The TourAlongWithTodd BLOG, the 2017 Chronicles – EUROPA!
Where should I begin…
I know! How about the text from United Airlines letting me know our morning plane from Boise was broken? Or how about the long-range weather forecast -- for any location in Europe -- predicting rain, more rain, a bit of cold rain, and maybe snow to top it off?
Let me back up a bit. The original plan was to visit the Azores Islands or the Dolomites. The Dolomites won out. And then one thing led to another and the itinerary morphed rather dramatically.
It now goes like this: Boise -> Bavaria -> Austria -> Dolomites -> Milan -> Switzerland -> Germany -> Boise. Twenty-two days on the ground with stops to see mountains, relatives, and former exchange students.
And with that boys and girls, it’s time to put on your lederhosen and/or dirndl, warm up your yodeling voice, and go a wandering in the Alps… shall we?
A phone call worked out the broken plane problem, but what’s with American airports? Portland and Chicago were crazy crowded, noisy, and chaotic. The contrast at the Munich airport was palatable. Calm, quiet, and relaxed… and with restaurants offering good food at reasonable prices. My hypothesis is that Americans are nuts at airport and Germans are not nuts at airports. I’ll test my hypothesis during our return trip from Frankfurt.
The TourAlongWithToddBlogTravelTips suggest dealing with jetlag by (a) not sleeping on the plane, (b) driving directly to your first destination (southern Bavaria), (c) hiking to a castle view point, (d) having a beer, and (e) not letting your sleepy face hit the strudel at dinner. I personally guarantee sound sleep if you follow these easy steps on your next overseas adventure.
The history of Mad King Ludwig II and his obsession with building castles is well documented, and they ARE pretty amazing. Though mid-September is not the height of the tourist season, busloads of people still clamor to see what men with way too much money do to spend it.
|Mad King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein Castle.|
|Natalie and her 1,000 best friends queuing up to buy castle tickets!|
|Taking a picture of a picture of picture of a castle that's really an imitation.|
We liked our castle time. But the best time was spent walking the nearby walled city of Füssen. Once we exited the tourism zone and hiked up to the monastery, we were alone. But what was even better was the restaurant we happened by.
The TourAlongWithToddBlogTravelTips suggest always eating in restaurants where others are eating because the food is usually good and nothing is more awkward than eating in an otherwise empty restaurant.
At this dining establishment, we sat “Bavarian” style at a table with a Chinese family. We had a great time getting to know them. No sooner had they left than Lindsey, a young woman from Minnesota, was seated at our table. She was eager to converse, and we were too. I wonder if Mad Ludwig had good conversations up in his dark castle with the composer Wagner way back when.
Despite following the TourAlongWithToddBlogTravelTips about jetlag, I woke at 3:00 a.m. Something had happened. What? The clouds had parted and there were stars outside. OMG! My mind raced… how quickly can we get to the Zugspitze in the morning?
The Zugspitze sits on the German-Austrian border just a short drive from Füssen. A 9,718-ft. high peak may not sound like much, but the Alps are different. And the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, is gigantic. The key is getting an early start to beat the crowds and the clouds.
We beat the clouds, but not the crowds. There were people of all types at the top, some with their dogs and some with their cigarettes (and I think some dogs with cigarettes). But there are TWO tops of the Zugspitze.
TOP #1 is the vast structure the Germans and Austrians have built to accommodate the swarms of tourists. If it was airlifted and dropped in Anytown, USA, it would be a dominating structure. That it sits on top of a mountain is remarkable.
TOP #2 is the actual top of the peak. Just a few steps away and up chains and a ladder, getting to the top filters out 99% of those at TOP #1. However, the variety of shoes worn by the last 1% to summit the peak is terrifying. Dress shoes, tennis shoes, heels, you name it. And the ridgetop of the peak is narrow and icy. Well, no one fell during our day at the top.
|A young woman from Texas on the summit ridge of the Zugspitze. Don't slip!|
|The Germans are building a new tram station. It hangs freakishly in space!|
Other than standing at the highest point in Germany, the next best thing was having a chat with new adventure friends from Scotland – Morven and John. We had a blast talking with them in the sunshine over a beer and bratwurst.
|Natalie with new Scottish friends, John and Morven, in the Zugspitze sunshine!|
|At the Ehrwalder Alm. The Austrian side of the Zugspitze.|
|Shhh, don't tell anyone, but Tirol is perfect for hiking or skiing!|
|I kid you not, the men's bathroom walls at the Ehrwald resort were lined with images such at this one. I was compelled to take a photo of each one purely for archiving purposes.|
Moving east on our first day of real driving. Five hours along the autobahn with the crowds of cars and trucks. Our route to Pfarrkirchen, Austria (north central) took us back across the German border where everything slowed down. The police were doing spot checks. We were waved by, but the days are gone – at least for now – of totally open borders for Germany.
Nina Theis is an exchange student this year in the Boise area. Coming to Idaho from Pfarrkirchen, Nina put us in touch with her mom, Eva, who in turn invited us to visit for a night. Eva didn’t hold back. She hired a guide for a one-hour tour of nearby Steyr – a city that’s been around since 600 B.C. give or take a few hundred years – followed by fine dining at an Italian restaurant, and then doing our laundry for us! Thank you Eva!
|At the bridge across the Lech River in Steyr, Austria, during our private tour.|
|Pay no attention to the strange man snapping photos!|
|With Eva Theis, our gracious host for a night in her home in Pfarrkirchen, Austria!|
That’s it for now...
You can safely change from your lederhosen and/or dirndl back to your street clothes and stop yodeling. But keep the costumes nearby and your voice warmed up. This Europa tour has much more to come!
Ciao! ~ Todd