Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Germany: Beautiful Castles and The Romantic Road

This Trip: FROM 2015.08.29 TO 2015.09.06


Our summer vacation in Germany began in Munich, the only destination on our itinerary where we spent a total of two days. Transportation networks in both Munich and Frankfurt were sufficient, especially from a tourist's point of view. It was easy to go from the airport to center of Munich by S-Bahn trains and to get around by metro or trams, although fares were not that cheap. We had two excellent days there, mainly because weather really counts! It was so much fun doing sightseeing in historic areas of Munich while enjoying the very last bit of summer in perfect sunshine over 30° Celsius.

Roughly speaking, this was the route of Day 1: Karlsplatz (Stachus) > Citizen's Hall Church > Richard Strauss Fountain > St. Michael's Church > St. Anna Church & School For Girls > Asamhof Passage > St. Johann Nepomuk Church > New Sendlinger Gate > Old Cattle Market Square > St. Peter's Church > Holy Ghost Church > Old Town Hall > Marienplatz Square > New Town Hall & Glockenspiel > Kaufingertor Passage > Hirmer Department Store > Cathedral of Our Lady > Field Marshall’s Hall > St. Cajetan of Theatine Church > Hofgarten > Royal Residence > Isartor Old City Wall Gate > Isartor Old City Wall Gate. In the evening we went to Hofbräuhaus Beer Hall, which was just the right place to be for a pint after walking for a whole day. We managed to see most we needed to see the first day, and so on the next day we decided to visit Nymphenburg Palace, the only attraction we could not reach on foot from our hotel located in the hub of the historic Munich. It was pretty easy and fast to go by tram though.

For the rest of our last day in Munich we just leisurely strolled around and also looked for some deliciousness. Contrary to all expectations, the non-greasy and fruity German baked goods were surprisingly good. Speaking of the authentic German pretzel we had the night before at the Beer Hall, it might not be something exceptional but I personally find it a perfect match for beer. This evening we started our car journey and first headed southwest to Schwangau where we could start the next day early enough for visits to the world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle.

Hohenschwangau Castle + Neuschwanstein Castle + Füssen

In the morning we set off even earlier than needed for collecting our reserved timed tickets at Ticket-Center Hohenschwangau to spare as much time as possible for more photographs along the way uphill and of the castles' grand exteriors before entry to see the interiors on guided tours which was the only option and lasted at most 30 minutes each. Personally I would recommend everyone to ignore the inaccurate descriptions of level of difficulty and duration of the walks up to the castles. It really was nothing strenuous. Just walk. Don't bother waiting on long queues for horse carriages or bus. For the tours, it was, of course, a matter of luck for us to have at least a nice female guide who had a good English level at Hohenschwangau, before getting lost in Neuschwanstein with a male guide who was supposed to cater only German tourists. Overall, we enjoyed our time there and without a doubt both castles were must-see.

Especially for those visiting the castles in the morning there was no reason to skip Füssen, the pretty little town only a few kilometers away from Schwangau and also a nice place to explore before getting back on the car journey up on the Romantic Road in the evening. Again, the day was twice as pleasant under an azure sky. We could not be happier.

Lake Constance + Sigmaringen Castle

LINDAU was our first destination along Lake Constance, and also where we enjoyed the very last bit of summer before temperature started to drop and the sky turned grey. Like all other little towns on our route, it was almost impossible to plan what exactly to see because of lack of English tourist information online. Fortunately, one could see everything in these compact towns simply by touring around freely without any plan.

MEERSBURG was our most favorite town among all along Lake Constance. We were taking lots of pictures of those beautiful houses and alleys almost nonstop. There also seemed to be more to see, but judgements might not be that accurate, considering the dramatically changing weather the next few hours.

UBERLINGEN was where I first put on my jeans, jacket, and scarf. We did a brief sightseeing in the rain. No doubt this was another nice town, but you just could not see the best of anything in bad weather.

SIGMARINGEN CASTLE was not to be missed. Unfortunately it was still raining, after the 45 km drive all the way north from the Lake. We just stood there for a while on the bridge, the best point of view of the castle, to admire the grandeur of its exterior, before going into the town for a short tour.

Hohenzollern Castle + Lichtenstein Castle + Tubingen

Apart from the most visited Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles, Hohenzollern and Lichtenstein Castles were another two magnificent fairy-tale castles we finally got to set our feet on. I managed to shed some calories through the steep walking path up to the Castle's entrance at Hohenzollern. It took me almost 30 minutes to reach the top, as I was taking my time. Some people opted for the bus, for which they had to spend some time waiting. As always, we started our day early before the crowds arrived for the best of the best experience. We paid only to see the castle ground from which there were stunning close-up views, but to have a panorama we needed to go back downhill searching for a best spot from afar by car. It was a beautiful morning.  We then got back on the road and headed northeast for Lichtenstein Castle, one on the edge of the cliff that I saw only in cartoons and movies in my childhood and doubted its existence. Truly beautiful! For those big fans of castles, Germany must be your place! Again, we did not pay to see the castle's rooms, firstly because it was a tiny castle, and secondly we could have easily got bored after seeing so many castles in our travel life and also in this particular trip.

Tubingen, a hidden gem not on the Romantic Road, with no lack of small steps, narrow alleys, pointed gables that shape the silhouette of its old town on the way up to its castle, was the last stop of this perfect day. The Swabian university town of 86,000 inhabitants and 27,000 students combines the flair of a lovingly restored medieval centre of town with the colorful bustle and typical atmosphere of a young and cosmopolitan students' town.

Nordlingen + Dinkelsbuhl + Rothenburg ODT

It was a full day on the Romantic Road. Weather was not perfect but at least there was no rain. In the morning we climbed up the tallest church in Nordlingen for some unobstructed panoramic views of the vast networks of compact red bricks rooftops, which I would say, the unquestionable charm of Nordlingen. Seen from low, however, the town looked nothing exceptional. The surprisingly quiet Dinkelbuhl, on the contrary, a town with no best high points for any best panoramas at all, was one of the most beautiful towns I had ever seen. We took our time walking around and going into every corner to make sure we would not miss anything. We also had a nice lunch in the very center surrounded by colorful houses. Rothenburg seemed to be the most well-known among all. It was more of the same group as Dinkelsbuhl. We were in no rush for any more next stops for the day and so we toured around and took quite enough photos of this attractive romantic town, before getting back on the road and settled in Nuremberg for a night stay.

Nuremberg + Bamberg + Wurzburg

Altstadt, the medieval old town of Nuremberg situated in the center of the city of Nuremberg, was our only point of interest. The castle itself was the star, but we found no impressive panoramic views of the town even at a highest point. After all, a medieval town in a modern city cannot be as charming as those tiny little ones in the middle of nowhere on the Romantic Road. Both Nuremberg and Bamberg were well worth a visit but bear in mind we needed to make quite a detour out of the Romantic Road for these two stops in the west. Anyone on a tighter schedule might consider skipping these. In the late afternoon we finally reached the end of the Romantic Road - Wurzburg, the city that sets in a beautiful hilly location on a river and possesses a wealth of history, as well playing host to a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Residence palace.

Wertheim + Miltenberg + Mespelbrunn Castle + Schloss Johannisburg

Out of the Romantic Road Wertheim and Miltenberg were two hidden gems not to miss on our way northwest to Frankfurt. The panoramic views of the historic town from Wertheim Castle were nice but not best as the modern buildings from afar could never be a match. Well worth a visit was the Castle itself - one of the biggest grounds of castle ruins I had ever seen. It cost only 1 Euro per entry. The medieval town center of both were so pretty, but the tiny Miltenberg must be the most suitable one as a filming location for a fantasy movie.

Sad that it started to rain when we were there at Mespelbrunn Castle, but glad that the castle was even smaller than expected and so admiring it just from outside the gate was sufficient, at least a better alternative to paying 5 Euro per entry of a castle of this size in the rain. Weather stayed unstable the rest of the day, plus it was getting late. After a brief stop at Schloss Johannisburg, we got back on the road and managed to arrive in Frankfurt by 19:00 for some more German deliciousness -  authentic Frankfurt sausages, German roast pork, and some more beers!


Frankfurt, the least favorite destination of this trip pale in ​comparison with those already been in the previous 8 days, looked to me not much different from any modern metropolis packed with sophisticated constructions and skyscrapers. An interesting attraction was Bockenheimer Warte, a very unusual subway entrance. Römerberg was one of the last areas, if not the only one old square, where we could enjoy a hint of historic atmosphere. We had a nice lunch there with the delicious "German pizzas" - Flammkuchen, and some good apple cider, which they named apple wine on the menu. Sadly, it was time to go home. See? Frankfurt should not be excluded because it was where our return flight took off!