As promised, here's part one of my Bavaria (and then some) trip report. You can view all 100+ photos in my Flickr Photostream here if you're so inclined.
Day 1: Drive to Würzburg
Day 2: Tool around the "Romantic Road" down to Füssen, then cut over to Mittenwald (near Garmisch) to set up camp.
Days 3-7: Hiking in the Altspitz Mountains and Castle Gawking
Days 7-11: Camping in Austria, hiking in Berechtesgaden (Germany), Salzberg
Day 12: Drive home
Alas, it rained a lot. As in most of the time. Still, we managed to get in an afternoon wander through a gorge near Mittenwald and a big hike down an Alp. Austria ended up being a bit of a bust, especially since we took our one really nice day to hang out at the camp. So, we decided to head home a bit early and add a day at Luxembourg instead.
So our real itinerary went something like this:
The Romantic Road
We made it to Würzburg on time. According to plan, we spent the first part of the day checking out the local "schloss" or castle. In the case of Würzburg, the palace is actually an old Bishop's residence, but don't let that fool you. The Residenz rivals most fancy chateaux you'll ever see.
From there, we meandered (read: got lost a lot) South on the Romantic Road to Rothenburg ob de Tauber, which is possibly Germany's most famous town. Rothenburg is to Germany as Brugge is to Belgium or Dinan is to France. It's pretty good as far as medieval towns go.
After spending too much time in Rothenburg, we decided to ditch the slow Romantic Road for the highway. We made it to Füssen around sunset, when we realized that there's no way we were making it to Mittenwald that night AND set up camp.
After unsuccessfully finding a place to sleep around Füssen (and getting lost some more), we headed on to Mittenwald, hoping to find a guest house along the way. We found one near Lermoos, Austria. Horray for random guest houses!
Mittenwald: Hiking, Castles, Bozners. Oh My!
I highly recommend Mittenwald as a base around the Garmisch area. The little resort town, while catering to tourists, manages not to be touristy. I think it helps that most of the visitors are German and are there for the hiking or mountain biking.
We happened to be in Mittenwald for the last weekend of their Bozner Markt, a festival hosted only once every five years. The original market dates back to the 1400s, and was a place for local Mittenwalders to sell their wares. Today's festival showcases a more traditional way of life.
Highlights include a spinner and hand felting (old and new skool) as well as lots of drinking.
I also picked up some yarn in a local woolen goods store. You knew I would! Though I swear I didn't intentionally go looking for it. In fact the only reason we went there was to get B a felt hat.
What you see is Frankengarn Merino, a German brand that specializes in natural products. I picked up some worsted weight to make a matching hat and scarf set as well as some sock yarn. Expect to catch me trying to knit up some traditional-style German socks sometime in the future.
After our brief run through the Bozner Markt, we hit the trail for a short walk through the Leutasch Gorge. The trail meanders 800 meters along the edge of the gorge, literally, on man-made walkways. The remaining bits of trail wander through cool, alpine forest.
A key feature of hiking in Germany, and Europe in general, is that you often find huts or guesthouses along the trails. I'd like to go back someday and do some through-walks, stopping in different villages along the way.
Of course the next day was castle gawking day. In the vicinity of Oberammergau is Schloss Linderhof, one of Ludwig II's mountain get-aways. If you don't know much about King Ludwig II of Bavaria, I highly recommend that you look him up. He's famous for his spending sprees, but erecting ridiculous castles seems to have been his particular passion.
Linderhof, interestingly, is the only castle that was finished (you'd die young if you lived a life of excess too), and is Ludwig's homage to Versailles. Unfortunately, you can't photograph the interior, but honestly I think it might actually rival Versailles in shear over-the-topness and absence of taste. I mean that in the best possible and most entertaining way. The Venus Grotto (where none of my photos turned out) is worth the admission fee alone.
The grounds are free and photographable, so I give you a montage of German Tax Euros at work.
The last two shots are of Oberammergau. We pretty much nipped in to see what all the fuss was about. It's traditional house paintings are some of the best in Bavaria, especially if you're into scary religious art. I don't have anything against religious art, but wait until I show you what looked upon us while we ate a snack in Weis a few days later.
The One Big Hike
The following are a few shots of our hike down the Alpsptize. We took a cable car from Garmisch to the Höllentorköpf station. From there we hiked down into the Höllentorlanger (Hell's Valley), stopping for a bite at the climber's hut. Then we headed into the Höllenterklamm (Hell's Valley Gorge), where the trail follows old routes used by workers on a now-defunct hydroelectric project. In fact, some of the trail dates back to the turn of the last century. The route finishes up in Hammersbach, where you can either walk back to the cable car parking lot or take the train. We found out the hard way that the last train runs around 5pm.