Nymphenburg Palace ^^
The Romantic Road is a road (*220 miles long) linking some of the most picturesque towns and castles in Bavaria (southern Germany). We’d be driving and off to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere a HUGE, amazing castle. It completely blew our minds. Some of the most authentic, colorful German towns can be found along this Romantic Road. We traveled through a few select towns we thought were noteworthy. Our final destination on the Romantic Road was Rothenburg. This was perhaps the most charming, walled little town we visited. What would’ve made this stop even better is to see it in December. I hear this place comes alive for Christmas festivities. This is also the place to get souvenirs. Unfortunately, most of the shops were closed during our stay, but window shopping was a dream. So, so many cute shops and hidden treasures.
I mean, just look at these photos. I can’t say enough about this place or the doors. Each house has a darling entry way. It seriously made me want to start a garden and paint our house mustard yellow upon returning home. It was like the land of Dr. Suess, every house so original and beyond colorful. Also, our hotel, Romantik. Gah! I fell in love. Antique furniture everywhere. Our window opened up to the main street full of little flower shops, bakeries, and authentic German pottery and clothing.
*Would you look at those Swiss Alps ^^^
King Ludwig II’s Castle. This was the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. It’s gaudy and unbelievably breathtaking in person. The key is to get here early. We spent the night at a hotel just at the base of the castle. We were up bright and early, in line, able to get the first tour time beating the rush of buses that came soon after. It was worth staying nearby to get up to the castle as early as possible.
*We did a little trespassing to get to this bridge for the scenic lookout at the backside of the castle. The hike is open in the summer months, but because of “icy conditions” we had to hop a few fences to make it here. We weren’t alone in our trespassing endeavors. I mean, after all this travel, how can you not make the hike to see the castle from this angle!?!
ZUGSPITZE– Top of Germany
Nick’s favorite activity was riding a tram to the top of Zugspitze — highest point in Germany (9,700 ft. peak). Weirdly enough, it was the last week this tram would be running before construction of the new tram. 🙂 Needless to say, Nick’s engineer-centric mind was going crazy as we inched our way up the mountain. It took 10 whole minutes to make it to the top. There were snowcapped peaks as far as the eye can see, overlooking both Germany and Austria. Midway down the mountain is a ski resort. Most of the people riding the tram were wearing their ski boots and coats ready to take the lift to the resort. Also, at the tip top of the peak is a nice German restaurant. Talk about the most scenic place to eat lunch. And to make things more adventurous, we rode the underground train (30 minutes or so) down the mountain. It was epic and one of the most beautiful, scenic places I’ve ever been.
The main attraction is Fortress Hohensalzburg. This castle is amazing and perfect way to see the city from a bird’s eye view. There are several tours worth checking out in this castle…think museum status.
Hotels. We stayed in a modern hotel, Hotel Goldgasse, in the middle of the plaza. It’s the center of everything and it seriously looked straight out of a west elm magazine. We also discovered our favorite pastry in this city. It was a vanilla creme pastry. We ate one for breakfast and lunch. So, so delicious.
SOUND OF MUSIC TOUR:
One of the best tours we did on this trip was The Sound of Music tour. We laughed until we cried. Most of that had to do with our tour guide being wayyyy too good at his job. He’s done this gig 10 times/week for 20 years (!!!) Needless to say, he’s pretty entertaining and knows his stuff. Tour guide aside, it was surreal to see all of these places I grew up watching. We learned a lot of the behind-the-scenes of the movie in the making. Yes, it took a little magic away from the show, but so fascinating. And when, if ever, will you be able to belt “Do-Re-Mi” through the Swiss Alps on a bus full of retired couples obsessed with the Sound of Music. It was a riot. 🙂
*The lake the kids fell into with Maria ^^
*16 going on 17^^
*Chapel Maria (in the movie) married
When Nick and I were dating, he raved about this magical town — Hallstatt. It rocked his 13-year-old world and he’s always dreamed of going back…so we had to make the stop, 17 years later. And guys, it’s everything he talked it up to be. Do yourself a favor, if you haven’t already, and scribble down “Hallstatt” on your list of places to see. We practically had the whole town to ourselves (bless you again, winter travels) and soaked up every minute of our overcast, rainy morning.
*We stayed in this yellow hotel, Hotel Gruner Baum, right next to the main chapel. This hotel provided the best meal we had all week. It was delicious. Our room looked out to the village hosting the most authentic, quaint German houses.
On our way to Vienna we made the solemn stop by Mauthausen Memorial, one of the most notorious concentration camps of the “Third Reich” used mostly for extermination. It was beyond devastating and left us feeling quite down the rest of the afternoon. We stayed the night in Melk in order to see Melk Abbey (only had two tour times) which contains the most glorious chapel I have ever seen. It was littered in gold. I could not believe my eyes. This stop alone was worth the drive to Melk.
(no pictures, I’m sorry…but it is in the video)
By far the most touristy city we visited…definitely a contrast to the small towns we visited along the Romantic Road. We took many audio guided tours at the Schonbrunn Palace/Gardens, Imperial Treasury, and Historic Center of Vienna. We learned all about the royal family, the Habsburg’s. The most interesting tour (for me, not necessary Nick) was learning all about Empress Elizabeth Habsburg of Austria. Between Elizabeth and Mozart, there isn’t room for advertising any other person. Her face is plastered on posters, chocolates, and tourist pamphlets. We learned in depth about her and her dark struggles. She really is like Princess Diaries…she dreamed of having a normal, average life in Hungary but due to marriage (family) is elevated to one of the most royal statuses. She had a life of dark struggles with anxiety and depression. Though it appeared that she had EVERYTHING, she was extremely miserable. It was so fascinating learning about her in depth.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We walked all the way to the top for a scenic overlook. It was a winding staircase that never seemed to end…if you are any bit claustrophobic, I’d avoid this attraction. 🙂
Prater Public Park (ferris wheel). We LOVED this place. We took the ferris wheel. It was the perfect way to close a long day of tours all over the city center.
We hopped on the swing and about threw up. Haha we went to dinner at Rollercoaster Restaurant located in the park. It’s the coolest little place. There is no waiter/waitress. You order your food on an iPad and within minutes the hot dish is delivered straight to your table via rollercoaster tracks suspended above the tables. It was surprisingly really, really cool–and the food really American. 🙂
We weren’t planning on venturing to Hungary as we already had our eyes set on so many other places, but we finished Vienna earlier than we “planned”. So, we impulsively decided to take a day trip out to Hungary…be prepared for a few hours of driving. We got to the city in the afternoon and quickly ran to the Parliament building. The building’s architecture alone is jaw dropping…pictures do not do this place justice. We sat and stared at this building for hours (literally) as the sun went down. We also stopped by Fisherman’s Bastion…a beautiful castle that was a perfect scenic lookout over the Danube River.
We ended the day with a boat tour along the Danube River. It was a fun 2-hour ride full of dinner, Austrian entertainment, and the most beautiful views. We ended the night with a long car trip home, back to Vienna.
By this point, we were pretty fed up with walking around…my feet more closely resembled German sausages than human appendages at this point. We decided to rent bikes the last day. Best. Decision. Ever. We saw so much of the city that we wouldn’t have seen by foot.
It was pure magic. Everything went so smoothly and we attribute a lot of our successful spontaneous travel to tripadvisor.com and yelp.com 🙂 What would we do without technology!?! This was by far one of my favorite trips abroad and I’d gladly go back in a heartbeat….maybe in another 17 years?