Up to Adventures in Karlsruhe.
Having gotten (mostly) settled in Karlsruhe, we decided to do
a bit of traveling before the summer ended (and school
started). Our first trip
involved visiting a bunch of Bavarian
castles during a 3-day whirlwind tour. When I did the
planning, I didn't stop to think about the amount of hiking
and climbing involved. All of these castles are on top of
tall mountains! Fortunately, Pat and Xandie can be
We took the train from Karlsruhe to Füssen, a tiny town near the Austrian border, overrun by tourists looking for castles. On the way, I sat next to a retired Viennese gentleman who regaled me with riveting stories of his WWII experiences. After the war ended and he was captured by the Russians, he was saved from prison because he spoke Russian and was needed as a translator. A Russian officer took a liking to him and eventually got him the papers necessary to get into West Germany.
The first stop was Neuschwanstein, perhaps the most famous castle in the world. Built by "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria, it was Walt Disney's model for the Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland. It is truly a fairy-tale castle in a fairy-tale setting. According to the plan, we would arrive in Füssen early enough to catch a bus to the castles (Hohenschwangau, where Ludwig grew up, is right next to Neuschwanstein). I had reserved tickets so we wouldn't have to stand in line to get in, but I had been forced to pick a tour time in advance. As you can see from the looks on Pat and Xandie's faces as they took a short break, they had no trouble getting up the hill on schedule.
My ever-suspicious brother Brad has pointed out that I've posted lots of pictures of sights, but none show us, so he wondered whether we were really in Europe. Thus, I have included a picture of Xandie blocking the view of Neuschwanstein. You'll have to decide for yourself whether she was really there or I just pasted her photo into an image from the Web.
The castle tour itself was impressive, but they prohibited picture-taking, so I don't have anything worth showing. (It's hard to get a usable available-light handheld shot on the sly, especially at shutter speeds of 1/8 to 1 second.)
After we finished the guided tour of Neuschwanstein, Pat and Xandie caught a horse-drawn carriage back down the mountain (smart move) while I hiked further up the hill (maybe not so smart) to the Marienbrücke (St. Mary's Bridge), which offers a stunning view of the castle for the bargain price of only five years off your cardiac life. Then we caught the last bus back to Füssen, where I had reserved a room at Haus Peters, a charming pension listed by Rick Steves, my favorite guidebook author.
Unfortunately, Frau Peters informed us that all the rooms were taken. "But I reserved a room," I protested. "Professor Künning." (The Germans are always impressed by professors.) "I talked to you personally!" "When did you talk to me?" "Last Thursday." "That's impossible; I only got back from vacation yesterday!" (They're not so impressed by stupid professors.)
Luckily, my cellphone remembered the numbers I'd dialed, and I had a photocopy of the guidebook page I'd used, so we quickly figured out that I'd called the hotel listed just above Haus Peters. I called them again to make sure the room was still being held, Frau Peters gave us a little map, and we were on our way (only three blocks).
We arrived at the second hotel (having fought our way past a massive beer fest) to find it was run by a very nice British expatriate. He was all set to give us the key to room 12 when a young waiter walked by, laden with plates. "Room 12 is occupied," he said. "But," protested the proprietor, "it's reserved for the Künnings!". No luck. The youth hadn't checked the master reservations board before renting the room. Only a much smaller room was available, with profuse apologies and a reduced rate. "I don't know where we'll put your daughter, though." "Don't worry," I replied, "Xandie loves sleeping on the floor." At this point, Xandie (bless her soul) literally started jumping up and down, shouting "Sleep on the floor! Sleep on the floor!" Reluctantly, still sure he was mistreating us, he let us have Room 17. The next morning, he told us that his wife had chewed him out up and down for putting a little girl on the floor, "and she's even crammed under the sink!", but we had an absolutely wonderful stay, and Xandie loved sleeping on the floor. (To her, it's like camping out.)
Our second day was spent at the Ehrenberg ruins in Austria. I have a separate Web page about that, because this one is already fairly long.
On the third day, we were to catch a bus to Oberammergau, where we would visit yet another of King Ludwig's castles. I hadn't been able to buy bus tickets in Karlsruhe, so I went to the train station the night before to get them. "Sorry, we don't sell bus tickets. You have to buy them on the bus." OK, we could handle that, but which bus? I hadn't written it down, thinking that it would be on the ticket I planned to buy. Big mistake.
Looking at the bus schedule, I spotted one departure at the correct time, and with a familiar-sounding destination. We waited for the bus to arrive. But it wasn't direct; where and when would our next bus leave? Good question. We were all starting to get a bit nervous when I remembered that my cellphone had a Web browser that I hadn't tried. Sure enough, it had a direct link to Deutsche Bahn's web site and scheduling pages. Using the site from a phone was clumsy, but about 3 minutes before the bus arrived, I found the listing. We were about to get on the wrong bus! We quickly regrouped, found the right one, and managed to get to Oberammergau safely (with the help of a friendly driver who hopped off her own bus to make sure we got onto the second one).
At Oberammergau, we visited another of Mad Ludwig's famous palaces, Linderhof. The luxury and opulence of this place are indescribable. Ludwig (a big Wagner fan) had a completely artifical cave built so that he could float in a swan boat and listen to performances of arias. The grounds are massive; we didn't actually manage to cover everything in the three hours we had. There is a fountain that is operated from dammed water on a hill far above the palace; like Old Faithful, it shoots twice every hour, higher than the palace itself. A hunting lodge with scenes from Wagner and a Moroccan "kiosk" add to the sense of fantasy. Apparently Ludwig used to sit in the kiosk and smoke his water pipe (hmmm...I wonder what?) while his servants dressed in Arab costumes, fanned him, and read to him from 1001 Arabian Nights.
Throughout the trip, Pat kept pointing to things and saying, "You could build that in our back yard!" She now has enough ideas to keep me busy for a century.
At the end of the day, we caught a bus back to the tiny little train station. With an hour to kill, we grabbed a biergarten lunch, then climbed aboard for the journey back to Karlsruhe. Along the way we discovered that reserving a "non-smoking" train seat in Germany is sort of like the old "non-smoking" sections in restaurants: your neighbor isn't smoking, but somebody 10 feet away is, and there isn't necessarily a partition. We gritted our teeth, read Harry Potter V, and got home exhausted but elated.
Three days later we headed off to England to see Pat's relatives.
Up to Adventures in Karlsruhe.
© 2004, Geoff Kuenning
This page is maintained by Geoff Kuenning.