Wednesday 12 February 2014

Germany: The Romantic Road

This is a long overdue post not to mention a very long one too. I have always been meaning to write about our travels when I started my blog in 2012 but something would always come up, mostly another trip. I know, I know I should have started blogging a long time ago but hey it's never too late to start, right?

Anyway in between waiting for our trip to Europe in March (Orient Express, baby! Yoohoo! I'm beside myself with excitement! I promise to write about it after the trip, definitely!) and planning another trip back to the US later in the year with my dear old folks to visit my siblings, the gorgeous H and stylish P, here's a post of one of our road trip adventures in Europe.

One of the highlights of the Romantic Road tour is Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau. The castle was one of the inspirations of Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty castle.

The Romantic Road, Germany

Yup! There really is a Romantic Road in Germany as there is also a Fairy Tale Road which the Big K and I hope to do one day. The Romantic Road is a tourist-themed route started in the 1950s in southern Germany that passes through more than a dozen or two historic cities and picturesque towns starting from Würzburg and ending in Füssen.

First stop, Würzburg!

The Baroque city of Würzburg as seen from Fortress Marienberg.
Fortress Marienberg is a castle on a hill that overlooks the city.
The main entrance to the courtyard of Fortress Marienberg is Scherenburg Gate named after Rudolf von Scherenburg (1401-1495), the Bishop of Würzburg from 1466 until his death. 
The Dom St. Kilian (left) is the fourth largest Romanesque church in Germany. The Neumünsterkirche (top right) is a Romanesque basilica with a Baroque facade and cupola. The Marienkapelle (bottom right) is a Gothic church located at the Markplatz.
The Residenz, the home of the Prince Bishops of Würzburg. We were unlucky during our visit as the place was closed to the public because of a movie shoot of some guy named Orlando Bloom. Truth be told the Big K and I were hoping to get a glimpse of Legolas. Oops! Wrong movie.   


Weikersheim's Markplatz (market place) with its lovely Rococo fountain and St. George's church.

The Medieval Town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The well-preserved old medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber which means "red fortress above the Tauber" because of its location on a plateau overlooking the Tauber River.

Did you know that the town served as the inspiration for the 1940 Walt Disney movie "Pinocchio"? It was also here where the "Vulgarian Village" scene from the movie "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" was filmed (the Big K and I love that movie!). While the most recent film shot here was from Harry Potter's Deathly Hallows, the wand maker Gregorovitch's residence. Of course, it was such a quick scene you would have missed it.  

You can get a great view of almost the entire town by walking along the town's ramparts. It can be quite a walk but it was truly worth it.  
Rödergasse with the Röder Arch and the Markus Tower up ahead built in the 12th century were part of the town's first defense fortification.
The Big K and I stayed at this charming bed and breakfast, Hotel Spitzweg, located inside the city walls. The B&B is housed in a 400+ year old building, one of only a few that escaped damage from both the destructive Thirty Years War of 1618-1648 and bombing raids of the Second World War.

In all our stays in old places in Europe, it was in this B&B that I had an encounter with a ghostly presence. See the pillows on the right side of the bed? This was taken before we left the room. After the Big K and I came back from our walk in the evening, I found the big pillow now laid out flat with the small white pillow on top of it. Oh! The B&B had an evening turn-down service! But wait, how come it was only the pillows on the right side and the blankets were not even turned down? I asked the Big K if he moved the pillows but he didn't touch anything. Okay........

If that experience wasn't enough to give me the shivers, try the next day. It was in the middle of the night when I was awoken by a noise coming from the bathroom. Hmmm... It must be the Big K doing his business. What's he up to now? Fiddling with the radiator knobs? Okay, I admit I was grateful because I was feeling a bit cold. At breakfast I commented to the Big K that he woke me up in the middle of the night with all the noises he made. "Oh! Was I snoring again? I really had a good night's sleep." he said. Huh? "So no middle-of-the-night-excursion?" ..... Nope! Hmmm... Of course it could have been the finicky 16th century plumbing.... But we're betting on the resident ghost. 

The Night Watchman of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. One of the highlights of our stay in Rothenburg was the Night Watchman Tour by Hans Georg Baumgartner. A great, informative and funny one hour walk along the streets of night-time Rothenburg. Slightly scary, slightly off-beat! 
The Town Hall at the Market Square (Markplatz)
Herrngasse was once the favored street of the town nobility. This is also where the Christmas Museum and Käthe Wohlfahrt's main Christmas Shop are located.


Füssen's town square. Check out the Luftmalerei painting in the middle building. These kind of house paintings are popular in the Alpine region. 
The Lute-Maker's Fountain. Füssen was the center of lute-making in Europe and it is here that the first Guild for lute-makers was established. Later on the town also became the center for violin-making.
Hohes Schloss (High Castle) of Füssen was the former summer residence of the Prince Bishops of Augsburg.

The Castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau 

The village of Hohenschwangau is a fifteen-minute drive from Füssen. This is where you'll find two castles within view of each other. One is a small, homey lived-in castle while the other is a fairy-tale like shell of a castle.  

Schloss Hohenschwangau near the Alpsee lake as seen from Neuschwanstein Castle. 
This 19th century palace is the childhood home of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The castle started out as a medieval fortress in the 12th century that fell into ruins. The then Crown Prince, King Maximilian II (father of King Ludwig II), discovered the historic ruins and decided to reconstruct the castle that later on served as the family's official summer and hunting residence. 
Probably the most well-known castle in the region, Schloss Neuschwanstein was commissioned by the reclusive King Ludwig II as his personal retreat but only lived in it for 172 days. Construction started in 1869 but remains to be unfinished because of his mysterious death in 1886. 
Marienbrücke (Mary's Bridge) named after Queen Mary, King Ludwig's mother, constructed over the Pöllat Gorge as seen from Neuschwanstein Castle.  

Helpful tip: We saved money on some of the attraction fees along the Romantic Road tour with the 14-Day Bavarian Pass.

Next stop: Oberammergau and the Passion Play

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