Alps and Castles – 2017

First stop, Germany, new leader of the free world with Trumpland slumping.  From Portland,  6/26/17,  4:30 pm flight delayed until 4:55. Just 1 hour in Seattle to make connecting flight to Frankfurt. First dinner toast from Anne, “sorry about your luggage.” Can we make it 3 weeks without underwear?  Bavarians consume more beer than anyone, but I gave them a run.  Luggage showed up 2 days later, delivered to our Rhine River B&B.  Rhine region also noted for white wine, Betsy and Anne’s drink of choice.

Avis , Renault Tallisman, rent a car. Drove from Frankfurt south to Oberwesel.  Anne interpreted road signs, Betsy navigated, I drove.  Where the hell is Ausfarht?  Tourist Tshirt question.  Ausfarht is ubiquitous hi-way sign, meaning EXIT. Questionable car GPS, but beeped when too close to another car, curb, or crossing a white line.  Did not stop us from driving through a town square celebration, uninvited.  Detoured us for a block driving down a city rail line, also, uninvited.   Switched to Google Maps.

First night, Oberwesel boutique hotel. Deer part dinner with salads/beer/white wine.  Walked some of the town wall trail. Many walled towns in Germany, from medieval times.  Lightening storm and lots of rain the first night.

Day 2 – Castles on the Rhine
Lunch in Schoenberg, 12th century castle. Ferry boat ride across the Rhine to Assmannshausen. The Rhine is a constant flowing economic engine for Germany, with long freight barges up and down the river constantly, and rail lines on both sides going 24/7 with passengers and freight.  Two nights at B & B. Beautiful views of Rhine river and steep sloped vineyards. Quaint, cute old towns line the river. Tourist cruise boat down the
Rhine. Saw 8 – 10 castles along either side of 8 mile boat ride. Take high speed train back. Walk from B&B about 2 miles through vineyards, on mostly paved service roads, to Rudesheim.  Much more touristy town on river. Stop for beer/wine bagel snack. Catch train for 5 minute ride back to B&B.

Day 4 – The Black Forest
Drove to Gutach.  Quick side trip to Heidelberg.  Walked the main market street to view the red stone Heidelberg castle, the largest, and one of the finest, Gothic-Renaissance castles in Europe.  Through rural Germany to well manicured farm, with enormous, Black Forest farm house B&B. Right up against the Black Forest. Looks like Oregon, but all the towns are spotless clean and maintained.  Doesn’t seem to be rural poverty here.

Day 5 – Breakfast on the farm. Homemade cured meat, other cold cuts, cheese, bread, duck egg, forest berry jam. Drive to Kaysersberg France. See Albert Schweitzer museum. Region known for storks. Drop dead cute, old cute, town.  Belgian block, aka cobblestone roads, stream through middle. Hike up to castle. View of vineyards. Bought hand puppet and stork bib for baby Delanie. Had Anne’s favorite, flamnkuchen, a thin crust ham and creme fresh kinda pizza.  Drove to Strasbourg and climbed the 330 steps to the top of Cathedral Norte Dame of Strasbourg. Euro Parliament town. Merkle/Marcos/ Bill Clinton in town for Kohl memorial. Traffic detours aplenty. Then drove to Gengenbach. Polkaband in town square played in beer/wine garden and had most delicious smoked pig on a spit.

Back to the farm in Gutach.

Day 6 – the Black Forest open Air Museum Vogtsbauernhof.

As advertised, Black Forest culture and history come to life.  Red balls on hat means single.   Black balls, married.  Visitors see how people lived and worked in Black Forest farmhouses during the last 400 years. Living quarters main floor, livestock on first floor, feed and grain storage on top floor. German architecture pluses: windows and door hardware more substantial, many doors open from top, as well as regular in and out, large masonary, green tile, furnaces, more efficient burn hotter, inside wall between kitchen and living room. Minus: no air conditioning.  Side trip to Germany’s highest waterfall town in Triburg, also famous for cockuu clocks.  Dinner with Jean Louis and Winnie, Anne’s friends from State Dept., in Lahr at great German restaurant.

Day 7 – South to Freiburg

Anne spent a college year here. Check in at InterCity Hotel. Drive to mountain. GPS leads us through construction, with two blocks of driving on train track. Had to back off. Take tram to top of mountain. Hike to lookout tower. Too cloudy to see Alps. Beer and cheesecake at restaurant.  Back to town. Drop car at Avis. Take city train to old town. Walked to gothic cathedral, aka Munster, looked like Strasbourg’s, only smaller. Beer and wine and pizza in nearby cafe. Beer and wine and steak at old brewery with two big copper vats being tended to by brew master. Shops/cafes/ice cream, arts, antiques, cobblestone cute. Beautiful little river several blocks south of town center with walkways either side. Walk back to hotel. Train tickets for next day had been bought online, from Mumbai. Won’t work for next day’s morning trip to Zermatt.  Have to scramble to get train tickets.

Day 8 – Crossing Switzerland on 4th of July

Trains rule, fast, and efficient.  Get on train to Basil, at France/Germany/Switzerland border, hoping to transfer. Transfer to SwissPass train. First stop Omlit.   Get our first glimpse of Alps, jutting up sharp and white jagged ridge out of infinity like, rolling green pastures. Change trains at Visp to smaller gauge rail up to the Alps. OMG train ride, world famous views up an Alp valley to Zermatt. Hotel Bristol, room 108, view of the Matterhorn right out our window. Walk up trail 2 km to base of Matterhorn. ZumSee restaurant. Octopus salad/beer/wine.

Day 9 – Happy Anniversary on Bucket List Alps Hike

Breakfast at Bristol Hotel. Catch cog wheel train, aka Matterhorn Railway, to top of Gornergrat. Out for panoramic, 360 vistas and pics of Matterhorn and a dozen other peaks over 10k feet with glaciers in between. Made selection of obligatory coffee cup from tour. Took train back one stop to Roterboden. Short hike to Rifflesee lake that reflected imagine of Matterhorn. Took train down another 2 stops to Rifflealp. Took 3 mile hike to Grunsee Lake, then Moosjisee reservoir than to Sunnegga for tram and mountain tunnel tram train back to Zermatt. Beer and salad for lunch. Dinner at DuPont, oldest restaurant in Zermatt. Rossi, potatoes fried in butter, and bratwurst, veal sausage, and beer. White wine and rossi with cheese for Betsy and Anne.

Day 10 – News of Day: G20 Coming to Hamburg.

Trump/Putin/Xi/Merkel et al meeting.  We hope he doesn’t embarrass us, again. We take short hike to north end of Zermatt after breakfast then mini taxi to train depot. Can’t resist taking more pictures of Matterhorn. Hotel desk clerk, in perfect english says 2/3s of days are clear in Zermatt, sunniest place in Switzerland. Off to Lauterbrunnen on 4 different trains. Tomorrow is big long hike. Need to due laundry and get provisions this afternoon. Train stops 1/2 hour out of Zermatt. Stalled train in front of us needs repair. Takes extra hour of stop and go. To Stiez, Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Hotel Silberhorn.  Take tour of Trumbleback falls. Ten waterfalls in middle of rock mountain. Access halfway up by tram through mountain. Hike up to five and all the way down through the bottom five and back to entrance by river. UNESCO World Heritage natural site. More rossti with bacon and egg for dinner.

Day 11 – THE HIKE
Drop our luggage off at tram in Lauterbrunnen to collect at end of hike in next town, Murren. Catch bus with packs to trailhead at end of valley.  Hike is 4 miles long, and gains 2400 ft of elevation. More strenuous than any we have done. Takes 3 hours. Steep switchbacks. All along river or with view of glaciers and waterfalls across the canyon. Lots of stops at benches along the way for breathers. One stop at a hostel on the top of the ridge for a beer. Short leg to finish at Hotel Obersteinberg.  Room without electricity, nor running water. Common bathroom on our second floor room. Dinner served was potatoes, gravy, beets, pork, with peaches and cream dessert. Tasty. Looked like 4 or 5 live-in workers at the place keep it going. Maybe 25 guests were there. Spectacular fews of waterfalls across the canyon coming off of 4 or 5 high Alps peaks, fed by glaciers between.

Day 12 – High Alp Town of Murren

Hike back to bus at trailhead.  Takes  2 hours down. Bus to Lauterbrunnen, city and valley. One of deepest valleys in world, relative to height of mountains on either side. Valley runs 8 miles long and only a kilometer wide max. Must be a world favorite for hang gliders.  We saw as many as 15 in the air at a time, floating high above the valley floor along the cliff walls of the Alps. Catch tram to top of mountain, up 2k feet. On a small train for rest of trip to Murren along the ridge top. Hotel Jungfrau. Great views across valley of mountains. Hang gliders take off from a ridge top slope in view of our room, at times 1 every minute. Touristy town like Zermatt only smaller. Dinner of rosti and pork and beer for me, chicken/salad/wine for Betsy and Anne.

Day 13 – 007 Mountain and On To Bern

Tram to top of Schilthorn. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 007 movie fame.  Views of Eiger/Monch/Jungfrau. Tram then train back to Lauterbrunnen and catch the train to Interlaken Ost, connect to Bern, capital of Switzerland. Albert Einstein house where he lived as a patent inspector for Switzerland. Got inspiration from clock tower down the street, now famous Bern landmark. Saw bears in park. Beer in pub, with $20/glass wine.  Ouch.Night at Hotel Alpenblick.

Day 14 – Feel and Taste the Bern

Cheese/cold cut/cereal/juice/coffee – usual European breakfast. Fishing tackle shop, casino, on the agenda for today. Tackle shop and historical museum, and lots of other places, closed on Monday. Casino was like Indian gaming, except not 24/ 7, small crowd, pay to get in. Dinner at Alpenblick. Lamb on hot soapstone that you sear yourself to taste.  One of best dinners.

Day 15 – On to Austria

2 hour train to Zurich, transfer to Rorschach, then catch boat across Lake Constance to Lindau Germany. Pick up car and 2 hour drive to next destination in Austria, Leutasch, B & B.  Drive 4 km to Mittenwald for dinner in cute German town.

Day 17 – Leautasch Gorge and Linderhof Castle
Up early to walk the 4km along Leutasch Gorge to Mittenwald. Grab a kaffee, then take bus back to Leutasch. On to the King Ludwig II palace at Linderhof.  

Day 18 – Cinderella’s Castle
Drive to Munich. Side trip to Ludwig’s grandest castle, the inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland, Neuschwanstein. 

On to Munich, home of Oktoberfest, naziism, BMW and the Munich olympics.  Went to Haufbrau beer garden, then on to Nazi museum. Munich was the birthplace of naziism, and they are still trying to cope with being the perpetrators of the holocaust.   Beer helps.

Day 19 – Munich
Subways to old town. Famous clock tower in Rathaus. Subway to Munich Olympic village, home of 72 Olympics. BMW world headquarters. Toured plant. They make 1000 cars per day. Takes 40 hours to make a car. Made 3 and 4 series in Munich plant. Displayed all BMW, Rolls Royce and MiniCooper cars and all BMW motorcyles. Nazi museum said BMW paid some reparations for slave labor they used to make aircraft engines for the Nazi regime in WWII, but didn’t pay much. Subway to lake park beer and bratwurst. Subway to Italian dinner, lamb chops.  Back to Arthotel.

Day 20 -Dacau,  Dinkelsbuhl and the Romantic Road

Check out and drove 30 mins north to tour Dacau concentration camp. 40k prisoners killed in camp between 1933 and 45.   Somber place.  Albeit Macht Frei, Work will Set You Free, on entry gate.  It’s true. Germans are serious people.

On the Romantic Road to Nordlingen, for lunch.  Another, yes its true, cute, old, town.  Had calamari and beer, pizza and wine. Then to Dinklesbuhl, super cute old German town. Checked into Hezelhof Hotel. Town was celebrating Kinderzech, annual celebration with parade, beer garden, reenactment of 1632 Sweedish seige.  Children of town convince Swedes to spare the town.

Day 21 – 22 Rothenburg – Ultimate in Cute and Old

Drove to Rothenburg. Checked in at hotel to drop off luggage. Took hike around 3/4 of 5 km town wall. Dinner of chantrelles and beef/chicken/pasta/beer/wine/chocolate cake. Breakfast in garden area. Walk around town for pics at city wall towers. Ambassadors of Oregon music group playing in marketplace at 2. Group of 100 or so from 100 high schools in Oregon. Finished our walk around the city wall.   Took the Night Watchman tour of the town at 8 PM.

Day 23 – Flight Home

Drive to Frankfurt.   Drop off car.  WOW flight for Anne.   Icelandic Air for us.  Both routes stop in Reykjavik for hour layover.   Probably don’t need to see Iceland again.   We land in Portland and drive home.   Anne lands in Baltimore, but could still be looking for her luggage.



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