Cross-Country Days in Germany and Austria

August 19, 2014

in Destination Updates, Europe, Virtual Europe

  • SumoMe

(Join Tales Told From The Road continues on its month-long virtual European journey.)

After picking up a rental car at the Munich train station, we’ll drive south and in less than two hours arrive in Reutte, a small town just across the Germany-Austria border that will serve as our base for exploring far southern Bavaria and the Austrian Tirol region.

 After a quick loop trip through the nearby mountains during the afternoon, we’ll enjoy a fine dinner at our hotel on the outskirts of Reutte.

After breakfast the next morning, we’ll head north back in Germany to check out one of the “must see” sightseeing stops in Southern Bavaria, the twin Wittlesbach castles, Hohenschwangau, and Neuschwanstein, near Füssen, about a forty-five minute drive from where we are staying in Reutte.

Neuschwanstein (“New Swan Stone”) was the model for the castle at Disneyland. It was under construction from 1869-1886, but never finished.

Waiting to Tour Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria

It was the designed for “Mad” King Ludwig, whose parents had built that much more sedate Hohenschwangau farther down the hill.

Ludwig Parents Castle CollageIt took 14 carpenters four years just to build Ludwig’s bedroom in Neuschwanstein. His digs will remind us of William Randolph Hearst’s opulent castle on the central California coast.

Ludwig only lived in Neuschwanstein for 172 days before he and his psychiatrist were both found dead, floating in a lake near Munich.  No one knows for sure how he met his end.

Ludwig Castle CollageThe day before Ludwig died, royal counselors had him declared insane.  Were they so upset over the cost of building Neuschwanstein that they went ballistic when they learned Ludwig wanted to build yet another, even more grandiose castle just up the road, and had him killed? Maybe he didn’t pay his general contractor who had connections with the Bavarian Mafia? Did the Hapsburg from Austria “take out a contract” on him when he jilted one of their princesses after a ten-month engagement? Alfred Hitchcock should have made a movie about this guy.

We’ll do another border crossing while touring this region. But this time we’ll drive 45 minutes south from our hotel, then walk, rather than drive, from Austria into Germany and back again, as we cross the summit of the Zugspitze.

Gondola Approaches The Zugspitze Summit Station

Although the mountain is the highest point in Germany at 9,718’ above sea level, the Zugspitze tops out much lower than a raft of other peaks in Austria. We could hike one-way to the summit or back down from it and ride a cable-car gondola the other way, as some visitors do, but it will be much easier and faster to let the gondola haul us up and down the mountain.

Before the EU ended border crossing checks for citizens of its member countries, Germans and Austrians had to show their passports to amble from one side of the summit to the other. It’s a thing of the past for everyone, including us Yanks, these days. So after downing a beer in one country, we can quickly “emigrate” to the other and hoist another glass.

Zugspitze Border Beer Collage

The view from the top, even on a somewhat cloudy day, is striking. And if you want to do just a little bit of mountain climbing, you can scale a short cliff face to touch a golden cross.

Zugspitze View Collage

After returning to the base of the Zugspitze, we’ll hop back into our rental car, and drive to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen resort area which, with its McDonald’s and Pizza Hut fast-food outlets, is like Lake Tahoe without the casinos. Then we’ll head off in the direction of Munich, but turn back to the west and the small town of Ettal to visit the magnificent Baroque church that is associated with a monastery there.

Ettal Collage

After a mid-afternoon pastry treat at a local konditorei, we’ll drive back to Reutte along the road that skirts the Plansee, the biggest mountain lake in the region, where we’re likely to see sailboats racing and tour boats plying the waters.

In the middle of nowhere between Ettal and the lake, we’ll pass (for the second time, the first having been on our way to Reutte from Munich) a big glass and steel box being built next to the narrow, two-lane highway.

It sticks out like a sore thumb, and doesn’t match the Swiss-chalet style architecture that is predominant in the area. What looks like a secret  government building full of spies will turn out to be a resort for BWM employees and guests which replaced a traditional hotel the company owned on the same site.

Hotel Maximilian, Reutte, Austria

Twenty minutes later we’ll be back at our hotel to have dinner and prepare for our next Alpine adventure.

Tomorrow: Drinking Beer Until The Cows Come Home

(Click here to read more stories about the month-long Tales Told From The Road virtual trip across Europe.)

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