Location: Azincourt to home, France
After breakfast and checking out of our B&B, we walked into Montrieul and walked the circuit of the ramparts. No safety barrier at all, the only rule seemed to be "don't fall off"!
After that we drove to Azincourt (better known to the English as Agincourt) and visited the exhibition there, before doing the drive around the battlefield.
Crepes at Saint Omer for lunch, on our way to the Euro Tunnel. We got to the tunnel a little early and managed to get on a train leaving 30 mins earlier than our booked one.
Home at last, to cats who seem (mostly) very pleased to see us.
Location: Champagne to Montrieul, France
The morning after the election, and the UK has a hung parliament. Pretty much everyone agreed over breakfast that the Conservatives' arrogance had come back to bite them good and proper. Jase and Mike were busy nattering (Kiwi males are all the same, total gossips) away until Ali managed to usher Jase out of the door. It's such a great B&B, you feel like you're visiting old friends.
More driving after that, crossing the rest of France to Montrieul. We stopped off for some meat and bread at a supermarket, then stopped at one of the motorway service stops for a picnic. French motorway stops are nothing like English ones! We had our picnic in a grassy field, dotted with picnic tables, and Ali planted cherry stones in molehills before we left.
Dinner at Froggy's tavern. Although the name makes it sound like an English themed bar/pisstake, this was actually a delightful little restaurant, where Ali discovered 'Fontainebleau a la rhubarb', an absolutely amazing dish of white cheese which had been sweetened and mixed with cream, then rolled in caramelized flaked almonds, served with rhubarb compote. Never had anything like it, and it was delicious! When asked what Jase was having for dinner, he stated that he would have anything as long as the words 'Pork' or 'sauerkraut' didn't appear. Thank God, I will be able to breathe in the car tomorrow!
Location: Black Forest to Champagne, Germany
We needed to cover quite a lot of ground today, so just one brief stop-off at Triberg, famous for its cuckoo clocks and being the home of black forest gateau. We went into the House of 1000 Clocks, where Jase had an in depth discussion with the store assistant about what made a quality clock. Moving on to another less touristy shop (Gerald Burger's Kuckuckuhren) we found what appeared to be far better quality cuckoo clocks, which even managed to avoid the tweeness factor.
Leaving town, we drove north before passing over into France at Strasbourg and driving to Oyes in Champagne, to a B&B run by Kiwis that we had previously stayed at in April 2015.
We also took the opportunity to go back to the same Mezzanine restaurant that we ate at last time we were here. Jase accidentally discovered that the dessert he had ordered had a molten chocolate interior. After cutting it open, he sat there, desperately trying to spoon the insides back into the pudding, saying "It's no use, I can't stop the bleeding" ... the things I have to put up with.
Stayed up talking politics with the Kiwis until late. (It is election night.) Sometimes they find it difficult when they have guests with difficult views, or (worse) a selection of guests with highly differing views.
Location: Neuschwanstein to Triburg, Germany
Ok, I've been directed by Ali to write up our visit to two castles in Bavaria. Don't know why I'm doing it as she was the one up at 6am telling me I needed to get ready because we were going to see her princess castle in only 3 hours and as we were at least a 10 minute drive from there (a drive we had rehearsed the night before, I might add), we needed to leave soon in case we got caught in traffic...
Anyway, we grabbed a quick bite for breakfast, before heading to the ticket office. You visit two castles in one go, the first one was in an hour (Hohenschangau) the next was 2 hours later. That's right, we were going to have to mess around for 2 hours before we could see the main castle.
So we had an average audio tour of the first castle, before we were ejected. Visited a museum, then went to get a bus to the next. It was a near run thing, the tickets were timed and the bus was running so late that we made the main event by 2 minutes. Ali was pushing Chinese, Japanese, German, American and Italian tourists out of her way as she headed towards the gate, much like a shorter, more powerful version of Jonah Lomu going for the try line.
Neuschwanstein, mad King Ludwig II's masterpiece was fascinating, outlandish and completely historically incorrect as an example of a medieval castle. In fact, Ludwig had demolished two real castles before building it as they didn't comply with his fantasy image. The castle nearly bankrupted the Bavarian royal purse and Ludwig spent less than six months in it before his castle building ceased with his 'convenient' death in a lake.
Following our visit to the castle, Ali decided to get a photo of it from the Marian Bridge. Along with about 300 other people. Carnage ensued. Ali metaphorically bulldozed her way across the bridge, using her little known mixed martial arts training (every Wednesday, Cumnor village hall) to punch, kick and elbow her way to the perfect shot. Apologies to the family of the annoying 8 year old seen hurtling from the bridge.
Following a quick gateway, on the road again, this time the Black Forest, cuckoo clocks and cakes await.
Location: Oberammergau, Germany
We rather reluctantly left the little flat at Denklingen: it has been lovely to pause and have our own space for a few days.
Onwards to Oberammergau, which is not officially on the Romantic Road, but definitely near enough to warrant a visit. The town is famous for its passion play, luftlmalerei (painted houses) and woodcarving. Ali had been to the Passion Play in 2000. Jase was told about it by his German teacher. We visited the theatre which had an exhibition and a really good film about the history and development of the passion play.
Then we wandered around town looking for luftlmalerei, stopping at a gasthof for lunch and to escape the rain.
After that we drove to Schwangau for our overnight stop before Neuschwanstein Castle tomorrow. Dinner at a local gasthof. The desserts were particularly memorable. Ali seemed determined to fillet her chocolate mousse away from its chocolate lattice.
Location: Denklingen, Germany
Rather than go back to Munich to visit museums, we had a day off and did absolutely nothing whatsoever. It was glorious!
Location: Munich, Germany
Rather than stay in the centre of Munich, we had been staying in Denklingen which is a little village in the countryside, so this morning we caught the train into Munich. It was only a half hour journey.
We walked to Marienplatz to meet up with a walking tour, where Ali embarrassed Jase by insisting on staying with Ben's tour rather then joining Keith's tour (because she had read that Ben was good on TripAdvisor). The tour started with a bit of history, then we paused at 11am to watch the figures on the Rathaus's glockenspiel do their thing. The rest of the tour covered plenty of sights, curiosities and history, as well as recommendations for other places to go.
One of those was the Weiss Brauhaus for its beer and Bavarian food, so we went there for lunch and had a nice chat with a German guy who shared our table (and his 9 year old daughter Eva who was utterly bored by the whole experience and clearly just wanted to get to the zoo).
Then we took the U-bahn to the BMW Museum, near the Olympic Park. One of the things the guided tour had told us was that the rolling hills at the Olympic Park were actually sculpted out of all the rubble of Munich from WW2.
«Sound of record scratching»
Alison appears to have missed out the best part of the day. Today was possibly the best part of the trip so far. Not only did we get the chance to look around the BMW Museum, we also got to go to BMW World. It's like Disney World for petrol heads. Fantastic. I got the chance to play with some of the new cars and sit on BMW motorbikes while Alison had the chance to hear me tell her about all the new cars and motorbikes. Wunderbar.
«Normal service now resumes»
Back on the train home, for a lazy evening of dinner, reading, and surfing the net.
Location: Harburg to Denklingen, Germany
Today we backtracked slightly towards Harburg. We had wanted to visit the castle the day before, but it was closed by the time we got there. This time, we spent a while looking around before taking a guided tour. The tour let us see the inside, but it was entirely in German, so we made up a lot of the commentary ourselves. Ali got the chance to see her first oubliette: after only half an hour, we let her out. How the guide chuckled. Pretty sure Ali shouldn't have said "Ja" to a randomly asked question.
Stopped off at a random supermarket to grab a picnic lunch then on the road to find a place to eat it. Typically, in a road branded as being one of the most touristy roads in Germany, no picnic spots. So we did the stereotypical British thing and had the picnic by the car at the roadside.
Nächste halt, Augsburg.
We spent a bit of time in Augsburg. The main area we wanted to visit was the Fuggerei, a old social housing community. Rent is 88 cents per year, plus three prayers for the founding family per day. Augsburg had the Messerschmidt aircraft factory, plus a major rail junction near to the Fuggerei, so the RAF deconstructed large portions of it during WW2. The place was rebuilt in only 3 years.
We popped into a strange little curiosities shop in Augsburg. Ali saw a nice pewter beer stein, so picked that up for 15. Street value of same was around 10x that, so bargain. She may have picked up more, but the owner was silently hovering over us (literally a metre away), as if we were about to nick everything. Most unusual. Ali decided to leave before he murdered us.
Then, as we left, another weirdo standing on the roadside, barefoot and holding a large hula hoop over his head. Either a performance artist, or insane. Sometimes it's hard to tell.
On to Denklingen, where we have an apartment for the next three days. It has a washing machine. Yippee, clean clothes!
Location: Dinkelsbuhl to Gempfing, Germany
The hotel was in a perfect location in town, and the beds had two pillows, but for some reason Jase still didn't sleep well. He describes it as a bad hotel choice, but actually just bad luck I suspect. Dinkelsbuhl is a charming little town, quaint like Rothenburg but without the coachloads of Japanese tourists. We picked up a walk map from the tourist office and followed it around for a couple of hours. We have decided that New Zealand would be improved by the addition of a mediaeval Bavarian walled town.
Just about every village down the Romantic Road currently has a maypole (maibaum). This is a 30 metre high tree trunk stripped of its branches except for a Christmas tree-sized tuft at the top, then decorated with paint or carvings, streamers, guild plaques, and hung with a round leafy garland.
As a substitute for attacking each other with halbards (etc), the Bavarians now set aside one night a year for kidnapping each other's maypoles. Allegedly putting them up takes six hours and copious amounts of beer and sausages (though I suspect this is merely a ruse for the male villagers to tell their wives to increase the amount of beer they can drink that day). On the appointed night, other villages attempt to steal the maypole to be held ransom for more beer. My suspicion is that this is also a clever ruse to allow the men of the village to sit around the maypole (conveniently located near a pub), to drink beer throughout the night whilst "protecting" the village maypole.
Actually on further thought this would be a worthy tradition to continue back home.
On to Wallerstein, which has a column that we didn't even bother getting out of the car for. The most exciting thing was the unmarked diversion we had to take, due to the road being closed for roadworks. You'd think maybe the famously efficient Germans would mark out a diversion on the biggest tourist route in the country, but apparently not.
Nordlingen is the next major town. It is built on the site of a meteor strike, and the town wall perfectly follows the circular rim left by the meteor. The information said that the best view of the town was from the church tower, known to the locals as 'Daniel'. So up Ali climbed, to take photos to share with Jase. The pay office is at the top of the tower, and it has a famous cat called Wendlestein.
We did a bit of the wall walk in Nordlingen, before heading on south to Donauworth (whose main claim to fame is a long row of colourful patrician houses along the Reichsstrausse).
That duly seen and photographed, we headed to our hotel at Gempfing.
Location: Rothenburg o.d.t. to Dinkelsbu, Germany
So, a key reason for going to Rothenberg o.d.t. (besides the fact that it is a beautiful medieval walled town) is that Kathe Wohlfahrt has her biggest store there. It's like walking into a room where someone had vomited Christmas. I mean, dear God, it's just wall to wall joy of Christmas. After 5 minutes I began to feel physically sick. In the end, Ali found me curled up in the foetal position by the front door, gently rocking myself, hoping each moment that the next leap would be the leap home.
After Ali prised herself from the first store, she went to the second...
I'm definitely going back to the Tank Museum after that one.
We then took a wander around the city wall, some nice views of the countryside and you can see how well protected the town was. Apparently the only time it was taken was when they were running out of gunpowder and one of the plebs went to check the powder store, carrying a lighted torch. Apparently they only lost two defenders before they were forced to surrender. Man with torch and friend of man with torch who was standing too close.
Next stop, Schillingsfurst. We had a nice lunch at a gasthof on the square. Other than that, Schillingsfurst has got a castle, with a falcon show. The falcon show (apparently the best thing about the visit) would cost us 16 to go to. We've gone to falcon shows before. Decided to miss it. Left, nothing else to report.
Next stop, Feuchtwangen. There are two things to see there, a fountain and the cloister. We found the fountain, pretty easy search, that one, but the cloister was nearly impossible. We did, finally, find it, but it was closed for an event. So, on to the next town.
Dinkelsbuhl was our overnight stop and in the tradition of choosing crap hotels, I managed to do it again. Place had a very 1980's feel to it. Never mind that the room was stuffy, who needs sleep. Visited a couple of sights, then a couple of beer gardens. Ali still hates the taste of beer. I'm beginning to think there is something wrong with her.
Location: Bamberg to Rothenburg ob der T, Germany
Raw egg for Ali for breakfast. That went well beyond our meagre German abilities so we had to resort to pointing and shrugging in a 'what the ...' sort of way.
Went into a couple of Bamberg's churches, and looked at the war memorials. Of note, one church appeared to have no WW2 memorial at all, and a different one had a memorial listing all the civilians who died in a February 1945 air raid. There were quite a few, and that was just one church.
Bamberg has a very pretty timber framed town hall in the middle of a bridge over the river. Legend has it that they couldn't source the land for a town hall, so the town decided to use the the air above the river.
There are loads of antique shops all over town. Fay would go mad.
Finished looking around Bamberg before lunch so we drove to Wurzburg (the start of the Romantic Road) for lunch.
Having picked up a map and guide for the Romantic Road from the tourist office, we wandered around for a bit before joining a tour at The Residence, another UNESCO heritage site. The tour was mostly about the art and craftsmanship in the central rooms, which survived WW2 almost unscathed.
Then down the Romantic Road, pausing at Tauberbischofsheim to look at their tower (very Rapunzel) then driving onwards to our destination for the night, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. We found the hotel fine, but finding the parking was a different story. Eventually Jase had to park up illegally and wait whilst Ali went for help. She came back with the hotel owner who jumped into the car with Jase and guided him home.
Finally we went on a superb tour with the Rothenburg Night Watchman, who was very humourous and full of information. In the town square where he started there was a rehearsal going on for an event that the locals will be putting on this weekend, which seemed to include various damsels in local dress, marching 18th century soldiers/pipers, and cannons!
Try this link: https://goo.gl/photos/XDvbMZSrtZ8MPuaR9