We departed Orlando Int'l Airport at 12:30 on Monday, May 31, 1999 with a connection in Philadelphia via US Airways. Surprisingly, both flights were on time, and we arrived in Munich at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday. After 10 minutes in baggage claim, we headed for customs, which also took 10 minutes to complete, and then we had to walk the length of the airport to pick up our car rental. All the rental desks are in the same area and it's quite a hike from the International terminal. Our reservation was with National/Alamo, and when we arrived at the desk, we found that our agent was training someone else. Our flight was to have landed at 8:00, and that is when we made the reservation for. By the time we got to the desk, it was 8:40, and our agent wanted to start the clock at 8:00. "We had the car waiting for you since then!" I persuaded her to change the time to 8:40. She was not particularly friendly, and did not offer us a map, which we forgot to ask for. Fortunately, we had brought one map of Europe, which we got from AAA, and also a map of the area we were headed for, which was well worth the expense.
We had paid for an Opel Astra, with a free upgrade to an Opel Vectra. They had no Vectras available, and put us into a VW Bora, which had a stick shift and A/C. When I expressed concern about all of our luggage, she offered an Opel Astra station wagon as our upgrade, but I opted for the VW and squeezed our luggage in. We found the car to drive quite smoothly, but the seats could have been a little more comfortable.
We departed the airport on secondary roads and headed south and east. As we drove through some small towns, I commented on the architecture and how quaint the towns were. My wife expressed a differing opinion, and I thought to myself what kind of trip this would turn out to be.
I should mention that aside from the air and car rental, we had absolutely no reservations for anything, deciding that we would travel like birds. If we liked a place, we would stay. If not, we would leave. We headed for Mayrhofen, Austria, in the Zillertal Valley. As we passed into Austria on the autobahn, we tried to buy a roadtax sticker, which supposedly was available at all gas stations near the border, but we had to make two stops to get one. The sticker allows vehicles to travel on the Austrian highways.
The Travel Information booth in Mayrhofen was not manned…but rather an electronic bulletin board, which could be read in the language of your choice. There were descriptions and photos of many places to stay, in all classifications, and you could make a selection and print out the info. We made several choices, and then decided to drive around and scope out the properties by eye. We finally stopped at Villa Knauer, a hotel garni. The cost was 350 OS (OS being the symbol for Austrian Schilling) and amounted to $26-27 per person, per night. The building, like most buildings here, had lots of wood, inside and out, and had flower boxes on the balcony. The rooms had one king bed, shower, toilet, TV, telephone, and were smallish, but adequate. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant (which abound in Austria & Germany.)
We awoke Tuesday morning to a beautiful sunny day. Shari decided to take Corey & Megan to Swarovski Crystal in Wattens, about 45 minutes away by car. This left me free for the day, and I decided to do what I had come to do…hike. We had breakfast together consisting of OJ, cheese, rolls, yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs. I thought it was relatively modest, but I didn't care, as I generally do not eat breakfast. But I was not going to pass on those rolls. They were Kaisers, very similar to what we can get here in the states. Somewhat disappointing.
As my family drove off, I walked a block to the main street and then down a few blocks to a souvenir shop where I bought a wooden hiking stick for about $11.00. I later came to appreciate it very much on the steeper slopes that I would navigate. The Bergbahnen is a gondola that starts in downtown Mayrhofen, at an altitude of 650 meters, and whisks as many as 15 people to Penkenhaus, which is near the top of the mountain, at an altitude of 1800 meters. I then hiked further up to the Penkenjoch, which is the top of the mountain, at 2095 meters. To put this in perspective, I was at an altitude of 6800 feet, and was about to walk back into town, a vertical drop of just under one mile. It was just after noon and I thought it would be a good idea to get something to eat before heading downhill on my trek. At the restaurant at the Penkenjoch, I encountered some Brits that I had seen back at the Penkenjoch. They had taken a chair lift up, while I had walked, so they were almost finished with their soup when I arrived. It looked good, and I asked what it was. "Goulaschsuppe!" Well, here's an opportunity to eat something I never would otherwise eat. Goulasch soup is a thick brown soup with bits of meat and vegetable. I ordered a bowl with some bread, and had a glass of the local vino. The soup was great, but the wine was too dry for my taste.
Done with lunch, I headed towards the trail that would take me back to civilization. We're above the tree line at this altitude, and after about 15 minutes of gentle walking, I came upon some parasailers getting ready to take the fast way down. I shot a few photos, and chatted with one of them for the better part of ½ an hour. Starting downhill again, I was a little disappointed at the trail, which was pretty much like a jeep trail. After about another ½ hour, the hiking trail entered the woods and was much more to my liking. I was carrying about a quart of water, and still had a couple of cans of soda, brought from the states. The views from the top of the mountain are fabulous, with snow still covering some of the peaks in the higher elevations. Not skiable, but still plentiful, despite the 80( F temperatures. About 45 minutes later, I was back near the Penkenhaus, where the tram left me off. I was determined to hike down. Little did I realize that I would not get back to Mayrhofen until 7:00 p.m. The entire hike had taken me about 8 hours. I was sweaty and dirty, and I felt that my legs were going to fail me. I had never hiked this far, or this strenuously before, but the satisfaction of knowing I completed the trip was more than enough to compensate me.
Back at the hotel, the Knauers were having something of a little party in the back yard, with barbecued meats of unknown origin. After showering, I went down there to meet my family, and share a drink with the others staying at the property. Free eats…just pay for your drinks. There were about 6 local kids, ranging in age from 4-14. I asked Corey, my oldest, to go up to the room and bring down a nerf football. We tossed it around with the kids, and they all wanted to learn how to play football. One of the kids had pleaded with me for the ball, but as our vacation was just starting, I was reluctant to part with it. In the next couple of days, I'll go to our local sporting goods store and buy a couple of balls and send them to Frau Knauer to give to the kids. I know they'll get infinitely more pleasure from those balls than it will cost me to send over there.
Twenty minutes later, Frau Knauer's granddaughter brought out a musical instrument that resembled a small harp. She started plucking at the strings and made some beautiful music. Then the girl's father brought out his accordion, and the did a duet. Another local grabbed a homemade instrument consisting of a broomstick with a shrunken head and small metal cymbals. He became the rhythm section and we were all treated to a good time.
If I didn't mention it yet, my youngest daughter, Megan, is even pickier than me when it comes to food. We ended up going for dinner to a local place called "Mo's", an American style diner. The french fries were great, but the burger was pitiful. It was a change of pace from the previous night's Italian food. Two evenings, two dinners…no German food!
Thursday brings us another day of picture perfect weather. My entire body was aching from the hike the day before, and I feared that I might not be able to ever walk again, so I suggest we take a drive to Italy. After breakfast, we piled into the VW and drove north from Mayrhofen to Jenbach (pronounced Yenbach) and then west on the autobahn to Innsbruck, where we banged a Louie and headed for the Brenner Pass which leads into Italy. The first town over the border is Sterzing, a quaint and picturesque town with a bell tower in the middle of the main street, which, by the way, is only 4 blocks long. In that four blocks, there are 27 shoe stores. We were in every single one. I'm beginning to think my family's idea of a vacation is a trip to the mall. Did I mention that while I had hiked yesterday, they drove to Wattens? Well, after Wattens, they decided to try to find the bobsled run at Igls, just south of Innsbruck. They never found it, but they did find a shopping mall, which killed off their day. I'm thinking that maybe I could have saved $6000 and dropped them off at Fashion Square Mall on my way to the airport!
We spent about 3 hours in Sterzing, mainly because all the stores close for lunch from 12 –2:00. We had a leisurely lunch at a…you guessed it! An Italian restaurant! Then, as soon as the stores began to open, the demons I was travelling with were back at their evil work…spending money. Finally, when there were no more shoe stores to explore, we decided to go further south to see another town. Our choices were to go southeast to Merano, or southwest, to Brixen. We chose Brixen and soon found ourselves in another medieval town with cobblestone streets and a zillion teenagers.
Either Brixen is a college town, or it's Spring Break in Germany. We found a parking spot near the shops, and Shari promptly bought a blouse. Then we went for Gelati, and headed back to Mayrhofen, about 2 hours away. After freshening up, we went out in search of a place to eat, and located a restaurant that was running a special of brathuhn and reis…roast chicken and rice. Fortunately, Megan approved, and we finally had our first German meal. I ordered the wienerschnitzel, which was of the pork variety. I can go home now. My life is complete.
Friday. We awoke to drizzle that got progressively worse. We had already decided to leave for Mittenwald, across the German border, so maybe we were better off driving while the weather was inclement. We bade goodbye to our hosts, and hit the road, deciding to stop at the Alpinezoo in Innsbruck. We got there about 1:30, and headed directly for the small restaurant at the zoo. They had "Grilled Wurstl" on the menu, and not being a big eater of sausage, I thought that this would be the ideal opportunity to experiment…if it wasn't to my liking, I could always eat the fries that came along with it. When the food came out, I had a huge platter of pommes, (pronounced pommess) with two hot dogs lying across the top. The only thing that was missing were the buns. The fries were excellent, and the dogs weren't bad either. The zoo was by far the steepest zoo I had ever been to…it lies on a hillside and there's quite a bit of steps to climb…a good way to kill a few hours. The weather had cleared when we left the restaurant, and as we headed back to the car, it started to rain again. Perfect timing.
We drove west and north, through Seefeld and Leutasch, Austria. Seefeld has a casino, but I was not impressed with the town, nor with Leutasch. They paled in comparison to Mayrhofen, but I'm looking forward to Mittenwald. As we neared the border, Megan asked if she could get out of the car. We pulled over, and she ran into a nearby field filled with wildflowers. Corey took pictures Megan spinned like a top with her arms outstretched. We finally arrived and looked down on the town as the road hugged the mountain. When we drove in to the center of town, it resembled Times Square...there were more people walking in this small city than anywhere we'd seen anywhere. The young lady at TI (Tourist Info) told us that it would be difficult to find two rooms. She made a few phone calls and then told us that there was a zimmer about ½ mile north that had two doubles available. We looked the place up in the brochure we had previously sent for, and found that the whole place had two doubles and one single. The kids preferred a larger place, so we tried walking around for a while, and finally left in frustration. It seems my life is ruled by women, and one of them is only 14 years old! Much to Megan's disappointment, there is no Sheraton in Mittenwald and we continued north and west, to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, having planned on 3 nights in Mittenwald. We entered from the Partenkirchen side of town and continue west. This city is too large for my liking, and I grew up in Brooklyn! We pass the US Military base in Garmisch and keep going west, back into Austria. The map says, "next stop, Lermoos." We arrive with about 2 hours of daylight left, which means it's now between 7:00 & 7:30, and it's only the first week of June!
One of the things I remembered from the boards is the strong recommendation of Pension Hochmoos in Lermoos. It wasn't easy to find, but we sought it out and found that they had two doubles available. The price was negotiated and we ended up paying about $60/night for all four of us. Not bad at all. We had paid $105/night in Mayrhofen, still not a bad deal. Frau Koch suggests a restaurant nearby, and we head on over for dinner while she prepares the rooms for us. Unfortunately, they didn't accept credit cards, and we were very low on shillings, so we promised we'd be back and headed for an ATM. Ten minutes later, we're trying to decipher the menu, which was not easy, despite having the Marling Menu-Master. No one at the restaurant spoke English, and finally, after 25 minutes, we ordered. I had the mixed grill…pork, veal, chicken, and beef. Quite good, but I could barely tell the difference between the first three items. The steak was easy because it was so much darker.
As we left the restaurant, we can see the red sun striking the mountains across the valley in which Lermoos sits. The rock is bright red. Two minutes later, it's back to it's normal dull gray. A spectacular view and I now know why Denise is in love with Lermoos. I think I would sit there all day waiting for the sun to strike the Sonnenbichl again, even if it only lasts a few minutes. It was much more impressive to me than the Zugspitze.
Saturday. A beautiful day with bright sunshine. We had originally planned on continuing up to see the castles at Füssen and Oberammergau, but after breakfast, which had a slightly better selection than Mayrhofen, our host offered to check availability of rafting in Haiming, just east of Imst, and west of Innsbruck. We were fortunate to be able to book a 2:00 PM trip, so we decided that we would stay another night in Lermoos. We had a few hours to kill, so we drove a couple of miles to Biberwier, where there is a luge run.
This is a concrete looking track, sort of like the bottom of a sewer pipe, on which a sled runs down from the top of the hill. The whole ride was about a mile long and took a few minutes. You control the speed with a deadman brake. The further forward you push the stick, the faster you go. If you let up on the stick, the brakes slow you down. We took a double chairlift to the top and sped down. The kids liked it so much that they went back up for a second run. When we had finished, we got in the car and headed for Haiming. After a brief orientation, about 50 people piled into a bus for the ride to the put-in point on the river Inn, which flows through Innsbruck further downstream, and is the derivation for the city's name. The water was very high, as the whole region had undergone recent flooding, but the level was 2 meters lower than the day before! High water makes for a fast and roller coaster type ride, but is less challenging because all the rocks are underwater, so it's much less technical.
After the raft ride, we drove over to the town of Pitztal, the home of the highest bungie jump in Europe, 90 meters. Corey begged us to let her go. It has been a dream of hers for years, and we were fortunate to have been able to tell her in the past that she wasn't old enough. Now she is 18, and we needed another excuse. So we told her she could go, but that she'd have to pay for it herself…all $75. "Oh. So just because it's what I want to do, I have to pay for it? You paid for rafting because you wanted to go?"
Sometimes I wish I never had kids. Or at least, I wish I hadn't taken them with me on this trip. On the way back to Lermoos, we pass through the small town of Arzl. I'm following signs, and see an arrow to Arzt, so I took a right turn into a small neighborhood, at which point Corey informs me that Arzt is German for doctor. What the heck. There are no wrong turns.
Ten minutes later, in Imst, we pass a McDonalds
and I ask Corey if she'd like to stop. I'm trying to placate her for not paying for her bungie jump, which she
didn't do. "Am I gonna have to pay for this too?"
"Shut up, you #%*%#$!"
I stopped. And I paid. Back in Lermoos, we dropped Corey off at the hotel and go into town for Italian food. Megan has eaten more pasta in 6 days than most people eat in 6 months…including Italians! I ask about a beer-stube, but alas, there is none in town. Maybe I'll get lucky another time. I shower, and now my wife is playing cards in the other room with the girls, an activity they did every single evening. I'm telling you…we should have gone on separate vacations!
Sunday. The cows pass by the hotel at sunrise. Fortunately, I know this not from the smell, but from the tinkling of the cowbells that each of them wears. Two minutes later, I'm back to sleep, only to awake at 7:00 to find a dense fog and temperatures in the 50s. After breakfast, we say goodbye to our hosts and load into the car again, heading northwest towards Reutte. This is the town that Rick Steves used as a base for his travels through Bavaria, as it sits just across the border with Germany. We would have stopped and given it a look-see, but the weather was getting worse, with intermittent rain. We pushed on to Füssen, another town we would have stopped to visit, but again, it was too dreary for words. On the other side of the city was Neuschwanstein, Ludwig II's most famous castle, and a must see for my Megan. This was the castle that Walt Disney used as a basis for the Disney Castle.
We parked the car in a lot that would hold 600 cars. There were 18 cars parked. Walking over to TI, we inquired about how to proceed. The gentleman suggested we first see Hohenschwangau, the castle where Ludwig II grew up. A 5-minute walk up the hill to the right brought us to the gate and we inquired about an English tour. Unfortunately, they only give foreign language tours for groups of 20, and as sparsely crowded as it was, we might have had to wait for hours, so we tagged along with the German group and Shari read notes aloud from a book about the castles that she had bought. If this building were situated in your own neighborhood, it would be impressive, but compared to the other structures we had seen, it was just another mansion. After a 30-minute tour, we walk back down the hill and cross over to the hill on the left, from which you ascend to Neuschwanstein.
Megan, a future architect, views this as the most important part (read: the only reason for going) of the entire trip. My family looks skyward at the castle and immediately comes to the decision that hiking uphill is not for Jewish people, so they wait for a bus to help them while I take the opportunity to start another hike. The sign says "1/2 hour to the castle" and it's pretty accurate. Slow and steady does it. The roadway is paved with blacktop, and unless one walks with a cane, I believe anyone could make this climb. I waited 10 minutes for them to arrive and we bought tickets. Compared to Hearst Castle, or The Biltmore in N.C., this tour is a bargain…about $12 for 2 adults and 2 kids. The castle itself is only partially completed on the inside, and what was done is extremely dark and garish.
After the tour, I walked down and again had to wait for the family to arrive by bus. There are several restaurants at the base, and I checked out the menus. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of mentioning that one of them was serving chicken and rice Megan's staple diet. You've heard of the food pyramid? Well, Megan's pyramid is much like Neuschwanstein. The base consists of rice, pasta, and chicken. The rest of it is unfinished. I persuaded the family to at least walk over to the cafeteria style place with the oompah band playing on stage, but that would have been too much fun, so we went back to Megan's restaurant so that she could order "Paprika Chicken and Rice." Unfortunately for Megan, paprika must mean "peppers" because the chicken was full of peppers, which she managed to choke down and tell us that it wasn't too bad. I tried the schweinbraten mit knoedel, which was basically roast pork with a matzoh ball containing bits of bacon. It was surprisingly good.
On the walk back to the parking lot, we stopped at a gift shop where I bought a Tyrolean hat. Back in the car, we head northeast to Steingaden, and then for a short ways, traveled the Romantic Road east where we stopped at Wieskirche, the site of what was billed as the most beautiful church in the world. Parking was about a buck, but the church itself was free, and I must say it was more ornate than any of Ludwig's palaces…a tremendous amount of gold leaf and several types of marble. It was worth the ten-minute stop, and Shari grabbed a cup of coffee and a pastry. Continuing southeast to Oberammergau, we drive through the town and decide not to stop. Oh…I forgot to mention the 3 nuns on bicycles not far from Wieskirche. One of them looked like Sally Field!
Just past Oberammergau, we turn off at the sign for Linderhof, one of Ludwig's three castles. Ten yards past the turnoff for the castle, the road is closed due to the recent flooding. This was to be the only road closed that we would encounter on the entire trip. As we pull into the parking lot, Shari & Corey decide to nap in the car and Megan and I take the tour alone. The grounds are splendid, and while this is by far the smallest of the castles, it was still opulent.
Having finished the tour of Linderhof, it's late in the afternoon…perhaps around 5:00, and we decide to push eastward towards our next destination, Bad Reichenhall, Germany, about ½ hour southwest of Salzburg. We figure we'll keep driving until we tire and then pull in for the night, continuing on in the morning. We're on the road to Oberau, and jump on the autobahn north to Sindelsdorf. The roadway is uncrowded and I push down on the accelerator to see what the 2.0-liter engine is capable of. It's capable of getting my wife to say, "slow down, you're going too fast." I topped out at 180 k/h, which, by my calculations, is 112.5 miles per hour. (A note to those of you planning trips and calculating travel times…a distance that takes one hour on local roads can be done in 15 minutes on the autobahn.) The Sindelsdorf exit looms ahead and we exit and head east on local roads. Corey has to use the w/c, so I pull into a gas station/auto dealer in a small town. As I pump the gas, she goes in and, seeing no other doors, thinks perhaps the toilet is at the top of the stairs. She climbs up 2 steps and gets yelled at by the woman behind the counter. When I go in to pay, I ask for a w/c, and learn that there is none. Hmm…how odd.
We continue east, and then north to pick up another autobahn, and before we knew it, we were entering Bad Reichenhall. The city was larger than I anticipated, and we drove around for a few minutes in search of the Bahnhof. Shari wanted to take the kids into Salzburg, and I figured I'd do another hike, as mountains surround the city. We figured that the best way for her to get to Salzburg would be by train, so we wanted to stay walking distance from the train station. Finally, we found it, and drove a couple of blocks west, where we pulled into the parking lot of a hotel. Unfortunately, they had nothing for us, however one of the gentlemen there offered to make a call to another place a few blocks away. Voila….two rooms, and in our budget. This kind man tells us to follow him by car, as we might not easily find the new hotel. Three minutes later, we arrive at Hotel Erika, a larger place than I preferred, but Megan was happy and the two rooms we were shown were quite large…by far the largest we had seen so far. The kids took the bigger of the too, which also had the better view and we happily agreed to pay 60DM per room, or about $31.00 per person, including breakfast. After settling in, it was close to 10:00 PM…time for dinner. We hunt around and finally sit down in an authentic ethnic restaurant. Unfortunately, the staff spoke less English than we spoke German, so ordering was difficult, but we finally settled on four wonton soups, and order of fried rice, and beef with bamboo shoots. We were hungry, and the food was pretty good. The funny part was trying to order dishes in Chinese. Moo Goo Gai Pan? Wor Shu Opp? Dammit. You haven't lived until you met Chinese people that are fluent in German, but speak no English!
Monday. We head down for breakfast, and I'm beginning to think that they're all the same. Rolls, cheeses, meats, cereal, juice, yogurt, tea, and coffee. Shari took the girls into Salzburg by bus, and I opt for another hike. The Predigstahl-bahn climbs to a little over 1600 meters in height. The mountain is not as big as Mayrhofen, but it didn't matter. Halfway up, we were in fog as thick as pea soup.
I walked around on the top for 45 minutes and then started down. I was on the steep trail and managed to get down in 3 ½ hours; it was a pretty hike, even though the woods were wet. Now I know why some people invest in Gore-Tex boots.
My walk back to the hotel took my through the pedestrian area of Bad Reichenhall, and my opinion of the city changed. The pedestrian mall is about 8-10 blocks long, and lined on both sides with shops. It is a crowded place until 6:00 PM, when the stores close. I guess it's what shopping in small towns in the U.S. is like, and what it was like in some of the larger cities as well until the advent of the mall. It made me wish that Wal-Mart was illegal. The fellow at the front desk suggested a "typical Bavarian restaurant," Burgher Brau. It was at the other end of the pedestrian mall, so, after my family made it back from Salzburg, we walked over.
Unfortunately, the menu did not live up to Megan's high standards…no chicken or spaghetti. I'm gonna kill that kid! We walked back towards the hotel and ducked into Wiener Wald, the German equivalent of fast food. The chicken was actually delicious, and Shari promised me that the next night we'd ditch the kids and dine alone at Burgher Brau.
Tuesday. Cool outside. My guess is mid-50s, with the sun trying in vain to peek through the clouds. After breakfast, we piled into the car and headed for Berchtesgaden where we took a tour of the salt mines…a pretty interesting tour and it only cost a few dollars per person. After passing through the turnstile, you line up for miner's clothing, which you don over your street clothes. We laughed at each other, and I wondered if this is what the refugees from Kosovo looked like.
As we departed the mine, it began to drizzle, and we located a restaurant in downtown Berchtesgaden to have lunch. We went inside, and a waiter showed us to a table. Unfortunately, there were 6 men sitting around this table for 10, and Shari objected primarily because all 6 were smoking cigarettes. We sat down outside under the awning, which was probably a mistake, as the rain got heavier as we ate. Megan ordered pasta and butter. Big surprise. I ordered ribs and fries. I passed on the sauce, which would have removed the hair on my chest. The ribs were dry, and not very tasty. It was probably the worst meal I ate while I was there. We finished lunch and spent ½ hour window shopping in the rain. Most of the stores were closed due to the long lunch they take, so we got back in the car and continued on to Ramsau. The rain is steady now, and while the rest of my family waits in the car, I cross the wooden footbridge, which has only one handrail. After locating the desired spot, I snap a couple of photos of the church at Ramsau.
Back in the car, we drive in the rain NW to Schnerzl, and then east to Bad Reichenhall and find our way back to the hotel. After a brief nap, it's time for dinner, and we again try Burgher Brau. Shari ordered the cream of asparagus soup, which I tasted. I am not big on asparagus, but the soup was not bad. I had Wiener schnitzel again, and again is was pork. It was pretty good, but I'm still hoping that in my last night, tomorrow, I'll be able to find veal.
Wednesday. The weather is beautiful. Mid to upper 60's, and it's only 10:00AM. We cram in one last hour of shopping on the pedestrian area and buy some Reber's Chocolates. By 11:30, we're in the car heading in the general direction of Munich, planning on stopping in Rosenheim for the night, so that our drive to the airport tomorrow morning will be shorter. Travelling westbound on the autobahn, we pass the Chiemsee, and I remember from reading the boards that Ludwig's last castle is on an island out there, so we exited at Prien and jump on the 12:40 boat which we made with 2 minutes to spare. The weather is gorgeous…bright sun and upper 70s, so I removed my rain jacket and soaked in the rays while we cruise out on the boat. Twenty minutes later we are at Herrenchiemsee, the last of the palaces, and, in my opinion, the most livable one. Bright colors for a change, instead of the dark ones at the others. The girls are, as usual, tired after touring the castle, so they opt for the buggy ride back to the boat while I walk back. Again I had to wait for them. When Shari asked me where my raincoat was, I realized that I had left it on the boat coming to the island. At Prien, we went to the office and were fortunate to locate the jacket. It was still on the boat, which would return in 4 hours. Oy. After some quick thinking, we were able to have the jacket transferred to another boat, which would return in 2 hours. We decided to kill the time by having an early dinner. The girl in the office suggested Roma Restaurant, so we went for Italian food. Such a novelty! Shari & Corey share a salad and a pizza. Megan orders spaghetti with oil & garlic, and I have them make me veal parmagiana, which I come to realize is a wienerschnitzel with sauce and cheese. Unfortunately, it wasn't particularly good. After the leisurely lunch dining alfresco under an awning, it was time to retrieve the jacket, which we did, and then took off for Rosenheim.
Well, either we were on the wrong side of town, or Rosenheim is more industrial than picturesque, so we continued on. And on. We ended up driving for so long without seeing a reasonable place to stop and kill an evening that we eventually hit the autobahn just east of Munich. Heading north, we exit near Poing and found a place that looked OK. I walked inside leaving everyone else in the car. The fellow behind the desk spoke less English than I speak German…a bad combination.
He was kind enough to make a few telephone calls and located a hotel with room in Neufern. Then he showed me on the map how to get there…back to Poing, continue South to Neufern, and make a left.
When we got to the hotel, we found that they only had one room left, and it only slept 3 people. They could see that we were 4, and offered a rollaway bed, which we agreed to. DM250, or about $32 per person.
Meanwhile, we noticed a lot of gentlemen in suits and ties at the restaurant. In fact, there were probably more men in the restaurant than lived in Neufern, which was by far the smallest hamlet we had been in on the entire trip. As it turns out, this restaurant is well known for it's kitchen, and this was asparagus season. The asparagus here is not like our own…rather, it is white, and the season only lasts a month. I guess it is considered sport by some to eat as much asparagus as possible while it is available, hence the bombardment of diners.
We carried our bags to the room and I decided to go for a walk while there was light. The manager suggested walking down the dirt road in the back, past the horses. Horses? I went upstairs and found the three demons in their usual spot, playing cards on the floor. "Anyone want to go for a walk to see the horses?" "Horses? We don't need no stinkin' horses! Your deal, Megan."
So it was to be a typical walk…solo. I went out the back door and found the horses. Another 20 yards further, I struck gold. There was a penned area with deer. Eight of them. Real deer!
Now, knowing how I feel about my family, you might think I'd go upstairs again and let the kids know that there were horses AND DEER! And strangely enough, you'd be right.
"Anyone want to go for a walk to see the horses and deer?" "Deer? Yeah. Sure. Right. What kind of deer? Plastic?" "No, these are real deer. Are you coming or not?"
Hmmm…this is a tough one. Is dad serious? Or is he full of crap, like usual? Well…ok. We'll risk it. They came down with me and we walked past the horses and sure as shootin'…there were the deer! They were grazing in the grass 4 feet on the other side of the wire fence. The kids bent down and tore off some of the long grass on our side of the fence and hand fed the deer through the wire.
After 5 minutes of watching, I was ready to continue walking, but their trail had come to an end. I walked for another 15 minutes and finally turned around to head back. When I reached the deer, the kids were still yanking up the grass. I think if you asked them today what the most fun thing they did in the whole trip, they'll tell you it was feeding the deer.
Having exhausted themselves by feeding grass to the deer, the kids were ready to head back to the hotel. It was now about 9:00PM and Megan had managed to work up an appetite. The restaurant was still ½ filled with the suits, but we managed to find an empty table in the smoke filled room, and fortunately, our waitress spoke excellent English. Megan ordered spaghetti with butter, and Shari ordered spargel mit huhn (asparagus with chicken). I only ordered some fresh fruit off the dessert menu. I must say that when Shari's dish came out, we stared at the smallest breasts we had ever seen. After consulting the Marling Menu Master, we concluded that while "huhn" usually means chicken, it might also mean "game bird," so we think that there was actually a dead quail on the plate. We didn't tell that to Megan, so when Shari decided she didn't care for the chicken, Megan was willing to eat it. When we had finished, Megan had not been sated, having been "forced" to share her pasta with Corey, so persuaded the waitress to bring us a bowl of white rice to take up to the room.
We went upstairs and fiddled with the TV set and managed to tune in what appeared to be the BBC. In any event, it was an English language station, and we learned that the conflict in Kosovo was over. Exhausted, we fell asleep and awoke bright and early to see what awaited us for breakfast. It was by far the most elaborate and diverse breakfast we had seen on the entire trip, with at least three times the array of cheeses, meats, and rolls. If it weren't for our flight in three hours, I would have lingered much longer. We piled the luggage into the car for the last time and drove about 45 minutes to Munich Airport, stopping to fill the tank, and arriving with three minutes to spare in our grace period before they charged us for another day. We hiked back through the terminal, checked our bags, spent as much as we had change for at the news stand/candy store, and boarded our USAirways flight to Philadelphia, which again left on time.
I wish I had more to tell you, but more stories will be forthcoming on my next trip…(read MY NEXT TRIP!)