Alpine Adventure- Part IV
Monday, July 18,2016- Rothenburg to Muenchen
We were all assembled and rolling by 8 A.M. We were travelling down the “Romantic Highway.” Created in the 1950’s, it is a route passing through a series of medieval villages and ethnic centers that runs some 350 KM from North to South in Germany.
Whatever the name, all highways in Deutschland are the “autobahn.” That means buses are restricted to 120 KPH. Cars can go any speed they can manage. It wasn’t unusual to see some high powered Porsche roar by us like we were standing still. Of course, you would soon see their taillights flash because it is only a two lane road and not everyone wants to drive that fast. We were also to encounter what the Germans call “Die Stau.” It is a twenty-mile long traffic jam that moves very slowly.
The valleys here are green and rolling. Neatly ordered farms bespeck the hillsides. It is a region for growing hops, corn and oats. It is also a region that produces beer and wine, which the Germans consume with great vigor. We crossed into the Tauber River Valley headed to the medieval town of Rothenburg.
A huge fortress dominates the head of the valley, with the village attached behind it. From the fortress, we could look out over the vast Tauber Valley and admire the countryside. A formal gardens was attached to it. As attractive as the village is, there is of course a dark side. 450 people of the Jewish Faith had been penned in a tower in 1215 and then burned to death after being accused of stealing communion wafers. It wasn’t an area that tolerated differences. In later city and town visits, in the entire mid European region, we were to learn that whatever the local baron, lord or King chose for a religion became the official religion of all the people of the area. Those not so inclined were encouraged and assisted in vacating the town, some times forcibly. This practice was the reason for the Thirty years War that ravaged the area. An earthquake destroyed the castle in 1356. It had been rebuilt in its current form.
We walked through the cobbled stoned streets, admiring the half-timber houses so characteristic of the period. The village is a Christmas (Weinachten) center on steroids. The “Weinachsdorf” is a Christmas store with everything imaginable for sale to decorate homes, trees and personna. We admired the many glistening ornaments, woodcarvings and ahiny baubles on sale. The village has an official Christmas season. People from all over the region come here to celebrate Weinachten.
It was hot and in the 80’s (F). We found a wonderful little bakery shop in the main town square (Markplaz.) “The Markplaz Eight” served us up some warm apfel strudel, with a warm vanilla sauce and cappuccino that were exquisite.
At 1:00 P.M. we all gathered in the Markplaz. Two stories above us, at the crack of one P.M., carved wooden figures started emerging from the wall above, accompanied by music. The diorama reenacted a local legend where a conquering Swedish General offered the town a deal. If someone could drink four flagons of wine, the town would be spared, The locals apparently managed well enough. When I saw the size of the flagon, I thought “ Hell this would last the first hour in a South Buffalo tavern. “ Four of them wouldn’t last much longer.
This raised the topic of another odd practice, after drinking water and coffee all morning. It literally governed our movements. Most rest stops in this region, as well as Austria, Switzerland and Italy, charge a fee for using the restrooms. In years past, it used to be a little dish that you tossed a coin onto. Nowadays, it is a metal stile that issues you a ticket after you pay from 50 to 70 cents. There are no exceptions, unless you find the occasional rest stop with “frei washrooms.” So we all learned to carry one of two half-euro coins on us daily. Even at a McDonald’s, you needed a code from your purchase to access the rest room. I muttered to the Aussies ruefully that we could be rich if we started this practice in an American gin mill, If they didn’t shoot you first that is.
We took a small back road, headed south. The “Castle Road” passed through a bucolic farmland of neatly ordered fields. We were headed towards Augsburg, passing through rustic villages like Dinkklesburg. Augsburg had first been founded by the Romans in 15 B.C. and named Augustus. It was linked directly to Rome by the Via Claudia. The entire area was rich in underground salt deposits. This “white gold” was to fuel much of the Bavarian and early Austrian economies.
Near there, we passed through a geographical oddity at Reisbayern. Millions of years past, a huge asteroid had struck the area forming a bowl shaped depression some 20 km across. Nordlingen village now sits in the center of the depression. That must have been some meteorite. As a parenthetical, we saw entire acres of solar energy hookup and many units attached to the roofs of homes in the valley. They are extremely eco-conscious when it comes to energy.
We rejoined the autobahn, headed for the Bavarian provincial capitol of Muenchen (Munich). It was of interest to be because my Mother’s grandparents had left here in the mid 1800’s to come to America. They were printers and carried the trade into Buffalo with them, as Kiesling Press.
Munich has many attributes but is most known for the ”Oktoberfest” Celebration. Started in 1810, to commemorate the marriage of Ludwig I and his wife Teresa, it is now an international beer drinking fest. Millions of visitors come to the city in late September, wearing lederhosen and native garb to celebrate their heritage. Massive tents, that seat thousands, are set up on a fairgrounds with tables and chairs. Singing, dancing and the consumption of large quantities of beer mark the celebration. They even have a “trunken corpse “ tent where those too inebriated to move are left to sleep off the celebration.
We passed through the Marienplaz, the central square of Munich. Vendors of all types mingled with stroller, shoppers and sunbathers. Bicycles seemed to be everywhere. We passed by the old City Sedndlinger gate and the Victualers Market that offers farm products, food, beer and everything else for sale. Near the Isar River, which flows through Munich, we settled into the Holiday Inn. It sits right next to extensive urban parkland named the English Garden. We off loaded our gear, tired with the day’s travels.
Mary and I decided to try a nearby street-side café called the “Kirr Royal.” You never know when you try a new place. This one turned out to be a keeper. We had the "special," which consisted of a plate of grilled perch, giant grilled prawns, and scallops over a medley of frilled vegetables. Wunderbar! It was one of the best dinners we were to have while traveling. It is here where we encountered the waitress who dreamed of coming to the U.S.
After dinner, we walked over to the bridge spanning the Isar River. Throngs of people were sitting in the cafes and restaurants. It was a warm, nice night to be out and about.
But, it had been a long day and we were tired. We returned to the hotel, where we enjoyed a decent glass of a German Merlot. I wrote up my notes and settled in, dreaming of cuckoo clocks and beer gardens in this most colorful of German cities.
Joseph Xavier Martin