Mad Kings and Castles
The Romantische Straße (romantic) is a 350km route between Fussen and Wurzburg in southern Germany linking a number of picturesque towns and villages. With a few days up our sleeves we decided to check out part of it. Starting at the southern end we arrived in Fussen to find that our hostel had limited reception hours and was closed til 4pm. It was 1pm and today was only our chance to visit the famous castles in the area. Fortunately we were saved by a ritzy hotel that was happy to store our bags for the afternoon. Liberated from our luggage, we avoided looking at the threatening dark clouds and loaded onto the local bus (full of tourists) and headed up the hill to Neuschwanstein – home of King Ludwig II.
The Mad King was a big fan of castles and although he already had a couple up his sleeve he immersed himself in his fantasy world of building the fairytale castle, which indeed inspired Disney’s sleeping beauty palace. However the castle was never finished as he ‘mysteriously’ drowned in the lake. With a crazy ticketing system we opted to just walk around the grounds and up to the bridge overlooking the castle and valley.
We had a lovely walk around the lake although the threatening clouds delivered and we did get a little wet.. We stayed in a great little hostel and giving the dorm a miss after Sazlburg opted for a twin room. Possibly the tiniest room we’ve stayed in, the bunks were stacked into the wall/ceiling, a bit like having a CT scan!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber – quintessential Germany
Next stop was Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a beautiful old town still surrounded by city walls, this was quintessential medieval Germany. It is one off the few towns with surviving city walls as many others were destroyed during the bombings in WWII. Apparently Rothenburg’s were rescued by an American General who heard of the plans to bomb it. He had grown up with a picture of the town in his parents house and had always dreamt of visiting.
Some years later he was able to visit the city he had saved. It’s free to walk along the city walls and we enjoyed taking in the sights of the city from above. We got an even better view from the top of the tower of the Rathaus, a bargain at €2 each although not for the faint hearted with a steep, cramped climb to the top! In the evening we learned a lot more about Rothenburg’s history on a walking tour with the Night Watchman, our guide recreating life as a watchman who used to patrol the city after dark, lighting lampposts and keeping an eye out. The tour is hugely popular, there must have been about 70 people but the guide is entertaining and knowledgeable and at €7/head, it’s highly recommended.
Wine tasting in Wurzburg
We had a quick stop in Wurzburg, primarily to sample the region’s famous wine which comes in a ‘bocksbeutel’ the shape of the wine bottle typical of Franconia.
Unfortunately the wineries themselves were not open to the public midweek but there are cellars in town where you can do a tasting. It was slightly tricky to find the cellar, with a few businesses on the street pretending to offer samples but third time lucky we found the place. You have to pay for the tasting but we basically ended up with three glasses of wine each for €8, rather a lot at lunchtime but a good option if you find yourself there mid week. We enjoyed comparing the different varieties of Riesling and Silvaner which the area is known for and bought a few bottles to enjoy with our next hosts. Wurzburg also has a pretty stately home type building, the New Residence, which has lovely gardens with water fountains, the perfect spot to munch on our packed lunch and snooze in the sun after all the wine!
Bamburg: Freak City
Bamburg was our last stop on the Romantic Road, famous for smoked beer (rauch bier) and basketball. Germans are obsessed with football however in Bamburg, the football team’s not so good. Needing a sport to follow, the locals got behind the basketball team and with a reputation for unwavering devotion and noisy supporters (think drums, chants AND a brass band) they earned the name of Freak City.
Bamburg was also where we had our second Servas experience. Our first hosts in Ljubljana were fantastic and Inka and Alex rose to the challenge and didn’t disappoint. Alex introduced us to the smokey, and semi-smoked beer famous in the town and we spent some time with their children – serious, football loving Johannes, cute Sebastian who I sang songs with and gorgeous, smiley baby Elisa. Again they lived out in the suburbs but it was only a bus ride away and it was nice to stay with locals and be away from the tourists in the town centre. We had the typical German spread for dinner each night with tasty cheeses and smoked meats with a basket of different breads (delicious salty pretzels).
Bamburg’s a pretty city and worth spending a day or two. The old town hall is built out of the end of another building and overhangs the river which is rather pretty. We also climbed a few steps to St Michael’s Church where we got a nice view over the town. We enjoyed lunch at the famous Schlenkerla brewery and of course, sampled the local brew. I liked the semi-smoked beer, it tastes similar to smoked meats however the fully smoked I found a bit overpowering. By now we’d been eating a lot of meat and bread and i was feeling a bit desperate for some vegetables. Therefore I was pleased that there was an asparagus menu at the brewery offering some lovely white asparagus soup. We’d seen them a lot over south Germany and when white asparagus is in season, chefs design a separate menu to honour the vegetable.
Mitch was still happy to be carnivorous and had the local delicacy of pork shoulder. We were entertained over lunch by a charming retired Irish couple, Paddy (I’m not even joking) and Patricia. They were hilarious, telling us stories and talking over each other so that even I couldn’t get a word in.
The Romantic Road is full of cute little villages and worth a visit, particularly to gorgeous Rothenburg. However it felt a bit funny being tourists in amongst mostly 50-60 year old American couples with a few bus loads of Japanese around and I was keen to get back to the wwoofing and the backpacker trail. However I don’t think I was at all prepared for what was to come next at langenleuba – oberhain..