I had originally planned a driving trip with my wife for March across Germany from Dusseldorf to Munich, for the most part skipping the cities and hitting small towns that I had ties to in my youth or just had an interest in and never got around to visiting. But my 91-year-old mother-in-law in Colorado had some major health problems last fall and winter, prompting my wife (hereafter referred to as ML, short for meine Liebe, which reads better than the abbreviation for meine Frau) and me to postpone our vacation while she dealt with more critical matters several states away. ML's mom eventually was moved from a hospital to a nursing home, where her condition improved and then stabilized, so we felt secure in reformulating our travel plans. We had to use our airline tickets by early August or lose them, yet neither of us could take vacation until the end of July. So, even though we did not want to make the trip in the hottest part of the year, we had no choice but to go the last week of July and the first week of August, when the roads in Germany would be packed by fellow travelers. We dropped the road-trip idea and switched to trains, with one brief car rental. Our travels from July 25 to Aug. 8 took us from Atlanta to Regensburg (for two nights) by way of Munich, then to Vienna (four nights), Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden (three nights) and finally to Munich (four nights) before returning home. Along the way, we made several itinerary changes, primarily to slow down our pace because of a heat wave that made afternoon sightseeing unpleasant or worse during most of our stay. I want to thank Tom in Hesse, Fred in San Francisco, Joe in Fort Payne and Derek in (not sure) for their suggestions, some of which I was able to implement and others that I could not arrange.
Regensburg First Day I had long been interested in Regensburg, which is famous for its altstadt, one of the largest historic districts in Germany to survive largely intact from WWII and mid-century redevelopment. Of the sites in my original plan, this was the only one to make it onto the revamped travel route. Using a Bayern Pass from Munich Airport, ML and I arrived at the Regensburg Bahnhof and checked into the nearby Ibis Center City shortly after noon on a Friday. The heat was already becoming oppressive and the right bus was hard to locate, so we took a taxi to the historic old city hall in the center of the Altstadt, where we explored about a two-block radius. (As it turned out, Regensburg is small enough that taxies are a cheap way for two people to get around.) The area was crawling with tourists, many of whom were on the verge of crawling from the heat. As jet lag took hold and the heat grew worse, we took shelter under an umbrella (actually a heat lamp in disguise) for a pizza and beer, then set out on foot to a taxi stand a few blocks away, stopping only for ice cream along the way. The rest of the day, having left the other tourists behind, we hung out with the natives in a busy, air-conditioned arcade across from both our hotel and the train station; the place was as popular as malls in America used to be. This is getting long, so I will move on to Regensburg, Part II.
Regensburg, Part II Our original plan had been to spend the first afternoon and evening in the Regensburg Altstadt and take a side trip the second day on the Danube to Weltenburg Abbey and to the Napoleonic War liberation memorial near Kelheim on the way back. Since our first day was essentially a bust due to the heat, we decided to give the Altstadt another chance, instead. The old town in the morning was much different from the old town in the blistering heat of afternoon. We spent three or four hours just wandering the side streets, visiting the cathedral, walking along the waterfront to the historic Stone Bridge and having lunch at the famous 500-year-old sausage shop, where a couple of other customers spoke of a rivalry between Regensburg and Nuremburg over who has the best little sausage in Franconia. To me, the Regensburg variety looked and tasted the same as the Nuremburgers we ate later in Munich. That afternoon, I hung out at the mall and explored streets around the hotel while ML ducked into the cinema for her weekly movie fix, in this case it was "Wolverine" in German. I found a great little Greek place and we had dinner there that evening, enjoying the meal despite the suffocating heat. Then on to Vienna the next morning by train.
Hi, First of all, you're welcome. I know that feeling well in the summer there, one of oppressive and suffocating heat. One's itinerary plans can be defeated by such weather. Well, next time for the monument in Kelheim from the War of Liberation (Befreiungskrieg) against Napoleon. As for the abbey... Weltenburger Kloster...good Doppelbock dark beer.
rivalry between Regensburg and Nuremburg over who has the best little sausage in Franconia I've done substantial and extensive comparison to determine the answer to that very question. In fact, yesterday I had 6 little Nuremberg wuerstchen with Regensburger sweet mustard, here at home. I am firmly of the opinion that the Regensburger are best. Especially at the stone bridge kitchen, a large pile with sauerkraut underneath and suess - and other goodies, outside the kitchen :: can't be beat. We love the place and the nosh.
Vienna Moving on, I will try to pick up the pace. We had canceled a reservation in an unairconditioned B&B near the Opera House in favor of four nights at the Leonardo Hotel, a couple of blocks from the West Bahnhof. Oddly, the rooms were air-conditioned but the lobby was not, leaving the staff to suffer in the heat. I am not sure if there was no AC at all or the sun radiating through the glass entry simply overwhelmed the AC, but the staff worked hard and they were clearly suffering. Returning to the pattern set in Regensburg, and repeated at each stop along the way, we devoted the mornings to sightseeing and the afternoons to hanging out in the neighborhood; in this case, the neighborhood was the busy, tree-lined Mariahilfer shopping street, where we wandered in and out of shops between stops at sidewalk doener kebab and ice cream cafes. Our favorite restaurant, though, was a small restaurant/beer garden across the street from our hotel. We ended up eating there every night and never had a bad dish or the same thing twice; Austrian-Hungarian-Czech cooking has a lot more variety than Germany's wurst and kraut, which I also love.
Vienna, Part II Having confined our previous visit to the inner ring, we gave first priority this time to areas we missed before: Schoenbrunn, the museum quarter, Belvedere, Karlskiche and public gardens. I first saw Schoenbrunn more than 40 years ago; the palace and gardens impressed me then and continue to do so, more even than the Hoffburg and Versailles, but I still find that level of luxury obscene. As for the museums, ML went straight to the gift shop at the classical art museum, while I did a quick walkthrough of a couple dozen of the greatest hits before going into old-masters overload. Much more interesting to me was the Klimt exhibit at the Belvedere; I just wish he were more appreciated in the English-speaking countries. We loved the inner ring five years ago, but that was in early March, when there were no crowds; at the time, a slight chill and evening mists gave us a feel for life in Vienna in the last days of the empire. Not so, this time. We did make it to the inner ring but a quick visit to St. Stephens was our limit; after dealing with the crowds, hucksters and heat and refusing to pay just to see the interior of the church, at least some of which used to be free for viewing, we got back on the subway and returned to the equally busy but more laid-back Mariehilfer district.
On to the Mountains Leaving Vienna, we took a WestBahn train to Freilassing where we picked up a rental car and drove to Ramsau, which I had become aware of after seeing the village's iconic church on the cover of the DK Germany guide. I cannot believe I canceled reservations at an air-conditioned hotel in Salzburg in favor of one in the mountains, where outside of the cities, all seem to lack AC. We suffered for that mistake, as afternoon temps in the mountains hovered around 90 degrees F each day, but the overall experience was still good. I had planned for us to spend a few hours in Salzburg before heading to Ramsau or at least returning there later; in the end the town became another casualty of our shrinking itinerary. We were disappointed but we wanted to stay in the countryside, and this was our first venture into the mountains south of the city. We stayed three nights at the Best Western Berghotel Rehlegg, which sits on a high meadow overlooking the famous church. Our room, was roasting in the afternoons and well into the night, just like most other hotels and B&Bs in the area, but we survived, just like everyone else. We never considered the heat as a personal affront. Overall, it was easier to find cooler areas here than in the cities.
Mountains, Part II Highlights of this leg of our trip were the Konigsee boat ride and visit to the beergarden and chapel on the lake, followed by a trip up 6,150-foot Mount Jenner by skilift for the astounding view from the summit. With the temperature already in the high 80s F after the boat ride, ML stayed on the ground while I rode the glass enclosed coffin, I mean lift, to the top and back. Each way took about 30 minutes, with the glass magnifying the sun's rays the whole time. But from the top station, a 15-minute climb to the summit made the whole thing worthwhile. I have seen few mountain views that compare to the scene from atop Mount Jenner, with the lake weaving around the base of the mountains; according to a Berchesgaden web site, the view includes more than 100 peaks in Germany and Austria. If you get the chance, go for it. The next day did not turn out to be as rewarding, as ML was suffering from heat exhaustion. Initially we were going to take a daytrip to either Hallstatt, Hohenwerfen Castle or Salzburg. Since the heat was taking its toll, we decided to stay close and go to Berchtesgaden and the Kelsteinhaus, Eagles Nest, instead. However when we got to Bertchtegaden, which we expected to be a beautiful town, we were so disenchanted by the grime and rundown, maybe just baked, parts that we found, we turned around and left. That may be unfair to the town, but I was not eager to visit the Nazi Kelsteinhaus vacation spot, anyway. Instead, we took a long detour through the alpine backroads and settled back in Ramsau for a relaxing time in the village.
Mountains, Part III Continuing the second day message: Early that morning, while ML rested, I drove over to the mountain-ringed little Hintersee, which I would have missed if we had stayed in Salzburg. Considering how things turned out, we probably would not have even made it to Ramsau, which I would recommend to everyone visiting the area. There is more to the village than just the photogenic church, but that is enough. Almost as enjoyable was walking beside the beautiful creek, resting in the shade of chestnut trees in a little beergarden next to a little park and taking some of the walking trails that sprout out from the adjoining park. (On the subject of "beergardens," every outdoor cafe seating in Bavaria seems to have that designation; this was a pizza parlor.) By mid-afternoon, ML was napping while I enjoyed a light breeze in the shade of the the restaurant terrace, read and relaxed with a beer (which is a good bit cheaper than cola or water), occasionally looking up at the surrounding mountains. Sometimes doing nothing can be the best vacation.
On to Munich I returned the car in Freilassing on a Sunday morning and we took a train to Munich East and city transit from there one stop to Rosenheimer Platz for the Holiday Inn Munich City Center near the Isar River. The subway was shut down for maintenance, but buses were running every few minutes. The Holiday Inn was the fourth name-brand, business-class hotel of our trip; we usually stay in smaller B&Bs while traveling, but, with the one exception mentioned above, I wanted to ensure that we would have AC and that there would be no surprises with inn-owners demanding payment in cash. This was our most expensive trip to date, and I did not want hotel costs to drain our supply of cash while on the road. I also learned the value of elevators when you have knee problems or are simply too tired to climb more stairs. I may yet become a convert to the cookie cutter hotels that Rick and many others, myself included, have disparaged in the past.
Munich, Part II and Closing Thoughts In Munich, the highpoints of our trip, were the usual suspects: the Marienplatz area, Virtualmart, the Residenz, English Garden, museums, iconic churches, beer gardens, etc. Things that stood out for me were the cool, peaceful paths along the Isar, watching surfers from the bridge at the edge of the English Garden, wandering in during an organ recital at St. Michael's and viewing the city from the tower of St. Peter's. This was my fourth visit to Munich over the decades and my second in the past three years. It remains one of my favorite cities, but there is little more I can say that has not been said by hundreds of others. There is just a vibe there that few other cities possess. There was a lot more, but this is probably more than most people care to read, so I will sign off with this final note. The last surprise of our trip was arriving back in Atlanta and walking 300 miles through the new international terminal to passport control. No wonder so many air passengers are using wheelchairs these days.
Hi Roy, Thanks for taking the time to write. We've had the opposite trip plan changes. Planned 2 fall trips to Bavaria and Austria, but due to circumstances, wound up being late Nov./early Dec. trips. We've spent 10 nights in Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden during 3 Oct. trips. Perfect place for scenery and a relaxed atmosphere. We've also spent 4 nights in Schonau am Konigsee in late Nov. I guess you can see we really like this part of Germany. Thanks again for sharing your experiences. Paul
I can't imagine being in Europe during a heat wave. We normally travel either in May or September/October. Once, we were in Vienna in May when it was very hot for the first couple of days and we sweltered in our unairconditioned hotel room. But fortunately a cool front came through and the temp dropped into the 50's. Crazy weather. Sorry you didn't care for Berchtesgaden. We have been twice, once in September and again in October. The area was beautiful with a dusting of snow. But if you had to use your tickets or lose them, you had no choice. It sounds like you made the best of a bad situation and still had a good time.
Thanks for the detailed Trip Report. Sorry to hear you got the worst weather of the summer. The heat wave was pretty miserable. I was in Berlin for part of it and was so happy to be in a Motel One with A/C. All I do is sleep there, so for the price of 69 € per night, it was well worth it. Hated to come home to my hot, hot, hot apt. on the 4th floor with no elevator.
Hi, Reading about your stay in Vienna and putting up with that heat wave reminded me of my first visit there, also over 40 years ago, the first week of Sept. 1971. Still the heat was oppressive, worse than what I had experienced in (West)Germany almost that whole summer. Forty years ago a good number of the buildings in Vienna were still black, also very revealing when out of the tourist areas. That was the location of the HI hostel.
If anyone is interested in visiting these places or want to see them from a different but still touristy perspective, send me a PM, and I will send you a link to my pictures.