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Old 15th September 2014, 18:18   #1
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Default Travelogue: Germany and a bit of Austria

My wife and I both work for European companies (me for a large aircraft manufacturer and she for an automotive components major). As a result, we both travel on work to Europe a couple of times per year. This time, it so happened that our trips almost co-incided, with a week in between, so we decided to combine it with a short vacation. We planned an itinerary covering the popular sights in Bavaria, namely:
  1. The cities of Regensburg, Nurnberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber, all of which have historical significance well preserved medieval architecture and UNESCO world heritage sites
  2. Schloss Neuschwanstein - the most famous castle in Germany, again a UNESCO world heritage site
  3. The town / region of Fussen in Bavaria on the Austrian border which is quite scenic
We began our journey in Frankfurt, travelled by train to Regensburg where we spent five days, including a day trip to Nurnberg and back, then hired a car and drove from Regensburg to the little village of Hohenfurch (close to Schongau and the Neuschwanstein castle) where we spent two days. From there, we drove to Dombuhl, another tiny village close to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, where we spent another day before driving back to Frankfurt and returning the car.

We used Airbnb for the accomodations (except Regensburg and Frankfurt), Deutsche Bahn for rail transportation, SixT for the car rental and OpenStreetMaps for navigation (loaded in my Garmin nuvi 1250T). For the rest of the story I'll let the pictures do the talking!

One final note: All pictures shot using an 8MP phone camera, so picture quality is somewhat average.

Last edited by ajitkommini : 15th September 2014 at 19:07.
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Old 15th September 2014, 18:36   #2
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Default Re: Travelogue: Germany and a bit of Austria

First, the city of Regensburg. This dates back to Roman times and has a number of buildings from the 12th century onwards. However, it is also a vibrant cultural center with a university and lots of industries nearby. (BMW coupe and cabriolet models are manufactured here). An interesting find was a toy shop with a large variety of educational toys for kids. But in addition to the usual blocks and puzzles, they had (as you can see in the last couple of pictures), actual tools - files, a hacksaw, 4.3V cordless screwdriver and drill bits that kids can use to build things. There were also books with really cool hobby ideas. Another rack had real kitchen tools for cooking with - all kid sized.
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Last edited by ajitkommini : 15th September 2014 at 18:40.
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Old 15th September 2014, 19:04   #3
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Default Re: Travelogue: Germany and a bit of Austria

After a couple of days exploring Regensburg, we took a day trip by DB "Regio" train to Nurnberg (spelled Nuremberg in English). While it has a lot of medieval architecture, (much of it destroyed in the war and rebuilt), Nurnberg is also of historical significance because it was a huge center for Nazi party rallies, and there's a wealth of information available on that if you're interested. (The documentation center alone would take a couple of days to visit thoroughly I think). There's also a huge field where the zeppelins landed, and you can visit the courtroom where the Nuremberg trials were held.

Nurnberg was also a center for toy manufacturing and has a toy museum with interesting old toys from Meccano and Marklin including some real working steam engines and train sets. Finally, it is the home of the delicious Nuremberger sausage which also we sampled with much gusto.
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Old 15th September 2014, 19:37   #4
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Default Re: Travelogue: Germany and a bit of Austria

A couple of days later, I went to pick up the car. I had already made an online reservation with SixT (with whom we have a corporate tie-up and thus get a preferential rate). They only allow you to select a particular class of car and not the actual make or model. I picked a hatch (VW Golf / BMW 1 series / Mercedes A class). The booking process was pretty straightforward, with only a credit card number needed. To actually pick the car up, you need some identification (passport) and a valid drivers license. For directions, I had preloaded the OpenStreetMap for Germany into my Garmin GPS and also marked out all the way points beforehand so they would be easy to find (addresses where we would be staying, SixT rental drop-off at Frankfurt, the castles and some other sights along the way). So off I go, armed with passport, drivers license and credit card. The guy at the counter seems a bit apologetic, saying they have only one car at the moment, and its quite small - a cabriolet! I ask to see it, then decide to take it anyway. It's a new VW beetle convertible. Quite a nice car overall though space and visibility are severely restricted! Six-speed automatic, cruise control, other goodies like steering mounted controls, automatic headlights and wipers. We couldn't open the electric soft top for much of the time because of the weather. Another drawback is the rain really hammers down on the hood and makes it quite loud in the cabin. Also, opening the boot lid dumps a lot of water inside!

As for driving, it was a mixture of autobahn, scenic two-lane B-roads, cobblestoned village streets and (thanks to the GPS) a 700m shortcut via wet gravel track through a muddy field! Since it was my first time with a left hand drive (only driven in India and Thailand up to now, both RHD) there were a few tricky situations, but overall it was not too difficult to get adjusted. One issue I faced was keeping enough clearance on the right hand side (kerb side) of the car. Also, to look left and then right when entering a road, roundabout etc. Fortunately most of the German drivers we encountered were patient and tolerant
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Last edited by ajitkommini : 16th September 2014 at 14:40.
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Old 16th September 2014, 15:09   #5
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Default Re: Travelogue: Germany and a bit of Austria

So now that we had our own set of wheels, we set of from Regensburg towards the little village of Hohenfurch, about 200 km to the south via the A93 / A9 towards Munich, then the A96 towards Memmingen and finally the B17 south towards Schongau. The journey was uneventful except for a stop we made at Ammersee just to stretch our legs for a bit and admire the view. GPS and OpenstreeMap got us right to the front door at Hohenfurch and we checked in to the apartment we had previously booked through airbnb. Actually it was the upper floor of a house, with our host family living on the lower two floors. We had a bedroom, kitchen/dining and toilet/bath to ourselves. Very clean and comfortable, and our hosts made us feel really welcome. Also a bargain at around 40 EUR per night.
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Old 16th September 2014, 15:49   #6
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The next day we set off for Neuschwanstein castle - about 30 km south of where we were staying. This is an important landmark visited by thousands of tourists from around the world each day. The only way to see the castle interior is via a guided tour, and the best way to avoid long queues for this tour is to book tickets online in advance, then go pick them up at the counter. This way, you're guaranteed to be on a tour at the time of your choosing. However, you need to pick the tickets up an hour before your tour starts, as the castle is some way away from the booking office. (It's a 20 minute walk up a steep slope, or you can take a short, very crowded bus. Another option is the horse carriage ride but make sure you have neough time as it's pretty slow going up).

Unfortunately the weather played spoilsport and denied us the really breathtaking views Neuschwanstein is famous for. You can also visit the smaller castle of Hohenschwangau close by. From here, we drove onward to Fussen, then crossed the border into Tyrol, Austria and stopped for lunch at the picturesque little village of Vils. The alpine scenery is really fantastic throughought the Tyrol region and the food was good too! To cross the border you need to buy a "vignette" and stick it on the inside of the windshield on the drivers side.
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Old 16th September 2014, 18:27   #7
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Default Re: Travelogue: Germany and a bit of Austria

The following day we bid goodbye to Hohenfurch and our hosts and drove northward towards Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Again a peaceful drive via the B17 / B2 / B25 apart from a road diversion due to construction activity on the B25. This would be our second airbnb reservation. This time we had the entire house to ourselves (our host provided us with a keycode for the security system in advance). With only one night here and not much to do in the village of Dombuhl, after checking in, we drove 20 km to Rothenburg - This is an enchanting medieval city complete with city wall, cathedral, cobblestoned streets and buildings from the 15th century. You can close your eyes, point your camera in a random direction and shoot and you'll still get a great picture - that's the sort of place it is! We parked just outside the city wall and wandered through the streets. There's a large store that specialises in Christmas decorations (Kathe Wohlfart), a small museum and the cathedral. You can also take a walk around the city on top of the old city wall.
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Old 23rd September 2014, 15:14   #8
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The final day we set off from Dombuhl for Frankfurt, stopping on the way at the village at Wertheim to visit the large outlet mall there and also for lunch. We reached Frankfurt around 4 pm, checked into a hotel close to the airport and returned the car to the Sixt office at the airport itself. Returning was an absurdly simple experience - drive up and drop the keys off - thats it. We spent the night in Frankfurt, and the next day my wife and daughter headed back to Bangalore, while I took the IC train to Hamburg to begin the "work" portion of my trip. Spent a week in Hamburg and Bremen before returning.
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Old 24th September 2014, 15:44   #9
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Default Re: Travelogue: Germany and a bit of Austria

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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