21 day Best of Europe-DAY 3 entering Germany
Today we met our bus driver! Ben joined up with our group as we left the Netherlands and he soon became "one of the group". The bus was a nice coach that provided each of us our own seat if we chose. Ben always had cold water, soda, and sometimes beer in the two coolers built into the bus. There was a paper for us to indicate each time we took a beverage from the cooler then at the end of the trip the marks were tallied and we paid up. There are very few rest stops (or Autogrills, as it were) that sell drinks for 1 euro so we supported our driver! Seats were not assigned and it was understood that tour mates could take turns sitting at the front of the bus. Some like the back where it was peaceful (sometimes) and some liked the front where the whole world was in view-I suppose it is just like high school. Ben drove us to Keukenhof then picked us up for our journey into Germany. Bus time is sometimes quiet time, usually after a visit to a site that allows us time for reflection. Before entering any country we were given a little language lesson. It is good manners to at least try to speak the native language when greeting people/store owners in other countries. Colleen also used bus time to give us some history regarding a site we might be visiting. Just before we were to arrive at our new hotel she would give us our room numbers so the obtaining of room keys would go smoothly once we arrived. She arranged group meals along with decent prices for some of the dinners that were not included in our tour price and she always had great suggestions for restaurants, often accompanying us . Touring by coach is a great way to see the countryside and especially fun when crossing borders or entering different regions of the country. I dared not sleep for fear of missing something. Ben usually dropped down the monitors in the bus so we could follow along with his GPS. I love maps and had great fun tracing the roads along our journey. We arrived at our hotel in Bacharach and settled in before our "Welcome to Germany" dinner meal together. We briefly met Herr Jung, who will be our local guide in Bacharach the next day. More on him later!
After our group dinner at the restaurant in our hotel we just hung out and prepared for our day in Germany. Earlyish bedtime in our historic hotel.
21 day Best of Europe-DAY 4 Herr Jung, river cruise, Rheinfels Castle, free-time!
After breakfast this morning we were going on a walking tour of Bacharach with our guides and local guide Herr Jung. I had heard so much about this special man and couldn't wait to spend some time with him. Herr Jung was so spry for a man of his age and his recounts of his city were so remarkable and emotional too! I believe he had all of us tearing up as he told of the war and its affects on his family. He was so passionate and it was contagious. He was in good shape too! He walked all the way leading us throughout Bacharach.
After our city walk we boarded the boat for our short Rhine river cruise. Trish and Colleen purchased some yummy sandwiches for us and we "bought" 2 bottles of beer from Ben to enjoy while on our chilly excursion. The cruise itself was castle studded and those pictures are shown below. We disembarked in St Goar and hiked up to Rheinfels Castle (not the only hike up to a castle on this trip)! Our local guide at the castle was a very learned young lady.
21 day Best of Europe-DAY 5 Rothenburg
Today we bid farewell to Bacharach and move on to Rothenburg. We pack up our bags and rejoin Ben where he greets us with his usual smile as he loads up the bus with our belongings. I will add that the right side of the baggage compartment is used for "deep storage". Several of us have made some purchases....things we won't need until we head home and this part of the bus will keep our goodies safe! This is a very good reason to pack a fold up piece of luggage....to transport your souvenirs!
Our drive to Rothenburg isn't terribly long and it takes us through some lovely countryside. Driving time can be used to catch up on sleep, listen to music, or stare out at the world passing by. We pretty much read the RS books cover to cover but it's fun to reread the parts pertaining to our next adventure. Our drive is just around 4 hours so mid-way we get to experience an autogrill for a WC (water closet) break. A little after noon we arrive at Rothenburg where we check in, take a quick check around the hotel, then meet Colleen for a walking tour of the town. Colleen talks about the wall around the city and points out various interesting facts. After our walk about we are free for the rest of the afternoon/evening. We are only spending one night here and tonight at 8pm we meet in a central location where we will experience The Night Watchman! I've heard so much about this but never imagined how fun it would be!
If you ever find yourself in Rothenburg ob der Tauber you mustn't miss St. Jakob's Church and its amazing altar piece. Built during the height of Rothenburg's Gothic Period, The Jacobs Church took over 170 Years to complete (1311-1484). Its claim to fame..... The Holy Blood altar (carved By Tilmann Riemenschneider between 1499 and 1505). The altar gets its name from the rock crystal capsule mounted in the gold cross set in the altar. Since the Middle Ages, the capsule is said to contain three drops of Christ's blood. The church is amazing and deserves it's own slideshow!
After our time at St. Jakob's Church we decided we were a little hungry and thirsty too! We found a cute place fairly close to the market square and had some potato pancakes, sausage, and a beer....we also found 2 other couples from our tour so all enjoyed our meal. We still have time before we had to meet back up with our group so we did more walking.
The Night Watchman's tour is a lot of fun....and you get a lot of history of the city during the walk. Everyone gathers in the market square then after the walk, everyone pays the Night Watchman at the end. Of course, Trish and Colleen take care of our tab.
After our beers at the tavern affectionately called "Hell" we return to our rooms for the night....and you guessed it, we were fast asleep! Tomorrow we are headed to Austria and more specifically Reutte. Reutte is a great city just across the German border into Austria and it makes a great overnight stay if one were to want to tour the famous castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. We will do this the following day.
After leaving our quaint hotel in Rothenburg we headed to Dachau. Dachau was the "pioneer" concentration camp. It was the first of the Nazi camps opened in Germany and was intended to hold political prisoners. It opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler and included forced labor and eventually imprisonment of Jews, Austrian criminals, gypsies, homosexuals, and anyone deemed "unworthy" of life by the Nazi regime. The torment and agony that occured here and in all concentration camps is unfathonable. This memorial was put in place, "Lest we never forget". I will say that none of US will ever forget and it's pretty certain that the German people as a whole will never forget as all school aged children experience concentration camps at least once during their schooling. Our local guide at Dachau was great and very emotionally involved during our 1 hour walking tour. Afterwards we were given 30 minutes on our own before boarding the bus.
After such an emotionally draining visit, our next stop included a visit to a German biergarten and to Weskirche, a Pilgrimage church of Rococo architecture. It was a great emotional release after such a tense morning. We sat at a large table and tried to make friends with some locals but felt a little intimidated. We still had a great time!
The stop at Andech's and Wieskirche was much appreciated. It was so awesome to see the history of the area. We are now headed to Reutte, Austria where we will spend 2 nights. The views on this next section of our road trip were some of my favorites. We are at the foothills of the German/Austrian Alps and I shall let the photos speak for themselves......
Since our hotel in Austria was sort of remote, our dinners were included in the hotel both nights. We had several menu items to choose from and that was something that Colleen took care of asking us on the bus ride to Austria. Once we arrived at our hotel she turned in our dining choices to the hotel and that business was taken care of. We had a busy day and many of us gathered on that outside patio before dinner to enjoy the camaraderie. After dinner we retired for the evening....tomorrow we're castle hunting!
21 day Best of Europe-DAY 7 Castles!
We know from our itinerary posted the night before that our bus rolls out at 8:45 this morning. We have 10:25 am tickets to tour Neuschwanstein Castle. The bus has to park down in the parking lot and we all set out to hike up the hill to the castle. There are horse drawn carriages that will take you part of the way up....for a fee.....we have our hiking shoes on! We don't need no stinkin' carriage! The castle is very posh and so beautiful from the outside. Mad King Ludwig spent the German taxpayers money and nearly bankrupted them! No pictures are allowed inside the castle but we were allowed a photo from one of the balconies of the surrounding landscape. After our tour was over we headed back down the hill for a lunch of yummy sandwiches, cookies, snacks, and juice boxes :) After lunch we were given a tour of Hohenschwangau Castle. This castle was a younger Ludwig's home, the home of his family. I liked this one better!
'Tomorrow we leave Austria at 8am and head to Venice. This is actually the longest bus ride of the whole trip but it'll be broken up with some rest stops and a lunch stop in Egna, Italy.