Germany has quickly become a familiar country, grocery stores, speed limits, pubic transit, road signs/directions. It’s a large and beautiful country with so much to offer we find ourselves making it our home base and returning after visiting surrounding countries.
Car travel in Germany is a breeze and rentals can be cheap so we opted for 2 weeks of car rental to allow us a bit more flexibility with travel as well with our baggage. With a car we can not only see sights on our own time table, but we can also shop more easily at grocery stores and take the food with us to the next destination, as well we can stay on the outskirts of towns which is usually more affordable.
As we left Munich our travel plans were to make a sort of loop through Germany with us ending in Hamburg (we did a point-to-point car rental). Along the way we hoped to visit churches, castles and significant historical points throughout. While we drove we’d listen to Rick Steves Europe podcast and learn about architecture, cultures between the Bavarian south of Germany vs the more liberal north and how Germany has been shaped through the years. Revisiting the war-torn years of Germany quickly makes you appreciate your childhood and the lack of need we grew up in.
Ok, ok… castles, fortresses, churches, old towns…
Marienberg Fortress in Würzburg: most of the building date back to the 16th and 18th centuries lending it renaissance and baroque flavors throughout. As like many castles in Europe it has been captured several times, destroyed several times and changed “owners” multiple times through its history. It was fully rebuilt in 1990 and there was additional restoration taking place when we visited. The views across the land from the fortress were magnificent! The walls were massive and we had fun walking atop some of them looking down at the vineyards surrounding the fortress, the village below and across the river.
After enjoying the fortress we went down to the town below and visited St. Mary’s Chapel, a Late Gothic building. Church architecture varies significantly throughout Europe depending on the financial status of members in the community, if it was associated to academic institutes or was built under the patronage of a bishop. It’s been fun looking at the churches and reading about their history as we travel Europe. Marty and I love the beautiful stain glass windows the most and always look forward to entering churches in the afternoon sun.
We visited Würzburg on a Sunday (so Marty could zoom zoom on the autobahn with the least amount of traffic) which meant most of the shops were closed, but there was a heavy concentration of locals out enjoying the winter sun with a glass of wine or a hot coffee. The wind was kicking that day so we opted for hot coffee’s and hiding inside for a bit while we drank them.
Next up, Ulm Minster — the tallest steeple in Europe. It is a Lutheran church and never had a bishop, so it’s not a cathedral. The architecture is to die for and we were amazed. Unfortunately, like most areas in Europe it’s the off season so there is a lot of restoration taking place. Surprisingly, the scaffolding didn’t take away from its beauty (but it doesn’t allow for the most beautiful photos). We were going to climb the minsters spire for the panoramic view, but it wasn’t open all the way to the top so we skipped it.
Onward to Cinderella’s castle! Neuschwanstein Castle in southwest Bavaria. It’s a 19th century Romanesque revival castle perched on a hill, originally commissioned as a retreat and home for the king. Ludwig II of Bavaria paid for the building of the castle out of his personal funds as well as borrowed funds, but did not take from the Bavarian public funds. Shortly after the kings death the castle was opened to the public. As we drove towards the Neuschwanstein castle snow began falling in the mountains, when we arrived there was a light dusting across the land that lended an even more magical touch to the view. Unfortunately we arrived right around 5pm when the castle was closing, so we did not get to tour it. We considered driving back for a tour, but we were headed south into Austria and I didn’t think the time to backtrack was worthwhile.
After enjoying a drive around the village and watching the sunset over the castle we headed onward to Austria… there we found another castle to tour!
Charity & Marty