May 25, 2019 Wurzburg GE

Tonight François is parked about 20 yards from the Main River in Wurzberg.  We have had a couple of river barges come by close enough to look in the windows, and they can look into François.  We even waved at a guy going by in his room.  But while we have a great view out the front window, this is the closest we have ever been parked to our neighbors on each side. We cannot use our side door, and must exit from the front drivers door whenever we come and go.  

One of the river barges passing about 30 feet in front of François.  The hills in the background are hundreds of acres of vineyards.
Ton really liked this fountain on the pedestrian mall in Würzburg.

Würzburg  is a beautiful city that was almost completely destroyed during WWII.  The British Royal Air Force firebombed the city in 1945, and when the American army arrived at the town the Germans blew the bridges and made it clear they were going to defend the town.  Needless to say by this point in the war, with the end in sight we were not interested in taking any unnecessary casualties.  So we just sat back and bombarded the city with artillery until we completed the destruction the British had started.

The Residence of the Prince-Bishop that was almost totally gutted during WWII.

The Germans rebuilt the town after the war, and it is a very pretty river town in a great setting with vineyards surrounding the town on the hillside. There were a couple of landmarks that were not completely destroyed by the allies.  The Residence of the Prince -Bishop was largely destroyed, this was an 18th century palace along the lines of Versailles, but some of the rooms were still standing and luckily one of the “Monuments Men”, a group of US Army officers with architectural or art backgrounds tasked with preserving the art and buildings of Europe showed up in town and helped procure the needed materials to preserve what was remaining. As a result several monumental frescoes were preserved that would have been lost. 

We took a guided tour of the residence, and the guide was fantastic.  He really brought the building to life, and had a great blend of knowledge and a dry sense of humor that made the tour fantastic.  He was able to handle questions from the group with aplomb that we really admired.  Because of him the history of the residence came to life in a way that we did not expect.

Some of the Garden at the Prince-Bishops residence met to imitate Versailles.

We also had lunch at a local restaurant that had been in business since the 1300’s.  The food was good and we are sure we missed a real opportunity due to language.  Two ladies next to us seemed really fun, and while we tried to engage with them and them with us the lack of a common language really stifled what we are sure would have been a really fun and interesting conversation.

Würzburg has a pedestrian bridge over the Main River and the tradition is that you go to the bridge and have a glass of wine.  We are not sure how old the tradition is, but it is a great way to spend the evening so we participated.  When we arrived about 8pm the bridge was packed with people drinking wine and enjoying a band.  But around sunset at 9pm we looked around and realized the band was packing and the crowd  was nearly gone.

Ton enjoying some local wine on the Main River Bridge.
The Main River waterfront with the Catholic and Lutheran Churches in the background.

So a little disappointed we headed back to François for a late dinner, and bed.

May 18, 2019 Neuschwanstein GE

Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the must see landmarks in Germany.  Ton had already been twice, but since this is my first time in Germany she suggested we should see it.  We signed up for the tour from the Army.  

We have seen these giant strawberries all over Germany.  

The first stop on the tour was Weiskirche which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It contains a religious relic called the Scourged Jesus.  In the 1700’s an old wood carved Jesus statue was found in the hayloft of a barn where it had been stored for a couple of generations.  The farmers wife built a small chapel to house it, and the morning after they placed it in the chapel she noticed tears on the face. 

The scourged Jesus is in the center of the altar.

The area of the farm is on an old Roman Road which was the main pilgrimage route from Bavaria to Rome, so the pilgrims began visiting the chapel and miracles occurred.  Over time enough miracles occurred that the Scourged Jesus was declared a religious relic and  received funding for a proper church around 1745. 

The exterior of the pilgrimage church of Wieskirche.

The church was built in the Rococo style and is known as a pilgrimage church as it is out in the middle of a field not near a town.  We have spent quite a lot of time in Gothic churches and cathedrals so the Rococo style was interesting for us to observe.  It is much more light and airy than gothic.  The art work is focused more on the ceiling of the church, and they try to achieve a 3D effect by blending statues into the art.  The art work was quite beautiful, and either well preserved or recently restored.  

The ceiling of the Wieskirche leading to the door to heaven.

After the visit to the church we were encouraged to try some Bavarian Donuts.  Every culture seems to have a variation of fried sweet dough, and so far they are all delicious. We sat down with a soldier to eat our donut and he was on his way home after having spent the last 8 months working with the State Department, and US Aid assisting with Syrian Refugees.  He said it was the most complicated assignment he had faced in his 34 years in the army.  It was fascinating to here his experience trying to deal with the Turks and the Kurds both of whom are allied with the US, but hate each other pathologically.

Bavarian Donuts.

The next stop was Neuschwanstein Castle, which is the model for the Disney Castle (they reportedly pay a royalty to the Bavarian Government annually for the likeness).  The castle is quite new having built by King Ludwig II in the 1860’s.  

This was the castle Leopold grew up in, it was not good enough so he built Neuschwanstein.

Ludwig was quite an eccentric and spent a great deal of the treasury and his families money building this castle and two others.  He was spending money at such a fast rate that eventually the Bavarian Government had him declared insane, and appointed his Uncle king.  Shortly after he was deposed he was found “accidentally” drowned along with one of his Doctors in three feet of water, even though he was 6’5” tall.

The view from the castle back up the gorge it is perched on.

The castle is quite an impressive structure, and the workmanship of the rooms was superb.  The tours are conducted with Germanic precision and no pictures are allowed of the interior.  I can now cross Neuschwanstein off my bucket list.

Neuschwanstein Castle.

May 13, 2019 Meersburg GE

Another cold night last night with lows in the high 30’s.  The weather has been less than ideal this trip.  We have so far had only two sunny days, we have several days of heavy rain, and even the days when it has not rained have been cloudy and cold.  It is starting to wear on us a bit. 

There were 5 vans in the Stellplatz last night and we were the last to leave in the morning by a good bit.  We have a good excuse as we were up at about 5am celebrating the Trailblazers game 7 win in the NBA playoffs.

We wanted to swing by Lake Constance while we were in this part of Germany.  It is about 40 miles long and 7 miles wide at its widest point.  Germany, Switzerland, and Austria all have part of the lake.  Some of the tourist ads refer to it as Germany’s Riviera which is stretching it.

Lake Constance and the lower town of Meersburg from the top of the castle.

Meersburg made a favorable impression on us, though I think it would have made an even better impression if it was not gray, windy, and about 50 degrees. (OK I am done complaining about the weather.) Meersburg is a nice  town with two very distinct levels. As you look over the lake towards Switzerland you can see the Alps.   The upper level has a couple of very large estates one of which is an upscale winery, and the other a museum.  The lower level has some typical tourist stores as well as a lot of nice restaurants.

Vineyards stretching down the hill towards the ferry landing.

There is also an old castle that looked interesting so after some debate we decided to go for the tour.  It turns out that this is the oldest castle in Germany dating to the 1300’s.

The entrance to the castle.

This castle is in private hands now, after the church moved to a modern castle in the late 1700’s a family bought it in the 1800’s and still lives there today.  The first impression was just ok as we walked in just as about 60 French middle schoolers arrived.  But one of the guides came to us and told us to wait a few minutes to let the middle schoolers go, and we could join a guided tour that included a climb to the top of the tower which was not on the public tour.  The tour was in German, but she went out of her way at each stop to pull us aside and give us information in English.  

A view of the castle from the lower town. We climbed to the top of the center tower.

Like many castles it went thru several additions, and remodels so several different architectural styles are represented.  It did successfully withstand one siege of two months in the 1600’s.  They also have an extensive collection of armor and weapons from the middle ages until the late 1700’s.  

Part of the collection of medieval armor and arms in the castle.

It turned out to be a great tour.  At the end the guide spent twenty minutes with us discussing the area, different dialects of German, and other fun things.  She convinced us to stay another day and explore some more.

Ton took this picture on the way back to François.  It is one of her favorites so far on the trip.

September 22, 2018 Chateau de Chambord FR

Well, plans change. We had originally planned to go to Orleans for the day, but last night we discussed spending a few days in the Loire Valley.  When we woke up it was spitting rain and a little windy, The Weather Channel said it was going to improve as the day went on so we decided to skip Orleans, and head to Chateau de Chambord.

Ron plugged a GPS coordinate into the Garmin which was supposed to be for the motorhome parking at the Chateau and we took off.  The Garmin said it was only a 68km drive, and the roads were good.  Right at the end we started to think something was amiss as we suddenly started to get on smaller and smaller roads and this is maybe the largest tourist attraction in the Loire Valley.  At the end the GPS proudly announced we had arrived, but we were looking at a field next to a little village.  Either Ron inputted the coordinates wrong or the coordinates were wrong in the app we use to find places to stay.  Anyway after a little more research we were on our way to the Chateau.

Thirty minutes later we arrived and what a first impression.  The chateau is magnificent in scale.  As we walked up to the entrance Ton said that this must cost a fortune to maintain.  This would become a theme of the day. 

The first view of the Chateau, it really is immense.

The Chateau was originally constructed from 1519 to 1547 by King François I.  It is built in the Renaissance style and has 11 towers on the roof that are supposed to look like Istanbul.

The back of the Chateau. The roof was supposed to be modeled on the skyline of Constantinople (now Istanbul).

While it is really something to look at it is indeed difficult to maintain.  When you watch the movie of the history of the Chateau it goes something like this, François builds it, and then loses interest in it and it deteriorates, another king gives it to someone who spends a fortune on it and then loses interest and it deteriorates, it passes to another owner who spends a fortune etc.  In fact it may be the greatest white elephant in France.

The ceiling on the third floor, the salamander was the symbol of François I.  

It is now maintained by the French National Park Service and they are clearly spending a fortune to restore and maintain it.  Hopefully they will succeed as it is worth keeping.

These gardens were beautifully restored in 2017.

September 28, 2018 St. Malo FR

Today we enjoyed Brittany.  We had to make a decision, who said there is no stress on these trips.  We are really enjoying Brittany and the weather is great.  But to really explore Brittany is going to take another 3 or 4 days, and we will still be 3 or 4 days from Spain.   We are now on the 11th day of the trip, and we are no closer to Spain than when we arrived.  France is addictive.  So we had to decide whether we spend time here in Brittany, or head south towards Spain.  After much talk and discussion we decided today was going to be the only day in Brittany and we were going to head to Spain.  

The next trick was getting diesel.  Suddenly our credit cards have stopped working at gas stations. We have had no problems with our cards until now.  A quick call to one of our credit cards confirmed we were good, and they did not even see the attempt to charge that was rejected.   After a couple of attempts today we found a fuel station that would take one of our cards, we were under a quarter tank so it was expensive to fill up.

Leaving our campground we saw a nice windmill near the road so we swung in.
While we were there the French Army decided to stage a paradrop for us, Ron was thrilled.  These guys landed right next to Mont St. Michel.

Having made the decision, Brittany is making it hard to leave.  We started the day at St. Malo which is a port town.  St.  Malo was pretty much leveled during WWII as the German garrison would not surrender. After a substantial siege the Allies finally took it.  So except for the city walls the city has pretty much been rebuilt since WWII.  But they did a great job of rebuilding the old city within the walls of the fort.  

Part of the fort at St. Malo.

We spent most of our time in St. Malo walking the battlements of the fort.  St. Malo was  a fortified port for 500 years.  Some of the forts were built by the man who is considered by many to be the greatest fort builder in the western world, Vauban.  They are indeed impressive, and were even able to pretty much withstand 20th century weapons during WWII.  In addition the natural setting on the Bay of St. Malo is really beautiful.  We really enjoyed St. Malo.  

One of the forts designed by Vaubin.  The bird in the foreground seemed very happy to have his photo taken.

Brittany was originally settled by Celts, and St. Malo has a strong connection to Wales.  Ron believes his family name is originally Breton so it is a special place for him.  They are famous for a cake called Kouign Amann.  That is a good Celtic word and we could not master how to pronounce it, but it tasted good.  It tasted a little like an apple fritter.

We had the smallest Kouign Amann.  A prize for anyone who can pronounce this.

Our last stop for the day was Dinan which unlike St. Malo was bypassed during WWII and has a lot of its original buildings.  It is also a fortified town, but here we focused on the town and enjoyed walking down the narrow streets within the fort and enjoying the timbered buildings.  

Some of these wooden houses date from the 1500’s.

September 27, 2018 Mont St. Michel FR

There are two iconic images of France for tourism.  One is the Eiffel Tower and the other is Mont. St. Michel.  Since we were close by and it is off season we decided to head there and cross it off the bucket list.

Before we left the campground in Bayeux Ron had a touching conversation with an English lady.  She came up to Ron and said that she recognized him from yesterday at the American Cemetery.  She told him how moved she was by the sites there and the sacrifice of the young men who came to another continent to help.  I told her that they were honored to do it, and explained to her that the families had the choice of burying them here or having the body transported home for burial.  She teared up and said that she was honored that so many chose to be buried here.  I am bad with tears and did not know what to say, but thanked her for her kind thoughts.

The Garmin had been choosing pretty easy routes on nice wide roads, but decided to test us today by sending us off on small D Roads for the first 30 km, including one that turned out to be closed for construction.  After some wandering around on back roads we came out to a pretty major road and the next thing we knew we were on a nice freeway for the last 60km.

Our first view of Mont St. Michel.

Mont St. Michel is a spectacular site and that is why it is an icon.  We had a pretty good walk to the free shuttle to the island.  The bus was packed, and the initial impression was of a big crowded tourist site, but it won us over.  The site on the outcropping surrounded by mud flats is right out of any movie.  The abby is both beautiful and a marvel of construction.  Expecting something sterile and packaged we came away impressed.

A shot across the Knights Hall which was the dinner place for the Knights.
On the way back we had a nice snack of mussels with some Normandy Cider.  We guessed that it was about a Kilo of mussels.  The coffee style cups are for the cider.

We wanted to cap the night off with some pictures of the Mont at night.  We walked down to the river to the bridge as we thought it would be a nice shot.  Tonight is warm and there is not a breath of wind, and we are basically in a big swamp so the mosquitos were swarming.  We fought them for about 30 minutes waiting for the lights to come on, but the mosquitos won and we headed back to François for the night with no pictures.

Not the shot with the Mont lit up like we wanted, but the mosquitos drove us home.