As always, for a quick update on where we are currently, check: www.polarsteps.com/harryandmirjam
On the 25th of September we left Ulft in the morning and started our long drive to Athens. We had no real plan, just a date we needed to be in Athens for, the 21st of October.
Our first stop in Germany was the beautiful Rhine Valley, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. After about 2,5 hours driving from Ulft (if your maximum speed is more than our 110km an hour you will get there much quicker) we got to Koblenz where the Rhine and the Mosel meet. A beautiful old city that got founded over 2000 years ago. We had a quick lunch stop here and got back in the car to follow the Rhine towards the South, deep into the Rhine Valley. Left and right on the river banks you see the most beautiful and impressive castles. We stopped at Burg Sterrenberg, one of the castles that was on our way to the Airbnb we had booked for the night. It was built around 1190 but now has a nice restaurant and café in it with an amazing view over the Rhine Valley. Early in the evening we got to Airbnb in Lykershausen, a very small town. We slept in a so-called Bauwagen which was a fun experience!
One of the many castles we drove by, this is Schloss Marksburg
View of the Rhine Valley from the terrace of Burg Sterrenberg
Our Airbnb, the ‘Bauwagen’
The next morning we left quite early, as we wanted to be in Strasbourg in the early afternoon to meet up with Harry’s cousin who lives there. The good thing about going by car is that we can just stop anywhere we want and we can carry food with us so we are not spending much money on breakfasts and lunches. This morning we just stopped in a small village and had breakfast with a view of a castle! When we got to Strasbourg we checked-in to our ‘City Apartment’ and met up with Thibault (Harry’s cousin). He took us on a tour around this pretty city and we had Flam, which was delicious! It’s a kind of square pancake/thin pizza with lots of cheese, onions and bacon. We had a few drinks and then said goodbye to Thibault as we were moving on early morning the next day.
Breakfast with a view (the castle, not the trailer)
We left early in the morning again as we had a long day of driving ahead of us to the South West of Bavaria. To make the trip more interesting we set the TomTom to ‘Avoid Motorways’. This route took us through the Black Forest and along the North side of the Bodensee (or Lake Constance for some of you). We also stumbled across the source of the Danube (Donau) river in Donaueschingen, Europe’s second-largest river. In the early evening we made it to our destination at the foot of the Alps, Rettenberg. We stayed in an Airbnb here that had the most amazing view and very nice hosts. The view from the terrace was just breathtaking.
The source of the Danube/Donauquelle
View from the terrace of our Airbnb in Retternberg
Schloss Neuschwanstein and the Franz Marc Museum
You know Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle? Schloss Neuschwanstein inspired Walt Disney when he created the Magic Kingdom and today it’s the most visited castle in Germany with 1.4 million people visiting it every year and up to 6,000 people a day in summer! We really wanted to visit it but I’m a bit allergic to busy touristy places but we had a tactic: arriving really early. Having our own transport helped out and we were pretty much the first tourists to arrive to the small town of Schwangau. However within about 30 minutes it was full of tourists anyway so it didn’t really help.
Schloss Neuschwanstein was built at the end of the 19th century and was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria. His intention was to build in the style of an old German knight’s castle, but in reality it was a lot more romantic and picturesque. Ludwig II wasn’t too keen on many people around him and slightly anti-social and wanted the castle as a refuge. The building took a lot longer though than planned and even though the castle wasn’t finished yet, Ludwig II slept in it for 11 nights but then died. Ironically only 7 weeks after his death, the castle was opened to the public. Something that would have been Ludwig II’s worst nightmare, all these people!
The hostess from our Airbnb had told us about an alternative hike up to the castle (called the Pöllatweg), rather than the tourist trek. Unfortunately when we found this hike, it turned out the path had been closed because of a landslide or something else that destroyed it. A real shame as the pictures we had seen taken from the trail looked amazing. Joining all the other tourists, many in big groups following umbrellas or flags, we took trek up the hill to the castle. When it was our turn to go inside we were with about 35 – 40 people, a group way too big to hear the guide properly and see properly but there is no choice. The interior of the castle is pretty impressive, but I think the exterior and the location of the castle is more interesting. Another 10 minutes walk from the castle is a bridge from where you get a stunning view of the castle, but I was scared to stay on the bridge too long as it was so busy and I was worried that it would collapse… All in all I’m very happy we visited the castle but it’s very touristy indeed.
View of Schloss Neuschwanstein from the little bridge
In the afternoon we drove, mainly following the very nice route ‘Deutsche Alpenstraße’ to Kochel am See where we visited the Franz Marc Museum. Franz Marc was a German painter, a key figure in the German Expressionist movement and one of the founders of ‘Der Blaue Reiter’. It was a small museum but definitely worth visiting. At night we stayed in another Airbnb very close to the Austrian border.
Our last day driving before reaching the Balkans was through the Austrian Alps. Again the TomTom was instructed to ‘Avoid Motorways’ and off we went. A little worried if the car would be able to make it, we drove quite carefully. The scenery was stunning and the weather just blue skies and warm so a perfect day! After just the perfect day and the car still working, we got to beautiful Bled in Slovenia. More on Bled in my next update 🙂
The gorgeous Austrian Alps