Reflections on travelling in Germany

In the Germany we loved –
Dresden, what an amazing skyline and so much to explore.

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The Elbe River valley.
Cycling and walking in the Elbe River valley.

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Saxon Switzerland National Park.

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Quedlinburg – with all those wonderful framework buildings it’s no wonder it has a UNESCO listing.

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Freiburg with its wonderful student atmosphere.
The mountains, valleys and lakes in Bavaria.

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The Bodensee (Lake Constance) area.

Favourite meals –
Kingfish at Café Bar Lounge Sol Y Mar in Leipzig
Schnitzel at Feierling Brewery in Freiburg

Favourite drink –
Beer

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Great places to stay –
The apartments at Haus Königsbrücker in Dresden
Quedlinburg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber or any other small town or village.

Great places to eat or drink –
Café Bar Lounge Sol Y Mar in Leipzig, sit at a table or lounge on a couch and eat and drink from a low table, this place has a wonderful Moorish atmosphere.
Planwirkshaft in Dresden. Décor is reminiscent of the old east Germany but excellent food sourced from local suppliers.
Café Mezzo at Lister Meile 4 in Hanover. One of many excellent cafes in this part of Hanover.
The restaurant at Feierling Brewery in Freiburg, just across the road from the huge beer garden.
Lüdde Brauhaus in Quedlinburg. Excellent beer and a broad menu of traditional and modern meals to choose from.

Unexpected highlights –
Meeting some great people whilst sharing tables at cafes, breweries and restaurants.
The sensational but super expensive porcelain in Meissen.

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The massive Hohentwiel fortress at Singen.

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Saxon Switzerland National Park.
Travelling on the ICE trains with our First Class Eurail Passes.

What you must do when you travel to Germany –
Check out the museums and galleries in Berlin and Dresden.
Get out into the countryside and visit a National Park to walk or cycle.
Visit Cologne or Ulm cathedrals and climb their steeples.

Ulm cathedral (Munster)
Ulm cathedral (Munster)

Visit Berlin – we have twice before so didn’t go there this time.
Travel on a very fast ICE train.
Take a boat trip on the Rhine.
Visit the Zugspitze by cable car.

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Stay with a local – couchsurf, use Airbnb or if you’re lucky enough, stay with a relative to get a better perspective on daily life in Germany.

What you should avoid doing –
Riding over glass on a bike. Really stuffs up your day’s cycling.
Staying in Munich during the Octoberfest.

What you need to be prepared for –
A train to actually run late. It doesn’t happen often but when it does!!!!

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Allgäu region churches and chapels

We were able to make a quick tour of some churches of the Allgäu region in Bavaria with Karen’s cousin Wolfgang and his wife Ingrid during our stay in Durach. It was part of a culture tour as Ingrid described it. Early on the Tuesday we travelled to the nearby Benedictine Abbey and Basilica of St Alexander and Theodor at Ottobeuren. The Basilica’s two towers were highly visible as we entered the town.

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It’s existence as an abbey dates back to 764 but the Basilica, which replaced an older church, wasn’t built until the mid 1700s, being consecrated in 1766. We were able to have a good look around the interior of the Basilica. It was Baroque in style. This meant we were able to see fantastic frescoes on the ceiling. The usual white had been used along with green, pink and gilt throughout the interior. The choir stalls were beautifully carved, again with gilt reliefs. Most impressive.

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We looked around for some time, just amazed at the beauty and the skill of the artisans involved.

Later on that day we were in Kempten so we visited another two churches. Firstly we went to St Mang Kirche, which is where cousin Sabine sometimes sings in the choir. It was a relatively undecorated Evangelical church compared to the Catholic ones. However two things stood out. The wood carving on the altar was simple incredible. The detail in the crucifixion scene was just so lifelike and the pained faces were incredibly well done.

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It took quite a few minutes to just look and take it all in. The other standout was the stained glass windows. They were relatively modern in style, with amazing detail. It was hard to believe they were created with glass and not painted when you looked at the detail. The resurrected Jesus window was especially well done.

From there we walked through a light drizzly rain to the Basilica of St Lawrence, the Catholic Church. It was a former monastery that was even older in origin than the one we had seen earlier in the day at Ottobeuren. Again it had two massively imposing towers at the front and was domed. It was on the site of former churches but had been reconstructed in baroque style in the mid 1600s with rococo additions, such as the side altars, at a later time. However the towers were only built at the start of the 1900s. The frescoes were simply beautiful. Lots of gilt borders had been used to highlight the artwork. Also the woodcarvings on the choir stalls here stood out as we looked around. All very impressive.

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The following day we lunched at Wildgasthaus Tobias as cousin Oliver’s guest with Wolfgang and Ingrid. It’s the clubhouse of Wolfgang’s shooting club. The house specialtry is spätzle, the German answer to Italian pasta, so that was what we all ordered. The spätzle tends to be softer and was served with a delicious three cheese sauce. Of course a local beer is the best accompaniment! After lunch we took a short stroll down the road through delightfully green countryside. Along the way we came to a very small chapel. Wolfgang told us it was built by the family who owned the Wildgasthaus Tobias. It sat next to a very small pond and was obviously a peaceful place to sit, pray or just contemplate.

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Later in the afternoon, along with Ingrid and Oliver, Karen and I took a familiarization walk around their town Durach. We visited their local church. It too was beautifully decorated in white, cream, pink and gold edged with amazingly detailed frescoes.

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After that we walked through the town and out into the lovely green countryside. At one point we rested in a spot with a lovely view of a local lake and the surrounding countryside. When we continued back towards the town we came upon another of these diminutive chapels, this time built by one of the wealthier local farmers.

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The path leading up to it was adorned both sides with a beautiful garden and a series of stopping points with small monuments showing the Way of the Cross.

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Inside it was equally well kept and the wooden altar piece was exquisitely carved. It was indeed another little oasis of peace. Our walk back to Durach gave us plenty of time to reflect on the lovely churches and chapels we had seen in the Allgäu.

Zipping around the top of the Zugspitze

Our first Bavarian excursion was the big one – the Zugspitze. Thanks to cousin Oliver having some time off work we had a driver, guide and travel companion all rolled into one! After a leisurely and delicious breakfast we were off to Garmisch Partenkirchen. Our drive initially took us along a freeway and it wasn’t long before we were seeing mountain scenery. We stopped briefly at a roadside stop and took a few photos of the scenery that included some castle ruins. Back on the road and we were soon crossing the border into Austria and then some time later back into Germany. We parked near the station at Garmisch. After purchasing all inclusive tickets we were on our way on the first train which took us a few stations along, past green fields with brown farmer’s storage sheds dotted across them, to Grainau.

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There we swapped onto another train, a cog one. As we approached Eibsee we had our first glimpse of the beautiful lake. However after a quick twenty minutes we found ourselves leaving the sensational scenery and going through a tunnel for the next 25 minutes. TV displays in the carriages gave us background information as we travelled so the time past quickly. On our arrival at Zugspitzplatt we followed the other passengers out. It was a brilliant sunny day and no matter which direction we looked there was a great view and accompanying photo to be taken.

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We walked around snapping for a while. Signboards on display informed us which mountain was which in the distance. There was a small chapel uphill a bit and a restaurant and outdoor eating area at this level but it was easy to see the cable cars heading further upwards to the Zugspitze. As time was getting on we decided to have lunch here before continuing up. We also suspected higher elevation would mean higher restaurant prices. Karen and I tried two different soups that were in fact very thick tasty liquid meals and Oliver ate a schnitzel that was accompanied by a mountain of French fries. And on a sunny day of 25 a beer was in order too.

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After lunch we took our cable car trip to the top. Unlike the one in Slovakia we had taken six weeks earlier this one was modern, fast and held about 45 people. Once up at the top we walked around taking in the sensational views.

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The actual top was just a short distance away from a barrier fence. Some people were actually using a cabled fence and making their way to the very top. Some safely using carabineers, others taking a risk by going unattached. If they made a mistake or lost their footing it would be fatal. On closer inspection we noticed some were there training in military uniform but the rest were tourists just like us.

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Oliver explained to us that the Zugspitze was in both Germany and Austria. So after taking photos of the surrounding mountains from our new vantage point we duly crossed over the border into Austria for the second time that day.

Looking into Austria
Looking into Austria

This time it was just down a corridor. After a good look and a few more photos back we went along the same corridor and returned to Bayern (Bavaria), Germany yet again!

The German observation deck as viewed from the Austrian side.
The German observation deck as viewed from the Austrian side.

 

The Eibsee and valley below.
The Eibsee and valley below, on the German side.

As time was moving on we queued up to take another cable car down on a different side of the mountain. After a short wait we we onboard ready to go. It certainly moved quickly too but we had a great view of the mountain on the way down.

DSCN8578It was only a short walk and we were back at Eibsee station where we took the train back down to Garmisch to pick up the car for our drive back to Durach after a fabulous day on the Zugspitze.