We arrived from Munich after dark last night, and stayed in a large commuter car park a short walk from the centre of town. It was raining when we arrived, and it was still wet and miserable this morning.
The walk into town, though exceptionally cold, was really pleasant. The town looked beautiful across the calm river, with the giant spires of the cathedral dominating the city.
We walked past several bridges, taking in the new views as the perspective ever so slightly shifted. This side of the river was calm, and quiet, and I was enjoying the feeling of this bitterly cold air on my face – though, I did wish I had some warmer clothing.
We crossed into the town, where we found a moderately pretty old town. Again, nothing exceptional, or something we hadn’t seen several times before, but it was still pretty to walk through the old cobbled lanes, past the colourful old buildings that appeared far more fluid than a building should look as they slowly warped out of square.
There weren’t many tourists here, but there were quite a few souvenir shops ready for the better months of the year. The old town was filled with the usual high-street shops, including a TK Maxx, where I grabbed a much needed packable down jacket.
The cathedral was enormous from afar, and monumental from up close. It was a hyperactive medley of gothic themes, which kind of looked like it had been designed by multiple parties – and in separation.
The interior was once again stunning. Staring up at the roof gave me a feeling of vertigo and disorientation that is hard to describe if you’re not there feeling it, too. I wish I could categorically compare all the cathedrals and churches that we’ve visited, but this felt enormous, and probably one of the tallest that we’ve seen – at least in recent memory (which is about 3-days, if I’m being kind).
There was a small statue outside the cathedral that really took my fancy. At first I only saw the monk with the geese/ducks, but after walking around the gardens, I noticed that there was a wolf hidden inside him, taking those very same geese/ducks that the monk was looking after. I’m sure it’s from a fable or fairytale, but I had no idea which one.
We decided to sample a little local speciality, which were some grilled finger-sized sausages. The restaurant, Wurstkuchl, was said to be one of Germany’s oldest restaurants, and has been operating here for centuries. As you can probably imagine, the restaurant was tiny, with a ceiling barely above my head while standing.
The value for money wasn’t really there, with six small sausages served on a bed of sauerkraut for nearly €10. They were simple, but they were delicious – even the ones that were slightly carbonised from roasting over a real fire.
By the time we’d returned to Gunter, it was 3PM. We realised that we weren’t going to be able to get to our next stop, Bamberg, before dark. These early days are making it hard to see much in a single day – but it is giving us loads of time to watch TV…
It had been a while since we’d done any major shopping, so before leaving we stocked up on food again, as well as getting some parts to service Gunter.
It was utterly dark by the time we stopped for the night in the woods, not far from Bamberg. It was a small clearing surrounded by trees. We remembered too late just how loud the rain can sound when parked under tall trees, but were reminded later in the evening once the wet weather returned.
It was another cold, wet, grey and miserable day. The cold is tolerable as a tourist, but the constantly depressing weather definitely makes the travel less enjoyable – or harder for us to get excited.
I started with a quick oil-change, very likely the last that I’ll be giving Gunter, and started feeling nostalgic about the approaching end to this journey. I could just about feel what I was doing in these cold conditions.
We parked just outside the centre of town, managing to find enough coins for an on-street park. It’s days like these that I’m really happy to have a smaller motorhome. We’re definitely on the limit of what people would consider fitting, but we still ‘fit’ inside the lines.
It was a charming medieval city, filled with partly timber houses with their exposed beams, as well as gothic cathedrals upon hills, and colourful buildings crowding narrow cobbled lanes. We walked aimlessly through the old town for a while, before finally ending at the enormous cathedral.
For the first time in a while, I didn’t even bother to take a photo inside the cathedral. It felt almost entirely devoid of decoration and provided me no inspiration.
We chanced on a small butcher shop that seemed busy, so we had a look. They were selling small buns stuffed with a thick slab of some sort of processed meat. It was said to be famous in this town, and for only €2.5, we gave it a go. To my absolute amazement, it was really tasty. The meat had some fantastic spice, and the bread was equally amazing.
This aimless wandering continued a little while longer, taking narrow alleys as they appeared, crossing bridges and climbing hills. I know it’s terrible to complain about something that we’re so lucky to be doing, but it’s starting to get repetitive, and the lustre is fading. We agreed that we’d had enough, and made our way back to Gunter
We’d left Bamberg early, but it was still quite late in the afternoon by the time we’d arrived in Wurzburg. We got lucky again with a great (free) park right by the Wurzburg Residence. We’d driven through patches of intense rain, but it had eased to a stop by the time we stepped outside.
Wurzburg is often considered the start (or finish) of the Romantic Road that stretches south towards the Austrian border at Fussen. When we visited Austria on a ski trip last year, we made a brief stop on the way in Fussen to see the exceptionally famous Neuschawanstein Castle – the Disney/Sleeping Princess castle. It reminds me, I never got around to processing any of those photos… I’ll make a bonus section on this post!
Opening hours for the Residence were nearly over, so we stuck to the beautiful gardens that surrounded the equally beautiful palace – because a ‘palace’ seems more fitting to me than a ‘residence’. Even with the dull and lifeless skies, the grounds still seemed radiant and colourful, form the vibrant green grass, to the flaming orange and yellows on the deciduous trees.
It was a great outlook from the hill, too, with views of the distant fortress, and the spires and domes of nearby churches in this historic town.
We walked through the streets of the old town, however, it felt much more modern that the medieval towns we’d been visiting recently. This was especially true once we stepped inside the Wurzburg Cathedral, which was an interesting blend of old Baroque and modern styling. They seemed to combine as well as two distinct styles could. It’s still quite unsettling for me to see such modern interiors inside a church – though it wasn’t quite as modern as Turku in Finland. The interior was filled with modern sculptures and artwork – such as the enormous mural on the ceiling.
It was dark far too soon. We now also had the rain to contend with. We’ve generally found it far less photogenic once the sun sets, and tonight was no exception. We walked a little while longer, but we both realised that it was a little pointless, and returned back to our warm van to find a place to spend the night.
Overnight camping options in this area were a little more limited than usual, but we managed to find something between Wurzburg and our next stop tomorrow. It was exceptionally dark and flat – but just below a major road. Thankfully our earplugs let us sleep without any interruption.
I had to wake during the night to put on my thermals and socks. I probably should have put them on before bed, but I thought that once I got into bed and warmed up, I’d stay OK all night. My sleeping bag is only rated at 10˚C for comfort (with 0˚C being rated extreme), and it is now well and truly below that in the evenings. I’d invest in a better sleeping bag, but for now it’s just easier (and cheaper) to just wear clothes to bed.
The miserable weather continued this morning, with more gentle rain falling from cold grey skies. Not exactly the kind of weather that makes you want to go walk around for several hours.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
This will be the last of the towns that we will visit on the Romantic Road. It is probably the most famous of the towns on the route – and the name is certainly the longest.
We found a nice park on the street, just outside of the old town and made the short stroll in. I have to say, this is one of those towns that from the very first sight, I was enamoured with it. It was so complete, and so completely beautiful. Yes, it might have felt a little sterile and had a ‘theme park’ vibe, but you know what, I didn’t care. It was firing all the right synapses in my visual cortex of my brain.
We hadn’t walked very far in the town before noticing the local food speciality, schneeballen. It seemed that at least a dozen shops had the original (and the best). We ended up at a small place that sold a huge collection of different varieties of schneeballen and only schneeballen. Oh, and some terribly average coffee. We were freezing, and it looked warm, so we went inside. The huge selection of these desserts looked tempting, but I thought it best to try the original. I ordered just the one original schneeballen to share plus a coffee, much to the displeasure of the staff. It turned out to be more than enough. I wasn’t really a fan. It was like scotch biscuits, except drier and plainer. It actually reminded me a little of trying to eat Weet-Bix raw as a child.
The further we walked, the more we found to love with the town. It was much larger than I had expected, and a walk from one side of the ramparts to the other took quite some time.
Speaking of, the ramparts were still in fantastic shape. They were both solid and complete, and really made the town seem quite unique – though not quite as fortified as Carcassonne.
The ramparts were nice, but the colourful wooden buildings are what really made this town spectacular. We’ve seen plenty of towns with buildings like this, but never on such a scale. There must have been hundreds of these stunning colourful houses, all slightly different in either shape or adornment.
The only complaint, which will sound like a broken record after the past few days, was the weather. We were freezing, and even my newly purchased down inner wasn’t making it comfortable to walk around town for extended periods.
It was possible to climb up the ramparts at several points around town and even walk along the sloping wooden pathways that clung to the side of the fortified walls. The views from up here were exceptional, giving a birds eye view, high above the cobbled streets of the town.
It was beautiful, but there came a time that we felt we’d seen enough, and the discomfort of the cold in our clothing was too much to continue ignoring.
We were now on our way to visit our friend who was living in a wagon community near the Black Forest!
Bonus! – Neuschwanstein Castle (2016)
Way back in March 2016, my company had a work supported ski weekend in Austria. We flew with our friends, whose wedding we joined in Slovakia. The cheapest flights that we found to get to Mayrhofen was flying in to Memmingen, and flying back from Munich – both in Bavaria. As luck would have it, the drive from Memmingen took us right pass Fussen, and Neuschwanstein Castle.
It was bitterly cold, and there was still a moderate layer of snow covering the land. Fortunately we had packed to visit a ski resort, so we had the right clothing to deal with the temperatures.
We started with a walk around the old town of Fussen, stopping for some needed lunch – which was typical heavy Bavarian fare of pork knuckle. I’d picked up a stomach bug, making it one of those rare occasions that I wasn’t interested in eating.
I do remember thinking that the city looked quite pretty, but at the time, I was only interested in visiting the nearby castle. Looking back at the photos now, I’m glad to see that my opinion hasn’t really shifted.
This is when we got our first glimpse of the Sleeping Beauty castle, perched like a trophy up on top of the hill, surrounded by even bigger mountains. It’s quite a strange sight to see with your own eyes. It was both bigger and smaller than I had expected, and also prettier and plainer than I had assumed. It was an odd building, and even now, I find it hard to articulate the impression that I got.
We continued closer to the castle, and the details only got prettier. It’s truly wonderfully elegant and graceful, and while a swan would be the obvious choice (since Neu•schwan•stein is literally translated as New•swan•stone), I can’t now think of any other bird, because swan is in my head.
There is parking at the bottom of the hill, but to access the castle, it’s a moderate walk up an equally moderate incline. The only public transport options are horse drawn carriages – though I’d much rather walk.
But, before we started climbing, we had to try and buy tickets to enter the castle. Little did I know that there are pre-allocated timeslots for tours – and the next one was over 1hr away – and we still had a long drive to Mayrhofen in Austria ahead of us. We had to give the internal tours a miss, but decided to go up and have a closer look at the castle anyway.
It was quite cold, and I remember the air stinging my lungs as I started sucking it in deeply when my heart rate started rising. This was probably the most exercise I’d done in the six months since arriving in London, and I was probably going to be sore tomorrow. It was unexpectedly busy on the access road, with trains and trains of groups slowly making their way up the hill like grazing cattle.
The castle looked quite different from up close. There were more towers visible, but somehow it looked less elegant, and more traditional. In the distance we could see Marienbrücke, but to our bad luck, it was closed for maintenance, so we couldn’t walk up there for the best views of the castle.
We were able to enter the first courtyard without requiring tickets, which gave me a chance to take yet another photo inside a doorway – count how many are in the gallery on this post. I’m a little happy to see that I’ve been doing this for at least the last 18-months, and not just from this trip. Anyway, this was as far as we were able to go, which meant that we now had to return and walk back down to the car park below.
Sitting opposite Neuschwanstein was another castle, though one far less glamorous – Hohenschwangau. We had a bit of a walk around looking for better angles, but instead ended at the small lake, Alpsee. There was beauty in the muted colours and hidden shores.
Extra Bonus – Austria
Just because it was too pretty to not include, after we crossed the border into Austria, we were blessed with beautiful clear skies. We could now see the soaring, snow covered peaks. The same ones we were going to be snowboarding on tomorrow. It was also our first time viewing European Alps and we hadn’t yet been spoilt by the otherworldly peaks of Chamonix.