We really didn’t have a plan for Germany. A very cheap fare from Cape Town is the reason we are here. We need to end up in Croatia. My initial plan was to drive from Frankfurt all the way to Dubrovnik and then onto Athens – about 24 hours of driving spread out over several days. But it turns out that car rental companies in Germany (including Hertz and Avis) won’t let you take one of their cars into Croatia and especially not into Montenegro and certainly not across Albania. So Plan B. Which is to head towards Croatia and wing it.
Our first stop is at the Nueschwanstein Castle at the southern edge of Germany. Built by the Mad King Ludwig II in the 1870’s to resemble a medieval fortress, it is a fairy castle nestled amongst alpine crags and is the inspiration for the Disney castles. We had to wait in line at the village below where they sell tickets, and again at the forecourt of the castle for our tour. But German efficiency was everywhere and out tour started at the right time. We were expertly herded from room to room till we got to the gift shop and cafe and then we could dawdle as we wished.
Vivian and Evan are awed by the castle and the stories of its construction. I am (again) impressed by the modern beautiful kitchen. Jo kept us honest by having us walk all the way up from the village and walk back down instead of taking the bus or the horse-drawn carriage. Vivian who is anti-walking today is not very happy.
The castle was as beautiful and dramatic as I remember. But I didn’t remember from my previous visit about 30 years ago that the king wasn’t probably mad and that the whole insanity thing may have been a political ploy and that the poor king mysteriously died a day after his arrest. It isn’t easy being a dreamer.
After a dinner of pretty bad pizza and pasta and a night at an Airbnb in town we drove along the mountains north of the German-Austrian border through beautifully preserved tiny Bavarian villages and along hills and valleys through the back roads. The drive was so beautiful that we agreed we’d return and explore the region again at some later time. That afternoon we returned the rental at Traunstein, home of Pope Benedict, hopped on a train across the border, and hopped off at Salzburg in Austria.
We left our luggage in our room at a hip hostel style eco hotel called The Keep and walked along the Salzach river, people watching as we went. We noticed a large number of men and boys in lederhosen, and ladies, young and not young, in drindls. At first we shrugged it off. Then we assumed that traditional attire must be popular in Austria. Finally, we asked google and were told that is was St. Rupert’s Day – the biggest summer fair in Salzburg. So we followed the crowds of lederhosen and drindls to the main square and listened to oompah bands and ate giant pretzels and the kids rode on a swing carousel and we had a good time.
Back at the hotel my friend Bernhard (who I met climbing Kilimanjaro) joined us for a beer. He’s a medical student in Salzburg and he generously offered us his apartment in Vienna if we wanted to visit the city. We thanked him and said we’d mull it over and let him know in the morning.
Next morning we packed up and headed to the train station. I voted for Vienna but everyone else wanted a different city that started with a V. We’re off to Venice. Still approximately in the general direction of Croatia.