A night in Schwangau

Only €6 for parking?! I was mightily impressed as I stood in front of a ticketing machine at a public car park of Hohenschwangau. My car was in there for nearly half-day! What a bargain. If this was in London, any local council would charge extortionate rates because the area was a tourist hotspot. The area I live charges £5.00 (€5.50) per hour for street parking. Do you see what I mean?

Mum heading for our car…

Her knees weren’t too badly affected by the strain of walking up & down the hills and negotiating the stairs and steps. Thank god.

After exiting the car park, we headed towards Schwangau which was a stone’s throw from Hohenschwangau, about five minutes by car.

The route was through open pastures and the area was very quiet and peaceful…

Our one night abode, Landgasthof Zur Post…

It was almost six o’clock and the hotel staffs seemed to be very occupied with their restaurant. One of the waitresses noticed us standing at a reception and reassured us that someone would be with us as soon as they were available. Then, another ten minutes of us hanging around, a bespectacled man appeared finally (finally!) from behind the door as she promised, and processed our check-in.

Our room on the second floor…

A view from our window…

We decided to have dinner at our hotel’s dining room. ‘Hallo!’ A large waitress in a traditional Bavarian dress ushered us to one of the tables along the wall and handed us the menu in English.

Beer! We missed you…

Mum really loved German beer. There was a problem though. Because there were many German beer brands listed in the menu, we didn’t know which one to choose!

‘Why not try our local beer in a small glass and see if you like it?’ The waitress suggested. Then, the beer turned out to be a delectable kind which made mum very very happy.

For dinner, we ordered roast pork with dumpling…

And salad nicoise…

Most of the diners seemed to be holiday makers. However, a group of men, sitting on the opposite side of the room, appeared to be local and were playing card while nursing glasses of beer. All of them looked like in their late sixties or early seventies and wore traditional Bavarian short trousers and embroidered braces. So those costumes were not just for Oktoberfest!

After dinner, we went for a little walk. The air was still and smelt of green pastures.

Mum with a Bavarian totem pole…

We crossed the road and sat on a bench in front of a tourist information office…

We admired a well-tended flower bed in front of the office. Mum used to plant the same flowers in large flower pots in front of my late dad’s atelier, I remembered.

A gentle evening breeze felt wonderful on our flushed cheeks. We exchanged a greeting with passers-by who were enjoying an evening saunter, ‘Abend!’

Schwangau was winding down…

Let’s get back and have some rest because tomorrow will be another action-packed day, mum. We stood up and returned to our room.

Around 11 o’clock that night, we looked up to the night sky from our balcony. The sky was filled with twinkling stars whose brilliance were unspoiled by light pollution. ‘Aren’t they gorgeous!’ We exclaimed in a hushed tone so we wouldn’t disturb our neighbours. There used to be the same night sky in our home town a long time ago. A canopy of the truly dark night sky and the glittering stars which inspired awe and wonder in me as a child. And the sensation of excitement still lived on in my heart.

‘We should check out the sky again in Garmisch-Partenkirchen!’ Oh, I can hardly wait to tell you what actually happened there. *sigh*…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

 

 

Spätzle@Hotel Müller

The reason why I didn’t reserve tickets for Neuschwanstein Castle was because I weren’t sure if mum’s knees could take the stress the visit may cause. As the castle was built on top of the steep cliff and the access was limited by foot only, the visit would involve a fair amount of climbing up and down the slope as well as the stairs. ‘Are you sure you really wanna risk them?’ I asked mum. She told me that she would rather choose to risk her knees than miss out on the visit and regret about it forever. 

After waiting in the queue under the beating sun for about half an hour, we finally put our hands on the tickets. Phew! 

However, our guided tour was from 16:45 and we had more than four hours to wait. Oh, what should we do? 

The time was almost noon and we were a little peckish. ‘Shall we eat at here then?’ I pointed at Hotel Müller which stood next to the ticket office. 

The interior of the hotel was airy and bright with white walls and unstained woodwork, and there was hardly anyone except hotel staffs. 

Their restaurant was also almost empty when we walked in…

A waitress with a pretty Bavarian dress greeted us and she let us choose a table. We wanted to see the castle while we dined, therefore, we opted for the one by the window.

Aww, Neuschwanstein Castle in the distance…

Our arrival must have been slightly ahead of the rest of lunch diners. We saw a sudden influx of the hungry customers filing into the dining room and taking up all the tables as we studied the menu.

Hmmm, what shall we have?

We wanted to try something new and asked a waitress who arrived to take our order. ‘Could you recommend us any Bavarian specialities?’ 

She suggested “Spätzle”…

She described the dish as rich and comforting with lots of cream and cheese. She assured us, ‘You will like it.’

Then, it arrived!

The dish tasted like very tasty macaroni cheese. Could this be the origin of the present macaroni cheese, a king of comfort food which is found in any supermarket shelf and freezer cabinet? Maybe, immigrants from Bavaria took the recipe to the States and eventually the dish had become the American favourite? We mused as we ferried hot cheesy short pasta into our mouths.

Another dish we order was salad. We need to top up vitamins, mum and I agreed…

We chose Salatvariation mit Feigen und Pinienkermen…

Unfortunately, the fig was slightly underripe. Otherwise, the salad was very fresh and tasty.

It was because we had ample time to kill before our guided tour, we ate with leisurely pace and managed to finish the Spätzle whose portion was very large. 

Now, our stomachs are full, and we will have to find a transport to the castle…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Lost in translation @ Augsburg

Ok, Augsburg did defy our expectation. We were vaguely imagining the place to be crammed with medieval buildings, cobbled streets, gothic churches and so on. Instead, we found the city kind of modern and rather ordinary.

Sure, we shouldn’t have expected every town and city on Romantic Road to be “picture on a biscuit box” perfect, all pretty and picturesque. However, our first impression of the city was…, grey!

A distance between Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Augsburg, was about 186km (116mls) and Google map suggested the journey would take 1 hour 44 minutes. Don’t you agree that satnav always underestimates journey time? In fact, the route using A7 and A8 and then to the city centre using R2 took us almost 4 hours!

When we arrived at our hotel in Augsburg, it was almost 3:30 pm. Bizarrely, I was met by no one at the reception except a workman with a paint brush gesturing me to call a number on the wall, ‘Chef! Chef!’ You mean am I to call your boss??? I picked up the phone and dialled the number. A man’s voice answered and I explained that we were hotel guests and wanted to check in. The man on the line assured me that we would be with us shortly and also show me where to park our car. Sure enough, a middle-aged man arrived after 5 minutes and introduced himself as Albert. He owned the hotel and a beer garden nearby. He explained that he was away from the reception because the beer garden needed his attention before opening that evening.

The room we were to stay over night wasn’t that great. It was clean and the bathroom seemed to be redecorated recently, however, the bed was a bit saggy and the closet was full of tired-looking wire laundry hangers (the one you get from a dry-cleaner!) and shop hangers instead of proper wooden ones you would normally expect in hotel closets. Oh dear…

‘I don’t like English breakfast!’ I thought that was what Albert said when I went to the reception the second time for a password for their Wi-Fi. I was like ‘??? You don’t like English breakfast??’ First of all, I hadn’t come across anyone ever who didn’t like English-style fry up. And why is he telling me this? Is it because I live in London?? It was Albert’s turn to be startled, ‘Oh, I like English breakfast. I used to live in Britain!’

Then, it dawned on me. ‘Do you mean “Brexit”?’ ‘Yes, Brexit!’ His English with a heavy German accent made “Brexit” sounded like “breakfast”. Hahaha.

I told him that I was as gutted as him about the UK leaving Europe. We both agreed Brexit and Donald Trump were complete disasters…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Dinner at Reichsküchenmeister

We were very happy to see the sign of our hotel, Hotel Zum Breiterle after enduring a stressful car journey on A3. I recounted to a receptionist how hellish our journey from Würzburg was as she handed over me a key to the room. ‘Noooo, oh my god!’ She couldn’t believe our misadventure.

Our room was modest but very tidy and the bathroom looked immaculate…

There was only one desire we had in our mind…, BEER! Surely, we deserve ice cold beer after the ordeal! So we set off to find a suitable beer garden/restaurant as well as to explore this pretty medieval German town…

We walked along Rödergrasse. It was almost six o’clock and most of the shops, except a green grocer/general store, were already shut. Mum found cartons of strawberries displayed on a bench made out of crates and wanted to buy one of them as a snack for the next day.

After purchasing strawberries, we carried on walking towards Marktplaz…

Near Marktplaz, we noticed soap bubbles wafting along by the breeze. Where do they come from? We looked up and found a cute teddy bear blowing bubbles…

Marktplaz with its town hall…

Rothenburg as a place already existed since around the 11th century, and it was formally founded as a town in 1274. The town became a part of the kingdom of Bavaria in 1803 as a result of the Treaty of Pressburg, thanks to Napoleon’s victory over the Austrian at Um.

We decided to have dinner at Hotel Reichs Küchenmeister as they had encouraging reviews on Google…

The entrance to their beer garden…

One of the waiters ushered us to the side of a table in the corner and told us to wait there until the table was vacated by the guests, who, the waiter claimed, paid the bill and were ready to leave. However, the guests showed no sign of leaving the table, and it was rather awkward being left standing by them. Eventually, I told the staff that we would rather be inside of the restaurant since we were not that bothered about al fresco dining.

In our seat, waiting for our beer (and food)…

Mum with her beer. You earned it, mum. You were a brilliant map reader!

I ordered Dreierlei Fränkische Bratwürste mit Fass-Sauerkraut und Kartoffeln, what a long name…

Three different franconian sausages with Sauerkraut and potatos. I just loved German sausages and I couldn’t have enough of them before returning to the UK.

Mum opted for Flammkuchen mit Räucherlachs, Mozarella, Kirschtomaten und lauch…

Flammkuchen with smoked salmon, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and leek. This Flammkuchen, also known as Tarte flambée, was one of the most famous Alsatian dish and also mum’s favourite during our road trip.

After our culinary desire was fulfilled, we embarked on a post-dinner saunter in Rothenburg…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

 

Spaß!

After returning to our room from our evening saunter, we turned on the TV and scrolled down to check what channels were available in Strasbourg.

My French was almost good enough to get by as a tourist. I could understand French TV programmes as long as it was not too complicated so mum and I had a load of fun during channel surfing in our hotel room. I served as a translator, and we shared lots of giggle.

Hötel Cathédrale didn’t offer any English programmes, such as BBC or CNN, but French and German. At Reims, we discovered Les Guignols and found it hilarious therefore we were looking for something similar.

Then, we found “Verstehen Sie Spaß?”(Do you understand fun?)…

A German prank show!

It was because we understood very little German, except ‘Wunderbar!’, ‘Bitte?’ and ‘Danke’, we didn’t understand what those poor victims in the show were actually saying. Still, their reactions were priceless and the ideas behind the pranks were brilliantly funny. Long live Spaß!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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