Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alsace, Germany and out!

From the great French Alps we move on reluctantly to explore the Alsace region, edging gradually closer to Cologne our eventual point of departure. At this stage we are both finding it difficult to stay focused and appreciate what's around us as we start to think more and more of home.

In our quaint country hotel (Hôtel Restaurant Au Tilleul) the staff speak absolutely no english so we are for the first time challenged to string a few french words together. Luckily they are very helpful and patient and we manage to communicate the necessities. The food is simple and unpretentious, but is a huge step down from the cuisine we were spoilt with in our last French accommodation. On our first full day we spend several hours doing hikes around various scenic trails between Labaroche and Lac Blanc, and on our departure day we wander through small towns (Katzenthal & Ammerschwihr) surrounded by endless rows of grape vines.

Ammerschwihr, Alsace France

Katzenthal, Alsace, France

From Alsace we move back into Germany for a revisit to the charm of the Black Forest. But this time we tackle the northern parts and tour through Baden Baden, Gernsbach and stop over in Dobel. From Dobel we take a day trek down to Kaltenbronn and then enjoy briefly the town festivities of Bad Herrenalb.

Views from Dobel, Black Forest Germany

One of the many peaceful paths through the Black Forest.

The next day we make our final push to Cologne, signifying the final days of this trip! On the way we stop at Worms to enjoy the romanesque cathedral, and Mainz for the same but also the birthplace of the Gutenburg Press! Michelle loves anything to do with letter press and is enthralled by the little workshop they give free public access to.

Letterpress Workshop at the Gutenberg Shop



Worms Cathedral

We spend a whole day in Cologne, but to be honest we are ready to go home and whilst the Cathedral is awesome, the city fails to keep us distracted from the fact that we will soon be back in Australia. Determined to leave germany on a good note we enjoy a fantastic meal of typical German food in an authentic beer house the night before our departure. On our last morning we have planned a visit to the castle "Burg Eltz" before heading to the airport but its all too hard at this stage and we forgo the full tour for a glimpse through the trees from afar.

Cologne cathedral - Biggest in Germany!

Streets of Cologne

Colognes Main train station

Our last German dinner including bratwurst, Schnitzel, Sauerkraut und Beir

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

la Chapelle d'Abondance

How did we end up here? I have no idea but what a fantastic place we've stumbled upon.

We're staying in la Chapelle d'Abondance, a valley in the Rhone Alps somewhere between Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc and it's a mountain bikers and hikers dream destination here in summer.

The majority of the ski lifts are open and for 1 euro a day we get an unlimited pass to ride up and down the mountains!

Our hotel is wonderful and from our room we have fantastic views of the mountains and the nearby ski town of Chatel. The newly opened hotel is run by a lovely Dutch couple and the Belgian chef prepares amazing 3 course gourmet french meals each night! Ok, we thought the black forrest was good but this place is heaven.

view from our room

enjoying the chairlifts

chairlift to another mountain

view of la Chapelle d'Abondance from another chairlift

yes, we actually did some walking

lake view

Sunday, August 1, 2010


For the start of August we head to Switzerland to enjoy some of the local festivities surrounding Swiss national day. We drive down from the black forest to Basel where festivities begin on the 31st July. Finding a reasonably priced hotel in Switzerland is always difficult, but we managed to book an overnighter in a great little hotel just across the border in France for a good rate. From here it was a 10 minute walk into Switzerland and rows of food stalls, beer tents, bands, sporting events and fireworks.

The following day we drive across to Wittenbach to pay a visit to my Aunt and Uncle and enjoy a traditional home cooked meal! Margrit cooks some kind of magnificent ricotta cake (complete with swiss flag in berries) to finish off the perfect lunch. We then head to Zurich for the night and more fireworks and revelry.

People and Stalls lining the river at Basel

Alp horn on the Main bridge



Aunty Margrit and her awesome swiss national cake

Fireworks in Basel

One of the family businesses...

Friday, July 30, 2010


What do I say about 3 nights in the Schwarzwald (black forest)? It was a fantastic stay and I could happily spend our final 2 weeks there.

Staying in Bad Rippoldsau we were right in the heart of the northern black forest. We had endless wanderweges at our doorstep (we spent an entire day walking from breakfast until dinner), a waterfall across the road, picturesque small towns a short drive away and when feeling too isolated, the French city of Strasbourg was just over an hour to get to.

Our only downfall ... The fabulous Zum Letzten G'Stehr with it's warm hospitality and delicious food. Ben's highlight is the biggest and freshest slice of black forest cake and mine would have to be the locally caught trout baked with almonds and butter mmm. It would be so easy to stay put and get fat.

Zum Letzten G'Stehr

Wolfach, Black Forest

Gengenbach, Black Forest

Strasbourg, France

Black Forest

Black Forest,
looking down into the valley we were staying in

Schiltach, Black Forest

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

German Castles on the Romantic Road

Our last stop on the Romantic trail was the castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau . These fairy tale castles (which were obviously the inspiration for Disney) stand impressively at the foot of the mountains near to the border between Germany and Switzerland and are actually 19th century Romanesque revivals.

We took the compulsory tour of the interior of the Neuschwanstein which to our surprise was quite unique and interesting. For example - the bedroom features wood carvings which took 14 woodcarvers 4 years to complete! To which one of the ladies on our tour replied "Good heavens imagine the dusting!" No photos allowed sorry to say.

Overall we were not so impressed by these castles due in part to the HORDES of tourists here making it somewhat of a circus. We have another castle visit planned for later in our trip so will see how that compares.

We stayed overnight near Fussen and then moved on to the Black forest.

Schloss Hohenschwangau

Schloss Neuschwanstein

Schloss Neuschwanstein

View from Schloss Neuschwanstein down to the lake and Schloss Hohenschwangau

Schloss Neuschwanstein entry

oooh its a fairy tale!

On our trip in this area we noticed a few road speed signs which actually stipulate the speeds appropriate for different vehicles. Its 100km for cars, 80km/hr of trucks over 6 tonne and max 60km for TANKS! Thought it was a joke until we had to overtake this tank!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nördlingen and Augsburg

Nördlingen, another town on the romantic road, was our lunch stop for today. Approaching the town we saw a prominent tower on the horizon that turned out to be the church. We climbed the 90 meters for impressive views of the old town and the old city walls, circling the city perfectly. Nördlingen was actually built in the centre of a crater, formed by a meteorite that struck 15 million years ago!

Arriving in Augsburg I was dubious about our need to be here in this big city and wanted to continue to the southern most stop on the romantic road. Having no accommodation and being lead astray by the tourist office (sending us to a place that took us 30 minutes to find, which ended up being booked out) didn't help my enthusiasm. Ben convinced me otherwise and once walking around the cobbled stone streets and running through a torrential down poor to the other side of town for dinner, I was actually glad we stopped.

Dinkelsbuhl on the Romantic Road

It was a bit of serendipity that we chose to visit this town on the day they celebrate their annual festival of “kinderzeche”. The town celebrates the date on which it is said the local children pleaded with an invading army to leave them unharmed. All the locals dress in medieval costume and re- enact the event. They also set up a medieval village just outside the town wall as part of the festivities.

We had perfect weather and a great day enjoying the community spirit and this wonderful town.

Medieval Day!

Picturesque town streets

The children reenact history

Some of the city wall

Another street view
More street views ( Michelle made me add these last two even though I thought there was enough already - I hope you appreciate them and tell her how right she was...)