Today we departed Germany after 34 days. Germany was an easy place to travel, we enjoyed the country. It is a well organized and well run country. Ton enjoyed a lot of cities particularly Bamberg, Mainau, Lubeck, and the northern romantic road cities of Dinkelsbuhl, Rothenburg, and Wurzburg. I tended to lean a little more to the old East German cities of Lubeck, Schwerin, and Leipzig. We drank a lot of beer and while we had many good ones, we also had a lot of mediocre beer which was disappointing. The food is hearty and filling but not particularly interesting though we did gain an appreciation of sauerkraut.
Today we needed a work day, so we took advantage of the lower gas and grocery prices in Germany to fill up François before we departed. After arriving at our campground we got a load of laundry done.
When we were done we only had time for a quick walk thru the town outside of the campground. As this was our only day in the Netherlands we did what all good tourists do, we explored a grocery store to compare the inventory and prices with the other countries we have visited. The little suburb outside our campground was really well tended and clean which really is the stereotype of the Netherlands.
Another long drive today as we decided it was time to move on from Germany. Just like with Spain we thought we had enough time to see most of Germany and it turns out we have missed most of the central part of the country. We wanted to make one more stop on our way out of the country in Cologne.
Cologne is one of the largest tourist destinations in Germany and has the most visited place in Germany in its Gothic Cathedral. Since it was on the way towards The Netherlands we decided to spend the night here. Again we were both up pretty early and got an early start so our drive to Cologne was nice and easy if a bit long.
We got a nice spot in the aire facing the Rhine River so we have spent part of the day watching the river barges going past. After settling down we headed towards the city center to join the crowds at the cathedral. Our route was along the Rhine, and for the last mile the path was a sprawling flea market. Between the flea market, the holiday and the five river cruise boats docked along the river the river walk was jammed with people.
We finally reached the cathedral, and had a quick walk around the exterior before going in. Much to our surprise the entrance was free. This cathedral is still Catholic unlike many of the churches we have been visiting lately which started out as Catholic, and were converted to Lutheran after the reformation. The exterior is massive and the spires are the main attraction. Construction was started in 1248 and suspended in 1473, it was finally completed in 1880 after over 400 years of suspension.
The interior is attractive, and the stain glass is pretty though we presume it is all post WWII. The Cologne cathedral would probably make our top 10 list of cathedrals if we were keeping one, but closer to number 10 than number 1.
Cologne is also famous as the originator of Kolsch Beer, so that was the next attraction we headed for. The first place we went was Peters Beerhouse where the first waiter asked if we were there to eat or to drink, we replied drink and he immediately showed us to a standup bar in a corner next to a bar, and the place where waiters return the used beer glasses. This was in a huge place that could easily seat several hundred and it was 90% empty. The tradition in Cologne is to serve beers in small glasses so that the beer remains cold, the server is supposed to come by frequently so you can get refills. In this case after the first round the waiter came by and said his shift was over so we needed to pay up. So we were out of there.
Hoping that was an aberration we headed over to another famous Kolsch place which again was largely empty, this time we got to pick out table and sit, but the service was not particularly friendly so we decided to cut our losses and head on back to François thru the slightly less crowded flea market. Ton cooked a great German meal of pork cutlets, spatzle, sauerkraut and kraut salad so the day ended on a positive note as we enjoyed our meal while looking out on the river traffic on the Rhine.
We learned yesterday afternoon that Monday is a holiday in Germany which explains the big crowds both in Bremen and at the stellplatz. When we got back to the stellplatz last night there was a sign in the entrance saying that there was no room in the parking lot. Because we liked Bremen and were worried about finding a similar sign in our next destination we decided to spend another day.
The World Heritage Site the old town hall that we saw yesterday had a tour today at noon and we decided to make that our highlight for the day. We slept in and then spent the morning cleaning François and watching the morning exodus of motorhomes from the stellplatz before walking down to the city for our tour.
The tour of the interior was helped by an extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide who did a good job of explaining how Bremen developed as an independent merchant city under the Holy Roman Empire. When Charlemagne first tried to incorporate Bremen into his empire he did so in the normal way by sending a bishop to the city. The citizens of Bremen resisted this because they wanted the city government to be separate from the church. Charlemagne’s son Roland agreed to this and Bremen claims to be the first government where the separation of church and state was formally proclaimed.
Unlike in other cities in Europe the town hall was as prominent as the Cathedral, and do to luck the building survived all of the wars that occurred over the 600 years it has been in existence. In addition to the normal fantastic wood carvings and paintings the town hall also has a giant wine cellar that holds over 650 different examples of German wine.
Part of the wine cellar is now a restaurant so we decided to treat ourselves to lunch down in the cellar. When we arrived we were offered a private room for about 6 people built into the side of the cellar. It was a cool place even though we were planning on a light lunch.
After lunch we strolled thru town for a while taking in the sites, and people watching. Bremen has a cute town symbol the four musicians of Bremen. It is based on a fairy tale by the brothers Grimm about 4 animals who are abandoned by their owners when they are too old to be useful. The 4 of them decide to move to Bremen to be musicians and even though in the fairy tale they do not make it to Bremen the town has adopted them as the symbol. There is a statue of the four musicians next to the town hall and the legend is that if you make a wish and touch both forelegs your wish will come true. It is important to touch both legs because as they say in Bremen if you only touch one it is just two asses shaking hands with each other.
There was a pretty violent thunderstorm last night that lasted a couple of hours. I think as a result we both woke up early and decided to get out of Hamburg before the traffic got bad, so we were on the road before 7am.
Ton had Bremen on her list of must see places because she had read that Germans vote the people from Bremen as the friendliest in Germany. That was enough for her to make it a must stop site for us. We decided to take a walking tour put on by the tourist information office. The guide was a local lady who told us she was afraid to speak English 10 years ago, but she decided in her 40’s to study and now gives tours about her home town in English.
Bremen as a port town and aircraft manufacturing city was heavily bombed during WWII but the town hall, and a section of town called the Schnoor (string in English) survived intact. The town hall is a UNESCO site and has a typical renaissance facade which is incredibly intricate and ornate. The Schnoor was a working class neighborhood for the history of the city and as a result there are a lot of older homes from the 15th thru the 19th centuries that have mostly been turned into tourist shops and restaurants.
Bremen has a well developed tourist infrastructure, and even early in the season was quite busy. We enjoyed the tour and then just walking around town.
We decided to treat ourselves out to dinner, and were looking at historical German restaurants when Ton said exactly what I was thinking, “lets get something beside German”, so we ended up with an excellent (and large) Greek dinner before heading back to François for the night.
When we moved from Schwerin to Lubeck we crossed from the former DDR (East Germany) to the GDR (West Germany). We knew because the pedestrian lights changed.
The wait and go lights in East Germany are referred to as Ampelmanchen, and are one of the few things that have been retained. Much cuter than in W. Germany, Ton loves the hat and the portlier body.
Hamburg is the second biggest city in Germany with a population of nearly 1.8 million. It is a bigger city than we normally take François into so we were a little nervous. The drive in turned out to be pretty easy with only one detour caused by construction. I had accidentally loaded in the coordinates for a different RV parking than we planned, but by the time we figured it out we were settled in.
We only budgeted one day for Hamburg so we decided to take a “Free Tour” of the city center to try to take in as much as we could in a short time. The tour as always was informative and gave us a quick view of the city and it’s history.
At the end of the tour we were by the new Elbphilharmonie Hall. This concert hall was recently completed in 2017 for over €800 million, and besides the concert hall there are apartments and a hotel in the building.
The concert hall reportedly has the best acoustics in the world, and is designed so that no one watching a concert is more than 100 feet from the stage. Today they were celebrating their 10 millionth visitor to the Hall so they had free concerts and apple strudels.
The interior is beautiful, the exterior attempts to be modern and striking and we think misses on the striking part. The observation deck has a panoramic view of the very busy Hamburg harbor.
Our last stop was a brewery in St. Pauli which is the former (current?) red light district for Hamburg. It turns out the brewery was across the street from the RV parking I had meant to use, so it was a missed opportunity to save on some walking. We stood out from the crowd, not because we were American, but because we were not young, hip, and tattooed. The beer was good, and the people watching fun so we indulged in two rounds instead of our normal one.
We have found a city in Germany that we really have a good feeling about. As we have traveled around Europe we find cities or towns that we kind of instantly like. Examples are San Sebastian, Seville, and Malaga in Spain, Dijon, Gardes, and Flavigny in France. It is hard to describe why, but it just happens. So far on this trip we have not had that experience with any German cities. We have discussed this several times over the trip, we have not had a bad experience here, but overall we are lacking the connection we have felt in Spain and France.
Before we headed out of Schwerin we headed to the town to take a look around. It has one of the nicest castles we have seen, and it avoided major damage during the war and was part of East Germany so it’s old town has not been modernized like most cities in Germany. Our tour of the city was quick but we enjoyed it.
Today we found a city that we have connected with in Lubeck. It is a relatively small port city on the Baltic Sea with a long and interesting history as a trading city. But almost as soon as we arrived we liked the feel of the town. Our parking spot is right across the canal from the old town, they do not gouge you for the spot. After several weeks of hearty German food we opted for seafood and found an old slightly upscale restaurant with a great atmosphere. The waiter not only served us efficiently but took time to have a nice conversation about travel, and the way different cultures take care of the elderly. It was an unexpected personal connection.
Lubeck is also famous for Marzipan which is a confection of almonds and sugar. We decided we needed to sample some Marzipan so we went to the most famous bakery in town. The pastry was quite good, and not as overly sweet to Ton as American pastries.
We ended the day at one of the best breweries we have been to in Germany called Brauberger. Their specialty is a Zwickel beer which is a cellared Lager. It was quite good, and we split a pitcher and had a good time people watching.
I know this sounds like many of our days, but this one was our best so far in Germany. As we were walking back we discussed staying another day here even though we are feeling some time pressure, and are quite a long way from Belgium.
Once again we feel like we are running out of time for the trip. We spent last night setting out priorities because we came to the conclusion that we did not have time to see everything we wanted to see. The first thing we struck from the list is Berlin. Ton has been there a couple of times already, and the parking for François did not look very appealing. We were thinking of a trip following the Rhine but that is gone, or will be reduced to one or two cities. Having a feel for what we did want to see we made the decision to take a big drive on the autobahn to get up to the Baltic Sea coast of Germany.
Our drive today was 420 kilometers which is one of the biggest in our European trips. We chose to use the autobahn thinking that we would cover that distance in about 5 hours. The autobahns are very similar to our interstates and you can usually count on a pretty steady speed, but not today. There was a tremendous amount of construction going on along our route so we spent a lot of time in long lines of trucks with frustrated BMW’s and Mercedes darting amongst the slow traffic trying to get to open highway. At one point the road came to a complete halt and we sat in place for 30 minutes, when we got back up to speed we had no idea why we had stopped as there was no sign of an accident or construction.
We arrived in Schwerin about an hour later than we planned, and found a nice marina/Wöhnmobilplatz (another word for aire in German). Schwerin is a lake front town and looks nice from the marina so we decided to head that way, Just as we were leaving to head into town we noticed what looked like a thunderstorm building in the distance. We decided to head back to François and wait out the storms. So really there is nothing much to report today besides our long drive.
When I was 11 or 12 my friend John and I were totally fascinated with the story of Colditz Castle and the allied prisoners of war who were held there during the war. The Germans designed the POW camp at Colditz to hold the most difficult prisoners, people who had attempted multiple escapes or were just a large scale pain to the Germans. John and I read the book by one of the prisoners called Escape from Colditz and spent a large part of the summer pretending to be prisoners trying to escape from Colditz. Today I got to visit the real thing.
It was not on the plan, but when we were traveling from Dresden to Leipzig the other day I saw the exit on the Autobahn for Colditz and told Ton the story and she insisted that we visit it. It was a short drive down from Leipzig with the only adventure being Greta insisting there was a road to follow when there was not one, after 10 minutes or so of circling Greta’s imaginary road we followed our noses and eventually found our way to Colditz.
The castle has been in existence since the middle ages, and was for a short while the home of Augustus I of Saxony. After a while it fell out of favor as a royal residence and became at different times a hospital, prison, and mental hospital. When the Nazi’s came to power it was used as a concentration camp, before being converted to a prisoner of war camp in 1939. During the war it held prisoners from many different countries including Poland, Holland, Belgium, France, the US, and Britain, with the British making up the bulk of the prisoners.
Today we were fortunate to be the only ones on our tour of the castle which was led by an Englishman named Alex who had married a local Saxon girl. He did a fabulous job of showing us around the castle explaining the living arrangements of both the prisoners and the guards. He talked about the various escape attempts. The most fascinating was the French tunnel which as you would expect was the work of the French prisoners held there. They dug this tunnel for over 9 months and covered over 500 feet going up and down around the stone that the castle rests on including cutting thru the original wooden supports that were adjacent to the chapel.
The German government has spent a lot of money fixing the castle in addition to the museum they have converted the old German guard quarters/Mental Hospital (under the East Germans) into a hostel. If you are in the area we recommend it. It was nice to see a place that had given me a great adventure one summer when I was a kid.
We spent the day touring around Leipzig which is a nice city. This is an up and coming city in Germany, which means it still has a little roughness around the edge which we liked. Dresden’s downtown felt like it had completed it’s makeover, in Leipzig it felt like it was well on its’ way but still in progress.
We went to St. Thomas Church which was the base of J.S. Bach for many years. As we entered the church a youth orchestra was beginning to practice for a concert. We sat and listened to them for a few minutes which seemed a fitting way to pay homage to Bach.
Leipzig embraces its’ role in the downfall of East Germany, and as you walk around town you see plaques telling stories about key events in 1989. It is humbling for me to walk the ground to see the role that common people played in bringing down a government with the repressive power of the old East German government.
Leipzig is also the site of one of the great battles of the Napoleonic era. At Leipzig Napoleon was defeated by the combined army of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden. This defeat led to his first exile. There is a huge monument to the battle on the edge of Leipzig. While the scale is massive, (it takes over 500 steps to reach the top) the aesthetics of the monument were not to our taste. We gave it a quick walk around without buying a ticket to go inside, and moved on to one of our favorite activities.
Our last stop was at a brewery in an old train station near downtown. Bayerischer Bahnhof Brewery is one of the originators of Gose style beer. We usually don’t much like sours but this one was good and Ton claimed it helped with her allergies so we had a second round. The brewery is located in one of the old train stations in town, the station was closed down around 2001, but the entrance hall was a historical site so it was saved and eventually converted to a brewery. It may be the nicest brewery we have ever visited and we have visited a few!
Today was a day of rest mostly. We woke up and decided to get some chores done, the biggest of which was laundry. Leipzig was next on our list and I found a campground with washing machines so we were off to Leipzig. After an uneventful 120km drive on the autobahn we arrived.
It was around 10:30 when we arrived, I went in to check in, and was asked if I had a reservation, when I replied negatively she gave me a lecture about planning, making reservations and added that check in time was 2pm, after she got that off her chest she checked me in and we were off to our spot. Having settled in we went to find the laundry room to scope out the equipment and the cost, but the laundry room was locked. Back to the office to find out that you needed to check out a key and buy tokens for 30 minutes of electricity. We were a little perplexed about the whole buying electricity thing but guessed we would figure it out. After getting our laundry sorted I headed back to get the key and tokens, the office was jammed with people checking in so I waited patiently, and was amused to see another person with poor planning skills get the same lecture I had gotten about the importance of reservations, this time in German. Then the next person in line bought a bunch of tokens and took a key, shucks! Hoping there was more than one key I continued to wait only to be told as I expected, that there was only one key. After 3 hours went back to check on the key, and the same lady a little shamefaced told me that the key was still not back, but gave me the space number of the person who had it, so off I went on my quest for the key. They turned out to be a nice couple who said they would be done in 8 minutes (how precisely German of them), sold us their 4 extra tokens, agreed to give us possession of the key, and explained the purchasing of electricity with the tokens.
We made the short hop up the Elbe River to Dresden this morning. We had a bit of an adventure checking out of our stellplatz in Meissen. As I said when we checked in it is quirky. The first thing is they hand you a key and insist you lock the gate every time you enter or exit. Each day there were 10 to 15 campers there and we each had a key to the gate and everyone did their duty to insure each others security. To get the key you have to leave a €20 deposit at the municipal swimming pool which looms over the aire. There is a nice clean bathroom on site but again the instructions are clear, lock the door every time you use it. One morning I was in doing my thing when one of the maintenance guys came by and locked the door while I was in there, fortunately I had my key. The parking is a free for all and there is only two electrical posts so everyone is running a 100 foot electrical cord from their vans to the power post. This became a problem when the maintenance crew showed up to mow the grass, but we all pitched in and shifted cords around to clear paths for the mowers. Finally, in the middle of the aire is an immense abandoned pool from the communist era that has trees and bushes growing from it, everyone seemed to need to hop the fence to get a closer look at it like an archeologist. All of the eccentricities made it kind of charming and a memorable place to stay. So as we were leaving I needed to return my key and retrieve my €20, when I walked in there were 50 people in line to check in for the pool, with 2 people at the desk to handle them all, so half an hour later I got rid of the key and we were on our way to Dresden.
The air in Dresden lacks the quirks of Meissen and is quite packed, (apparently due to an American Football game that is being played tomorrow between two German professional teams) but it is an easy walk to the center of town. After settling in we headed to town. As we neared the city center we discovered that today was gay pride festival weekend in Dresden (actually it is a 4 day event)and we had found the staging ground for the parade. We hung around to see the beginning of the parade and it was quite entertaining. Dresden has a large and proud gay community.
Next we walked thru town to look at all of the sites. They are nearly all rebuilt following a controversial fire bombing of Dresden by the RAF during WWII which caused a fire storm in the city killing around 20,000 people and destroying the old town.
The buildings are impressive, particularly the old palace of the Elector of Saxony. The Cathedral was rebuilt but they had a hard time finding matching stones for the walls that collapsed so you can clearly see the old and new stones. Most of the buildings in Dresden are quite black, I am not sure this is by design, but am guessing it is a result of pollution, as a few of the buildings look like they have been recently cleaned and are not black.
We wandered around the old town for a few hours before crossing the bridge to the new town for a beer and curry wurst. After our beer as we were crossing back over the Elbe the gay pride parade came down the riverfront and since they seemed to be taking the same path we were taking to François we walked along with them for a while before stopping for one more beer as it was hot.
A very light day for us. After sleeping in we took our time getting going in the morning with Ton updating her friends on Line, and me catching up on what was going on with the Timbers.
Meissen is famous for being the first place in Europe to manufacture porcelain. Porcelain from China and Japan was all the rage in the late 1600’s and imports were really expensive so the local prince told some of his best minds to figure out how it was made. Eventually they successfully reverse engineered the process and in 1710 opened the first porcelain manufacturing site outside of Asia in Meissen. It has been in continuous business since then.
The demonstration of the manufacturing process is quite interesting as actual artisans from the company perform work as you watch them. The work is quite intricate and artistic, so it is fascinating to watch them actually perform the work as it is described to you.
We really enjoyed seeing the process. The work at Meissen is still largely done by hand unlike most porcelain manufacturers who have automated the process. As a result Meissen porcelain is highly valued and is expensive.
After the demonstration we walked thru the museum with over 3000 pieces from different eras on display. There was a lot of very interesting porcelains on display, and we spent quite a bit of time walking thru the exhibits.
We decided to head back to François a little early for the day after we picked up some things at the grocery. We relaxed for the afternoon, while I tried to have a conversation with our Dutch neighbor. He was quite a character, but also the first Dutchman I have come across who was not fluent in English. As a result I spent a lot of time nodding and smiling while maybe understanding 20% of what he was telling me. Still it was nice, and gave Ton and his wife some time to take care of business without us in their hair.
Today we decided to end our stay in Bavaria after 2 weeks. We were tempted to head into Nuremberg, but after some more thought we decided to make a jump north. So today we are in a very quirky Stellplatz in Meißen in Saxony.
The trip was our longest in Germany so far at a bit over 220km’s. Feeling a little lazy we decided to pick the fastest route which turned out to be almost all Autobahn. We were on a nice roll and covering distance at a rate we are not used to even though we were among the slowest vehicles on the autobahn. It turns out today is a holiday in Germany so while there was virtually no trucks on the road there were a ton of cars. When we were less than 2km’s from our exit the right lane came to a complete halt with an equal number of cars stopped in the right lane and the shoulder. At first we thought there must be an accident, but it turns out there was some kind of event at out exit. It was interesting to watch the disciplined Germans behave just like the rest of the world when faced with a traffic jam, most people stayed in the right lane and crept towards the exit, a higher percentage than we would see in the US decided to run up the shoulder to the exit and force their way in there, this ended after a few minutes when a couple of cars blocked the shoulder to prevent that happening. Also a few real jerks just like in the US used the left lane (which was still moving) and then forced their way in right at the exit. It turns out people are the same everywhere, even the disciplined Germans.
Ton had picked out Meissen because it is supposed to be a relatively undiscovered gem. After the sophisticated tourist cities of Bavaria, Meissen was really refreshing. Meissen is famous for its porcelain as well as its castle and cathedral on a bluff overlooking the Elbe River. The climb to the castle was steep but worth it.
As we walked around the town it was crowded as not only is it Ascension Day but also Fathers Day. Interestingly in Germany, Fathers Day is celebrated by the men having a boys day out without the families. We saw one group of guys being pulled thru town on a trailer behind a tractor with beer steins in hand. Also, unlike in Bavaria we did not hear any English (or Thai) as we walked.
This is our first experience in the old East Germany so the differences in the buildings and the infrastructure we saw was interesting. We need a few more days to decide if the difference is Bavaria vs Saxony, or West German vs East Germany.
Also today Google Maps let us down for the first time. We decided to take the bus back to save a couple of miles of uphill walking. We really rely on Google Maps to help us navigate and to use the transit systems over here. It gives you good routes and even tells you what busses/trains to take and what stops to get off. I do not know how we did it before. Everything was going well and we got off at the bus stop Google told us to. It showed a route for us to walk, and when I began to follow it it lead us to a hedge row and I heard a creek behind it. I looked at the map and realized that it was sending us directly cross country not following a road or trail. So our easy walk home became about a mile and a half as we circled the woods and the creek between us and our destination, we trudged along in silence me cursing Google, and Ton I am sure thinking I was lost again.
As I said yesterday we planned to move to Bayreuth to go to the largest beer museum in the world. It was an easy 50km drive in light rain, and we have parked up at the first free aire since we arrived in Germany.
After lazing around for a while waiting for the rain to stop, we headed into town to the museum. The museum is only available by tour twice a day and we wanted to make sure we had a spot so after checking in we were told to come back in a couple of hours.
We headed over to the main street of Bayreuth and found a really nice and wide pedestrian zone. We enjoyed checking out the stores and the people. It was a little quiet since the weather was still unsettled and unseasonably cold. We stopped by the opera house which is a world heritage site to check on tour times as it is also only accessible on tours.
After a quick lunch at a Donner Kebab place we headed over to the Maisel World of Beer for our tour. When we first checked in they told us the tour was in German but they would give us an English script so we could follow along. However, it turns out we were the only ones on the tour, so the guide said she would do the tour in English if we did not mind her making a few mistakes as she had never done the tour in English before. It turned out to be a great tour. When Maisel replaced their old factory with a more modern one, they just left all of the equipment in place in the old building. We were able to see really cool beer making equipment purchased between 1890 and 1910 still in working order.
The tour much like yesterday included every part of the beer process from grain to shipping. The bonus was it was done in English, our guide was a college student from the local University and she did quite well only stumbling on a couple of technical terms. They also had an interesting display of beer glasses, steins, and signs from over the last 100 years.
They still produce their traditional Maisel Weiss which is the beer that made them famous. But the 4th generation of brewers wanted to expand the horizons a bit so they have a second company called Maisel and Friends which while keeping with the purity laws produces typical micro brews including ales, porters, and IPA’s. The brewery itself looks very much like an upscale west coast brewery. It would fit in very well in San Diego or Portland. It was interesting to see the German take on a microbrewery.
We ended a day with a tour of the Margravial Opera House which was built from 1744 to 1748. This time there were plenty of Germans on the tour, so we were relying on our pamphlet to understand what we were seeing.
It was built by Frederick the Greats daughter to celebrate the marriage of her daughter Wilhelmine to the Duke of Wurtemberg. Unfortunately the marriage did not work out very well, and the couple were effectively separated before the Opera House was paid for.
We were completely lost during the extensive talk about the building. But it is indeed an impressive piece of architecture, and I can see why it works as an opera house even if it is a little over the top.
Bayreuth turned out to be a very nice city and the easiest we have walked around in Germany, with a great pedestrian zone, and extensive walking and biking trails. Though we were in a big city we were mostly isolated from the cars which we enjoyed.
Today was a pretty easy day. After Ton had one more luxury shower at the campground we headed into town to do some shopping at a Lidl and a Rewe that were conveniently next to each other in town.
Once François’ shelves were restocked we headed down the autobahn towards another Frankish town called Kulmbach. While we are technically in Bavaria the area we have been in since Rothenburg are inhabited by a people called Franks who will tell you they are not Bavarian by choice. It appears to be a friendly rivalry, but they do make a point of telling you at every opportunity that while administratively they are in Bavaria they do not consider themselves Bavarian.
We arrived at the aire in Kulmbach after Greta decided to test my driving skills by sending us right thru the center of town complete with narrow one lane roads with cars parked on both sides. After settling in we headed over to the nearby beer museum.
The museum is located on the grounds of Mohnschof Brewery and is really quite a museum. It looks like they built a new brewery on site, and took the old brewery including all of the equipment and built a really fascinating beer museum.
The museum winds up three floors of the old brewery and then across and back down three more floors. It covers everything from the history of beer, and variations of beer around the world. It shows everything you want to know about how to make beer from farming the main ingredients, brewing using the old brewery equipment to demonstrate how, to transporting the finished product.
Needless to say we were in heaven. We spent altogether over 2 hours working our way thru the museum even though all of the displays and information are in German.
If the signs were in English or we could read German we might still be there. The tour ended with a well deserved glass of beer.
As good and extensive as this museum is, it is not even the largest in the area. Tomorrow we will be visiting the largest beer museum in the world according to the Guinness book of world records.
When you are traveling from campground to parking lot to campground you start to appreciate the little things. This campground has absolutely the best showers we have ever seen in a campground and would rival most luxury hotels. Ton and I have been really taking long luxurious showers the last two days.
We had a low key pub crawl today. We stopped in 4 breweries/beer halls and craft brew store for one of the largest suppliers of beer malt in the world. We enjoyed the breweries, and did not enjoy the malt company craft beer store due to poor service.
At the second of our brewery stops we saw another couple sitting at a table with no beer. At a lot of the beer halls they do not serve you at the table, instead you go to a window by the bar and order your beer. We heard them speaking English so we explained the process to them. We ended up chatting with them while we enjoyed our beer.
They had lived in Beaverton Oregon for a while before retiring in Florida so we had a nice chat about traveling. Eventually we parted ways to head out on different beer agendas. A couple hours later we were sitting in our 3rd brewery when we saw them walk in. We ended up spending the next couple of hours with them as they planned to visit the same breweries we had picked. They had lived in Germany in the past and gave us some good tips on other good beer towns though they did admit that Bamberg was their favorite beer town Germany.
It was a fun day with lots of good German beer; our faith in German beer and creativity is restored after today. Ton thought I was a little harsh on Würzburg the other day, she thought the scene on the bridge was fun and that my expectations were too high .
Had a rushed start to the day. Part of our daily routine is for me to get up and make a cup of coffee. When that is done I take a short walk so Ton can have some privacy while she gets dressed and makes herself beautiful. This morning as I was leaving the parking lot we spent the night in I realized that a bunch of people in yellow vests were taping off the entrance to the parking lot and the entrance road. I finally understood that the Würzburg Marathon was going to run right thru the parking lot we were in, so I rushed back to François and hurried Ton to get dressed before we were blocked in for the day.
As we were getting ready to set off we had to decide where to head for the day. We have been having an ongoing debate about whether to go to Nuremberg. We have read great things about it, but it is a pretty big city, and the options for parking François were pretty unappealing. We had continued the debate last night without coming to a decision whether to go to Nuremberg and then Bamberg, or straight to Bamberg. As we were getting ready to roll I asked Ton, and she said Bamberg much to my relief.
Bamberg is another World Heritage Site, with the bonus of reportedly having the most breweries per person in the world. Bamberg was a must see for us. Because of our early start, and allowing Greta Garmin to use the Autobahn we arrived in Bamberg before 10am.
We have been struggling with Germany a bit. The cities are pretty, clean, and well organized. The people have been universally helpful and nice. But for us it has been less sanuk (for non-Thai’s a word that speaks to a feeling of fun, and spontaneity) than either Spain or France. As an example last night at the bridge had the feeling of sanuk right up to sunset when everyone packed up and left at once. On top of that; the beer (and this will sound heretical to many) has been mediocre since Munich. In Germany’s defense the weather has not been helpful with days and days of cold and rain. Last night we talked of heading to Poland and cutting Germany short.
But Bamberg does have all of the things that we have been looking for. The town is really pretty and easy to move around. The tourist information offered a beer map with 65 breweries listed in English.
They even have a coupon book that allows you to visit different breweries and get their house choice beer. We tried two today, and they were really good beers restoring our faith in German beer The sun was out and we enjoyed walking around and people watching. We even found some more Thai to talk to on the street. There have been a lot more Thai in Germany than in France or Spain.
Every place we sat down someone tried to engage us in conversation which was really nice. When we got back to the campground we extended our stay for another day to check out some other breweries that the locals told us about.
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.
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 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.
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.
So a little disappointed we headed back to François for a late dinner, and bed.
We have visited a lot of walled towns in Europe, but Rothenburg is now the one that is the most striking. For Americans who are thinking of Europe Rothenburg would be the kind of town that springs to mind. The old town is surrounded by a wall with over 40 towers, and several medieval gates that are still in use for cars.
Inside the walls the buildings are really well cared for, and there are buildings from every era from the 1300’s up to the 20th century. But the different aged buildings are blended well together and for us add to the architectural interest of the town.
It has been a fortified town since around the 7th century and the name translated is the Red Castle on the Tauber. The castle is gone and replaced with a garden, but the walls remain. The walls on one side of the town overlook the Tauber River, and the views are really picturesque with forests, orchards, fields and the river stretching into the distance.
We took two passes thru the town in the afternoon and the evening. The walk in the afternoon was along the walls, and in a lot of areas you could actually walk along the battlements and look down on the moat. In most towns those areas are closed off to the public, but here all you have is a sign that says the walls are not to modern design and you should be surefooted and not subject to vertigo if you climb them.
In the evening we walked the main street of town and towards the gate away from the Tauber. We met another nice couple from Thailand and shared experiences traveling thru Europe with them. There is a night watchman tour offered at 8pm and we were thinking of going on that but when we arrived at the square there were easily 100 people waiting for the tour, nearly all of them American. It turned out there was only 1 watchman to lead the tour and we decided that the guide to tourist ratio was way to high to enjoy the tour so we headed back to François for the night.
The last two nights we have ended up parked next to a nice English couple. They were sitting out when we got back, so we chatted with them for a while. They have really disconnected from the news, so we ended up telling them that Theresa May had resigned as the Prime Minister of England. The other highlight of the day was that for the first time on the trip Ton got to wear shorts, and we had to open the windows on François to cool him down.
We slept well with a natural white noise machine going all night in the form of the Lech River running at near flood stage behind us. The plan for the day was to follow the Romantic Road further north to a town called Rothenburg.
The Romantic Road is quite pretty but it reminded us of hundreds of miles of roads in France without the marketing. As we were driving we could see some flooding from the weather over the past few days.
Ton mentioned that she wanted to stop at a town called Dinkelsbuhl before we got to Rothenburg. I pulled into the parking for RV’s and was checking the pay machine to see how much it would cost for a couple of hours. I noticed the cost for a night was only €6 so I went back and asked Ton how nice was this town supposed to be? We went back and forth for a few minutes when a German couple came over having noticed the French plates and thinking we could not figure the machine out, we told them our dilemma. They were adamant that we should spend the night here as it was cheaper and the town was really special.
Dinkelsbuhl turned out to be a gem. It is a walled town with many of its towers still preserved.
It is just big enough to have a lot of interesting things to see, but small enough to manage on foot. It is very well preserved, but still feels lived in.
It really helps that the sun was out today, and for the first time in about a week we did not need to be in rain gear, or to have it in our bag on standby. We took advantage of the good weather to sit in a beer garden and try a couple of the local beers.
We finally headed back for a relaxing dinner, Ton really made a nice chicken and spatzle dish. She is really doing a great job mixing German, Thai, and American cuisines. The day ended with a quick run thru an Edeka to make sure we have the refrigerator full for the next stop. Once again the flexibility of not having reservations and our own house on wheels allowed us to make a new exciting discovery.