Monthly Archive: January 2015

Thursday

29

January 2015

6

COMMENTS

Zugspitze: The Highest Peak (and Beer Garden) in Germany

Written by , Posted in Restaurants, Travel

After our visit to Neuschwanstein Castle we had one more stop to make on our Southern Bavaria itinerary – the Zugspitze. The Zugspitze is Germany’s highest peak and is home to 3 glaciers, a ski resort, multiple restaurants, and Germany’s highest beer garden (also one of Conde Nast Traveler’s Coolest Beer Gardens Around The World). The border between Germany and Austria runs over its summit and on a clear day you can see over 400 peaks in Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland.

As soon as we started planning our trip to Germany I knew that seeing the Alps from the Zugspitze was a must-do for me. At 51€/person for a round-trip ticket on the cable car, it would definitely be one of the pricier activities on our trip, but from what I had seen the views were totally worth it.

We had planned to go to the Zugspitze the day after visiting Neuschwanstein. We stayed at a B&B nearby and headed out early that morning to beat the crowds. I had been obsessively checking the weather and watching the Zugspitze’s panoramacams since the night before and although it looked like we may have to deal with a few clouds, the rain was going to stay away and the Zugspitze website showed a fairly high visibility. The drive was relatively clear and we were sure that any fog and clouds above would eventually burn off as the morning went on.

Germany, Bavaria, Mountains

There are two ways to get up to the peak – either by Cogwheel train or by one of two different cable cars – one on the German side near Lake Eibsee, the Eibsee-Seilbahn, and one on the Austrian side, the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn. The cogwheel train only goes about halfway up the mountain and you have to switch to a cable car at that point. We went with the Eibsee-Seilbahn cable car because it seemed like the closest and easiest option for us.

Germany, Zugspitze, Cable Car, Eibsee

Once we arrived at the Eibsee-seilbahn, we could see that there were clouds near the top of the mountain but the cameras still showed a few clear views and the forecast was partly cloudy skies the rest of the day. The following day we planned to drive to the Black Forest so although the weather wasn’t as perfect as I had hoped, we decided to buy our tickets up to the top, hoping that as the sun rose higher it would clear up the lingering clouds.

Germany, Zugspitze, Cable Car, Eibsee

The ride up to nearly 10,000 feet above sea level was equal parts thrilling and terrifying. I parked myself in the corner of the car that faces down and towards the lake so I could snap as many photos as possible. Each time the car passed one of the pylons it felt like the car was hopping over and leaving my stomach behind, that same feeling you get right after the big drop on a roller coaster. Luckily I was able to push aside my fear and enjoy the breathtaking scene below.

Germany, Zugspitze, Cable Car, Eibsee

As we continued to climb Mike and I both began to realize that we had definitely underestimated the amount of cloud cover that lay above. By the time we made it to the top, any openings in the clouds had completely closed up and visibility was a big, thick, white, zero. Talk about depressing. We made our way up to the observation deck to find that freezing rain and wild winds accompanied these nonexistent views.

Germany, Zugspitze, Cable Car, Fog

Germany, Zugspitze, View, Fog

Germany, Zugspitze, Wind, Fog

At that point there wasn’t much we could do except make the most of our time on the Zugspitze and drink, eat, and drink some more – there was definitely no shortage of beer on that mountain! We headed inside to Gipfelalm to warm up with glühwein and and a hearty plateful of roasted pork, gravy, dumplings, and homemade red cabbage. Thank goodness for that delicious meal, it really was the saving grace of the day.

Germany, Zugspitze, Restaurant

Germany, Zugspitze, Restaurant,, Gluhwein

Germany, Zugspitze, Restaurant, Goulash

Germany, Zugspitze, Beer Garden

We stayed at Gipfelalm for a few hours, with all the clouds there weren’t many other visitors coming through. I was beyond disappointed that we ended up with such a crappy day so we decided that before we left for the Black Forest the following day, we would come back up to the Zugspitze ONLY if it was a perfect day.

We woke up the next morning and headed out even earlier than we had the day before. The weather forecast was very promising, but as we wound along the backroads to Lake Eibsee we were starting to question that weather forecast again…

Germany, Bavaria, Fog

Germany, Bavaria, Fog

By the time we made it to the Eibsee-Sielbahn the fog had almost completely lifted and the Zugspitze panoramacams were showing blue skies ahead. It was definitely a much better outlook than the day before so we decided to give it one more try. Back up we went in the cable car and once we reached the top we were so happy that we did. The views were absolutely stunning and the blue skies went on for miles and miles. This is easily one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever been.

Germany, Zugspitze, View

Germany, Zugspitze, Beer Garden

Germany, Zugspitze, Peak, View

Germany, Zugspitze, View

Germany, Zugspitze, View

Germany, Zugspitze, View

Germany, Zugspitze, View

We made our way around the observation deck, crossing over into Austria and taking in the view from every angle possible. There were still some clouds hovering around the beer garden but shortly after we sat down everything cleared up and it was the picture-perfect day. Do I wish we could’ve seen these views for the price of only one round-trip cable car ticket? Duh. Do I regret the choice to come back up? Not for one second.

Germany, Zugspitze, Beer Garden

Germany, Zugspitze, Beer Garden

Germany, Zugspitze, Beer Garden

Germany, Zugspitze, View

This morning was easily one of the highlights of the trip for me. I wish we would’ve had the time to just relax and take it all in for hours like we had the day before, but sometimes things don’t always go the way you’ve planned. We enjoyed a couple beers while soaking in as much of the beauty as we possibly could before it was time to head back down the mountain and be on our way.

The high visibility that day and the fact that it was a Saturday exponentially increased the number of visitors to the Zugspitze. By the time we were back at the cable car station at 11:30am the line of people waiting to buy tickets and go up was out the door…and it was a really long way to the door. Obviously going up to the Zugspitz is something I highly recommend, but only if you can be fairly certain that the views are there. If it’s something you really want to do, plan for a little flexibility in your trip – stay in Southern Bavaria for a couple of days and go up to the Zugspitze when the skies are clear. Just be sure to get there early to avoid the crowds (we probably arrived around 9am) and leave some time to kick back with a Löwenbräu and enjoy the views!

Wednesday

28

January 2015

0

COMMENTS

Neuschwanstein Castle

Written by , Posted in Travel

After 2 days in Rothenburg we packed up our things yet again and headed south on the Autobahn to the next stop on our trip – Neuschwanstein Castle. Deep in the heart of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle is easily one of the most recognizable castles in Europe, if not the world. Built in the mid-late 19th century for King Ludwig II, this beautiful castle looks like it was plucked straight from the pages of a fairytale. In fact, it actually served as inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle. The interior of the castle was only partially completed before Ludwig’s death, but the exterior and picture-perfect backdrop are more than enough to wow.

Neuschwanstein Castle

As we drove through Schwangau and into the village of Hohenschwangau (home to both Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Hohenschwangau), it did not appear that the weather was going to cooperate with us that Thursday afternoon. The rain and grey skies above had us (mainly me) feeling a bit anxious about our visit to the castle, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

It was just after noon as we pulled into one of the parking lots and the streets of Hohenschwangau were already overflowing with tourists. Luckily we had booked tickets in advance (which I highly recommend) so our line to pick up and pay for our tickets was quick and painless. Armed with rain coats (and unfortunately not the best choice of footwear for me), Mike and I decided we would make the trek up to the castle on foot, rather than waiting in line and paying for one of the other transportation options of bus or horse-drawn carriage. Neither of these options went directly to the entrance of the castle, so there would have been some walking involved regardless of our choice.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

The walk up to the entrance of the castle took around 20 minutes at a relatively brisk pace. The path was nicely paved but it still had a bit of an incline, so it wasn’t exactly a leisurely stroll – not a bad thing for me considering all the schnitzel I had been consuming. This was also the same path that the horses used, so we had to do a bit of navigating around obstacles they had left behind, if you know what I mean. That being said, the forest around the path was beautiful and I’d definitely go for the climb again if I was able. Mike’s parents opted to buy a one-way ticket to take the bus up and then walked with us on the way down.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Once we arrived at the base of the castle we still had more climbing to do to get to the best viewpoint – Marienbrücke (Mary’s bridge). It took at least another 15 minutes of brisk walking to make it to the bridge, but at least we were able to enjoy beautiful views of the countryside along the way.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Once we had finally made it to Marienbrücke I wasn’t sure I wanted to go any farther. This narrow little bridge was suspended high above the forest and was packed with tourists – walking along the vibrating planks and peering over the side to the deep ravines below is not for the faint of heart.

The quest for the perfect photo pulled me forward and we squeezed our way across the bridge to find the crowds parted on the other side. The rain had let up soon after we started our climb and just as we found the perfect vantage point the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, throwing its warm light on the green fields below.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Lion + Maven | Neuschwanstein Castle

View of Marienbrücke from the castle

We lingered on the bridge, taking photos and enjoying the stunning views for a little while longer. It was nearing our tour time so eventually we made our way back down to the castle entrance. All tours are guided so we had to wait for our tour time to be called before entering the castle. Most of the castle remains unfinished and is not open to visitors, so our tour was relatively short and we weren’t allowed to take photos inside. At the end of the tour we were able to go out onto the balcony and steal a few more glimpses of that beautiful countryside below.

Neuschwanstein Castle

The views from above are what make this Bavarian village special; if we hadn’t had the time to tour the castle I wouldn’t have been all that disappointed. Luck was definitely on our side in terms of the weather, but all you can do is plan ahead, leave room for a bit of flexibility, and hope for the best. If you’re visiting Germany, a trip into Bavaria to see Neuschwanstein Castle is a must.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Thursday

22

January 2015

2

COMMENTS

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Part 2

Written by , Posted in Restaurants, Travel

On our second day in Rothenburg Ob der Tauber I woke up early to catch the sunrise. This is one of my favorite times to venture out in any city because the streets are always so empty and peaceful. I walked along the outer wall on the east side of the town as smoke began to rise from the chimneys, catching a glimpse of the fiery skies through the small openings along the wall.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Sunrise

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Sunrise

Eventually I made my over to the opposite side of the town to watch the sun come up and light the countryside below. So beautiful, and I had it all to myself.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Sunrise

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Sunrise

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

I made my way back to our hotel to grab a quick breakfast with the rest of the group. We spent the rest of the day shopping and exploring, with a beer and wine break in between. We found a great restaurant near our hotel that had a rooftop patio, the perfect spot to soak up the sun and blue skies above. Before dinner we stopped into Zur Höll – literally ‘to hell’ – for a drink on the recommendation of the Night Watchman. This cozy little bar/restaurant is in one of the oldest houses in Rothenburg and the food looked delicious – the space is small so I would definitely recommend a reservation.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Zur Holl

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Zur Holl

For dinner on our final night in Rothenburg we had reservations at Cafe Michelangelo, an Italian restaurant about a 5-10 minute walk from the Market Square. The interior was very modern, definitely a change from the rustic style we’d become accustomed to seeing on our trip. All the food here was great, but I’d recommend skipping the pizza and going for the pasta, especially the Rigatoni al Forno – straight from the oven and filled with a whole lot of gooey, delicious cheese. They also have an entire menu page devoted to black truffles, and who doesn’t love a taste of those delicious fungi?! I’m pretty sure I could’ve eaten schnitzel and spätzle every day of our trip, but a taste of Italian was the perfect change of pace.

Cafe Michelangelo, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Cafe Michelangelo, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Cafe Michelangelo, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Cafe Michelangelo, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Cafe Michelangelo, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Cafe Michelangelo, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Cafe Michelangelo, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Rothenburg was easily the cutest town we visited on our trip and also the best place to pick up a few beautiful German mementos.  The drive from Munich is under 3 hours, so it is definitely doable as a day trip, but I enjoyed being there at night and in the early morning before all the tourist buses rolled into town. If you’re visiting Germany I highly recommend planning a stop in Rothenburg, this is a medieval gem you don’t want to miss.

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