Friday, August 15, 2014

Family Trip to Western Europe: Romantic Bavaria, Germany

 •  Germany •  Austria •  Switzerland •  France 
• 2 adults • 2 kinder • 
• 4 countries • 8 cities • 
• 13 towns • 17 days • 
• 25 flight hours • 1 car •  
One Amazing Adventure

Part 1 of 5 of our Western Europe Family Trip

3 Days Romantic Bavaria, Germany
Frankfurt - Würzburg - Rothenburg - Füssen

3 Days Magical Salzburg
4 Days Swiss Cities 
3 Days French Alsace Region
4 Days Black Forrest

3 Days Romantic Bavaria 

Romantic Road is a winding 400km drive that begins from Würburg and ends with Füssen where the famous Neushwanstein castle is located. It is a route with many scenic outlooks, countless castles and historic towns, hence the name, Romantic Road. 

First stop -  Wüzburg (119km/1h15m)

Marketplatz @ Würburg


Wuzburg Coventry

This is the first stop on Romantic road and was recommended by Lonely Planet, since it's only an hour drive from Frankfurt, it's a perfect resting point for us after the long flight.

Among the places of interest in Wüzburg
  • Marienkapelle - lots of handicrafts, florists and cafe, a small but lively marketplace 
  • Coventry Wüzburg - an old Coventry that is still running services daily
  • Falkenhaus - an illustrative manor built way before world world II. It was partially destroyed during air strikes but was subsequently restored.
  • Residenz - this is one place we missed, but it's said to offer lavishly designed mansion built by King Ludwig. 
We had a wonderful lunch @ Wirtshaus Zum lammle. It's a local beerhaus serving authentic German food and local beer (just behind the Coventry Würburg). The waitresses dressed in the traditional German attire - the typical pinafore, looking pretty and really friendly. Lazying in the open seats under shades, surrounded by all the locals chattering softly, enjoying our roast and sausages with beer, definitely the right place to unwind after the long journey.

Wirthaus Zum Lammle

Inviting setup

Roasted Pork with Potato Dumpling and Bratwurst (in the background)

Pasta with Sauce for the little ones

Pretzel is one of the national food in   Germany, we find it in most bakeries we walked passed. Finally we decided to try it out. Different from what we usually have in Malaysia, the pretzel here is firm and salty, great to go with unsweetened black coffee. We also tried the fresh berries tart and apple tart, so fresh & delicious! All in for only EUR$4, not too bad.

Local delicacies... the reason I put on weight!

Next stop - Rothenburg ob de Tauber (65km/45min)

• Marketplaz
• clock tower

Rothenburg is a medieval old town with cobbled stone path, winding alleyways and surrounded by half timbered houses that were so beautifully decorated; this place would be buzzing with tourists during Christmas. There's plenty of cafe, toy stores and beautiful towels that keep your camera busy. We enjoyed our fruity ice creams here while strolling around the town. There's a tourist information center so don't forget to drop by and get a map before visiting.

The clock tower that have little teddy bears popping up the window every hour

Lovely view
Summer, perfect time for an icy cool ice-cream

The little Scheenallen store at the corner

We came across this little Schneenallen candy stores in a small alley, it was an German delicacies recommended by some travel site, so we decided to buy a Nougat Schneeball for sharing. It actually means snowball in German, it comes in a big ball shape (like a Sepak Takraw) and requires big bites and tissues - expect messy cheeks :)

There were some really interesting tog stores here that the little ones just couldn't took their eyes of the window displays. It's a place that kiddos get head over heel and couples can enjoy some romantic moments in a town the breath history. So this is a must-visit place if you ever visits Bavaria.

We spent an hour here and before heading to Füssen, long ride awaits!

End of Romantic Road - Füssen, home of Neushwanstein Castle (227km/2h11min)

Füssen highlights:
• Neushwanstein Castle 
• Füssen old town 
• Wieskirche, the Rococo church that is an official Unesco heritage site

It was a long drive along the romantic road, but there is a plenty of stops and tourist places for detour. As we would like to get to the hotel before sunset, we had to give them a missed. The drive was pleasant with the beautiful weather. Clear blue skies and greenish hills. Lots of wind turbines, solar powered stations and infinite corn fields along the highway. For city folks like us, pleasant country side view such as this is just priceless.

This is the castle made famous by Disney - it's THE CASTLE that appears in the opening of every Disney movies and it gave inspiration to the Sleeping Beauty, so don't be surprised to find lots of tourists flood to this place due to its fame!

Neushwanstein Castle, here we come!

Castle view from afar

at the Castle
The grand entrance to the castle

It was such a pleasant drive to Newschwenstein castle, lots of natural park and greenery along the way. We drove with our windows down and enjoyed the cool air outside. It's approximate 30 minutes drive and was totally enjoyable. The parking at the entrance of the castle cost us €5 and we choose to go up the castle via the horse carriage instead of the 45min up hill walk. It cost €6/adult and €3/kid (4-5yo), but it definitely save us the effort of dragging the duo up the hilly route. Coming down, we decided to be adventurous and walk the trail through the woods. It had some steep steps but otherwise it was manageable even for the little ones. Instead of 45 minutes, it took us only 20 minutes. 

The castle was commissioned in 1869 to be used as King Ludwig II's retreat and it took 15 years to before the king moved as the castle was too comprehensive and it is located on mountain. On the other hand, Hohenswanstein castle, the sunflower yellow castle, was the castle were the king actually lived but it really pale when compared with the Neushwanstein castle. If time allows, you can cover it buy buying combi tickets.

Horse carriage taking us to the castle

Our horseman

Monkeying around the woods :)

• Füssen Old Town 

Füssen is a pretty town that in itself justifies for a day of visit. The Parisian style cafés, the ancient stone paths and colorful stores, it just look too pretty to be a real living township.  

The street of Fussen

Love the lovely windows

Lively Fussen

Can you see the heart?
Little girls playing by the fountain

The duo enjoyed chasing pigeons

After the castle visit we came to Füssen town center to have lunch,  we picked this restaurant that is off the busy road filled with tourists, yet it is still part of the old Füssen city and served authentic German food - pork sausages, roast porks with handmade pasta, sour cabbages and local Fussen wraps. A nice meal and only cost us €30 including drinks.

Try the Schnaps, it's a liquor that the locals take when finishing their meals and you are supposed to drink up the small cup in one go. I actually felt the hotness traveling down the throat and into the stomach. If you have never try this, don't miss it. ;)

Traditional German dish

Cabbage dumpling, another traditional favourite

Schnaps time

• Wieskirche Rococo Church

A flower from my love 

Wiskirche Rococo church

The astonishing interior painting

The giant pretzel, size of 2 palms combined!

It's about 20 minutes drive to Wieskirche church and we nearly thought we gone to the wrong direction as it is actually located in a suburb area that requires us to drive through farm lands and open hills. We were actually started singing "The hills are alive" as we drove  through all the green hills. 

Just while we thought the church looks rather ordinary from the outside, the interior totally wow us and everyone else. Vibrant painting of Jesus, angels, saints on the high ceiling and statues of saints all around it.

We enjoyed a cup of coffee and fresh juice at the Cafe Schweiger next to the church, it's a quiet cafe with very friendly service. My little boy ordered a pretzel again, he really liked it while I find it too salty to my liking, but to eat with a cup of coffee, that's just fine.

This had sum up our few days along the Bavaria, there are many other places of interest along the Romantic road, but as we only allocated 3 days, we pretty much have made the best out of the time we had, and my personal favorite for Bavaria has got to be Rothernbeg for its authentic German town atmosphere and the many toy stores that can fulfill anyone's childhood dream.

Useful Tips!

• If you intend to enter the castle, do purchase the tickets online at least 48 hours before traveling, and it is also cheaper compared to buying over the counter. URL available here.

• for the postcard view of the castle, you may choose to take the bus ride nearby to the ticket center which will take you to the nearby Mary bridge (Marienbrücke)  We did not choose that route as it may be a bit challenging to do it with 2 young kids.

• The walk around Neushwanstein can be tiring for little ones or elderly even under a pleasant weather, so do prepare enough water and snacks. Even with bus or carriage you still have to be prepared for 15 minutes walk up to the castle. However there are plenty of cafe and snack bars along the way, so you can always buy there if the tummy gets grumpy.  

A note about Pfronten..

We picked a family run hotel in Pfronten nearby to Füssen. It's a small town that we seemed to be the only Asian family around. We were not able to locate the hotel at first and the locals were really helpful. Despite they don't speak English they tried their best to help.  This will be our base to explore Füssen and the nearby locations, which includes the famous Newschwanstein Castle!

There is a cable car station nearby that travel right onto the peak and offers paragliding sport. We spotted at least 10 gliders in the sky that morning itself, so if you are seeking for adventure in the sky, this may be the place to consider.

We had a brief breakfast in our hotel room, took the duo to the on site playground to warm up before our day began. The hotel has a decent size outdoor playground and the kids all enjoyed the trampoline.

If you like para-gliding, Pfronten is the place to be. There is a cable car station nearby to our hotel and many adventurous were para gliding in that area. With the beautiful weather and open fields, this is definitely one ideal place for such sport. 

Monkeying at our hotel front

Landhotel Alte Tränke
Tiroler Straße 138, 87459 Pfronten
Price € 100/night (including 7% VAT)

My rating: 3.5 / 5

The suite looked a bit dated but was spacious with 2 rooms (a double bed and a sofa bed), comes with kitchenette and attached bathroom. Breakfast is additional €7.50 but we did not take it. The on site playground is definitely a plus point as the kids really enjoyed themselves every morning. However it took us awhile to locate the hotel, should have looked for "Alte Tränke" with the Biergarten sign instead of "Landhotel".

Interested for more? Check out the main itinerary here... Western Europe Family Trip or the next stop, Salzburg here

or visit Lonely Planet for it's suggestion on Top 10 Things to Do in Bavaria!

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