Tuesday, May 26, 2009



We get a reasonably early start but not on the road. With hotel food being so expensive, we opt for our old standby, an egg and sausage biscuit from McDonald’s. The GPS leads us right to the nearest one and we enjoy breakfast along with numerous students. There must be a university nearby, or a technical college, as there are students sitting in booths or study centers in the place with books spread all over.

After breakfast, we drive to the other side of the Neckar River to get a look at the ruins of Schloss Heidelberg. We then walk across the old stone bridge,that may not be that old, and into the pedestrian part of the old city.It may not be that old because there is a plaque on the tower at one end that seems to say that the bridge was blown up on March 17, 1945 and rebuilt in 1947. That is something to look up when we have more time and internet access.

Our plan for today is to see some of the countryside and the Romantische Strasse or “The Romantic Road” and drive as far south as we can. So we head for Rothenburg ob der Tauber to begin seeing some of the towns of “The Romantic Road.” At first, we tell the GPS to take us the most direct route and not follow the autobahn. This takes us through one small village after another along the Neckar River and even across one, two-car, electrically powered ferry anchored to the banks with cables…hope they are strong as the river is flowing fast and full with the spring melt and rain. After almost two hours and less than 100km, we finally give up, ask the GPS for the fastest route, and arrive in Rothenburg in fairly short order. Rothenburg is a beautiful, well-preserved, medieval, walled city with two main styles; older Gothic, 1250 – 1400, and later Renaissance. We find parking within the walls; tourist season has not started yet, and explore for an hour or so. There is a neat covered walkway within the wall fortifications dating back to 1587and some of the town’s first walls dating from the 12th century. After our earlier experience on the local roads, we then head south on the autobahn to Nordlingen, another walled city from the middle ages. We see many castle ruins on hilltops along the way. Nordlingen was built in the bottom of a huge meteor crater. This fact was only discovered within the last several years. The crater is so wide, old and weathered that one cannot detect it with the naked eye. Nordlingen boasts an almost completely medieval townscapeIt is the only city in Germany with walls and battlements that can be walked all the way round.The gothic hall church of St. George lies in the center of the town and its building material, stone containing shocked quartz, is the clue that revealed the meteor crater’s existence. It is here that a nice lady gives us one of the self-timing parking meters used by the Germans. You set the time you parked and lay it on the dash of the car. The meter checker can see from the self-timer how long you have been parked.

It is getting on toward 4:00PM by now and we need to cover some ground so we return to the autobahn the hard way. We find that our entrance to head south is closed due to construction. We go in circle at least once before Dick give up on the GPS and heads north to the next entrance, gets off, back on, and heads south. We had planned to spend the night near Innsbruck, but we now opt for Fussen . It will be too late to go over the Alps into Austria by the time we can get to the border.

Fussen is Bavaria’s romantic soul; on the edge of the Alpsand with Neuschwanstein Castle close by.The town is about 3,000 feet above sea level with snow-capped mountains all around. The late medieval town center is partially walled with the High Castle and St. Mang’s monastery, whose history dates back almost 2,000 years.

After checking into the Hotel Hirsch (€165 for a very nice room) across from the city wall, we drive out to the area containing Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Palace,homes of the mad king of Bavaria, Ludwig II (1845-1886). Neuschwanstein is the inspiration for the castle at Disney World in Orlando. It is too late to tour them when we arrive. Since, we were here in 1984 and climbed the 300 steps on good knees, some new, late evening photos are all we have to show for this visit.

The sky was very dark with a thunderstorm rumbling in the distance as we headed back to town. Well, it is not far off as it starts to rain and hail before we make it back to town. We pull off and let the hail pass before returning to our hotel.

It is white asparagus season in Germany and the hotel dining room has several ways to serve it. Dick has fried Perch with boiled potatoes and white asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Carolyn has grilled chicken with the same accompaniments. Dinner ends with coffee and tea with apple strudel and vanilla ice cream; one of our trip’s better meals when not on a ship.

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