had some great pasta both nights. The pork in a mushroom cream sauce and spatzle was delightful if a little rich. To be honest we were both a little surprised to find such thoughtfully prepared and seasoned meals in such a little out-of-the-way town! Funny side note: The whole Austrian/German region is in love with white asparagus, and as it is in season right now, it is offered on every menu, sometimes in many different forms. We do laugh a little bit now when we see a whole page of “spargel” dishes listed in a menu.
That said, good food seems to be the norm as our current town of Staufen in the Black Forest has also offered up some tasty dinners! Yesterday, Justin did something unheard of in his world and he actually doused his spatzle in the gravy from his pork dish because it was so good. Normally he is not to big on the gravy thing but he said if all gravy tasted this good he wouldn’t be able to stop himself.
As for Staufen (Shtow-fen, rhymes with now then), it is a quaint and charming little town in the heart of wine country. Surrounded by hillsides covered in vineyards, it’s watched over by a big solitary hill with it’s own little castle ruins. We spent the last day and a half exploring, walking quiet streets, wine tasting, and just sitting in the town square and enjoying the small town life. It has been an idyllic pause in a busy month.
The town center itself, with it’s pedestrian zone, has two channels of crisp mountain water running down the main street, one on each side. Apparently they were originally there for fire protection but are now just enjoyed for their own sake, which can be verified by all the children who would insist on walking in it. The water is a big hit with local dogs too, who, when on walks with their owners, would always drop in to cool their paws and drink a little water.
Along with good food, Staufen has some amazing chocolatiers and patisseries. We went to the recommended Cafe Decker that sits right next to the little river running beside the town center for an afternoon coffee and dessert, and it was out of this world. I had a meringue and raspberry concoction that was topped with lime zested, whipped mascarpone cheese and a hidden layer of chocolate. Probably one of the most perfect little things I have ever tasted. Justin had some kind of cake version of a boston cream doughnut, which he quite liked.
I do have to mention our B&B here in Staufen. With a cozy room and a relaxed atmosphere, it’s a ten minute walk out of town on a little farm where they have about a dozen horses and one beautiful and playful Bernese Mountain dog. Justin was throwing his rather tattered soccer ball for him this morning and it seems we have a new friend now.
Lastly, I keep leaving these pictures because they haven’t really fit into a post, but I really have to show these pictures of us trying on lederhosen. Back in Munich we went to a market that had a whole downstairs dedicated to Milka (like Cadbury, but better chocolate), and you could buy authentic lederhosen outfits. The price tag meant there was no way we would consider buying them but it was worth trying on! I just wish we could have taken these photos in some alpine meadow… 🙂
I think the hat looked really good on Justin. It’s too bad a) we have no room to bring something like that back, and b) he wouldn’t have many places to wear it because it’s hard to find a hat that looks good on him! Oh well. We had a lot of giggles while doing this so it was worth the memory at least. As for Justin’s funny pose, he’s mimicking what the dancers on stage at the Hofbrahaus were doing. The boy would slap his knees and feet while the girl spun around and around him. Very funny.
With that, we are off to the French side of the Black Forest border to visit Strasbourg. Thanks for reading!