Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Germany: Neuschwanstein Castle to the Black Forest

Today was another day with A LOT of driving. I am tired. Also, I know I didn't post about yesterday but I sort of got depressed when trying to write about it (concentration camp and all). So, it might take me a few days to put that one together.

As for today, I will try to load pictures with captions, but the internet connection at my hotel is weak

I drove from 9am - 7pm with an hour break to climb 600m uphill to see a castle...well, THE castle, in my opinion. But anyway, I'm wiped out. I'm going to have dinner and sleep and maybe spend tomorrow morning catching up on my blogging.

UPDATED: May 21st - From Cologne

Hi! I am finally in a hotel with reliable internet. Let the blogging begin!'

This blog post is about May 19th. I woke up in Munich and didn't really know where I wanted to go. See, I have been doing two things to determine my next move. 1) I download a map of the country that I'm in and circle cities that I'd like to see. Then I do internet research on each place I circled and maybe change my mind a few times, deleting and recircling on the map until I have a decent idea of which places I want to go. 2) I get out an old fashioned piece of paper and make three columns. Where I want to go, what I want to see there and when I'd like to be there. Finally, between the place names, I do a Google Maps search to see how long it would take to drive between them and I write it down. I'd been following these two maps/plans, but May 19th had Neuschwanstein Castle and May 20th was blank. The castle was only an hour and a half from Munich, near the town of Füssen. I figured I could stay there, or I could drive down in the morning and make my way west, towards the Black Forest (everybody was telling me I needed to see it). So, without pre-booking a hotel anywhere, since I didn't know how far I would get, I left in the morning for Neuschwanstein Castle.

Now, if you don't now, the Neuschwanstein Castle is THE castle that Disney himself used as the inspiration for the Disney Park castles. If you know me at all, you know I love me some Disneyland (California!). So, I HAD to see this. 

I was warned by the hotel reception in Munich that it was supposed to be bad weather. "If you have rain boots, put zem on." She said it was supposed to be a hard rain. I drove an hour and a half with a 10 minute drizzle, at most. Parked. And the rain stopped entirely. Brilliant!

This castle is on a hill. 

As seen from the road
As seen half way up the hill
You can't just park at it and walk around like I did with Glamis Castle in Scotland. You park in this cute little "town" (cough shops cough) and pay to take a bus or a horse drawn carriage to the top. 600m (meters) up a fairly steep hill. 

Cute town

Note: if you go here, be sure to buy tickets to the castle in the little town. If you get to the castle itself, they don't sell tickets and you can't go in. I didn't want to go in, but I did want to see the outside of it for myself. So, I got to hiking! I put on my rain boots (shoes) and regretted my decision at about 300m. I tore off my rain jacket and cardigan, coughed a good portion of my lung out and watched a bunch of 80-year-olds pass me up the hill. "Ok, dummy, you can do this." 

At the 580m mark, I stopped at the café to have a pretzel and a coffee (but secretly, I just wanted to stop and catch my breath without anyone wondering why). It was a GIANT and delicious pretzel and the coffee wasn't bad either. 

20 more meters and I'd reached the top and it was worth it! All sorts of Japanese tourists were speaking to each other excitedly, but all I could make out between the streams of Japanese words were, "Disney! Disney!" I loved that so much. =)

Even the view from up there was spectacular
Once I was done at THE castle, I walked down the hill.

One comment here. There were two paths. The way I came up and a way with stairs. My friend Amanda in Copenhagen had an impact on me, which I realised at this fork in the road, and I hope it sticks with me forever. She, on more than one occasion, took a different path back than she'd taken to a place. Her philosophy was, "I've already seen that. Let's see something new". So, I took the path with the stairs and I loved every step.

Back at the car, after shopping in the cute town, I looked at my map of Germany. The one with all the circles and I picked a town near the Black Forest. A town that wasn't circled. A town I knew nothing about. I plugged it into my GPS and drove 4 hours to get there. I planned on stopping along the way, or stopping to find wi-fi and book a hotel, but that didn't happen. I drove and drove and drove...

The GPS didn't see this coming! Road very much closed.
Even when tired of driving, I appreciated the gorgeous homes/castles along the way.
With all that driving I wasn't having fun anymore, but the GPS said I was close so I kept going. I reached this town, whose name I won't mention because I HATED IT! Sure, it was big enough to be on the map. And yeah, my GPS said there were hotels in the town, but they were all B&B's and I swear to God they looked like they'd been closed for 10 years. The streets were narrow. There were a lot of people who didn't look friendly. I wanted out of there. 

PROBLEM. I didn't have a clue where to go. And this is where my mood really took a turn for the worse. I KNEW this was going to happen. I put myself in this situation and that made me more upset. At one point, I even saw this sign!

I pulled over and typed into my GPS that I'd like to find hotels. It gave me 20 or more choices that were the German equivalent of "Bob's hotel". I tried more than one. Closed. It was at this point that I started looking up "Ibis" or "Travelodge" or "Hilton". The closest of these to me was Zurich! Then I had the bright idea to look up places that I knew would have free wi-fi. "Starbucks". None. "McDonald's" Yes! And only 15 minutes away. I was seriously in the sticks, folks. I got to McDonald's and asked, "Do you have wi-fi?", "Yes, but you need a Germany phone number to confirm." If I had a Germany phone number, I wouldn't need the F&*#&^* wi-fi. Ok. Calm down. 

I had a cheeseburger in silence. 

I got back in the car and tried the random hotel search again. 20 more minutes in a random direction, hoping hoping hoping. I got there and saw that they were open, but I also saw the only German word I ever learned in college. Besetzt. Occupied. I went in and the woman only spoke German. She ushered me out, speaking the whole time, and pointed at the sign. I assume, "Idiot. We're full up. Go away." I started driving out of that little town and saw another hotel. I pulled over and asked the woman if she had any vacancies. No, but she spoke English and was nice. I asked if I could use her wi-fi to find a hotel and she said YES. Oh, happy day! I got my tablet, plugged in the wi-fi code and within 10 minutes had a place booked in the Black Forest. A DESTINATION! No more wandering. No more anger! I thanked the woman profusely and plugged the address of my hotel into the GPS. 1 Hour away, but WHO CARES! Yes, it was 6pm and I had been driving since 9am. Yes, I was tired and cranky, but I knew where I was going and that made all the difference. The hour flew by and I arrived in my super cute Hotel Diana (in Feldberg). My room overlooked the Black Forest. I had a fantastic dinner in the hotel restaurant and then passed out in my bed. 

Lesson (re)learned. NEVER start driving without a destination in mind.

The view from my hotel room.
This stuffed bear greeted everyone at the front door
Germany loves to put Gummy Bears on your pillow at night

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