The Romantic Road

Trip Start Mar 03, 2011
Trip End Jun 03, 2011

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

So, this was actually three different cities, not just Fussen.  The Romantic Road is stretched along several cities and towns, and generally include small castles and medieval architecture.  We just picked three cities we thought we would like, and explored them over 4 days.

Our first stop was Fussen, to visit Neuschwanstein, the castle that Walt Disney designed his after.  It was built by King Ludwig II, a young kid, just barely an adult.  He was obsessed with swans and Wagnerian opera, and he built his castle in dedication to those themes.  The kid was definitely a dreamer, and probably not someone who should be running a country, lol.  I liked the way one guy we met put it, "He's like the misunderstood Michael Jackson of his time."  His castle was just so over the top.  The rooms are full of chandeliers resembling gold crowns encrusted with jewels.  His bed chamber took several years to carve out of wood.  His bed is topped with dozens of wooden towers.  His reading room even has an artificial cave attached to it!!  lol.  CRAZYness.  Poor guy never got to completely finish his castle- he and his psychiatrist (he was deemed insane) were found dead floating in a nearby lake.  The castle is beautiful, though, and has that perfect romanticism.  Its perched atop a small peak, surrounded with higher cliffs and a waterfall behind it.  It was cloudy the day we hiked up there, so the low clouds gave it this awesome, creepy magical look.  The castle was actually 5km from our hostel, but it was fairly level so we just walked it passed a lake and lots of forest.  Once you buy the tickets, its a crazy steep 45min climb up the cliff (of course you can always pay for a bus or horse drawn carriage...).  After the castle tour itself, you can hike back behind it to this crazy high bridge over the waterfall for the most amazing view of the castle and the valley below.

Our next day we took a train to Rothenburg ob der Tauber and stayed there for two nights.  Our hostel was pretty neat- its located in an old mill.  The entire city centre is all old medieval wooden architecture and surrounded by a big wall.  Most old tourists do this as a short daytrip, but we decided just to relax and take our time.  Plus I had a small cold at the time so it was a nice change of pace (miraculously, the cold only lasted a couple days).  All the shops in the town have one of three themes: (1) German (steins, crafts, cuckoo clocks, crap that says "Germany" on it, etc.), (2) Medieval (weapons, armor, clothing), and (3) Christmas (there was the biggest Christmas store I have ever seen, full of incense burners, ornaments, tree toppers, nutcrackers, etc.). 

The coolest shop we went into was run by an old German man that reminded me very much of a talkative doctor at my work, lol.  He just talked and talked and talked, and you couldn't get a word in edgewise and he couldn't stay on task, but we learned a lot and enjoyed listening!  We learned ALL about, EVERYTHING, we ever wanted to know about German steins.  Steins aren't what we thought they were.  lol, of course not, right?  Silly tourists just go and buy the decorated cheap shit they see in the stores all over Germany.  Stein actually means "stone" and a real German "stein" is made out of stone.  It's not ceramic.  The shop owner actually had some of these authentic steins and before explaining himself, he demonstrated by slamming one down on the wooden counter.  And your heart skips a beat because you expect it to shatter, and all it does is go *thud*.  No one buys these steins because they aern't as pretty or fancy, but they are the real thing and are meant for drinking out of.  Whereas the decorated ones are just that- decoration.  The real ones are still neat looking though.  They're rare to find (this was the only shop we saw them in in all of Germany) because they take forever to make (they get fired in a kiln, which means they often get damaged in the process) and the art of making them is passed down through families, which is dying out.  They're hand painted with natural stuff and they're imperfect (which is awesome).  We also learned the caps you see on the steins aren't just meant for decoration.  When you're drinkin your beer outside in the summer heat in the beer garden, it keeps your beer cooler and the flies out of it.  The old man also told us that the older steins dont say Made in Germany on them- it just wasn't done.  But after the war, the Americans forced the Germans to put Made in Germany stamps on their products so that the rest of the world wouldn't buy their stuff.  Obviously we ended up buyin something off this talkative little man.

We also tried SCHNEEBALLS in Rothenburg.  Mmmm.  lol, ok... so I think it translates to Snowball, and its like dough that was cut into strips, loosely formed into a ball, fried, and then topped with  stuff.  Chris got a pistachio one and mine was smothered in dark chocolate.  We had heard that these things weren't that pleasant to eat but just something you do there as a tourist.  We actually liked it!  They were too sweet, tho!

Our second day in Rothenburg we hiked around the outside of the walls by the river and small forest in the morning.  The rest of the day we just wandered around town some more, and then used the only internet cafe in town.

Our last day on the Romantic Road we went to Bamberg.  I expected this to be the smallest town, and it was actually by far the biggest... and the lamest.  I thought there would be a lot more Medieval to it... but that section of the town was fairly small, and the rest was modern if not ugly.  It doesn't mesh in the same beautiful way that Freiburg did.  We were really disappointed.  I also had a bad day that day, too.  I dunno.  A combination of period, hunger, and severe anger at a ridiculously slow computer for the millionth time, and I was ready to start killing kittens.  I was that mad.  lol.  Once I calmed down, Chris made me get ice cream and I felt all better.  The only saving grace of Bamberg (though I still wouldn't reccomend anyone go out of their way to go there) was the "rauch bier".  This was the other reason we stopped at this city.  Its a smoked beer that faintly smells (and leaves an aftertaste) of bacon!  lol.  And it sure did!  It was odd and different but definitely good in its own right.

Next we are off to PRAGUE!!!  In the Czech Republic!  And then Amsterdam, Netherlands; Clervaux, Luxembourgh; Ghent and then Bruges, Belgium.  After that, it's the U.K. for the last leg of our trip.  =)
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