On leaving the Alps our aim was to cross into Italy, as always things don’t pan out as we thought and instead we crossed in the opposite direction into Germany. Looking forward to no more vignettes, tolls and charges – second road we hit was a private road and had a toll. Not the end of the world at €8.50 and worth every cent as we drove along the side of the Sylvenstein river towards the dam and our first taste of Bavaria. As with many rivers in the area the water takes on a chalky white appearance from the rocks – it looks more like milk than water.
First intended stop was to be the lake at Tefernsee, we drove round it in a couple of directions (minor driver / navigator scrap!) and in the end agreed there wasn’t really anywhere worth staying. Instead we went to Bad Tolz, a small spa town just a few miles to the West. A typical Bavarian town, a wide river running though the centre and tall buildings all painted with ornate frescos. The main street was pedestrianised, pavement cafes and various museums and gift shops all busy with the coach tours in for the afternoon.
As with Austria we were surprised at how many shops sell traditional Austrian costumes for men and women. Without exaggeration every other shop had several costumes for men and rack after rack of ye olde German dresses for women. We see plenty of people if cafes and restaurants wearing the costumes but not enough to warrant the amount on sale. Before the question comes, at this moment lederhosen have not been purchased – but you never know :).
We took a couple of days driving around the lakes to the South of Munich, Starnberger and Ammersee and an overnight in Diessen. Again the houses and shops were similar to Austria but in the main they lack the flowing window boxes, relying more on the paintings and woodwork for decoration. We had a wander around the shops but resisted spending on cow bells and cuckoo clocks – so far anyway but there are so many its becoming more difficult by the day.
Our mid-week aim was for the dual splendor of Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Hohenschwanstein, the former being most famous as the castle Disney modeled their fairy-tale castle on. We expected a few tourists so we arrived early, well before 10am. It felt like actually being in Disney, the most people we have encountered anywhere we have been. It is very well organised, there are loads of shops, cafes and even horses and carts to take you up to the castles but more people than you want to meet in one go anywhere.
Our plan was a quick trek up to the bridge to take some photos and get out of there. We were scuppered as the bridge was closed for repairs, so no choice other than to follow the hoards up to the top. We had to question how on earth the bridge can ever be open, would hate to stand on it with a few thousand tourists pushing and shoving for a selfie shot.
The best we could capture on ‘film’
Both castles were built at the end of the 19th century, more folly than castle, seemingly with an eye too future tourists. We knew there were two castles but we were surprised just how close they were, within minutes walk. Without a doubt Newschwanstein is the star attractions – Hohenschwanstein gets a passing glance but no more. We lasted an hour at the site and that was enough, plenty more castles in Germany so hopefully find a few less popular ones.
On the right day, from the right viewpoint – a bit of Disney in Germany
We booked on to a campsite down the road and got the bikes down for a trip around the lakes, very much up Alp and down dale. The following morning we decided to do the same route but to hire electric bikes from the campsite. Despite fairly rubbish old electric bikes it was more fun than should be possible on a bike. The views had gone – lost to freezing fog – loved it so much though we got back to camp, packed butties and a flask and set off again to do the route in reverse – best bike rides ever :).
Following the ‘Deutsche Alpine Tourist Route’ it was onwards to Friedrichshafen and Iain’s second nirvana after Skoda – the home of the Zepplin. The only trip on offer was the 45 minute €350 trip, one place left for the last flight of the day. Ah well, only one seat of course I let Iain have it! We were there at lunchtime so whiled away the afternoon sat in the sun outside the hangar bar, Iain filling his face with struddle whilst I was astounded people want to go up in a box hanging off a balloon.
Five o’clock came, Iain was off for his safety brief (which consists of “ be careful climbing up the steps to get on as it moves” and “it’s ok to take off the seat-belt and wander around once airborne”.). I think its possibly more terrifying watching someone else go up, six or seven guys holding the ropes to stop it floating off whilst they do “two on – two off” to keep the weight even. The they let go of the ropes and its gone, very little noise it just floats off. When it comes back it nose dives down to land, literally head down and the guys on the grass run around grabbing ropes.
After the excitement of Zepplin flight we were planning a quiet weekend around the Bodensee lake, looking over at Switzerland. We pulled onto a campsite and found ourselves shoe horned in between a couple of large German vans. One of the German ladies spent most of the evening stood by our door smoking and glaring in at us, quit honestly she scasred us both! We got up and 7am and she was there again (or maybe had spent the night there). We decided to make a quick exit and leave the hoards around the lake.
With a few miles of leaving Bodensee we found a small Stellplatz next to a set of fishing lakes and parked up for the weekend. Nothing much to do but walk and cycle, suits us perfectly for the weekend.