Did you read Days 1 & 2? I’m sure you can pick up our story on Day 3 but I’ll wait whilst you go back and catch up..
Day 3: Augsburg to Fussen
We’re up bright and early again and it’s time for a final explore before we pack up and leave the city behind. One of the things that Augsburg is best known for is being the location of the world’s oldest charitable social housing settlement which is still in use today. We find our way to the Fuggerei, pay our €4pp entrance fee and wonder around this community where it costs less than €1 annual rent to live in surprisingly pretty and spacious golden-walled apartments. Its a tiny city within a city, and we get there early enough to wander around with the locals before the school and tour groups descend. I wonder how we can get our hands on one of these apartments, but apparently I need to be an Augsburg Roman Catholic and an upstanding citizen. I’d probably fail the selection process on all counts.
It takes us about 45 minutes to get to the pretty little pastel-coloured town of Landsberg am Lech. Already we are noticing the air getting fresher, and the rivers getting greener as we head south towards the Alps. It’s busy as we cross the river into town, and we find ourselves parking above the town. We walk up about a thousand steps to get out of the car park, then down an extremely steep hill to get into town. Luckily we find a much more direct route back to our car which doesn’t require any extreme ascents or descents.
We don’t spend too long in Landsberg; long enough for a walk down by the river, to pick up a picnic lunch from a bakery, and long enough for me to have an Aperol Spritz. Its a beautiful day, and Landsberg has a holiday feel to it. Or maybe that’s just the lunchtime Aperol Spritz talking.
“How far is Ammersee?” Mr Fletche asks as we start heading down the 17.
“Doesn’t look that far on the map” I say…
50km and 45 minutes later, we still haven’t found the lake. Well, we can see it somewhere in the distance over a sea of caravan roofs. We have our picnic lunch in a car park whilst Mr Fletche continues to grumble about wasted journeys.
We’re back on the road. We start passing lakes, and that wide open landscape starts to become a little more claustrophobic, bordered by mountains, reaching up into the blue sky. The residences in the small towns that we pass all start to have that “alpine chalet” look about them, all wood, bright flowers and balconies. And suddenly we’re in Schwangau, and above us, to the left, the sun is glinting off the towers of Neuchswanstein Castle. I almost scream at Mr Fletche to pull over there and then, but Mr Fletche is way ahead of me and has already spotted a handy car park ahead. We take an unscheduled walk around the meadows at the foot of the mountains, whilst I babble on incoherently about fairy-tale castles and Sleeping Beauty and crazy kings. Plonlein in Rothenburg. Neuchwanstein Castle. The two images that inspired this trip and neither have disappointed me.
We’ll have plenty more opportunity to explore the castle on our scheduled tour tomorrow so i give a last lingering gaze – you only ever see this sight for the first time once – and we head to our base in Fussen. We’ve cannily planned two nights here as I’m guessing there will be plenty to keep us occupied. I’m also looking forward to spending evenings in a vibrant and lively tourist town. It certainly looks that way when we drive through on the way to our hotel.
I’m a little disappointed at first when I realise that our hotel is a short way out of town. There seems like quite a serious hill we may need to climb and I have visions of tantrums a la Cavtat. This seems to be where most of the hotels and guesthouses are located though, and as we discover later, it’s actually a pleasant 10 minute walk into town, mostly along the river Lech. No hill-climbing required; tantrums are averted.
After our earlier lake disappointment, Mr Fletche consults Google Maps and proclaims Forggensee as within walking distance. It’s a beautiful sunny late afternoon so we start strolling along the riverside. And strolling. And strolling. Eventually we’ve been strolling for 45 minutes and there still appears to be no lake in sight. We’re hungry and thirsty and Mr Fletche needs a wee. And my toes (now sensibly encased in Compeed plasters purchased in Augsburg…an odd souvenir from our trip) need a break from being pressed against my pumps. We’d not planned for a 6km hike. So we take a detour back through a Fussen housing estate and make our way back into town. All the tourists that were bustling around earlier appear to have gone home. We find two potential places to eat and decide to leave Aquila for tomorrow night. Tonight its all about the sausage and the sauerkraut, and we opt for Zum Schwanen, a German/Croatian restaurant on Brotmarkt. It’s informal, friendly, and reasonably priced. Oh, and the sausages and sauerkraut were divine. Plus I never complain when wine is automatically served in a 1/4 litre jug…
We look around after dinner for somewhere to have another drink. We’re not in luck. The town has mostly gone to bed for the night, and those few establishments that haven’t are trying to politely evacuate any last lingering customers…they won’t appreciate us bowling in and demanding beer. So we walk the 10 minutes back to our hotel and call it a night. Need to be bright and breezy for tomorrow’s castle, mountain and lake adventures!
Day 4: In and around Fussen
Our morning at Neuschwanstein Castle deserves it’s own blog post…
For the first time since we’ve been in Germany, the sky is a little hazy and the clouds look ominous, with a threat of rain. So of course this is the perfect time to go up a mountain. No climbing this time, although there are no shortage of hiking trails should we ever want to; instead we shell out €20 ish each for the relative convenience and comfort of the Tegelbergbahn, a cable car which lifts us way above Neuchswanstein, the alpine meadows and the forest, all the way up the 1730m high mountain. Suddenly we’re in a winter wonderland, surrounded by snow. There are a number of walking routes available once you’re at the top of Tegelberg, but I don’t feel properly prepared to take even a short hike up to the summit so instead we enjoy a beer in the fur-lined deckchairs at the Panorama restaurant and watch the clouds move across the mountains. Even from up here we feel dwarfed by the Ammer mountain range ahead of us. Despite the spring temperatures down at ground level, it’s definitely a little chilly up here, and I soon start to lose feeling in my fingers and the tips of my ears so we descend once more in the cable car. Had I been better equipped (what about all the lovely new gear I brought for climbing Snowdon, barely used…) then we would have probably made much more of our time up on Tegelberg. Another reason for us to put the region on our return list.
We’ve done castles and mountains, now it’s time for the lakes. After yesterday’s non-visit to Ammersee, today we make the 15 minute back to the other side of Fussen, to Weißensee. Whilst not the hugest lake in the Allgau area of Bavaria, it is 2.4km long, and 600m wide. The walk around the lake is 6.2km. Which we do. We only intend to go for a “short walk”. By the time we’re halfway along the one side, a lovely wide paved path, we decide we may as well carry on. And on. And on. And on. The end of the lake must surely be around this bend. Or maybe the next bend after that. Eventually though we’re on the home strait. But to add an additional challenge, this side of the lake is unpaved, in woodland and we often have to scramble over rocks and tree roots. We didn’t bring a drink with us (“we’re only going for a short walk”), my feet are hurting in my sensible (but not hiking-sensible) shoes and I need a wee. Just as we’re nearing the car park – probably the final 0.2km – the sun comes back out and we have a beautiful Alpine vista in front of us. It’s been a lovely walk, but we’ve now racked up about 15km walking for the day. Not bad for someone who wanted a nice lazy break.
By the time we get back to the hotel I’m unsure if I can manage the 10 minute walk back into town, but I gamely pull on my boots and give it a go. After all, it’s Saturday night, we’re in Bavaria and there’s some partying to do! Except, like last night, it’s all quiet. There appears to be even less open tonight. But it’s ok, because we’ve already decided to eat at Restaurant Aquila, and there are tables available. A candle is lit on our table and we settle down to peruse the menu. And that’s when I see it. “No credit cards accepted”. After paying cash for the castle and cable car today, we didn’t replace it from our secret stash, and we only have about €30 in cash on us. A rookie travel error. The waitress has snuffed out our candle before we’ve even got our coats on, apologising profusely for our stupidity. There’s another option across the way, but before we even enter we see the big chalkboard: “No credit cards accepted”. Our choices are dwindling. We’re left with “Ludwig’s” restaurant, which – being attached to the Hotel Ludwig – thankfully takes credit cards. The one waiter looks as if the last thing he wants to see is more customers at this late hour (8pm) but he grudgingly serves us to roast pork and schnitzel which are clearly warmed up rather than freshly cooked, but are tasty and plentiful enough. We have €30 in our pockets to spend on post-dinner drinks but the town has once again gone to bed way before we are ready. Fussen is beautiful, but out of season it’s pretty dull after hours…
Final day! In and around Fussen, Lindau and back to Stuttgart (via a definitely non-Romantic Road).
We follow our usual check-out day routine – breakfast, final walk around town, bundle suitcase into car, find our way out of town…Mr Fletche decides that he wants to see the Austrian border (although we can’t officially cross without telling the hire car company) so we make a short detour. By dint of parking in a riverside car park to walk back up to Lechfall, it seems we have inadvertently crossed into Austria. Don’t tell the rental company. This whole area – the beautiful blue-green water, the “beach”, the dam ladder forcing the water through a narrow gorge before opening back up to the wide river flowing towards the lake – turns out to only have been a 10 minute walk from our hotel – the “other way” from the way we walked into Fussen town. There’s so much more to this area, including a number of hiking routes which seemed to excite Mr Fletche.
We say goodbye to the River lech, to Austria and to Fussen; we have all day until our late evening flight so we wind our way west along the B12 to Bodensee – Lake Constance. Its a beautiful spring day, and everyone is heading for the lakeside town of Lindau. It’s like trying to visit Stratford upon Avon on a Bank Holiday Monday. We find a car park where noone appears to be parked – only to find out that it’s actually a private car park belonging to casino Spielbank Lindau. Damn our lack of German language when it comes to translating parking restrictions. The nice lady at Spielbank Lindau kindly gives us a token to get out of the car park. We get the feeling we are not the first people today to have made this error. We stalk some people through one of the main car parks until they get back in their car so we finally manage to get a prime parking space.
Lindau is lovely, and is definitely a town which deserves a little more time to explore. Its lakeside location gives is almost a seaside feel, and there are plenty of bars, restaurants and gelato stalls lining the promenade. There are so many resort towns that ring the lake – not only on the German side but also on the Austrian and Swiss banks – that this could be a future holiday destination on it’s own merit. We stop for a pizza lunch at Zur Alten Werft, where I partake in my final Aperol Spritz of the trip. Photos of Lindau are few and far between as my camera battery finally gave out after five days of constant photographing.
By 4pm, we’re back on the road. No unscheduled stops or detours this time, it’s all the way up the A7 and A8 to Stuttgart Airport. Car handed over, it’s a bit of a wait for check-in to open as we’ve arrived ridiculously early…and then we get through security to find that all the bars, restaurants and shops are closing. Germany – land of early closing times.
The Romantic Road was an amazing trip – even if the visions of winding roads through forests and idyllic little viewpoints where lovers could nestle whilst sharing a black forest gateau didn’t quite materialise. Rothenburg and Neuschwanstein both exceeded expectations, and we found places we would like to return to, like Lindau. Even Fussen. As long as we stock up on supplies and don’t expect any wild late-night parties.
The Boring Details:
We flew with Flybe, Birmingham International to Stuttgart.
Car Rental was through AutoEurope
We stayed at Hotel-Gasthof Goldener Greifen in Rothenburg ob de Tauber, Dom Hotel in Augsburg, and Vital Hotel Wiedemann in Fussen. All booked via Booking.com.
Has this inspired you to check out the Romantic Road? What other parts of Germany should I discover next? Let me know in the comments!