Tomorrow evening at this time we will be winging our way over the North Atlantic on our way to Paris to begin a bucket-list trip to see the Tour de France. We’ve been promising the urchins for years that we’d take them and tomorrow it’s happening.
Today we let Katie and Tristan sleep in a bit before we got them up to head to Seßlach, a walled city nearby. We told them it would be like a real life Carcassone and it did not disappoint. We parked outside the city walls and entered through a pedestrian portal near the church.
After admiring the inside of the church we made our way down a street to another pedestrian gate on the other side of town right next to the town brewery. After running in and out of the tiny portal a few times we turned and went down the alley to the main town square. While some of us poked around admiring the fountain and the signs on the shops, Stefan and Opa visited the metzgerei to get some schinken for a picnic lunch.
In the meantime some of us had walked down the street and discovered the main gate into town. Tristan really wanted to go up in the guard tower so I explored a bit down the path and found an open door. I called him and we went up together and shouted down to the others from the stairs above the street. As everyone else joined us we just kept climbing higher until we reached the top level where we could look out the windows and arrow slits. We saw a pigeon and a few pigeon eggs outside.
I suggested that we get a group shot on the guard tower stairs for Nana and Opa’s holiday card but Opa reminded us it was approaching noon and the backerei would be closing so we walked back up the street, past the square, and turned right to reach the bakery. We got some rolls and also some desserts for our picnic. We decided we would eat on a bench outside the main gate and then do a group shot on the tower stairs so we headed back that way stopping at a blumen shop to pick up some fresh fruit. Tristan and I were laughing that we had visited the butcher and the baker, we just needed to find a candlestick maker.
Outside the gate we actually found a picnic table and had our lunch. After lunch we did get our group shot despite a man trying to park right in the middle of it. Opa decided to take a bag back to the car while we continued to the other main gate. We went up the guard tower however and Opa went out the gate to see the cemetery. Katie and Tristan stood in a window shouting Opa at the top of their lungs out an arrow slit where they could see him. This proved ineffective though so we caught up with him back in the street. After a quick spin on some playground equipment we piled back in the car.
The next stops on our agenda were two churches near Lichtenfels. First we visited Vierzehnheiligen and then we visited Kloster Banz where we also had cake and cappuccino. After the chuches we drove around Lichtenfels before going to dinner at the Staffelberg Bräu before returning to our apartments for the night.
It was moving day again today. This time we left Seefeld to head north to Klosterlangheim, a village near Coburg, the city of Opa’s family. Of course, we had a few sights to see on the way so we headed for Kelheim to take a boat ride on the Danube to Weltenberg Kloster. There was some GPS mis-navigation on the way but in the end we made it to Kelheim where we walked into town and had some lunch before the boat ride.
After eating, we bought our tickets and boarded the river boat. Nana pushed ahead to secure us good seats and when we caught up to her we found her insisting to a gentleman in German that her family has seven people an they would be using all three benches she had reserved. He was rather perturbed but we all congratulated her on the prime seats.
As I understood, the Danube is one of the few European rivers that flows from west to east, ending up in Romania before it dumps into the Black Sea. The river boat ride was not that long but through a canyon up to the Kloster Weltenburg, the oldest monastery in Bavaria.
After disembarking we checked out the church and then we had a pretzel with the kids in the courtyard while Nana. Opa, and Aunt Jess walked through some of the uphill gardens. They met us back in the biergarten and we walked back to the boat. tristan really liked the marking on the abby wall of how high the water got during various floods. After a much shorter trip with the current back to Kelheim we bought some stamps at the post office, mailed some post cards, and continued in the car to Klosterlangheim. We arrived in Klosterlangheim at dinner time so we unloaded some of our stuff into our apartments and walked down into the village for dinner.
Today was a free day and we wanted to start off with some kid focused activities. Before heading to the amusement park, we found a baker and grocer to buy the necessary items for a picnic lunch. The baker in Lautasch had hard pretzels that had a bit of a brown bread flavor, so we picked up a few along with rolls for everyone.
After shopping we headed over to the Kids Play Park and purchased a family pass which included 4 chairlift/summer luge rides and some game tokens. Katie and Tristan each took two turns on the luge with Mom, Dad or Aunt Jess. After luging, we found some rides that were definitely not US standard rides including a boat that went down a track and jumped into water and swing/chair ride called the parachute. We also had some good old fashioned fun shooting each other with foam balls shot from air cannons.
Next we headed up to a hiking trail and found a place to picnic. We ended up eating in the middle of a shooting range which was likely part of a biathlon course. After lunch we decided to split up. Katie, Tristan, Jen and I rented bike and went for a ride on a gravel path along a stream, while the elders went for a hike. The plan was to try and meet at the Hämmermoos Alm for coffee and cake, but the ride proved to be longer and steeper than we thought. We ended up riding 9 miles which is pretty good for the kids.
For dinner, we stopped at the Wildmoos Alm. After hanging out with the cows in the meadow, we sat down to a traditional dinner that started with peach schnäps.
Today we went to see Neuschwanstein, King Ludwig II’s fairy tale castle. On our way we passed through two tunnels through the mountains, one was more than two miles long. Neuschwanstein overlooks the lake. King Ludwig I also had a castle here on a lower hill. Just like the castle at Chiemsee, Neuschwanstein was never finished.
We took a very crowded bus up to the castle and then walked to the gate. We had an English tour of the finished rooms including some state rooms and the royal bedchamber. After the tour we stopped in the gift shop where Katie and Tristan practiced their math while paying for their purchases. We had a quick lunch at one of the stands and saw some people para-gliding from the cliffs above.
Next we walked further up the hill to reach the bridge overlooking the castle. The view here is spectacular but we also wanted to recreate a photo from 30 years ago. It was exceptionally crowded but we were able to get some photographs, and also help some other tourists with their cameras. Katie told Stefan If you carry a big camera bag like that you’re guaranteed to have people stop you to take their picture.
After the bridge we took a carriage ride back down to the parking lot where we bought some postcards before piling back in the car to head to WiesKirche, a church in the middle of a field. After some wandering inside and outside the church we decided to make our way back to Mittenwald to visit the shops. Along the way we passed a dirndl and leiderhosen shop. We had promised Katie a dirndl and have been looking at them in every store we pass. This time we found one! And Tristan got leiderhosen and a shirt as well. We all loaded back into the car to continue on to Mittenwald where we did some shopping and had dinner before returning to our apartment.
After moving into Seefeld, we had a lightly scheduled day that started with laundry. Weekdays you could have your laundry done, but on a Sunday there was only a small laundromat open. So we sent the elders on to see a some small towns in Germany. While the laundry was going at the Tip Top Laundromat, we walked the road and played a round of mini-golf. There are a surprising number of mini-golf courses in the area, though none seem to rival the novelty of those found in US vacation spots. After mini-golf we wandered down the road to find lunch. On the way we passed through a small flea market and checked out the Austrian antiques. Sadly, it was not much better than a typical one at home. For lunch, we found a small smoky bar with a waitress that Tristan found cute and friendly. I was told to leave her a big tip.
After lunch and laundry we headed over to Mittenwald, Germany to meet the elders. Mittenwald is known for it’s violin makers, but is also a cute little town with many fresco painted building in the walking area. Most of the shops were closed on a rainy Sunday, but we decided it was worth coming back. We did manage to find a proper Konditorei for afternoon cake and coffee. With the rain clearing, we decided to make a late afternoon stop at the Leutascher Geisterklamm [http://www.leutascher-geisterklamm.at/]
The Geisterklamm or Spirit Gorge is a deep and narrow gorge with three man made trails. We first took the short trail into the waterfall, about 200 meters of metal and wooden trail suspended from the side of the rock wall. After a day of rain, the wood pathway was wet and water was running off the rock all around us. This clearly wasn’t a trail for those with a fear of heights. Most of the time we were 25-30 feet above a rapidly running stream (or maybe a small river.) The water here is a really nice teal color from the minerals that are carried down by the snow melt. We’re told that by the end of summer the water will be crystal clear. At the end of the trail is a small cave and bridge crossing the gorge in front of a very loud 75 foot waterfall. We didn’t hang out long because the spray was soaking us, but we did get a few good pictures.
After heading down from the waterfall trail, everyone was pumped to see more of the gorge and we headed up the 1.2 mile trail that would take us over a bridge above the waterfall. This hike started with a set of steep switchbacks. Every other corner had a sign with a section of the geological history of the gorge and the kids took turns reading them while the adults enjoyed the rest without admitting how welcome it was. Once up and over, the trail was back to man made walk ways hanging high (probably 75 feet) above the stream anchored into the rocky side of the gorge. The trail soon split and you could take a longer walk on the edge to the gorge or cross the bridge and head back down. It was getting late and we were not in for the long haul so we headed across the bridge. The photos don’t do it justice, that bridge is suspended way above the waterfall and the views impressive.
Today we left our inn in Brannenburg to move to an apartment in Seefeld, in Austria. We took the highway via Innsbruck, where we stopped at H&M to pick up some warmer clothes. Despite the rain the drive was gorgeous. We passed more castles and picturesque towns than we could count. After Innsbruck we headed up the mountain to Seefeld behind an antique Mercedes. After reaching Seefeld we had some lunch and did some shopping. We also visited the church in town that has an upstairs chapel.
Late in the afternoon we checked into our apartment and got settled before going to dinner at Triendlsäge. Everyone agreed that it may have been the best meal of the trip so far. The Kaiserschmarnn, the goulash, the käsespäetzle, and the apple streusel were all fantastic. After getting back to the apartment, Katie and Tristan got a bath in the big tub before we all went to bed.
It rained today. A lot. So Salzburg was maybe less than it could have been. But we had fun anyway, especially at the water gardens at Hellbrun Palace. We also visited the Pegasus fountain from Sound of Music, Mozart’s birthplace, and of course, churches. The skies cleared as we were almost back to Brannenburg, just in time for dinner. After that we put the kids to bed and enjoyed one last round of beer before preparing to leave our inn tomorrow and head to a new home in Austria.
Today we headed to the salt mines. This was another adventure into Stefan’s childhood as he remembers visiting the salt mines years ago. Once we arrived we had to suit up to get on the train that would take us down beneath the mountain. After we got off the train we saw a brief light show that demonstrated how there used to be a sea and when the water receded the salt was left. Then we went down the slide!
Next we walked through a series of tunnels where we learned about how they mine the salt from the ground. It really is an amazing process. We went down another slide so we could ride a boat across an underground lake. It was very dark and pretty incredible. A funicular ride took us back up to the train level. We all got off the train with big smiles on our faces because it really was a fun morning.
We went up the hill to Berchtesgaden for lunch where we had schenken und käse sandwiches. Yum! I committed to the new norm that beer is cheaper than water in Germany and had a Radler with mine. After lunch we poked around the town for a bit, checking out the church and some of the shops, including a store with wooden toys.
Next we drove up to Königssee for a boat ride. The mountains rise up on all sides of the lake often in sheer rock faces. At one such rock face the driver turned off the boat engine and the guide played a trumpet so we could hear the echo. The lake was really beautiful and it was a peaceful ride to the island where St Bartholomä is located. It was very chilly and overcast so we walked around some before stopping for cappuccino and pretzels before the return boat ride. On the way back to the car Tristan found a seller with traditional Bavarian Alpine hats, with a feather! Opa has been calling him Seppel ever since.