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 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.
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.
München is the German spelling of the city in English we call Munich and it’s an appropriate name since we munched our way though the city today. This morning we drove a little ways to get to a commuter train that we could take into the city. We had to get there by 11:00 to see the glockenspiel in the city square. The clock plays music and the figures move around for close to fifteen minutes. My favorite part was when the gold knight knocked the silver knight off his horse.
After the clock finished we visited the Frauenkirche, Our Lady of Munich. A baby was being baptized in one of the small chapels that flanked the sanctuary and Katie, Tristan, and I watched. After making our way around the whole sanctuary we walked to the Victualmarket. European markets are just amazing. There were fruit sellers, and herb sellers, and mushroom sellers, and cheese sellers, and pretty much any other kind of food seller you could imagine. We had bratwurst, beer, and pretzels at a long table under the trees, a truly Bavarian moment.
After lunch we went to the Deutsch Museum to recreate a moment from Stefan’s childhood. He vividly remembers making a miniature brick at a display in the museum about 30 years ago. Children are no longer permitted to press the buttons on the machine but they did get to see the whole process and they did each get a brick in the end. We also visited exhibits about technical toys, air ships, and glass-making. Each of the urchins bought a glass water dancer to bring home. We also visited the sundial garden on the roof where there was a wonderful view of the city.
After a pit stop for cappuccino for the adults and ice cream for the urchins we decided to visit the Hofbrauhaus, we were in Munich after all. We found a table in the garden and ordered beer and pretzels. I commented that for a family who keeps saying they aren’t hungry for pretzels they sure do keep disappearing fast. These two were gone so fast that Tristan felt like he didn’t get much. So I told him that he could have another if he would go to the pretzel girl himself and ask her in German. Katie went with him but even with Nana’s help they couldn’t find the girl.
He was rather dejected when he returned to the table so I took him into the building to find her. Once we did he went up to her and said Eine Bretzel Bitte, handed her a Euro and marched off back to the table. The girl laughed and I knew by the size of the pretzel that one euro was not enough money. By the time I had settled with her he had made his way back to the table grinning from ear to ear over his accomplishment.
After the Hofbrauhaus we wandered around Munich admiring the architecture, the gardens, and the atmosphere before we got on our train back to the car. We had a late dinner in Brannenburg where there was much discussion about what a puten is. The best explanation has been that it is somewhere between a chicken and a turkey. After dinner we went up the hill to our inn and went to bed.
My goodness, what a day! We left the inn this morning to go to the town of Prien am Chiemsee, where Opa lived until he immigrated to the United States. On the way into town he casually remarked that out the window was the house he lived in as a child. Jess, Stefan, and I immediately had the same thought, pull over the car! Sabina wanted to knock on the door but we settled for taking some photographs and hearing about how he used to ride his bike down the road to town and play in the meadow.
Once in town we briefly walked around the square where he told us the well-known family story about seeing a man he thought was the devil emerge from a tank at the end of WWII. Jess and I both stood there struggling to conjure an image of that boy, about Tristan’s age. Down the road we passed his old school on our way to the dock on Chiemsee, a very large lake. Opa told us how they used to swim every day in the summer sometimes taking a rowboat across to an island and swimming back.
We took the ferry to the largest island in the lake, Herren Insel, where King Ludwig II built a palace, modeled to be a replica of Versailles. Opa was a tour guide at the palace as a teenager. He gave the English speaking tour. After lunch at the restaurant, where Opa’s mother used to be a waitress, we made our way down the path to the palace. Opa said the tour was briefer than when he used to give it but that the speeches were still pretty much the same. I knew Katie and Tristan could barely understand our tour guide and I wondered if Opa’s English used to sound like that. On the ferry back to Prien Jess noticed a large building across the water and asked about it. Opa said it was a rest home on the autobahn and incidentally his mother had been a waitress there as well. He added, “actually, once Hitler stopped there and she served him.”
After taking the ferry back to Prien we drove to Aschau to ride the gondola to the top of Kampenwald. I was a bit nervous about the ride since I get motion-sickness so easily. The ride wasn’t too rocky but it was so high. I don’t even know how to accurately describe how high it was. Unbelievably high. Despite the conversations with Tristan about what would happen if the cable broke or the wind blew really hard, or… we managed to make it to the top without incident. Once there, and actually on the ride up too, we were treated to the most spectacular views. Really, the photographs speak for themselves.
A few facts: the mountaintop is 4,813 feet above sea level; the gondola travels 2,760 vertical feet to reach the top, Opa says that as a teen they would hike up the mountain, have lunch, and then ski back down. The gondola hadn’t been built then. The ride down was steep and Tristan kept saying how fast we were going and how it seemed windier, and “Mommy, don’t you think we’re going so fast, maybe we are too fast.” so I readily admit I was quite happy to get out of that capsule.
We had dinner in Aschau at an Italian place, we were actually fairly close to Italy. While we were finishing it started to rain. We returned to the car and started driving back to our inn when we noticed a rainbow. What followed was one of those family comedies that has everyone laughing with tears in their eyes. We chased that rainbow down a tiny road, it was actually a double rainbow, and everyone kept shouting to stop so they could hop out and take another photo. One such time Opa fell out of the car half sitting in Katie’s car seat. That’s when the belly laughing really started. It was an amazing rainbow, we could see where it touched the ground in a meadow, and we could see the entire arc. We all agreed it was one of the best we’d ever seen.