We started our time in the Mosel River area in Koblenz which is the point where the Rhine River and the Mosel River converge. The Mosel River is an offshoot of the "Roaring Rhine," we opted for the Mosel because of its great wines and more mellow atmosphere. From Koblenz we went to Cochem, which is a good central place to stay when exploring this region.
The Mosel River flows down this beautiful landscape with giant vineyards rising on both sides. The steepest vineyard in the world is here in the Mosel, which is 65 degrees! Pretty amazing. We were very lucky to be here right after the fall "crush" so we were able to enjoy some new fresh wines with views of the changing golden fall vines.
We were here for the wine, but when we saw this giant tent being set up in town we quickly learned that it was Oktoberfest here in Cochem! We joined in on the festivities for this smaller and more intimate version of German Oktoberfest.
The Mosel River is a very slow moving river, next to the river is a bike path which offers great easy riding from town to town. We rented bikes and spent the day riding to "The Sleeping Beauty of the Mosel," a small village called Beilstein.
Burg Eltz is one of the best preserved castles in all of Europe. It has remained in tact for over 700 years, avoiding destruction in both World Wars. This castle has been passed down from generation to generation within the Eltz family and the current Count and Countess Eltz still live there today. Let's just say their home is "slightly" different than ours.
One of the coolest things about this castle is how remote it is. This was a factor in why it has survived untouched for so long. To get here by train you must hike through the dense forest for over an hour from the station. We didn't mind. It was a perfect fall day.
Our next overnight stay along the Mosel was in the village of Bernkastle-Kues. The town square (pictured above) was spectacular. We loved taking it easy, enjoying the local wine, and dining on our last German meals.
This very crooked building dates back to 1416, it is right off the town square. Every time we went to buy wine or head off to dinner we got to stroll by this funny building.
We really lucked out here with an amazing top floor apartment right in the middle of this little town. There is always a gap between the photos online when you book a place, compared to reality. This one really exceeded our expectations, and it was cheap! It had everything we needed and some amazing views of the vineyards.
We keep saying it, but the colors of these places we visited during fall were incredible. We saw over 100 miles of this river changing from summer greens to fall yellows and oranges.
People think of wine and maybe think of France and California; Germany is not normally on most peoples wine list. We can tell you that these wines (normally whites) are fantastic, and cheap. If you go to a wine shop just ask to see their Mosel/Moselle wines. The most expensive wines from this area are about $10-15. If you normally drink a fairly dry white wine, look for "Trocken" on the label.
We said goodbye to Bavaria and headed Northwest. We decided to rent a car from Munich and drive along the "Romantic Road" to the city of Rothenburg. This town was postcard perfect. The "Romantic Road" is a popular themed drive that takes you by many picturesque castles and historic towns showing you quintessential German settings.
Rothenburg is a well preserved medieval walled town. The best thing to do here, is just wander the streets of this ancient city.
Rothenburg is also home to a few year round Christmas stores and has one of the most stunning Christmas markets in Germany. The year round "Christmas Village" is the largest Christmas store in all of Germany. It was definitely different, and pretty amazing really.
Traditional lunch, a little fresh herbed goat cheese, some truffle hard cheese, sliced meats, bread, and a little wine.
Every hour on the hour in the market square you will find a free show taking place on the clock tower. It shows the story of an old tale of when the town was saved in 1631 by their mayor by drinking down 3 liters of wine in one glorious chug! You can see the mayor on the right.
The best thing we did here was the "Night Watchman's" Tour. Every night there used to be six night watchman who would patrol the streets keeping the town safe from fires, thieves, and drunks. The threat of fire during this time was the worst thing that could happen to a walled city. The tour guide, or Nights Watchman; is hilarious. He cracks jokes and tells the stories of life in Rothenburg during medieval times.
We absolutely loved this place, if you are visiting Germany make sure to come here and tell the Night Watchman hello from us!
One of the most anticipated sights for us on this trip was Neuschwantstein Castle. The Disney castle is modeled after this and it's literally a real life fairytale. When we arrived here the first day the fog was so thick the castle was barely visible. We decided to wait and come back again the next day hoping that weather would clear and the visibility would be better. We woke up to the sound of rain hitting the rooftops. We decided to visit the castle anyways. When we finally made it up to the castle we were again devastated because Mary's Bridge was closed. King Ludwig created Mary's Bridge so he would be able to marvel at his masterpiece, this is also one of the best viewpoint for photography of the castle. We shot the castle from other angles and left semi-satisfied. The next morning we woke up to a wonderful surprise. SNOW! The snow had fallen overnight and the surrounding mountains were covered. We drove back to the castle and the what we saw can't be described. It was one of the most beautiful sights either of us had ever seen, leaving us speechless. The snow above the castle and the vibrant fall colors below were something out of a dream.
Ludwig did not live long enough to see the completion of his masterpiece. His mysterious death at the age of 40 is still unsolved.
Across the valley from Neuschwanstein Castle is King Ludwig's childhood home. Situated on the top of a hill surrounded by lakes and mountains this castle's pale yellow exterior is beautiful especially in the fall. Ludwig built his "dream castle" close by so he could easily walk to and from his home and keep a close eye on it's construction.
Linderhof Palace is an hour's drive away from the other two castles and is nicknamed "Mini Versailles." Ludwig modeled it after the famous Versailles Palace in France but it is tiny and only has one bedroom, for the King himself. They do not allow photography inside which we truly appreciate! This is the only one of Ludwig's three properties that he finished before his death. Along with only one bedroom he had a unique eating room, where he would sit alone and enjoy a 7-12 course meal every day. The table in his eating room was designed so it would go up and down from his chair to the kitchen downstairs. He wanted to eat like a king, but without interruption. He used this palace as his hunting lodge and it is very secluded.
Ludwig's Grotto. This man made cave was used for personal music performances.
This little village nestled below the German alps is nicknamed the "living picture book." Every building is beautifully painted and tells its own story.
Down the main street a little trough of water flows and at night the babbling sound of this stream is all that can be heard in this sleepy town.
Our hotel had main street on one side and the the German Alps on the other.
The old town of Fussen is a 5 minute drive from Neuschwanstein castle. It's a pedestrian only walled city with great little restaurants and a rich history.
St. Mang's Cathedral in Fussen was stunning. All the churches in Europe are breathtaking but this one felt different for us. Maybe it was the 3D murals on the ceiling (notice the boys leg coming out of the frame), maybe it was the ancient relics hanging above the alter, or maybe it was because it was a warm and comfortable place on a cold and blustery day. Either way this cathedral was something special. This was the first time I think either one of us had entered a giant European church and had the whole place to ourselves, it made for a very different experience.
We would highly recommend renting a car in this area, and if possible during the fall season. When the leaves start to change colors the mountains come alive! With the aid of a GPS and a turbo-charged Volkswagen you are sure to have a great time and (almost) not get lost. With a car you have the freedom to take back roads and find undiscovered areas and stop at your convenience.
Leutasch Gorge is a 15 minute drive from Mittenwald; and as the myths goes it is home to water-fairies and goblins. The vibrant colors of the water and trees as you walk through the gorge are so contrasting and unique that it seems unbelievable. No wonder this is the place of folklore and legends.
Our favorite thing about driving through Germany is turning around a bend to be surprised by a castle! This was one of our favorites we stumbled across.
Traditional Bavarian meal. 2 steins of beer, cheese spaetzle, and pork knuckle with a bread dumpling.
We spent two nights in this area, one in Oberammergau and one in Garmish. Both were charming and had views of the German alps.
Right over the Austrian boarder into Germany is the small mountain town of Berchestgaden. This little ski town offers some great mountain views and a very charming Bavarian town. Near by the town of Berchestgaden is Hitlers "Eagles Nest." This building was a gift to Hitler on his 50th birthday from the Nazi party. Resting at over 6,000 ft and placed right on the peak of the mountain, the view is nothing short of spectacular. Even on this semi-foggy day we could easily see Salzburg, Austria over 35 kilometers away. To get up to the Eagles Nest you must park your car, then take a shuttle up to a small parking area. From this parking area you must walk over 100 yards into a tunnel which ends at a small dome shaped room with one elevator door. You enter a lavish polished brass elevator and are brought up 400 feet to the top. Once up at the top you are left with a stunning view of the German/Austrian boarder, and a very eerie feeling.
Below the Eagles Nest is Kongissee Lake which was our next stop.
We ditched the crowds and found a quiet place to take in the views. The boats moved about the lake as the clouds opened and closed letting in some very dramatic rays of light. Below is poster of St. Bartholomew's Church, the boats take tourist there for a bargain price of 14€ per person so we decided to hike around and get a view from a far and save our 28€.
After exploring the surrounding sights we headed into the colorful old town just in time for their Sunday market and the end of a German festival. Everyone was dressed in their traditional outfits, men were yodeling, and everyone was drinking local wine. We grabbed a bottle and joined the festivities. The town party came to an end as equally fast as the rain came into town, we found ourselves at the beer hall for dinner where the party continued. We met some incredible local people and had one of the best nights of our trip so far.
Our original plan was to take an overnight train from Zurich to Prague but when we arrived in the Zurich train station earlier that morning and tried to reserve seats, they were completely booked. So we went to the information desk and asked what our options were to get to Prague. She told us we could take a long train to Vienna now and then at 4 in the morning jump on an overnight train to Prague but only sit up seats were available, we decided that sounded torturous and asked if there was another option. The other thing the lady came up with was if we took a train to Munich, stayed the night there and then took an early morning train to Prague, now that sounded doable. Our spontaneous trip to Munich was really great. After arriving it didn’t take us long to find a youth hostel because there are usually many right around the train station. After we dropped off our bags we immediately went to one of Munich’s famous beer halls. This one was outside so technically it was a beer garden. It was packed with about 5,000 people all drinking huge mugs of the same beer. They only served one type of beer. We had some great food too and talked to some interesting Germans who were all enjoying a beer in a huge glass mug. They used men in golf carts to bus all the empty mugs. We stayed in the same place taking it all in for a few hours. Once the sun went down we walked to the main square and then headed back to our hostel for a snooze. For only one night in Munich I think we nailed it, we had a great time.