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We did one road trip in France when my mom came to visit, and it was time to do another one, with just the two of us.
With great advice from our friends over at Bruised Passports we chose the German Alpine Road in Bavaria – a 280 mile stretch through the Bavarian Alps starting with Konigsee in the East and ending with Lake Constance in the West.
We only had 4 days though, so had to settled on conquering only the western part of the route.
This being Germany and all we just assumed we’d be getting a German car – BMW, Mercedes, Audi, any of those would suffice.
What do we get stuff with? The good ol’ American Ford.
We rented the car in Munich, hitting the highway and merging onto the Alpine Road route in Kochel. Our first stop was Walchensee, a small village on the lake where we had some lunch.
Then it was on to Mittenwald, a small village with a history of violin making. We took a stroll through the center, admiring the artwork on the various Baravian style houses and shops.
We even got a peek at the mountains in the background.
For the night we stopped in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. To cut costs on the driving tour we decided to couchsurf each night and on our first night we stayed with an American contractor working at the military base there. We lives in a 3 story house all by himself we we got an entire floor to ourselves, with our own bedroom and bathroom — better conditions than in a nearby hostel or hotel I presume.
Driving Time Day 1 : 2-2.5 hours
We started the day with a tour through the center of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which in fact is not one but two towns, combined into one by Hitler in order to qualify for the 1936 winter Olympics. We walked around in awe of the historical and religious paintings on the buildings. The level of detail truly is incredible.
Slightly outside of town there is an even more impressive attraction – the Partnachklamm – a deep gorge that has been formed by a mountain stream. It’s amazing to walk through and see the full force and power of nature in action.
The real highlight of the day was in our next destination though, the small village of Ettal. Though there isn’t much to see around town, the star attraction is the impressive Ettal Abbey, a Benedictine monastery of more than 50 monks.
The monastery is also home to a pleasant cafe where you can sample the monastery’s own beer and dairy products. We settled on a lunch of rye bread, cheese, butter and beers.
Simply yet rich in flavors.
The rest of the day we made a couple side trips, first to Oberammergau, yet another stunning Bavarian town, and then to the Schloss Linderhoff.
We hoped to just driving up to the parking lot for the Schloss Linderhof and see the castle from there. Unfortunately the castle itself is a walk away, so while Dave guarded the car I ran off, in search of at least a glimpse of the castle.
Quite frankly, I simply ran right past it, somehow just missing it in all it’s splendor. I did snap a quick photo of my way back though.
For our second night we stopped in Fussen, where we couchsurfed with a German Chinese couple with a young child. The two of them are travelers at heart and a few years ago they completed a motorcycle journey across China. Following the adventure the woman authored two books which sold thousands in China. Incredible. They continue to travel and even couchsurfer with their young daughter as well.
Day Two Driving Time: 2-2.5 hours
Day three started with a viewing of the epic Neuschwanstein Castle. The small city of Fussen with only 10,000 residents sees over 1,000,000 visitors each year thanks to the magical Disney like castle. The castle truly is as impressive as you can imagine. It is simply enchanting, and you can see why people flock to it from all over the world. Tickets can be bought online a few days in advance or you risk waiting in line for hours.
From there a short drive brought us to Nesselwang, our lunch stop. German cuisine is full of meat and pork dishes and here we tried out first pork knuckle dish. Outstanding. The meat was so tender, just falling off the bone.
Next stop was Immenstadt, mostly for a stroll but and though the town is picturesque our memories of it will be forever tainted by the unfortunately overpriced and flavorless ice cream we mistakenly bought there. Well, at least lunch was a hit.
Our last stop for the day was Lindau a city on the shores of Lake Constance (which we saw from the Austrian side when we were in Bregenze just months earlier). The small town can be explored on foot and be sure to relax on the shores of the lake itself. Be careful with the ATMs in town. After dinner we realized we didn’t have enough cash to pay and the restaurant wouldn’t accept our cards, so I ran around town trying every ATM I could find, only to be declined time after time. By the time I finally was able to withdraw some money, I had completed an introductory tourist loop around the area, and Dave was starting to get anxious stares back at the restaurant.
That night we couchsurfed with a French German couple who made us dinner and treated us to a variety of local beers.
Day Three Driving Time: 2-2.5 hours
Though technically the German Alpine Road ends in the west with Lindau, our road trip kept going. We had a few more town to check off our list. We started with Friedrichshafen, another town on the shores of Lake Constance, but one with interesting set of museums. We picked one to visit, and went with the Zeppelin Museum, a subject I knew nothing about.
Afterwards we drove past the scenic town of Meersburger, where I desperately wanted to stop in and run through the mini alleyways and charming streets. Unfortunately after driving around for 45 minutes we declared that it was absolutely impossible to find a parking spot anywhere in the vicinity and had to drive on to the next stop. If you have a chance though make sure to stop here!
As a recommendation from our couchsurfing hosts, our next stop was Unteruhldingen a town with an open air museum (Pfahblau Museum) displaying reconstructions of Neolithic and Bronze Age structures. Going to visit Sturbridge Village on a class trip in elementary school was the highlight of the entire school year for me so I knew I would love visiting this re-creation as well (and I did – while Dave enjoyed himself just as much -by lazily napping in the car).
Our road trip came to an end in the destination of Freiburg, where we couchsurfed with a young German girl, who went above and beyond to make us feel at home. She prepared a delicious dinner for us, took us out to meet her brother and best friend, and the following morning made us breakfast and sandwiches for the road. It never ceases to amaze me how hospitable couchsurfers really are.
Day Four Driving Time: 2.5-3 hours
Overall we had an awesome 4 days driving along the German Alpine Road. The views are incredible, with mountains and lakes everywhere you go, and the villages are beyond charming. We met some great couchsurfers along the way and would highly recommend taking a few days to road trip through Bavaria.