July 1, 2009

Travel Log: Trek across southern Germany (Baden-Württemberg to Bavaria to Reutte, Austria)

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July 1st. Time to check out of Pfeffer & Salz, say good bye to Gengenbach and the Black Forest. With luggage repacked, maps in hand, the GPS on hand, cliff bars and H2O to-go, we hit the road after filling up at the Frühstück buffet. Today's destination: Reutte, Austria.

First stop, Gengenbach!

Yes, we didn't even get out of town. I can't recall what pulled us into the heart of the village one more time, but it was buzzing with activity mid-morning on Wednesday. Turns out it was market day. In front of the courthouse, right where we found the band a few days ago, was a mobile marketplace. T & I have grown fond of local markets we stumble upon during our travels - they provide an insight into local life.

I parked the Mercedes A150, figured out the parking meter and we checked it out. This one did not disappoint. There was a little bit of everything, no more, no less. The meat van was there, the cheese wagon, several vendors selling locally grown berries & veggies. I picked up a small bottle of some local liquor (haven't tried it yet!) and some homemade Spätzle - those are my souvenirs. :) T grabbed some cherries, we both captured more photos of the cute little town... then we hit the road.

Free from the train tracks, we plotted a path that would [hopefully] take us through some scenic areas of the Black Forest and Bavaria. We first head south, through Hausach, past the Black Forest Museum (looked worthwhile from the parking lot; noted possibility for a future visit) and into the town of Triberg. Triberg is known for cuckoo clocks and has a waterfall which T wanted to see. We saw several signs for the waterfall, but couldn't find it. After cruising through town (twice), catching a glimpse of some huge cuckoo clocks, we bailed on that plan and headed east to Rottweil.

While weaving over secondary roads, through farm land and little villages, we made an impromptu stop at a berry stand in an area that was more-or-less suburbia of a small city - whose name escapes me, but the raspberries were delicious.

Geographic note: Most of our stops, including Gengenbach are located in the state of Baden-Württemberg, which has a lot of really nice areas. It doesn't seem to get the air time that Bavaria does, maybe it's because doesn't sound as cool.

The GPS lead us to the center of medieval Rottweil - oldest town in the area, and it looked like a good place for a quick lunch. I found a good parking spot, figured out another meter, fed it with an hour or so worth of euros and we ventured off to find some feed for ourselves. Around the 1st bend we found a wide road running up hill that comprised the real heart of the old part of town.

We hit the WC behind the TI (Tourist Information office, most towns have them - and there is usually a public WC nearby, good to know!).
We sat outside at a little cafe and enjoyed apple strudel a la mode and some over priced bottled mineral water for lunch! (what's with Europe and the bottled water? I thought the USA was O.C.D. w/ bottled water. Doesn't the tap water come from the mountain fed rivers too? This area is so much more eco-friendly than the USA, but not with the water bottles.) A lot of the buildings were decorated with elaborate murals and/or painted trim work. We saw this in several places. From a distance, the trim work appears to be ornate molding, but upon closer inspection, it's just paint. T was lured into a few shops while I snapped some more photos. (BTW, the rottweiler dog is named after the town. The town is over 2,000 years old, so I guess it was here before the dog).
Seeing storm clouds in the distance, knowing we still had a lot of ground to cover and figuring our time was about up on the meter, we head back down the hill and around the bend to the car ... only to find a parking ticket! The meter maid beat us by 10 minutes. Fortunately it was only €5. Unfortunately, the ticket was entirely in German (go figure). Deciphering this would have to wait until I had Internet access.



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With this unexpected souvenir, we resumed our journey. First due south, then east. As we approached the town of Tuttlingen through the rain and traffic to our left we spotted elephants on the side of the road (yes - ELEPHANTS!). Apparently the circus was in town. This was definitely not on the agenda. We kept moving.


After a much needed quick pit stop at the Netto discount grocery store in Krauchenwies (and good place to pick up German chocolate!) and a few wrong turns through some very local neighborhoods (GPS isn't much good when a construction crew closes the road) we made a bee-line into Bavaria and hit the autobahn. That little A150 Mercedes was able to top out at 180 km/hr (112 mph).



We exit the Autobahn a few miles from the Austrian border and there on the right what do we see? Camels. (yes - CAMELS!). Apparently there is a camel farm where you can ride the camels up in the alps. Interesting idea. We pulled over to capture some photos (otherwise nobody would believe us!). In the distance I was noticing some big hills... the Austrian Alps - our destination - was in sight. We kept moving.




Today's drive was a lot of fun. We saw some rural and what I think/hope is traditional Germany countryside. Small towns, old towns, farm land, woodland, all very pretty. This last stretch was gorgeous. The road to Austria took us through a tunnel to get to the other side of one of the mountains. Here the misty rain we've been skirting for hours blew away and we were welcome to Austria with an arching vibrant rainbow. It's one of prettiest sights I've seen. Of course I pulled over so we could snap some photos. It's moments like I invested in a new Canon 40D SLR camera.

Twenty minutes later we were pulling into Reutte, Austria - and looking for a simple local spot to grab dinner. It was 8pm (dusk). We found the center of town easy enough, but no restaurants. Just hotels; we didn't really want to eat at a hotel. Just as we were about to surrender to one, we spotted a "pizzeria" in the neighboring village of Breitenwang. Without saying a word, we both took a U-turn to Cafe Alina (not as fancy as it appears on the web site). We had the non-smoking atrium room all to ourselves. We plowed through a German salat, pizzas and couple pints of Heferweisen then rushed in the waining moments of daylight to "Pension Garni Waldrast".

Our hostess, (Johanna?) checked us into room 5. The pension (or inn) was small, down-to-earth (~10 rooms), very quiet and just off the beaten path. With the last breaths of dusk hanging over the alps, we could see not 1, but 2 castle ruins high up on the hill tops immediately behind the inn. And that would be tomorrow's destination!


[View from our room]

Post trip update: Unable to figure out how to pay the parking ticket online, I scanned it and my friend/colleague Falco graciously took care of it. Apparently I am now in debt a round of Boston's own Sam Adam's on his next trip to NC.

Note: Click photos in blog entries for a enlarged view.

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