Sep 19 Germany

This is our first visit to Germany since we moved back to the UK in Feb 2010 and we were very excited to be back. Our plan was to drive along the Romantische Strasse as we had completed some of it in our MX5 many years ago and thought it would be different to be able to park up in the campervan in some of the most scenic places. Rather than dash to the start of the Romantische Strasse, we decided to spend some time on the Mosel, and headed for Bernkastel-Kues. As we drove over the bridge at Zeltingen, en route, I spotted a stellplatze right by the river. We quickly changed our plan and swung in to grab a riverside pitch.

Riverside pitch. Plenty of boats to watch.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the river was looking gorgeous. Zeltingen is a typical wine producing town, picturesque and with a backdrop of vineyards. We enjoyed two nights here and found it hard to tear ourselves away. We even treated ourselves to a meal out in a restaurant overlooking the river. Not something we do very often!

Zeltingen on the Mosel
Pretty timbered houses
Vineyard background
Grand river front building

Feeling that we should get moving, we moved a whole 4.5 kilometers along the road to a touring site within walking distance of Bernkastel-Kues. Although it was not quite as scenic we still managed a riverside pitch and stayed for 2 nights, just long enough for a quick visit to the town.

We have been here before but it was still rather lovely . It is one of the more touristy towns and there were a few Oriental visitors getting in the way as they posed themselves in front of the various attractions. However, it was nice to see a bit of bustling activity. There are the usual half timbered buildings which are quirky and pretty, and you can walk through to the vineyard covered hills beyond. The river is busy here with river cruise boats and day trip boats coming and going.

Lots of angles on this one!
Nice variety of coloured buildings
More Mosel buildings
Lots of elegant buildings like this in Bernkastel

This is a very picturesque and much photographed Mosel town. There are others just as lovely.

Our next stop was Senheim near Cochem. The plan here was to stay on a campsite where we could get the washing done and hung out to dry whilst bussing into Cochem. The campsite we chose is a Dutch run site and therefore, very orderly. It was also very full with mostly Dutch people. Not a problem, at least we got one of a few remaining pitches and a river view between some caravans. The weather let us down here and we didn’t go into Cochem. We did manage to dodge the showers and walk into the village for a look around. Not much here apart from a winery offering tasting tours, and a few eateries. The walk along the river was pleasant enough and the view across to the neighbouring village was pretty in the evening.

Mosel at Senheim
Main road through village
Central hotel with typical decorative sign
Another decorative sign. Most of the menus focus on pork
Looking across to village opposite campsite
Senheim village church

It was time to move on again, otherwise we were never going to get to the Romantische Strasse. We drove along the Mosel through some gorgeous villages where the stellplatz were bustling, and we were very tempted to stop for a while. However, we felt we must stick to our plan and promised ourselves a return visit. We headed across country, over the hills and finally arrived at Wurzburg which is at the start of the Romantische Strasse.

WURZBURG

Once again we struck lucky with our spot on the stellplatz. We arrived to find it was full and had just parked in a normal car parking place when, to our delight, someone decided to leave. We quickly spun our seats round and shifted onto a river front spot. We also had electricity so we were able to charge all our devices and save on our gas. This becomes more exciting, the more we live off grid!

Relaxing spot by the river

Now we were settled, we walked along the river and over the Alte Main Brucke, into the heart of the city. By now it was early evening and folk were enjoying glasses of local wine as they strolled across the bridge. It was a lovely atmosphere on a beautiful late summers evening. We also enjoyed watching the cruise boats passing through the lock under the bridge and very close to our van on the stellplatz.

Socialising on the bridge at Wurzburg
River cruise boat at Wurzburg just approaching the lock

There is a lot to see in Wurzburg including the Residenz, which is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. We needed a full day to visit The Residenz, so we had a day following the walking tour guide around Wurzburg and a day dedicated to The Residenz. The Fortress Marienberg which is on the hill overlooking Wurzburg had to be added to our future list.

Here are a few of the best bits that we saw on our walk round. We were staying close enough to be able to go back to the van for a couple of hours before heading back into town to enjoy the evening atmosphere.

Marienkapelle
Marienkapelle
Marienkapelle at night
Grafeneckart and Town Hall

Long arcade at the Juliusspital. Founded in 1576
Attractive courtyard of the Juliusspital
Fountain in gardens behind the Juliusspital
Unusual statues in Juliusspital gardens
Falkenhaus. Formerly a guesthouse. Facade dates from 1751
Stift Haug dominating the area
Stift Haug. First church building of the Baroque era in Franconia
Cathedral of St Kilian. A mixture of eras and styles
Inside the Neumunsterkirche
Ornate frontage.
Grafeneckart and Town Hall at night
Statue outside the Grafeneckart in Beim Grafen
Group entertaining in the square outside the Grafeneckart
Cruise ship on River Main at Wurzburg

The visit to the Residenz and the Court Garden was our aim for the next day. It was a 30 minute walk through the town and we arrived just in time for a guided tour in English. No photos were allowed inside the building so we bought a postcard! It was rather relaxing just listening to the guide and marvelling at the ostentatious decor. The mirror room was the most amazing sight. Much of the building has undergone restoration since a devastating fire in 1945 which has cost a fortune and I am sure is helped by the contributions of visitors. The staircase is also a wondrous sight. It is an unsupported vaulted roof which was decorated by Venetian Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in 1752/3. The ceiling fresco represents the four continents and is one of the largest frescoes ever created.

We had to satisfy our photographic desire by taking pictures of the outside. It is a big place and the grounds are not extensive so we managed to find a bench on which to eat our sandwiches.

A bit of colour outside the palace
Formal gardens at the rear
Interesting use of the trees for sheltering the statues!
View from our picnic bench

We had a cup of very expensive coffee in the restaurant and made our way back to the aire. Altogether a very pleasant couple of days. In the tourist office we had picked up a guide to the Romantic Road. It has a map and brief details of all the participating places. We did not realise that there are 29 destinations along the route! We decided quite quickly that we would need to be selective.

BAD MERGENTHEIM

Bad Mergentheim is the former town of residence of the Grand and German Masters of the order of Teutonic Knights. It has a castle of the Teutonic Order with a chapel and museum. From our parking place near the stellplatz across the park from the town, we walked through the castle grounds and gateway into the town. The market place is home to some fine half-timbered houses and Baroque palaces. The town has a reputation for its spa and wellness focus.

Rathaus Square
Kloster
One of many lovely old buildings
Busy little place

We did not think there was enough here to keep us overnight, so we did not stay on the stellplatz. We moved on to our next stop at Rothenburg ready to immerse ourselves in a feast of Medieval delight.

ROTHENBURG ob der TAUBER

We had a tricky time getting round the old town and onto the right road for the stellplatz. The sat nav wanted to direct us through the narrow archways and through the pretty cobbled streets. Eventually, instinct paid off and we arrived safely. The stellplatz was extremely busy but we managed to find a spot for the night. In the morning, there was the usual movement and we dashed into a newly vacant spot with a grass verge and electric. It is not essential for us to have electric but, it is a bonus if we can keep things charged, such as the camera battery and the phones.

Once settled on the first evening, we walked into the town through one of the town gates in the wall. From here you can access the town wall via the Spital Bastion or walk up one of the most photographed streets in Germany, Spitalgasse. Rothenburg is a really beautiful Medieval town with an interesting history. It became a commercial centre in the 12th century, due to its position, and in 1274 it was elevated to a Free Imperial City by King Rudolph of Habsburg. In 1618-48, it was a victim of the 30 years war then was only saved from invasion by the Meistertrunk (Master draught). In 1945 40% of the buildings were destroyed in a bombing attack by allied forces. Financial support from around the world enabled the destroyed areas to be restored.

Spitalgasse

Our first day was spent in the town and the Burggarten. There were plenty of visitors giving the place a buzz, mostly American for a change. The Christmas shops were in full swing and doing a roaring trade. There are so many attractive buildings, it is an absorbing place to visit. The only slight disappointment was the glockenspiel. The two figures that appear when the doors open do not come out. I think we were spoiled by the really exciting one in Goslar.

Spital Bastion. There are two inner courtyards, seven gates and an upper walkway
Inner courtyard
Upper walkway
One of the guns in the upper walkway
Town viewed from the Burggarten

At 8pm every day, there is a night watchman tour of the city. I attended the tour on our first full day there, with a neighbour from the stellplatz, whilst Clyde and her husband sat in the market square with a beer. It helped to get a feeling for the history of the place and I revisited some of the parts the next day in daylight.

On our second day, we did the walk around as much of the walls as we could access. There are 7 towers still accessible and one of them is open for you to climb up and view the town from the top.

Altogether, Rothenburg is a truly worthwhile stop on the Romantische Strasse and one we would not have wanted to miss.

View from the wall walkway
Interesting shaped building viewed from the walkway

DINKELSBUHL

On our way to our next stop at Dinkelsbuhl, we paused at Feuchtwangen and Schillingsfurst, as they are on the Romantic Road list. Both small places, the view from the Schloss at Feuchtwangen was best bit for us, as we did not visit the schloss itself. There was a great atmosphere in Schillingsfurst as it was a family fun run day. The local band were there playing good old German music to cheer things along. We stood and applauded the runners for a while before moving on.

View from outside the Schloss at Feuchtwangen
Fun run celebrations at Schillingsfurst

We decided on a campsite at Dinkelsbuhl so I could get some washing done. I booked in advance for once and when we arrived, I discovered I had booked a site near Munich with the same name!! Last time I do that, as I lost my £4.50 deposit!

It was a 20 minute walk into the town, which is more compact than Rothenburg but also Medieval with lots of unspoiled buildings. The streets are wider which gives it a different feel. We had a wander round and then enjoyed an iced coffee overlooking the main street.

Centre of Dinkelsbuhl

The Cathedral by the main square

Dinkelsbuhl had a different atmosphere from Rothenburg. It was not nearly as busy or touristy and was a lovely relaxing place to enjoy for a few hours.

DONAUWORTH

This was another short stay for us as it was not very exciting. We managed to squeeze onto the free stellplatz, where we bumped into some people who had been at Rothenburg. We had a walk into the town, were slightly disappointed by the glockenspiel at 1630, visited the cathedral and back to the van via a riverside cafe for coffee. The weather was not so bright which probably coloured our view!

Nice pink town gateway
Glockenspiel. The bells played a nice tune at 1630 each day
Very decorative cathedral
Nice feature in the main street

NEUBERG AN DER DANAU

By now, we fancied a change from the Romantic Road and made for the Danube. We stopped at Neuberg with the idea of strolling by the Danube and visiting the Schloss. We were happy with the stellplatz, as it was on the banks of the river and had a great view of the schloss.

Neuberg Schloss

Sadly, this was another of those places that look better from the outside. We paid to go in the schloss and were disappointed by the lack of anything decorative within. The courtyard had interesting painted walls which were unlike anything we had seen before.

Painted walls in the courtyard
Handsome courtyard

There is a compact old town with some attractive buildings but, when we were there, it was deserted. The lack of people made it feel unattractive and we were not inclined to linger.

One of the central buildings

The best part of this visit for us was the view of the schloss across the river, and the stellplatz where we relaxed in the sun.

AUGSBURG

Back on task, we went to Augsburg. It was a 30 minute walk into the centre from the stellplatz which we did twice. It was not good for Clyde’s knee so we limited the walking around Augsburg and focussed on the central parts. This is a university town and has a lively feel to it. The central square was busy and on our second visit, there was a peaceful, but musical, demonstration taking place in recognition of the world climate justice protest.

Augsburg has an interesting history and we visited the Fugger and Welser museum to see how the two families had contributed to the development of the city through their trading and banking activities. The grand Maximilianstrasse has some lovely buildings and I also visited the Fuggerei. This was the 1st social housing complex in the world, set up by the Fuggers in 1521. It is still operating today and is a most interesting place to visit. I am not sure what the residents feel about living in a museum with people walking past their windows having a good look and taking photos!

Building on Maximilianstrasse
One of the streets in the Fuggerei
All the buildings are this colour and well maintained
Inside the historic preserved cottage
Kitchen as left by a resident
Inside the Golden Saal

Inside the Rathaus is the renovated Golden Saal. It is used for grand occasions and weddings. It is certainly an impressive sight. We paid to go in and have a look. Not to be missed!

It was time to move on. There is a lot of the Romantische Strasse to cover!

ROTTENBUCH
Augsburgh exhausted, we looked at our Romantische Strasse leaflet again and plumped for a visit to somewhere more countrified. Rottenbuch seemed to fit the bill so we decided to spend a couple of days on the ACSI site there, get the washing done, and explore the local area.
The first afternoon there, we walked into the village. It is not very big but there are some lovely walks in the area. The village is mostly comprised of the Klosterhof and is extremely charming. We stepped through the creaky door of the rather plain looking church and our eyes popped out. What a stunning interior! This was definitely the highlight of the village.

Unassuming front door
Church at Rottenbuch
So much plaster, carving and gold leaf!
Lots of gilt
Klosterhof

Next day, we went to visit Schloss Linderhof, which is a 30 minute drive away through very pretty countryside. The schloss grounds are extensive but only a relatively small area is devoted to formal gardens. The schloss is very small and was built by King Ludwig 11. It was the only palace that was finished in his lifetime and he actually lived there for part of the time. He was a strange character who did not like people much and preferred his own company so he had small rooms for receiving guests as large gatherings were not his thing. The rooms that ae available for visiting, by guided tour only, are sumptious Roccoco afairs. The mirrored room is astonishing but as you are not permitted to take photos in the Palace, I have no evidence to share here. We enjoyed the flora fountain in the front courtyard but the cascade is undergoing renovation so it was closed off. The views from the top of the staircase in front of the palace are also very pleasing.

Flora Fountain
Pretty gardens
Folly at top of steps in front of the palace

On the way home we stopped for a cup of tea by a lake which was very busy with locals enjoying a swim and boating activities. Back at the campsite, my washing was dry. Just as well as it rained all the next day. We used the time to do some planning and decided to extend our stay in Europe by two weeks.

As we were initially planning to drive down to Monaco in France, we thought a stay by the Bodensee would make a convenient stopping place. The weather had not improved much when we set off but we stuck to the plan and stopped overnight on the stellplatz outside the campsite at Lindau. It was not the best part of the lake but was fine for one night. Next day we made it to the border town of Freiburg.

FREIBURG
We found the stellplatz in Freiburg quite easily and were welcomed by the friendly Manager, who spoke excellent English. His wife provided us with a map and information about the city. It was a bit of a step into the centre but having the map was a bonus as we probably would have gone wrong along the way, as we did in Augsburg. A determined English lady from a van near us also gave us detailed instructions, which actually confused us a bit! I remembered having been to Freiburg several years ago but I did not recognise it until we finally found the Altstadt. We must have stayed on a different stellplatz last time and approached from a different direction. It is a very bustling city full of students. We were helped by a lovely young man who saw we were lost in the back streets. He was pleased to practice his English with us. We only had a short time to spend here and the weather was inclement, but the old parts were well worth a visit.

Neues Rathaus
Cathedral Square
Altes Rathaus
Haus zum Walfische

Cathedral

After a couple of hours enjoying Freiburg we were ready to head back to the van and prepare for our trip across the border into France.