Over the kids’ school break in October, we took a road trip through Austria, Germany & France. Matt’s parents joined us and together the eight of us drove 500+ miles in a 9-passenger van through three countries.
Matt navigated and I drove; traveling the mountain passes through the Alps in the snow in a giant manual-transmission van is not something I’ll ever forget. It was just a tiny bit stressful, but the views were worth it (although I didn’t see all of them as I was white-knuckle driving with my eyes glued to the tractor trailer filled with timber in front of us). It was really fun to have Matt’s parents along for the trip too – they’d never been to Austria or Germany and it was good for them to see the kids in traveling-action!
We started off in Salzburg, Austria but made a side trip just over the border into Germany to visit Kehlsteinhaus – Hitler’s Eagles Nest – atop a mountain near Obersalzberg. A harrowing bus ride up the side of a mountain on roads with essentially no guard rails brought us to the lower level of the mountain fortress.
We took an elevator ride up through the center and came out at the top of the world.
While we were eating lunch in the rooftop restaurant, our clear views disappeared and a snow storm rolled in. It was amazing to see how quickly the weather changed.
That night we had dinner in the oldest restaurant in the world, called St. Peter Stiftskulinarium. It has been in operation continuously since 803 A.D. (There is a restaurant in China that contests the “oldest” claim, saying that they have been in operation for 6 years longer. However the Chinese restaurant has some gaps in their paperwork, while the Austrian restaurant can prove continuous operation with no gaps for over 1200+ years.)
The food was amazing and we found the kids all have a strong affinity for wiener schnitzel. The experience was incredible, and Salzburg was lovely.
Before leaving Salzburg the next day, we did a little self-guided tour of some of the locations from the Sound of Music. I would have loved to have done the real tour, but they were quite long and pretty expensive and not every member of our traveling party is quite as obsessed with the movie as I am (although Gabe is, so at least I have one partner to sing Do-Re-Mi and dance around with).
As we drove from Austria toward Germany, we stopped with a plan to hike Lammerklamm Gorge. The rain and cold made the hike a little treacherous though, so we didn’t quite make it all the way to our destination. Instead, we managed a shortened walk in the rainy Alpine forest that, while damp, was gorgeous nonetheless.
I was itching to keep going, but common sense won out and we cut the hike short. If (when) I ever get back to Austria, though, completing that hike is at the top of my to-do list.
We continued on to Fussen, Germany, a town near Neuchwanstein Castle. Neuchwanstein is a destination I’d wanted to see for years and years and I’d built it up in my head so much that I was actually nervous that it couldn’t live up to my expectations.
I needn’t have worried; it was magical. A horse-drawn carriage ride up the mountainside brought us to the castle entrance and we took a guided tour.
One of the things I’ve loved most about our European travels is watching the kids on these sort of tours; they listen and learn and soak it up and get excited about random things and it’s like every hard bit of parenting becomes worth it as you watch them just immersed in history and different cultures. Watching them is more fun than the tour itself.
Outside the castle we walked some of the trails and took in the insane scenery.
We made our way onto the Marienbrucke – a bridge over the gorge surrounding the castle. It was wobblier than I would have liked but it was worth the view.
There were tons of trails that led over the mountains, down into the valley below, and all over the countryside – we had no idea or we would have planned for more time to explore them!
Next: Tegelberg, Stuttgart & Colmar!