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Flying Buccaneer May 16, 09 9:48 am

Germany: Driving the Romantic Road and Rhine Valley
My previous trip reports, in case anyone is interested :) :

My First Trip to Turkey - How It Came About - Where I'm Going June 2008
Going to California, and We're... July 2008
Istanbul and Amsterdam to End 2008 and Start 2009

To burn some more of my remaining UA miles, Mr. FB and I decided to plan a week-long trip to someplace where F award seats across the Atlantic were available. So we started looking last November, and we chose Germany. Here's the itinerary we were able to book:

Saturday, May 16, 2009
UA 825 Depart TPA 8:53 p.m., Arrive IAD 11:08 a.m.
UA 946 Depart IAD 5:48 p.m., Arrive BRU 7:30 a.m.

Sunday, May 17, 2009
LH 4601 Depart BRU 8:45 a.m., Arrive MUC 10:05 a.m.

Monday, May 25, 2009
LH 4620 Depart FRA 8:00 a.m., Arrive AMS 9:05 a.m.
UA 947 Depart AMS 12:20 p.m., Arrive IAD 2:47 p.m.
UA 704 Depart IAD 5:35 p.m., Arrive TPA 7:58 p.m.

The TATL flights were confirmed in F, the LH flights in C, and TPA-IAD flights in the remnants of Ted.

Our original plan was to visit a friend/former colleague in Berlin, but the more research we did, the more we realized that renting a car in MUC and driving to FRA would be a better way to spend a week.

I am usually the control-freak trip planner, but somehow I ignored much of the planning for this trip during the past 5 months. Other than booking a few hotel nights, I left the itinerary within Germany to Mr. FB. I didn't start reading about the places we would visit until the beginning of May, and now I am excited.

The itinerary, briefly

Our plan is to spend Sunday afternoon and Monday morning exploring Munich. Then we will pick up a car and drive to Füssen and spend a couple of nights there. Next, we will drive north along the Romantic Road for the next two days, stopping in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Würzburg. We will meet Mr. FB's parents' flight from LHR at FRA on Friday morning, and they will join us as we explore the Rhine Valley. We drop off the car on Sunday, May 24 at FRA and fly home the next day.

The trip begins

When we arrived at TPA this morning, the UA ticket counters were wide open, so there was no wait. Because the UA flight to IAD had become a two-cabin plane, the UA agent was able to confirm seats 1C and 1D for us. Yay! We flew through security, and we decided to spend our time at Airside E in the Delta Sky Club.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

United Airlines 825
Scheduled Departure/Arrival: 8:53 a.m/11:08 a.m.
Actual Departure/Arrival: 8:40 a.m./10:50 a.m.
Seats 1C and 1D

We left the Sky Club at 8:20, and by the time we arrived at gate E-75, boarding was already underway. The red carpet allowed us to bypass the line and get aboard quickly. We stored our bags, took our seats and settled in. The FA offered and served pre-departure drinks, and at 8:35 a.m. the gate agent indicated that everyone was aboard. All 12 seats in F were occupied, and Y looked about 3/4 full. A little before 8:40 a.m., the door closed and we pushed back soon after that.

This was my first UA flight in F from TPA since May 2004. Actually, there was another time: November 14, 2006, when a UA A319 made an appearance in TPA. For breakfast, we had a choice of cheese omelet or fruit plate. We both took the omelet, which was served with 2 yukon gold potatoes, two sausage links, pineapple and grapes, cheese and crackers, and a croissant. The FA was outstanding, and it was nice to start our trip with someone besides Ted!

A cockpit announcement at 10:10 a.m. told us that we were a little south of RDU, and 20 minutes later it was time to prepare the cabin for landing. We touched down at 10:45 a.m. and reached our gate about five minutes later. Faced with nearly 7 hours until our departure to BRU, we decided to head to the International F Lounge to take care of some work-related emails, do a little more research for our trip, and relax.

Flying Buccaneer May 17, 09 2:26 am

Hello from Brussels!
Saturday, May 16

United Airlines 950
Scheduled Departure/Arrival 5:48 p.m./7:30 a.m.
Actual Departure/Arrival 6:18 p.m./8:02 a.m.
Seats 1E and 1F

At 5:03 p.m., we heard an announcement that our flight was boarding. We finished what we were doing and headed toward gate C-1. When we got there, we realized the flight was not boarding. After about 15 minutes, I asked a GA if she knew what the delay was. She explained that the ramp was closed due to lightning in the area.

With a 75-minute connection in BRU, any delay could cause problems. However, I understood the reason, and it's not like anyone could do anything about it. On the other hand, someone could have done something about the stifling heat at gate C-1. There was no ventilation whatsoever. Another reason to hate IAD!

Around 5:35 p.m., another GA arrived and announced that the ramp was open, and boarding started about a minute later. We boarded and settled into our seats. Mr. FB immediately asked, "What's the stuff you use to clean vinyl?" I had no idea, but all I could think of was Oxy-Clean. (Those Billy Mays commercials must be effective.) I wasn't sure what he was getting at until he pointed to the stains on the armrest between our seats.

The movies were sitting in front of our seats, so we had first choice. I took Australia, something I had been meaning to see for awhile. A FA came around with juice, champagne, and water. Then she passed through the aisles with newspapers. Another FA took meal orders, asked if we wanted to buy duty free, and asked if we wanted to be awakened for breakfast service.

We pushed back at 6:18 p.m. and sat there for awhile. I decided to listen to Channel 9 to see what was going on. Closing the ramp had created quite a few delays, and some planes were being instructed to shut down their engines. After our delay, the moved briskly past a long line of planes and took off at 6:39 p.m.

Once we were "comfortably airborne," I started the movie. Because it was nearly 2.5 hours long, I knew I should start watching ASAP if I wanted to get any sleep. The FAs started service very quickly, serving warmed nuts and taking drink orders.


First Course

Warm jumbo lump crab and shiitake mushroom
Monterey Jack cheese and jalapeno creme fraiche

Slowly braised shredded pork and caramelized onions
Cherry strewn wild rice, marjoram and a pecan balsamic vinaigrette

Roasted red pepper and smoked Gouba bisque

Fresh seasonal greens with red teardrop tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, kalamata olives and seasoned croutons
Served with your choice of dressing: Creamy Caesar or Asian Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette

main course
Roasted Beef Tenderloin and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Kalamata olive and eggplant strewn quinoa

Zucchini and Phyllo Wrapped Chevre
Roasted hazelnuts and a balsamic vinegar and shallot reduction

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Yuzu Miso Vinaigrette
Sweet potato pie and sauteed spinach

Pomegranate Glazed Duck Breast
Jasmine cashew rice and Chinese broccoli with baby carrots


Ice Cream
With your choice of sundae toppings: hot fudge, caramel, mixed berries, toasted almonds and whipped cream

Cheese Selection
Served with red grapes and crackers
St. Pete's Blue – Faribault Dairy in Minnesota is where the award winning Amablu St. Pete's Select blue cheese is handmade in small batches, then cured and aged in the historical St. Peter sandstone caves along the Straight River
4 Year Cheddar – Widmer's Aged Cheddars have won many blue ribbon awards at the local, state, and national level. This cheddar is known for its intense cheddar flavor without all the bitterness associated with most aged cheddars
St. Rocco Triple Creme – A buttery, creamy, full flavor cheese with a subtle fruity, mildly tangy-earthen mushroom note. It is handcrafted by a master cheesemaker in the heart of Michigan wine country

The appetizer was interesting. The pork was dry and the flavor of the crabmeat seemed a little off. Maybe this would have tasted better on the ground. The cherry strewn wild rice things were more like a little cakes or baked fritters. The soup was outstanding though.

We both chose the tenderloin for our main course. The serving size was pretty large for an airline meal, and the beef was cooked medium-well. I would have preferred something on the other side of medium, but it was still good.

After the ice cream, I watched the rest of the movie. Sometime between the ice cream and the end of the movie, we encountered some turbulence that sent a stack of trays crashing. The bouncing lasted for awhile, and there seemed to be a rush of activity among the FAs that was not related to the trays on the floor. Mr. FB asked what was up, and an FA told him everything was OK.

When the movie ended, I put my seat into the bed position and drifted in and out of a 3-hour nap. I awoke in time for...


Canadian Cheddar Cheese Omelette
Sautéed turkey sausage and Canadian bacon

Fresh Seasonal Fruit Plate with Muesli

I had the fruit plate and muesli, but I left the croissant.

We landed in drizzly Brussels at 7:51 a.m., and taxied to the gate. However, we had to wait to be marshaled into the gate, which made our actual arrival time 8:02 a.m. This was really cutting it close for our 8:45 a.m. flight to MUC, and things got worse. As we started to deplane, we were instructed to return to our seats. Apparently, the hubbub during the flight was due to a passenger who had "flu-like symptoms." Given all of the concern over the H1N1 virus, Belgian authorities had to board the plane and take the passenger of the flight.

We finally deplaned at 8:15 a.m., and to make a long story short, lines for immigration and security kept us from getting to the gate by the 8:45 a.m. departure time, much less the 20-minute cutoff. Even without the delay at IAD and a flu scare on our flight, this would have been a difficult 75-minute connection.

Thankfully, we were able to get rebooked on LH 4603, delaying our arrival into MUC by about 2.5 hours. The agent also informed us that we might not have a meal on the flight because of the late moment. We've dealt with worse! We just want to get to MUC... with our bags!

Flying Buccaneer May 17, 09 11:34 pm

Sunday in Munich
Sunday, May 17

Lufthansa 4603
Scheduled Departure/Arrival 11:10 a.m./12:30 p.m.
Actual Departure/Arrival 11:05 a.m./12:12 p.m.
Seats 3A and 2D

It only took a few minutes to walk from the Brussels Airlines lounge, and boarding started a soon after we arrived. We took our seats – only 5 pairs of seats had been blocked for the business cabin, and we were half of the pax in C. After boarding and before push back, the FAs explained, very apologetically, that no meals had been boarded for me or Mr. FB. We told them we understood. I guess if we had been hungry, it would have made a difference. Looking back, isn’t 2+ hours enough time to load a couple more meals?

I was quite happy with the cheese sandwich that the Y pax were served, and I really enjoyed looking out the window once we escaped the cloud cover of Belgium. We crossed the Rhine at Karlsruhe and flew over Stuttgart. The lack of cloud cover over Germany made for great views.

We landed at 12:07 p.m., less than an hour after we took off from BRU, and taxied to our stopping point for the next five minutes. A bus took us the rest of the way to the terminal. Because the plane was so small, the wait for our bags was brief, and we walked through customs. After figuring out the machines, we bought tickets into the city. The S-8 was waiting for us, and a half-hour later, we were at our hotel – the Hilton Munich City.

That’s not entirely true. We were at the Rosenheimer Platz Station, which, according to the directions on Hilton’s website:

Get off the train at the Rosenheimer Platz station
and follow the signs for the hotel, which is situated directly
above the station.

meant that the hotel was just above us. All we had to do was follow the signs. However, there were no signs for the hotel. And “directly above the station” meant going outside, looking for Rosenheimerstrasse, and finding the hotel about a block away.

The check-in was fast, and we had been upgraded to an executive floor room. We took our bags upstairs, showered, looked longingly at the bed, and took the short train ride into central Munich for an afternoon of exploration. We arrived at Marienplatz and oriented ourselves. That wasn’t too difficult, because the Old City Hall was the first thing we saw when we ascended the escalator. Then we saw the New City Hall.

The first order of business was to find a place to eat lunch. It was a beautiful day, so we wanted to eat outside. We also wanted our first meal to be German. We went to a place called Nurnburger Bratwurst Glockl am Dom. We didn’t know the name of the place until we sat down, but the tables looked inviting under the trees and in the shadow of Frauenkirch.

I ordered 6 of the Nurnburgers (small pork sausages) with horseradish, and Mr. FB had the beer soup. We also ordered a side of spaetzle. Of course, we each had a beer, and we enjoyed pretzels from the bread basket while we waited for our food to arrive. The spicy-sweet mustard on the table was delicious with the pretzels, and the Nurnburgers. I dipped pieces of the sausage into the mustard and then into the shredded horseradish. It was a great combination of flavors.

We ate our food, drank our beers, paid our bill, and realized we were exhausted. We didn’t want to return to the room, but we had about four hours to explore Munich before we were supposed to rendezvous with someone from Tampa whom we accidentally discovered was headed to Munich for business on Saturday. Small world! Our plan was to meet at the Hofbrauhaus at 7:00 p.m. We decided to go to the Residenz Museum, but when we got there, we realized we didn’t really want to spend an hour or two in a museum. I was afraid that if I saw a bed in there, I might be tempted to climb into it. Not a good way to start a trip. Instead, we walked around for a bit longer.

Around 5:30 p.m., Mr. FB suggested that he call our fellow Tampanian to see if we could get together before 7. Incredibly, we ran into him, his son, and his mother about 5 minutes later! Really small world! They were tired too, so it was easy to convince them to go to the Hofbrauhaus then instead of later.

The inside of the Hofbrauhaus was deserted, but there was only one free table in the courtyard. We grabbed it and Mr. FB and I ordered more beer. These were one liter mugs! I was not hungry, but my spouse wanted to try the weiswurst or “white sausages.” Because he does not eat pork, these veal sausages are probably the only type of sausage he can have in Germany. When the waitress came a little later with what looked like a soup tureen, we thought she had made a mistake. It was no mistake; there were two white links in hot water. She showed him how to eat them; who knew there was work involved? He gave them the “thumbs up.”

Around 7:00 p.m., our original planned meeting time, the music started playing. But all of us were exhausted from our travels. (Mr. FB and I had also had 1.5 liters of beer in the past five hours!) We paid our bill and wished our friends a great stay in Munich. We headed back to the hotel, and as soon as our bodies hit the bed, we were asleep.

sobore May 18, 09 7:35 am

Nice report. Not many glitches during the trip. ^

Bob'sYourUncle May 18, 09 7:57 am

Originally Posted by Flying Buccaneer (Post 11765137)
That’s not entirely true. We were at the Rosenheimer Platz Station, which, according to the directions on Hilton’s website:

Get off the train at the Rosenheimer Platz station
and follow the signs for the hotel, which is situated directly
above the station.

meant that the hotel was just above us. All we had to do was follow the signs. However, there were no signs for the hotel. And “directly above the station” meant going outside, looking for Rosenheimerstrasse, and finding the hotel about a block away.

Actually, you probably took the wrong exit. At the other end of the platform, there should be another exit that is much closer to the hotel.

violist May 18, 09 8:32 am

Nurnburger Bratwurst Glockl am Dom
I enjoy this place for its food and atmosphere, but its greatest
significance is historical.

SFflyer123 May 18, 09 9:00 am

Any pictures?

Flying Buccaneer May 18, 09 1:57 pm

Monday (Part 1): Munich to Linderhof
After we passed out from exhaustion around 8:00 p.m., the jetlag hit. I awoke briefly at 9:00 p.m. and again a little before midnight. I think I fell back to sleep around 2:00 a.m., and slept soundly until the alarm went off at 7:00 a.m. We wanted to explore Munich a little more before leaving, so we had breakfast and checked email (and posted a trip report) in the lounge, packed, and got ready. It was after 9:00 a.m. when we left the hotel, but we really only wanted to see the Viktualienmarkt. We spent some time walking among the shops selling fresh breads, fruit, spargel, meats, cheeses, honey, crafts… you get the idea. After we had had our fill of looking, but not buying, we walked around Marienplatz some more. At 11:30 a.m., we headed back to our hotel, retrieved our bags, and took the train to the airport to pick up our car.

We had originally planned to rent from Hertz in the city, but reading FT convinced us that it would be easier to do so from the airport. Also, we decided to go with Avis instead, mainly because Hertz was going to charge us €50 extra for a GPS (on top of the daily fee) because we would be dropping off the car at FRA. Not only did Avis not charge a drop-off fee for the GPS, but also its daily charge for GPS rental was one-third that of Hertz.

We approached the Avis Preferred counter, and the process was a breeze. We showed our licenses, got Mr. FB on the contract, and walked to the garage to pick up our car. We had reserved a Mercedes C-Class Automatic, so being upgraded to a Mercedes S320 was a nice surprise. While having a larger car can be a disadvantage, the extra space will come in handy when we pick up Mr. FB’s parents on Friday. In addition, having a diesel-powered vehicle is a bonus in a country where diesel fuel is about €0.25/litre less than regular gasoline.

While I took the time to acclimate myself to the vehicle and adjust the seats and mirrors, my spouse entered our first destination – Schloss Linderhof – into the navigation system. With one stop for lunch, we made it to Linderhof at about 3:00 p.m. The tour of King Ludwig’s small palace took only about 20 minutes, but everything about it was impressive. Ornate does not begin to describe the place, and Ludwig’s obsession with Louis XIV was obvious.

At the recommendation of the guide we walked up to the grotto and waited for the 4:00 p.m. tour. This man-made cave also served as a performance hall, and was reportedly the first place in Bavaria to get electricity. It was worth the walk uphill, and afterward we were able to get some great pictures of the palace and surrounding area.

Flying Buccaneer May 18, 09 2:02 pm

Monday (Part 2): Linderhof - Wies (via Austria) - Fussen
Our next stop was the small village of Wies, where we planned to visit Wieskirche. We put Wies into the GPS and started driving. After about 15 minutes, we noticed something that looked like a minus sign in a circle on the nav system in the center of the road. That minus sign was a border. Why were we headed into Austria? Apparently, there’s more than one Wies in Bavaria, and we were being routed through Ruette, Austria and back into Germany to get to one of the other ones. Just across the border in Austria, we discontinued the guidance and asked the nav system to take us to Rottenbuch, a town close to Wies. Later we realized that the nav system would not take us to the Wies we wanted, but it would let us input Wieskirche was a point of interest. So after an unintended visit to Austria, we ended up at Wieskirche around 5:45 p.m. I had read that this church was one of the best examples of Rococo architecture in Germany, and I was fascinated by the fact that a church like this was out in the middle of nowhere. It was worth the visit, even with the detour through another country!

(I tried to insert a picture of Wieskirche's interior, but it didn't work. Here is a link.)

Finally, it was time to drive to Fussen, the town where we are spending the next two nights. The drive was pretty uneventful, but about 12 km outside of Fussen, we had to take a detour due to road work. This took us about 6 km out of the way, but we got to travel along the shores of Forggensee. We got into Fussen, found our hotel, and checked in. The Hotel Sonne was one of the hotels in Fussen that was recommended by Rick Steeves and other guidebooks. Its location in the center of Fussen was a reason to choose it, and the last-minute rate of €109 per night including breakfast, parking, and wired internet was pretty attractive too! Although I am reluctant to stay somewhere I can’t use status and get points, we are happy with the Sonne so far!

After a visit to a local market to get water (and a few Ritter Sports!) and dinner at a nearby Doner café, we came back to the room and relaxed. It’s almost time for bed, and we look forward to exploring Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau tomorrow.

Flying Buccaneer May 18, 09 2:06 pm

Originally Posted by Bob'sYourUncle (Post 11766346)
Actually, you probably took the wrong exit. At the other end of the platform, there should be another exit that is much closer to the hotel.

We used that exit after the first time (the one that comes up near the Deloitte offices), but we still never saw Hilton signs in the station.

Flying Buccaneer May 18, 09 2:07 pm

Originally Posted by SFflyer123 (Post 11766696)
Any pictures?

I had hoped to insert two today, but I was only able to insert one. The other is linked. More to come!

Flying Buccaneer May 19, 09 12:25 pm

Fussen: Castles and Spargel!
Jetlag struck back on Monday night. I went to sleep a little after 11:00 p.m., and I awoke at 3:00 a.m. Unfortunately, I never went back to sleep. At least Tuesday was not planned to be a long driving day.

At 7:00 a.m., I awoke Mr. FB and we went to the breakfast at the Hotel Sonne. The variety of juices, breads, pastries, spreads, cheeses, meats, fruits, and cereals, as well as the eggs (three types), bacon, and sausage ensured that there would be something for everyone. It was all well-presented, fresh, and plentiful. By 8:00 a.m. we were back in our room and getting ready for our visit to Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. The parking lots for the castles were about five minutes by car from our hotel. We parked and bought tickets for both castles. It was 8:55 a.m. and our entrance times for Hohenschwangau and Neuscwanstein were 9:55 a.m. and 11:50 a.m., respectively.

The climb to Hohenschwangau looked steep, but it wasn’t that bad.

It took a little more than ten minutes with frequent stops for pictures. That left us lots of time for exploring the grounds, I read that the reason why they leave so much time before and between your tours is to get you to spend money at the shops and kiosks. However, taking pictures of Neuschwanstein (see link), Alpensee, and mountains was more interesting.

Our tour was basically a run-through of Hohenschwangau, but it was spectacular. The furnishings, materials, and views were all off the wow meter. The descent from Hohenschwangau was easier than the climb, but we opted for the bus to Neuschwanstein. The reason we took the bus and not a horse-drawn carriage was not the cost. Instead, it was to be closer to Mary’s Bridge so that we could take pictures of the castle. Unfortunately, the side of the castle facing the bridge was covered with scaffolding. (This seems to happen to me every time I visit a landmark in Europe!)

The tour of Neuschwanstein was more crowded than the one of Hohenschwangau, and just as spectacular. It’s difficult to imagine how much work went into what was completed, and how much more work would have been required to complete it. This time, we did take the carriage down the hill. We were so tired from all of the stairs in both castles that a 30-minute walk down the hill did not appeal to us.

By the time we got back down to the parking lots and ticket office, it was nearly 2:00 p.m. We were starved, and while Fussen was only 5 minutes away, we decided to eat at one of the cafes nearby. I had been craving spargel soup, so when I saw it on a menu, we stopped. I had heard that some restaurants have spargel menus during spargel season, and I didn’t believe it until I saw it for myself.

After a weißbier, some wurst, and a bowl of heavenly spargel crème soup, we returned to the hotel. It was 3:00 p.m., and all I could think of was taking a nap. Mr. FB gave me an hour, and 4:00 p.m. came too quickly. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the charming town of Fussen, taking pictures, and watching the people here. For dinner, I had more spargel, this time grilled in a salad with lettuce, pork medallions, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and dressing. After that, another beer, and a Ritter Sport in the room, I am ready for a good night of uninterrupted (I hope!) sleep.

Tomorrow, we will continue on the Romantic Road, backtracking part of Monday’s route and heading for Rothenberg.

Flying Buccaneer May 20, 09 2:49 pm

Along the Romantic Road to the Danube, and a detour to Nürnberg
We got a pretty late start -- about 10:00 a.m. -- out of Fussen this morning, and somewhere along our drive we altered our plans. We wanted to visit Nürnberg, and decided it would be easier to do so today than tomorrow. First, we made a brief stop in the town of Donauwörth on the Donau (Danube) River and walked around for awhile.

(Sorry. Couldn't get the picture embedded, but here is a link.)

Then we left the Romantic Road and headed northeast to Nürnberg, arriving at the Documentation Center a little before 3:00 p.m. This museum is located on what used to be the rally ground for the Nazi Party, and it follows the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, and Nürnberg's role in that rise. While there are many places you can learn about this, doing so on the site of some of Hitler's biggest and most over the top rallies makes the message even stronger.

Afterward we drove into the city center and explored the area around the Hauptmarkt. Seeing the market stalls still busy at 5:30 p.m. made us imagine what a magical place this must be in late November and December with all of the Christmas markets.

(Once again, I could not embed the picture, but here is a link.)

After a few hours, we decided it was time to call it a day. We got our car and drove just outside of Nürnberg to the suburb of Schwabach. While staying in the city center would have been nice, we want to get an early start tomorrow morning for our delayed visit to Rothenburg. Besides, the Holiday Inn Express' rate of €79 including breakfast, parking, and wifi is pretty sweet!

Flying Buccaneer May 21, 09 1:56 pm

Rothenburg, finally!
The Holiday Inn Express in Schwabach was a real find. Although jetlag hit me again and limited me to six hours sleep, the stay could not have been better, especially considering the rate we paid. After breakfast, we checked out and headed to Rothenburg. It took less than an hour to get there and parking inside the city walls was easy. We walked through the White Tower and explored the Market Square. A band was there playing “traditional” German songs like “Tiger Rag” and “Hello Dolly.” The place was far from deserted, but not so crowded that we had to dodge other visitors.

(A picture of the square can be found at this link.)

We thought that we had found the Imperial City Museum in the back of the Town Hall, so we paid our admission and began the self-guided tour. After we left, we realized that the sign outside that said “Reichsstadt-Museum” was pointing to the left and saying it was about 4 minutes away! We had actually visited the Town Hall Vaults, not quite the same attraction, but a nice stop nevertheless.

We walked in the direction of the Imperial City Museum into a small square and saw St. Jakobskirche. We walked around the church and decided to have lunch before we went inside. We walked to a restaurant called Reichskuchenmeister overlooking the Kirchplatz. Its tables were shaded by a thick canopy of trees that created a nice atmosphere. We seated ourselves and waited about 10 minutes before someone brought menus. About 15 minutes later, someone else took our order. We didn’t mind the wait, because of the warm breezy weather and tranquil setting. I ordered spargel soup and three assorted bratwurst on sauerkraut.

With our bellies full, we explored the church. We surprised ourselves by spending nearly an hour walking through the building and noticing all of its features. This is not one of those churches that you enter, see a spectacular main section, and then get underwhelmed by everything else. The upstairs altar and downstairs altar themselves are more than worth the €2 price of admission.

After the church, we finally went to the Imperial City Museum. This museum contains artifacts – some prehistoric – from the history of Rothenburg and has a small section devoted to the city’s Jewish inhabitants. Seeing the gravestones in the basement was a little disconcerting to Mr. FB, and he placed one of the provided rocks on the top of each one. While we were there, another visitor asked my spouse if he was Jewish, and he said he was. It turns out that the gentleman had grown up in the eastern part of Germany during WWII and his mother had tended the graves of some Jewish women who had been murdered before the war started. The man said that all traces of the cemetery had been wiped away after the war, and people thought he was crazy when he told the story until they began to explore what had happened more closely. It was quite a chance encounter.

After a walk through the Convent Garden and the Castle Gardens, we strolled along Herrngasse and stopped for ice cream and a prolonged session of people watching at one of the sidewalk cafes. While we were there, it rained a bit, but it ended just as we were ready to leave. All that was left were some souvenir shopping and the obligatory purchase of a schneeball. (We could have skipped the latter!)

At nearly 6:00 p.m., we got back to our car and drove toward Würzburg. Less than an hour later, we arrived at the Novotel, exhausted from a long day of exploring without too much driving. The Romantic Road is behind us. The road has many interesting sites and beautiful sights, but it is best to decide what you want to see before driving it and allow time for unexpected pleasures. As it is, we didn’t have time to explore Würzburg (except for dinner!), but we both think Nürnberg was a worthwhile detour.

Tomorrow, we get up early and drive to Frankfurt to pick up Mr. FB’s parents and drive up the Rhine to Köln.

Flying Buccaneer May 23, 09 9:04 am

Friday, May 22: Würzburg to FRA, and down the Rhine to Köln
We had to get an early start on Friday morning in order to get to FRA in time to meet Mr. FB’s parents’ BA flight from LHR. We were up at 7 and out of the hotel by 8. The first part of our ride was dreary, but the sun came out somewhere before Frankfurt.

The S320’s navigation system directed us flawlessly to Terminal 2, but an unsuccessful attempt to find a parking space led us out again. One u-turn later, we tried again and found plenty of spots big enough for our big Mercedes four levels below ground.

After a 45-minute wait, we met my in-laws and headed to the car. They were surprised to see that we had something large enough for them to ride comfortably in the back seat! We got back on the road and headed to the Rhine Valley. We asked the navigation system to take us to Rüdesheim so that we could drive up the east bank of the Rhine. We looked for parking, but the small city was busy. When the nav system directed us up the wrong way on a one-way street, we decided to try the next town.

Assmannshausen was not nearly as busy. In fact, it was almost like a ghost town when we arrived at 11:30 a.m. Parking was easy, so we decided to spend a couple of hours there. We walked along Rheinstrasse and, because none of us had had a proper breakfast, decided to have lunch. We had our pick of restaurants, and we chose the one next to the Hotel Lamm. (I apologize for not writing down the name.) The wiener schnitzel, spargel, and boiled potatoes made up for the lack of a breakfast. A nap next to the swiftly-flowing Rhine would have been perfect, but we had more exploring to do. After a brief walk along the Rhine, we were back in our car and headed north again.

The drive along the Rhine takes you past a series of castles and charming towns. It’s impossible to stop at all of them, and it seemed that most of the places we wanted to visit were on the opposite bank… tomorrow’s drive! Our only other stops today were to see the Loreley statue and to make a rest stop in Kestert. I’m not sure why I wanted to see the Loreley statue, and the 2/3 km walk (each way) on an unevenly cobbled spit was tricky. However, the scenery was hard to beat. The statue itself was not much, but it was funny to see middle-aged men climbing the statue to get their pictures made. The stop in Kestert came about because my in-laws drank too much water in Assmanshausen, but visiting Café am Römer was delightful. The nougat ring – a shortbread-like ring with nougat and chocolate – was sinful.

It was approaching 3:00 p.m., and we decided it was time to get to Köln. The nav system said we would be there at 4:25. The drive progressed as scheduled until we approached Wesseling a little before 4:00. Traffic came to a standstill, all three lanes, and did not move. Over the next two hours, we moved 3 km. We’re not sure what it was, either an accident or a chemical spill. Around 6:00 p.m., we were directed off the A555 at the Godorf exit, just in time for the stretch of road to reopen! Like everyone else on the ramp, we did a u-turn back onto the A555 and were at the Hilton Cologne about 20 minutes later.

We checked into our upgraded deluxe rooms and walked toward the cathedral. Thanks to the delay, we were too late to go inside. That would have to wait until tomorrow, and the walk around gave us an idea of what we have to look forward to.

Walking down the crowded Hohe Strasse helped us realize just how exhausted we were, so we stopped for dinner and reflected on our day. The delay was unfortunate, but it gave us an opportunity to catch up. My father-in-law has been in London for work since the end of 2008, so this was the first time Mr. FB and I had seen him since Thanksgiving. Heading back to the Hilton, we noticed light of the setting sun shining off the cathedral. The magical view was the perfect last sight of the day.

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