A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: MikeandKaren

Tuesday, September 25

Wurzburg & Frankfurt Airport

The morning started cloudy but by 9:30am there was sun shining through. We had parked ourselves last night on the street next to the hotel so after breakfast we loaded the trunk, checked out, and headed out for our last walk in Rothenberg.

We went down towards Plonlein from the Marktplatz. Picked up some last few gifts on the way down, enough so Mike had to go back to the car to unload them. Then we continued our walk to the wall, climbed up and continued where we left off yesterday. The views from the wall are beautiful. We continued for almost an hour and eventually the wall ends because at one side of the town the terrain drops off sharply, which made it difficult to impossible for enemies to attack, and thus no need for a wall.

At about 11:15am we headed back to the car and left for Wurzburg. The weather now was sunny with few clouds.

In 45 minutes we were in this immense parking lot, called Residenzplatz, right in front of the Residenz, the palace of the princes of Wurzburg, early 18C.

The palace is hugh, the entry, an immense staircase inside leads to the second floor and the ceiling covered with the largest of Tiepolo's works. We spent an hour walking through the palace, then went outside to see the formal gardens, and finally headed into the town center, loaded with churches, and a bridge over the river with statues every 20 feet or so. It reminded us of the Charles Bridge in Prague.

We took a break at 1:30pm for lunch on a square overlooking the Town Hall and a church on the square, full of people taking their breaks too, or just having the coffees and cakes and gelati. For Karen a pizza, again. For Mike, a linguini with Calamari and shrimp. We shared this huge salad and each of us had a Coke, with ice again (we asked).

We got worried for a short while as dark clouds started to build but they were moving quick and the waiter noted that it was normal for them to do this, and not rain at all. And it didn't.

So we sat, and ate, and relaxed. An older couple sat down next to us with this really huge dog with paws the size of a lions, or very close. It got everyone's attention. After we ate and started to leave I asked them what he was called and the wife responded it was a Leonebello, which is 'beautiful Lion' in Italian. Apparently too that was the species they referred to it as and not necessarily his name.

So we walked some more, looked at two more churches, and then headed for the car as it was now almost 3:30pm and the car was due back by 5:00pm.

Exiting the city was easy, and while the Garmin helps, all we really needed was to see signs for the A3, which goes to Frankfurt, and like all roads near an airport we knew would have signs as we got closer.

The rain started 30 minutes later, a downpour, slowing the drive down to just 80KPH from 130KPH. By the way, at times we're going 130, a Polizei passes us, and right on his tail are a line of cars trying to get him to go faster!. There were times when even while going 130 had cars passing us at the speed of light.

About 30 minutes later though the rain stopped, the clouds broke up, and the sun came out. We made a diesel stop to top off with 19 Km left at just under 1.49 Euros a liter, just under $8 a gallon. But our miles per liter is great.

We got into the airport and returned the car at 4:30pm and by 5:45pm were at the hotel.

So, that's it. It went too fast, at least in terms of feeling that it did. But in all honesty, when we think of our first visit back on the 14th, at Burg Eltz castle, it seems so long ago, and it helps to remember all we did and when by rereading the blog. But that's also how we know it was good, and we're happy about having done a Germany trip and all we saw. We will definitely return to this beautiful country.

We'll see you all soon.

A final Guten Nacht,

Mike & Karen

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Going up to walk the walls of Rothenberg

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Wurzburg - Residenz

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Wurzburg - Residenz

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Lunch

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Tower

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Leonebello Dog

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Marien Chapel

Posted by MikeandKaren 11:21 Comments (0)

Monday, September 24

Nuremberg

First, before I forget, there were no meal pictures for last night because I had taken out the SD card to backup the pictures we took to the iPad and when we went to dinner, forgot to put it back in. So the pictures of us and our meals are in the camera's memory and I did not take the cable, nor the iPad adapter, with us that allows me to transfer out of memory to the PC. So they'll have to wait until we get back. We had an excellent dinner at our hotel restaurant, Karen had Weiner Schnitzel and Mike had Duck liver as an appetizer and Duck Breast for his entree.

This morning was again cloudy, but not cold, and after breakfast we left expecting it to be like the other days with the clouds breaking up by the time we get to Nuremberg, 104Km, about an hour away. As it turned out it stayed mostly cloudy past 1:30pm, but then the clouds broke up and the sun came out. We did have some sprinkles around 1pm but we decided to have lunch then so it wasn't an issue.

Nuremberg is a very large city, about 500,000 people. But getting in and finding parking was easy. Once again we were happily amazed at the ease we've had parking. The drive was about an hour, and entry to the city was around a ring road that led us right to the Banhof, the large train station at the center of the city. Just as we pass the Banhof is the Parkplatz, a 6 story modern structure with parking areas on two sides that end up totalling 11 'floors'. It has room for over 1200 cars. We had to drive up to the 11th floor, but within 5 minutes we were parked and out.

An underground passage gets you across the street, which is 4 lanes wide filled with people and shops, and then you're on Konignstrasse, a pedestrian street that wends its way up hill, really up hill at the end, and is the center of tourism.

It starts with a very large tourist bureau followed by stores of everykind, then a large square filled with vendors selling the usual market day supplies, foot, shoes, anything you might need, as well as food to just eat there. Nuremberg was heavily bombed during WWII so many of the buildings were rebuilt after the war but in their original style.

Along the sides of the streets (the street is actually very wide) and the Platzs are churches, restaurants, museums, city buildings, the town hall, a river crosses under it, hospital, fountains, all the way up to the castle. We browsed the market stalls that lined the Hauptmarkt, a lively large square full of fruit, flower, souvenir and food vendors. This is where the annual Christmas market is held (the largest in Germany).

The final 250 meters or so to the castle are steep and you'll be happy you have good legs.

We stopped for lunch as it started to sprinkle about 1pm. This was at a small outside cafe, but on a terrace, with umbrellas at least 15 feet square that kept the rain off of you.

The basic fare was sausages. You could buy 6,9,12 or more for big parties and side dishes. An order came with one side dish and extras were about a Euro. So we got an order of 6 to share, plus potato salad as the side, plus a great horseradish side for the sausages. Very, very good and radishy. They also gave you a basket of rolls, bread, and pretzels, of which we had two pretzels, and they charge you by what you take out. Coke for Karen, Beer for Mike. And, surprise, for the first time, our waiter, who spoke good English, asked if Karen wanted a glass of ice cubes for the soda! All of this, with tip, was 17 Euros, about $22. By the time we were done the rain showers had stopped and the sun came out.

We then dragged ourselves up the remainder of the Konigstrasse to the castle. We wandered around it but decided not to take the mandatory hour long tour (in German) to see the inside of the palace, so we settled for the outside only.

After that we went down a bit to visit the Albrecht Durer house. He is Germany's equivalent to Italy's Michangelo. Entry came with a portable PDA type guided tour with headphones, and was recorded as though his wife was giving the tour and telling you about their lives back in the 13C and 14C.

By now it was 3:30pm and our feet were complaining, so we wended our way back down into the Hauptmarkt (Markt Square) for last minute shopping possibilities, to some sunlit pictures, and headed for the car. We were too beat to go the Nazi Documentation Center and Rally grounds so we left at 4pm and headed home. We really needed 2 days here to take in all the sites.

Along the way we ran into some rainy areas, but when we got to Rothenberg the sun was blazing. However, as I write this, 6:30pm, the sky is cloudy again and rained lightly. But as we head out for dinner the blue sky is back. So, we'll see, and take umbrellas just in case.

We had Italian for dinner tonight, a shared appetizer of bruschetta with garlic and tomatoes, 2 mixed salads and spaghetti bolognese for Karen and spaghetti frutti de mare for Mike.

We can't believe the end is almost here, just one for day. We plan to spend the morning in Rothenburg to finish our walk around the town walls and enjoy one last view of this picture perfect town. Then, depending on time we may stop off for a few hours in Wurzburg before heading to Frankfurt airport.

Guten Nacht

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Entry gate to Konigstrasse

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St. Lawrence Church

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St. Lawrence Door

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Inside view of St. Lawrence

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Holy Ghost Hospital

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Brigde

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Markt Square - St. Lawrence in Rear

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Jon - Here's those sausages you asked about

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Detail of gold 'Beautiful Fountain'

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Frauenkirche Clock

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Lunch

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Lunch - Sausages, Potato Salad, Horse Radish, Coke & Beer

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Castle

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Castle View

Posted by MikeandKaren 12:33 Comments (1)

Sunday, September 23

Bamberg

The morning started with high clouds but by afternoon we had sun peaking through periodically. It was mid to upper 60's, perfect for sightseeing :)

At breakfast we met a very nice couple from Chicago who were on a one month driving trip from Paris to the Netherlands and Brugges, through Germany and into Switzerland, Italy and the south of France. Their kids had just left the nest and they'd been looking to do this trip for a while. We talked about places to see and then about 10am left for our separate journeys. They were fun to talk to and we hit if off. It seems like we meet the nicest people from Chicago :)!

On the road just 10 minutes and we decided to fill the tank. Coincidentally so did they as we met them in our cars at the station.

Bamberg is about 100 Km away. We had the usual disagreements with Ms. Garmin, like she doesn't always go for the highway but takes the shortcuts through smaller roads, and once again even tried to have us go through a blocked street. In all fairness she probably didn't know the town, or whoever, decided to do street repairs this week. But it didn't really affect the trip time and we arrived in Bamberg at 11:30am, found a large underground parking lot with large parking spaces, and headed into the town.

Bamberg is a gem. The population of this city is 70,000 but the old town is compact and easy to walk. This town was spared the wartime bomb raids and has 2300 well preserved buildings in styles ranging from Romanesque to Baroque. The main site is the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. George, started in 1211 and last worked on in 1457. It sits up high in the old town and the only higher edifice is St. Michael Abbey. But vying for attraction of the city is also the Altes Rathaus (the old town hall) and the bridges that cross the Regnitz river and the Main-Rhein-Danube canals.

The Rathaus sits on an islet built in the river. It is immense and has three distinct parts: a conventional 18C section, an elaborate baroque tower section, and what looks like a timber-framed house hanging out one side over the river. The 18C section is painted outside with frescoes on both sides of the building and is an eyeful to see.

We walked along the river looking at the beautiful half timbered houses that line "Little Venice". They even have gondolas that will take you up the canals.

We spent 4 hours walking this beautiful city, stopping at a restaurant just outisde of St. Michael Abbey for drinks and our "dessert". This was a nice spot for a break as it was in the convent gardens high above the city with spectacular views of the old town.

At 4pm we headed back to Rothenberg. This time we took a faster route, but even with that, being Sunday, everyone seemed to be out driving but we got back before 6pm and made reservations for 6:30pm in the hotel's dining room.

We decided to eat in at the hotel, first because we were too tired to go out, but also we had heard this morning how good the hotel menu was.

It was better than advertised. Karen had a Weiner Schnitzel with Pan fried potatoes and salad, and wine. Mike started with a duck liver appetizer, cooked in a balsamic base sauce on a small salad, then a duck breast plate with vegetables and potato croquettes, and wine too. There was no room left for dessert, though we could consider that we had it this afternoon.

To work off all that food we went out for an evening stroll. The town is dark, though there are some street lights and many stores leave their lights on, plus major sights are lit too. We walked from 8pm to 9:15pm, took some pictures, noted places to maybe eat at tomorrow night, as well as some to do last minute shopping in. It was surprsising just how many people were out walking and flash from cameras going off everywhere.

By the way, we spoke with the owner of the hotel and she told us the original building is from 1264AD. While they've made some renovations, electric, and other modernizations, the basic structure is 748 years old.

This was another great day. Hard to believe the end is rushing at us so fast.

Guten Nacht

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View of houses on what's called 'Little Venice'

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Town Hall

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Kaiserdom - Bamberg's Cathedral

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Interior of St. Michael

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St. Michael

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View up river from Town Hall

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Rothenberg night on the Marktplatz

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Rothenberg night view of Plonlein

Posted by MikeandKaren 12:49 Comments (0)

Saturday, September 22

Rothenberg ob der Tauber

This morning the sky is gray and the streets are wet. It's cold. We were getting spoiled with all the gorgeous weather. But it's also only 7:30am.

As we enter the dining room for our included breakfast we're asked if we'd like eggs, and how, and then seat ourselves. As usual the spread is sumptuous. Just minutes later Mike's eggs arrived, perfectly scrambled, not dry, with crispy bacon. The waiter suggests Karen try their waffles and syrup, which turn out great. Lot's of fruit, cereal, rolls, cheese and some cake later we are done. As we go back to the room the sun is breaking out. The day is going to be good. Our luck is with us!

So out we go following a tour that Rick Steve's guide describes which will have us walking through the whole town in about two hours. He writes well and provides plenty of information and suggestions.

First stop is a climb up the Town Hall tower, 200 feet high and 214 steps to the top. The final 50 steps or so are almost like climbing a ladder and every 10 or 15 is a small landing to allow others to pass by coming the other way. The last 10 steps might as well be a ladder as going up or down you have to face the wall the stairs are going up on. On top of all this the tower top only has room for 20 people so way down at the bottom is an electronic turnstile that will not let you in until someone else has exited. They also have a sign asking you not to spend more than 5 minutes up there. Good thing we were there shortly after it opened as the line must get very long.

Back down we were just in time to see the clock tower do it's abbreviated cuckoo clock imitation. On the hour two windows open on either side of the clock and wooden figures do their thing to the clanging of the bells.

We walked through the rest of the town, into a museum showing Rothenberg in 1631, the year they lost over 50% of their people, all their possessions and money from the pillaging at the end of the 30 yrs war. We were back to the streets, and about 1pm or so stopped for a rest. We managed to snag a table right in the middle of the Marketplatz.

Since we're planning a big dinner tonight, the stop was for a snack of coffee and some great cakes full of icing and layers and, in Mike's case, topped with a raspberry aspic.

Here's a funny aside. We wanted to verify if we needed reservations at the restaurant, so we walked in about the same time a waiter, we think, was coming by. Mike asked if he spoke English and, in Italian, said no, and that he just spoke Italian. He was surprised obviously when I looked at him and quickly said "so do I" and launched into his question about reservations. There are none needed.

So, back out to do some XMAS shopping. It's a good thing we didn't set a budget. We bought fascinating stuff for ourselves as well as gifts. Hand painted balls, Santa Clauses, typical moving decorations, etc. We took a quick stop back at the room to drop all that, and then out again. We can't imagine what this place looks like at Christmas as this town is supposed to have one of the best Christmas markets in Germany. Some day we would love to see it.

After dropping our bags, we set out to walk the wall (still intact from the middle ages) that surrounds the town. It is a mile in length, but we got sidetracked at Plonlein Sq (the most photographed site in town). The wall is completely covered on top so it can be walked even in pouring down rain. There are towers every so often, 14 in all. At Plonlein we took photos, as were dozens of others doing the same, and stopped in at a shop whose owner does original etchings and bought one of this same site. We hope to get back for a continuation of the walk along the wall before we leave this wonderful town.

We walked some more and made our last stop at the Medieval Crime & Punishment Museum. This was an exhaustive, fascinating exhibit of crime and punishment from medieval times to the 18th century.

It was now after 5pm so we headed back to rest, and blog before heading out to dinner at 6:30pm.

Dinner is at Ratsstube. It's busy, but we're early enough to have a good selection of tables and are able to get a table in the center of the restaurant with good views. Within a half hour there are no tables left.

Dinner tonight for Karen is a Pork Tenderloins in a sherry cream sauce with potato croquettes while Mike has a Sirloin steak with fried onions and fried potatoes and some red wine. Both come with a salad. In short the dinner was excellent.

We finished about 8pm and went out for a brief walk on the Marketplatz, and checked in on the crowd waiting for the Night Watchman. Sure enough, at least another 100 people. Enough for today; tomorrow we're going to Bamberg, about 100 Km, maybe 90 minutes away. So back to the hotel at 8:30 to finish up the blog.

Guten Nacht to all.

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View of Marktplatz from Town Hall Tower

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Houses on Marktplatz

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Lunch Spot

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Karen (and some nice desserts)

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Plonlein Tower View - Most Popular View

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Dinner

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Dinner

Posted by MikeandKaren 23:13 Comments (3)

Friday, September 21

Bad Wimpfen to Rothenberger ob der Tauber

Another good weather day and we're up earlier since we have further to drive and more to see, plus we wanted to spend the morning exploring more sites in beautiful Bad Wimpfen before heading out.

Again our drive is along the Neckar River most of the way and we head for Heilbronn. This is another town on the river though much larger than those we've been to. The traffic is a bit heavier and, like most big cities the construction crews are tearing up streets, which makes driving, even with the Garmin, a little challenging. We eventually find a spot to park right beside the Rathaus, which is limited to 40 minutes, but the police meter maid let us know we could stay a bit longer so we have an hour, which is more than enough. Even better, and unknown to us when we parked, our spot is just around the corner from Marketplatz, the center of town, where everything we want to see is located.

There is an astronomical mechanical clock on the town hall that is similar to the one in Prague, which has all sorts of other information displayed. Then on to St. Killian's church with a late Gothic altar, immense as it sits on the square. We walked around looking at some of the other old buildings, admiring an interesting fountain sculpture near the church and read some of the history behind them and an hour later headed to Schwabish Hall.

Getting out was interesting as Ms Garmin had us driving through the square, which is restricted to pedestrians, as well as attempting to get through streets that at that time were blocked by bollards erected for some reason, but eventually we got out and quickly back to the road along the river.

Schwabisch Hall is another breathtakingly beautiful town and is the site of of a former Benedictine Monastery with many defensive walls and towers, chapels and buildings that were built throughout the ages in different architectural styles located on the Kocher river.

We parked behind the church of St. Michael, another massive structure, which fronts onto the Marketplatz, from which 53 steps lead up to the church entry. The steps are wide, at least thirty feet, and set in an arc that converges as you get nearer the top. In touring the inside we came upon a crypt over which was placed a glass cover and inside were piles of bones and skulls, neatly arranged as you might a wood pile. There was no explanation of what they were so we'll have to look it up later.

We stopped for lunch first on the Marketplatz. Obviously my German, and the waitresses English, weren't clicking. Instead of a quiche for Karen and a dish of cooked shrimp wrapped in what was spaghetti strands of potato, also fried, we ended up with two plates of quiche and the with 4 each of potato wrapped shrimp. But it turned out well as Karen loves quiche and Mike likes shrimp, and a double order of them was just fine. A salad each and drinks and we were set, lazying in the sun with the square spread out before us.

After lunch we went off to see the town. The half-timbered houses, in various colors, line the Kocher river and three different old wooden bridges, one a covered one, connect each side and a small island in the middle. The scene just begs to be turned into picture postcards.

We strolled around some more streets and views and then back up to the church. We had noticed earlier the number of people who spoke English which was surprising, though maybe shouldn't be since we're in generally tourist destinations. Especially noticeable were the Japanese tourists who obviously had no trouble with English. Even more interesting were the number of shops with names like New York Style. You can see why the French wanted to ban the use of non-French words. But you can't stop history and there are 'to-go' signs outside many food shops.

We left Schwabisch Hall about 3:30pm and headed for our last stop, Rothenberg ob der Tauber which is on the Tauber river. About 80 Km, with most on the A6 and A7 highways. There was just a brief traffic jam getting off the A6 to the A7 basically because the exit from the A7 to get to the A6 was shut down so that as cars exited they had to get back on which made for a zoo. We were delayed only about 5 minutes here and we got to Rothenberg - both the Garmin and the hotel's directions agreed perfectly. This is an incredibly beautiful mid size medieval town and driving anywhere means driving through small streets, under centuries old towers and by large squares inundated with people.

The hotel is more than we expected. Wooden beams everywhere, wooden ceilings, even our room has a wooden ceiling with beams. The bathroom is larger than our upstairs bedrooms with plenty of space and the bedroom is actually the living room too, with a sofa, armchairs and some chests and wardrobes.

Once again we dropped our stuff and headed out. The sky is a bit cloudy but with the sun shining through enough so it's only a short wait to get a sunny picture. But as time passses, and the sun starts to set, it does get darker, and a bit chillier.

Marktplatz is packed. This is a destination city for every tour in the area. Since we had a full day planned for sightseeing here tomorrow we wandered aimlessly just to absorb the ambiance of the place. This town is the most beautiful and romantic we have been to in all our travels. Everywhere we turn, we are oohing and aahing.

We can also see the shops that will be collecting our Euros over the next few days. Among others, we've seen two of the largest XMAS shops right across the street from each other, both owned by Kathe Wohlfahrt, known for her XMAS items, and who we first ran into when we were in Brugges. A third Kathy Wohlfahrt shop also houses a Xmas museum which is supposed to be spectacular but we will skip it for now. Plenty of great outdoor sites to visit.

We did stop at another shop to pick up some gifts and souvenirs, but it was getting late and we wanted to eat and be done by 8pm for our final activity of the day.

We ended up at an Italian place. Karen had a salad and pizza. Mike had a primi of spaghetti aglio, olio et pepperoncini (garlic, oil and a strong red pepper) and for the main another Forelle (trout) and salad, and wine.

Then we were off to 'The Night Watchman's Tour'.

A local guy meets every night after dark on the Marktplatz and gives a guided tour (a la Jerry Seinfeld) around key points of the town while narrating what it was like to live in Rothenberg in the middle ages and especially as a night watchman and the need for one. Tonight there were over 100 people who were following him out of the square and around town and the edges of town, as he walked, halberd in hand, as well as carrying a lantern as he would have back then, with his black hooded garment, all making him look the part. Very interesting, fun and educational tour.

After 13 hours of walking around we were ready for our bed :)

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Bad Wimpfen Fountain

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Thinest House in Bad Wimpfen

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Heilbronne Astronomical Clock

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Lunch at Schwabisch Hall

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Old Houses on River

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More Houses

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Hotel Marusturm - Rothenberg

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He refuses to stop attempting getaway

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Night Watchman

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Night on Marktplatz

Posted by MikeandKaren 22:54 Comments (1)

Thursday, September 20

To Bad Winpfen via Hirschhorn, Eberbach and Mosbach

Another great morning. Crystal clear blue sky.

Today is a short drive, about 80 KM from Heidelberg to Bad Wimpfen, but we have three stops planned for some small towns along the Neckar river on what is called the Castle Road. The road is aptly named as all along the drive, every few kilometers, you see a castle on the mountain top, or halfway up.

We're not even to Hirschhorn, less than 20 Km, and we stop to look at two, though only to admire and photograph. Otherwise we never have time to get anywhere. Many of them are ruins, and most are now privately owned. We spent some time walking down to the river and along the walks installed there, and then continued to Hirschhorn.

Hirschhorn was our first castle that we stoped at. The drive up is a one car road, but at least every 100 yards or so the road widened to 1 1/2 cars so the opposing driver could pass. When we got to the top there was a separate car and bus park. Haven't yet figured out how a bus made some of those turns. We climbed the old tower which had 121 steps that only one person could climb at a time to fantastic views over the valley and river. The village is small so after the castle we headed to Eberbach.

Where ever we walked there was a pig, or more accurately, a boar. It turns out that 'Eber' means boar and the word \bach' is a small bend in a river. So the town was named for the wild boars that were found at the time of its founding at the bend in the Neckar river. They are everywhere from the town coat of arms, to statues in front of the town square, and in front of numerous stores.

Eberbach was another cute town with half timbered houses and a medieval street layout. We decided to make our lunch stop here and since we planned on a nice dinner at Bad Wimpfen just had coffee and gelato, though the gelato was huge. About an hour later we continued our drive.

Before I forget, for whatever reason, on this trip we have never had any problem finding a parking place, they are plentiful, whether paid or free, and we have not run into one problem with traffic.

Next stop Mosbach.This was the highlight of the day so far. A small town with nothing but timbered houses, small alley like streets, most cobble stoned and all colorful. The TI provided a great map with a walking tour and we spent an hour walking the town.

By this time we lost count of the castles but we did identify two that we will go back and visit tomorrow.

Finally we headed off to Bad Wimpfen where we plan to stop overnight and arrived at 4pm. Bad Wimpfen is across the river and 700 feet high. The road is good, wide, and an easy climb. At first we could not imagine where they might have the hotel but it ended up being right on the side of the mountain and our room, on the third floor, looks out over the valley and river. We took just a few minutes to dump our bags and headed out. As a side note, every hotel we've stayed at, our room has been on the top floor and every proprietor has insisted on carrying our luggage up to our room. Everyone has been so friendly here.

The town is along the road we drove in on, just five minutes away. this is a quintissential medieval town. You can see the left over walls, and two entry gates and their towers. The streets are cobbled too and the map the hotel gave us just barely matched the street layout. But we made it across the town and down to the TI where we got a different map, with a walking tour and good explanations of the main sites, but almost equally not exactly matching the actual street layout.

The town is amazing. We couldn't stop oohing and awhing. Except for new shops and restaurants you could be back in 1100. We walked and walked and must have taken 100 pictures of all the beautiful half timbered buildings. About six we stopped for dinner. We found a great restaurant with outside seating and a ground floor for drinking and lite fare, and a second floor with an indoor restaurant and white tablecloth dinner service. We opted for dinner inside since it was getting cooler as the sun was going down. What a superb meal.

Dinner was worth waiting for. A 'chef's gift', sort of an 'amuse bouche', to start, then a 1/2 liter of 'rotewein', red wine, then a salad, big enough for two, with the usual lettuces, butter mushrooms, tomatoes, fennel, and some other great tasting vegetables and dressing.

Then the mains. Karen had a Rumpsteak, perfectly done with scalloped potatoes and a side of carrots, snap peas and green beans. For Mike, duck. Excellent duck breast with a risotto, some large baked mushrooms and a zucchini stuffed with a small diced tomato mixture.

Karen's definitely becoming a wine fiend. No longer do I just order a glass. But we finished it all and had to call it quits. Neither of us had any more room. So at 7:30pm we got the check and headed back. We did make a few stops, it was not totally dark yet, but it was a short walk back and by 8pm we were in the room.

Lots to do tomorrow so the wakeup will be earlier, about 7am.

Another great day and the weather continues to cooperate.

Guten Nacht

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Typical Castle viewed from the Neckar drive

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Eberbach

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Castle from Road

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Mosbach

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Bad Winpfen

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Bad Winpfen

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Mike at Restaurant

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Karen's Dinner

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More of Karen's Dinner

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Mike's Dinner

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Night View of Restaurant

Posted by MikeandKaren 13:07 Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 19

Schwitzingen, Speyer

Today was a great day. Brilliant blue sky and bright sun on wakeup and throughout the day with just some scattered small clouds although cooler than the previous days, in the mid to upper 60's.

Breakfast was the usual selections we've become used to so we go off fully fueled for the morning.

First stop today is Schwitzingen, home of a palace and a garden built similar in style and design to Versailles. We've seen enough palaces so just concentrated on the gardens. From roaming peacocks and loads of ducks, fountains everywhere, nooks and crannies and alcoves filled with water and plants, and statues everywhere, the place was a feast for the eyes and camera.

The morning sun was brilliant, but the air cool, which made it a joy to just stroll throughout the gardens.

Then we headed for Speyer. Speyer has the Kaiserdom, a cathedral founded in 1030, the largest Romanesque building in Europe, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We visited the cathedral and walked the Maximillianstrasse, the main pedestrian street, for a while. The owner of the hotel we're at had recommended a place to eat and we did so. The inside is immense, large rooms full of tables, and people, as well as an outside beer garden, also immense, which is where we opted to have lunch.

Karen had a really large salad with chicken filets, pineapple slices, a great dressing, a Coke and bread. Mike, also a large mixed salad, with the added taste and aroma of fresh red peppercorns, grilled sea bass filets, and his first beer of the trip. Everything was excellent.

Then off to the Technik Museum, just a short distance away.

This museum had three buildings housing anything man has created in the area of cars, trains, engines, air and space travel as well as an IMAX. The timing was off to see an IMAX we had not already seen, but that was good as we needed all of the three hours we spent there.

We went into a real Lufthansa 747 that was mounted on pillars that put it at least 50 feet in the air, and at an angle as though it were turning. Inside was like being in a funhouse where it looked like you were level, but your senses told you everything was tilted, which it was, which did wonders for vertigo. But that was not all. We actually walked on the wing of the plane (with wire cage mounted around so you don't fall off!)

We then went into a real German U boat submarine from WWI, a real Russian Antonov cargo plane, and a few smaller, by comparison, early jet and propeller driven craft. Tons of propeller and fighter jets were on display dating from the first World War.

Not to take up the entire blog with this, but they also had cars, both touring as well as racers, from the 1900's to the mid 90's, most of which were in working condition. Steam and diesel engine locomotives, spacecraft like the LEM, Shuttle, and the Russian Vostok. You could have spent the entire day there.

But, by 5pm we were walked out. We had intended driving back into Heidelberg but that would have been too much. So we headed back into Speyer's main platz, found a spot on the pedestrian walk, and settled in for some coffee and cake (a large Tiramisu and equally large chocolate layer and iced cake).

We then walked a bit more, window shopping, and finally called it a day at 7pm.

Tonight we pack up a bit and tomorrow head for Bad Wimpfen, with stops at a few small towns along the way. We'll fill you in on that tomorrow night

Guten Nacht

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Schwitzingen Gardens

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Gardens Statuary

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Gardens

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State Building

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Kaiserdom

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Dom from Pedestrian Mall

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Old Tower and City Gate from 12C - 13C

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Lunch Break

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Karen's

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Mike's

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Can you see people walking on the wing?

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Dom from a distance

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Dessert

Posted by MikeandKaren 12:04 Comments (3)

Tuesday, September 18

Heidelberg

Tuesday, September 18 - Heidelberg

Another beautiful looking day, the sun out at 7:30am, blue sky, and cool and dry. It would be 75 and sunny most of the day until late afternoon when the clouds rolled in.

We got under way for Heidelberg at 10. It's a beautiful day for driving. After about an hour Ms Garmin tells us there's some heavy traffic enroute and decides to take us an alternate way. This goes fine until, unknown to her, someone tore up some streets a few days ago and didn't tell her; eventually we drove away from the blocked road enough so that she had to find a new way to take us and that finally got us on track. Besides some wrong turns (too soon or too late turns) we finally got to Heidelberg Castle and found a parking spot not too far down the hilly streets from which we then climbed uphill to get to the castle.

As a side note, we finally got Siegfreid working but all the directions from him are in German so we gave up and stayed with Ms. Garmin.

The castle is in a spectacular setting overlooking the Neckar River. It looms above the town and is a superb example of both Gothic and Renaissance features. It was started in the 14C and added on to by the various counts and kings that ruled Heidelberg. The last king and queen to live in the castle were Frederich V and his British wife, Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of Mary Queen of Scots. They lived there for 5 years, leaving in 1693, never to return as it was the start of the 30 years war. The subsequent bombing by the French, and fire from lightning, destroyed much of the castle. There are still some rooms with furniture from the period as well as walls and facades of some of the palaces to admire. We took an English guided tour of the castle and walked the grounds until around 3:00 then left and headed for our hotel.

Heidelberg is a town of 143,000 people with a large university and big American community as well. It is easy driving around here compared to French and Italian cities. We found our hotel easily, which is on the outskirts of the city center. It is a small hotel owned by "Volker" who spent some time in Arlington, Texas as a 20 something. He is great and speaks excellent English. He offered us a suite and we, of course, said yes. It's more like an apartment, separate bedroom, small kitchenette with microwave and fridge and a large living room area. It's very nice and amazingly inexpensive.

Volker gave us the layout of the town and directed us on where to park and take our walking tour, pointing out that the best views of the castle were in late afternoon from the top of "philosopher's walk" when the sun is hitting the castle. We found parking easy and walked the pedestrian mall to one of the old bridges, then hiked up the hill (another day of 500 steps!) and hiked the trail overlooking the north bank of the river with spectacular views of the old town and castle. Unfortunately, it had started to cloud over by the time we got to the top and didn't have the best photo opportunity of the castle. We continued along the trail and hiked down to the 18C Alte Bridge, stopping for photo opportunities and then making our way to the Markt Platz. Another typically beautiful European square with flowers protruding from every window and cafes with outdoor tables, many occupied by the students that attend the University.

With tired legs we dropped into an outdoor cafe for a nice relaxing meal on the platz. We had just finished our meal and were heading back to the parking garage when it started to sprinkle. We stopped to look at one of the many shops when it started to pour and fortunately for us (and the shop owner), they sold unbrellas. We bought one to get us back to garage without being soaked. The rain didn't last long and by the time we got back to the hotel at 8:00, it had stopped.

Guten Nacht

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Above, two views inside the castle

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A 52,000 Gallon cask used to provide for the thirsty castle occupants

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View of Old Town and Alte Bridge over the Neckar River

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Pedestrian Street

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The only street where it is legal:)

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View of castle from 'Philosopher's Walk'

And, before I forget...

Jon had asked where was all the German food? Like Brtawurst and Knockwurst, Spaetzle. So, since I had been posting fewer food pictures, especially fish bones and fish heads and Bunny rabbits cooked in Spaghetti, here's our meal from the 16th, Rumpsteak with Onions for Mike and Weiner Schnitzel with mushroom sauce and pomme frites for Karen. We have had brats and stuff but didn't take any pictures, nor will we be making meals of a lot of brats and dogs.

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Rumpsteak

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Schnitzle

Posted by MikeandKaren 12:40 Comments (1)

Monday, September 17

St. Goar, Rheinfels Castle, Bacharach, Rheinstein Castle

Up at 7:30 to a bright blue sky and cool temperature. Today it would be a perfect 74 degrees with sunny skies all day. Our boat trip to St. Goar isn't until 10:15am so we have a lot of time to have breakfast and stroll the river bank.

Breakfast was good. They even served scrambled eggs that were delicious. The usual cheese, cold meats assortment, breads and rolls, etc. Served in the hotel's dining room the tables are large, or booths, very comfortable and relaxed.

We got to the dock early and walked around the park and river bank. The morning sun lights the river and city like a picture book. There's lots of traffic on the river, both passenger type and more so cargo. Boats or barges full of containers or piles of coal and other dry goods.

Our boat arrived with German precision and we headed to the top deck, pulled up two chairs, and sat back to enjoy the cruise. We even found that many of the passengers were on another land tour (Cosmos) which included this boat ride to St. Goar. In addition, the announcements, most of which were a narrative of the major sights, were in German, English, Japanese and Chinese, and of the last two there were plenty on board.

Along the Rhine, every so often, there were giant billboard sized signs, with just three numbers on them. The numbers tell you how many kilomters from the start of the river you are but, even better, especially in Rick Steve's guide book, they tell everyone exactly where, city or site, you are.

Riding the Rhine this way exposes you to more castles than you could ever imagine and, with no effort, you can understand how the castles' owners could identify and exact a toll from all river travellers in their times.

We were at St. Goar in 50 minutes and began our climb to Rheinfels Castle. You can take a mini bus up, or walk up lots of steps, and we opted for a nature walk. You still have to climb a significant height, but the scenery is more of a quiet forest, small river and ponds, and generally cool and shadowy. The climb up takes about 25 minutes.

The castle is a ruin, though there are plenty of lookouts to climb and look out from as well as rooms to go through, including some prison areas, armories and defensive positions. It is an impressive place and does a good job, as do most of the castles, illustrating what running a castle entailed.

Lunch was small and brief at the castle - soda and ice cream.

The boat back was delayed so we checked the train and decided that insted of an hour boat ride, a 10 minute train was quicker. Buying the tickets is easy. There are only machines available, fully automated, taking credit as well a paper money, with easy to follow instructions. Just 20 minutes later the train arrived. The cars are new and the seating very comfortable. Just 10 minutes later we were back in Bacharach.

It was still early, 2:30pm, so got the car and drove along the Rhine to Rheinstein Castle. The driving here is easy. Unlike the Italian and French towns we've visited, these picturesque towns are in the valley, so not much small switchback roads to deal with. Parking so far has been a breeze too. I hope we aren't speaking too soon!

We parked off the road and then did another climb up a switchback walk until we were again a few hundred feet about the river. The walk alone ran about 1.5 kilometers.

This castle is different, as it escaped being destroyed and had a succession of owners that kept it up except for a brief period with no one watching it. It was purchased in 1975 and a renovation begun. It was not lived in since the late 1800's but a lot of the furnishings and clothing were still available for decorating the rooms as they were back then. The views from the turrets and lookout over the Rhine are amazing.

We spent about 90 minutes there and then drove back. Tonight we'll relax and eat in the hotel. Their menu looks very good as does their dining room. Then we pack for tomorrow and our drive to Heidelberg.

For dinner tonight Mike had Trout again (no camera tonight but thought one picture of trout was enough, especially for our non-fish lover friends!). We both had excellent caesar salads that included tomatoes and bacon and a balsamic drizzle. Karen had a pasta dish of tagliatelle with mushrooms and fresh tomatoes in a olive oil dressing. Both our meals were excellent and the Reisling local wine was excellent (Karen over did it :). For dessert we both had apple strudel with vanilla sauce, which was tasty indeed. It's now 8:30pm and we are both exhausted. We must have climbed over 500 steps today between the wine, good meal and aching muscles, we are ready to pack in.

Auf Weidersehen

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Bacharach Church & Tower

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Bacharach Castle (now youth hostel)

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Pfaltz Castle in Middle of the Rhine

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One of many such Rhine Castles

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Rheinfels Castle

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Rheinfels Castle

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Rheinstein Castle

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Rheinstein Castle

Posted by MikeandKaren 11:21 Comments (1)

Sunday - September 16

Marksburg Castle & Bacharach

Up a bit earlier at 7:30. Heavy fog covers the castle but the sun is visible over the eastern mountain on the other side of the Mosel.

After breakfast we're off for Braubach and Marksburg Castle on the Rhine River. The first part of the trip follows the shore of the Mosel River and the morning light rising in the East makes all of the towns that line the West bank of the river look even more stupendous. Light fog and steam rising off the river casts a warm and mysterious glow to the picture.

About a half hour later we turn inland to shortcut the drive and we arrive at Marksburg castle at 11:15. The first guided tour, in English, is at noon. We just spend the interim browsing the area, talking to the shop keepers, one of whom lived in Myrtle Beach, and then in a shop located in a tunnel on the way to the castle, that sells antiques, more of which later.

We also met a couple from Little Rock and ended up chatting with them and later having lunch with.

The tour guide speaks very good English and gives a good history of the castle, which escaped destruction during the wars, mostly because of its location not being as important nor its size either, was very interesting.

Then a lunch break, just coffee and apple pie, and then to the antique dealer.

In the medieval days, as books were updated, for example, a rule changed, a law was rewritten, a book was updated, the changed pages were removed and new ones inserted, Many of the pages were reused, but many just discarded. Many of those discarded pages ended up being saved and ended up, 500 to 700 years later in collectors hands. Eventually, as there were a lot of these pages collected, they got sold to other collectors. Many ended up in this shop, or shops like it.

We ended up buying a page with painting of a local scene where two people were having a discussion, from 1497, about 515 years old. It comes with a description and certificate of guaranty and provenance, and we just need to get it translated. While we thought of buying a whole book (yes, they had whole books available), we just didn't have a spare 7,000 Euros.

Then off to Bacharach.

Bacharach is only about 56 Km away, on the other side of the river, and the Garmin said to just go South (instead of North to Koblenz to hit the bridge and get to the West side of the Rhine). So we trusted her, even though the map showed no bridges across the river anywhere near Bacharach. But it ended up being a better option because the scenery was great, castles every few miles, and, best of all, when we got across the river from Bacharach it turned out there was a ferry. The Garmin, as we pulled onto the ramp to board, along with a bunch of motorcycles, simply said "board the ferry and go right when you get off". Sure enough, not 5 minutes later, the ferry docked, we were first off, turned right onto the main road, and minutes later were in Bacharach.

Bacharach is another picturesque town on the Rhine and the main platz looks like something out of a fairytale, just incredibly beautiful. We spent from 3pm to 5:30pm walking around, climbing hills, a tower to get a view over the town and vineyards, walking the riverbank to plan tomorrow's boat trip to St. Goar, more walking, ruined churches, and finally a dinner stop.

We ate outside on a hotel terrace, Karen had chicken with a mushroom sauce with Spaetzle, like soft French fries though they call it a potato dumpling, salad, and Mike, as usual, pan fried whole trout, small potatoes, salad and wine.

After dinner, more walking and a last stop for dessert, coffee and cake, and finally, about 7pm, back to the hotel to call it a day.

Now we're ready to relax, do the blog, and get to sleep.

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View of Rhine from Marksburg Castle

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Markeburg Castle

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Karen on Ferry with Bikers, Town of Kaub View and Castle

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Oldest house in Bacharach - 1368

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Mike

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View from Tower of Bacharach

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Mike's Dinner

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Karen's Dinner

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Bacharach Center

Posted by MikeandKaren 12:18 Comments (2)

Friday/Saturday, September 14,15

Burg Eltz, Cochem & Beilstein

Fri - Sept 14 - Burg Eltz, Cochem

Just to catch up on the brief from yesterday night, arrival at FRA was on time, though the taxi to the gate was 20 minutes. Immigration was about two minutes, the bags came quick, and customs was the usual walk through. Getting the car a snap. It's a Ford C-Max, nice four seater, loads of room, but Siegfried will take some time as the manual is in German and it looks like you must be born in Germany hereditarily knowing how a GPS works. So it could even be Brunhilde for all we know. Time will tell.

But, the Garmin worked great and we got off to Burg Eltz, about 150 Km away by 9:30.

The countryside is beautiful, the highways really nice, with most streches at 130 KPH (78MPH). Got to Eltz castle at 11:15.

Burg Eltz was built about 1000 AD and has been owned by the same family for 33 generations. It's loaded with 15th century frescoes and furniture as well as museum rooms full of arms, jewelry, dinnerware and cutlery. There were pictures of the old family, and some old paintings, as well as more recent pictures of their descendants. It was a typical 'storybook' type castle, and required a hike up the mountain and a brief descent, but still provided great views on the surrounding terrain.

We had lunch on their terrace and then left for Cochem.

The drive to Cochem is along the Mosel river. First you have to climb up a bit to scale a small peak, and then the usual windy road to get down. Along the way, when you finally break out on the river side the view just smacks you in the face as you see the Mosel River spreading left and right down below. We got out for some pictures, but with a pretty stiff wind, and the attendent chill, we got back into the car for the descent to the river.

Basically the road to Cochem runs along the river and the scenery is beautiful. We arrived about 2pm, found our hotel, and checked in. The hotel is a restored 19th century house and has 11 rooms, ours on the top floor, overlooking the castle and river. The couple who own and restored the home speak excellent English and have decorated in a mixture of modern and antiques. Quite a charming place.

We dumped our stuff and headed out to walk the town. Cochem is a mid size town of about 10,000 people but swells to many more during the day as it is a major stop for tourists and river boats. We walked for a few hours, stopped to listen to some bands playing in the streets and finally for some coffee and cake. By 6pm we were getting a bit tired. But as for the bands, there were two we saw, both on major squares, all playing loud, almost boisterous, music, which was at the same time familiar and new, and sounded great.

The streets were jammed though, and as we'd find out tomorrow, Saturday night, closed up early, around 6 pm or so, probably because the major industry were day tripping tourists.

We finally called it a day about 6:30 pm and headed back to unpack.

By the way, the weather so far has been great. Cool, but not cold, some clouds but mostly sunny, and thus warm in the sun. The rest of the week looks to be the same though Saturday will be cloudy most of the early day.

Saturday, Sept 15 - Cochem & Beilstein

Up a little late, 8am, but only because the first boat doesn't leave until 10:30. So we had a leisurely breakfast. The buffett style was sumptious with lots of the usual, though no eggs except soft boiled, but many kinds of salami, hams, sausages and cheeses.

Today we decided to take our boat trip to Beilstein in the morning and do Cochem Castle (Reichsburg) in the afternoon, just in case it might rain later.

The ride down river is an hour. Boats leave every two hours and return starting at 11:30 every two hours. The trip is like a small cruise, lots of people, mostly German. You can tell that too because even at 10:30am every table was filled with glasses of wine and steins of beer. We passed through one lock, and that is aobut 20 minutes of the ride.

The town is small, with less than 150 full time residents, and most of the houses line the shore. A very picturesque setting. Aside from the setting it's also known for its castle, Burg Metternich. Though destroyed by the French in 1688, and a ruin today, it still retains some interesting walls and towers with great views of the Mosel.

Many people rent bikes and ride from Cochem to Beilstein, which is made easy by a bike path, paved, that runs along the river the whole distance.

We left at 1:30 and returned to Cochem on a slightly smaller boat, and this more crowded. Even more so than the morning trip, albeit being the afternoon, cartons and cartons of empty beer bottles covered the tables by the time we returned to Cochem.

Before I forget, the route has you surrounded on both shores with terrain that rises from the river and is covered with vineyards. The steepness of the fields means that all of the harvesting must be done by hand, probably dragging small barrows along to store the ripe grapes in.

We got back at 3pm and headed for Cochem's castle. This is a real castle in the sense of being whole, and looking like it did in the past. But it was destroyed by the French in 1689. Fortunately, in the late 1880's, a rich Berliner restored it and turned it into a private residence. In 1942 he had to turn it over to the Nazi's (they used it as a training center for lawyers, which doesn't do much for their professions image), and it now belongs to the town of Cochem. But in spite of its history the castle is interesting and impressive, to say nothing of the views over the river and Cochem.

We finished the castle and had an early dinner at a restaurant on the main square called Ratskeller, recommended by the owner of the hotel. Beef for Mike and Pork Schnitzel with a mushroom cream sauce for Karen. The restaurant is in a "cave" with limestone walls and beautifully decorated. Our meals and wine were excellent and filling enough that there was no need for dessert and we returned to the room at 7:30 to pack for tomorrow.

So far the trip's great, we're enjoying the German countryside, and having a great time.

And the pictures:

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Burg Eltz

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Burg Eltz

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Our Room in Cochem

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Cochem

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Beilstein Entry

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The Mosel

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Beilstein Entry & Castle from Boat

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Cochem Castle

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The Mosel from Cochem Castle

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Cochem Castle & Tower

Posted by MikeandKaren 12:50 Comments (4)

Arrived

Just a quick entry. The hotel WiFi works, but only in the lobby. But, besides that, we've been busy campers. The flight was on time, car rental was quick, and by 9:30 we were on our way to our first castle, Burg Eltz. A few hours there, and lunch, and then off to Cochem. As planned we spent most of our time there just walking the town and orienting ourselves to tomorrow's plans. Not hungry enough for a full dinner so just coffee and a Sacher Torte. Then back to unpack and get some sleep. It's now 6:30pm so we've been up for a while, even with a few hours sleep on the plane.

Weather is great, though crisp, and sunny.

So pictures and more will come tomorrow.

Posted by MikeandKaren 09:19 Comments (2)

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