Old buddies, beer and Bavaria — second round

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by Theodore Lewis, Severna Park, MD

A little over two years ago, my longtime German friend, Walter, invited me to visit him in Germany and we took a wonderful tour along the Romantic Road (see Jan. ’03, pg. 52). For 2004 he suggested we visit the quaint and colorful towns and cities in another part of Bavaria and also include the charming city of Salzburg in upper Austria.

Making plans

My wife of 43 years (never a cross word) urged me to go alone, since she no longer wants to sit in economy airline seats for eight hours. I e-mailed Walter and we set up a date in May. It would be springtime and the countryside would be in full bloom, the farmers’ fields golden with the crops of rape and green where they had sown spring wheat.

Going online, I searched for a cheap airfare from Baltimore to Frankfurt and found that Northwest Airlines had a promotional fare of $338. The catch was that it departed from Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington, D.C., and I would have to change planes in Detroit both coming and going. For a saving of about $250, I could put up with that.

My flight was on time and I arrived at Frankfurt airport at about 8 a.m. After claiming my one bag, I walked to the train station, which was adjacent to the terminal. I purchased a one-way ticket for the 3-hour trip to Regensburg, where I would meet Walter.

Walter’s friend Renate made me feel right at home. She is a wonderful hostess and a marvelous cook — Auf Wiedersehen, Atkins diet!

Passau

After a day resting up from my flight I was on European time, and we started out on our tour. Walter, the ex-Luftwaffe pilot, sped down the Autobahn to the city of Passau, where we would spend the first night in the Altstadt Hotel (Bräugasse 23-29; visit www.altstadt-hotel.de — €76, or near $99, for a single room), which is situated right on the Danube. In fact, three rivers meet there — the Danube, Inn and Ilz — and I could look out my window at the points of land where they connected.

After checking in, we walked around the Old City, taking in the several large churches and admiring the old buildings. We then took a small bus up to the large, fortified castle above the city. As we entered the gate and walked into the central courtyard, we heard typical Bavarian oompah-pah music, and there on a stage was a dozen or more costumed dancers performing various dances of the region.

The view from the parapets was magnificent on the clear cool spring day.

I should mention that a typical German/Austrian breakfast was included at every hotel in which we stayed. Anyone who has stayed in Germany knows that breakfast can be almost enough to get one through the whole day. I would start off with juice, cereal, yogurt and fruit, then have hard rolls or dark bread and all kinds of cold cuts and cheeses. There were always hard-boiled eggs and many times scrambled eggs, bacon and sautéed mushrooms plus sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, all topped off with pastries and great coffee or tea.

Salzburg

The next morning we strolled across the river and then headed back to the center of the city, just taking it all in.

After lunch we took a tour bus out to Hellbrunn Castle, located outside of Salzburg and known for its trick water fountains that were designed to catch unwary strollers when they passed by.

We continued to Salzburg, where we were shown Mozart’s residence as well as his birthplace and numerous other attractions. The cost of the tour was €33 ($43) and included a Salzburg Card we could use on local transportation as well as for entry to museums and other sites.

Using the card, we rode the funicular up to Festung Hohensalzburg, the largest fortification in Europe and residence of Salzburg’s prince-archbishops. It looms high above the city — and what a magnificent view in all directions can be had on a clear day!

Back on the main square of the Old City, we entered the Dom (cathedral), where we could hear a choir. They were situated to the left of the main altar and all dressed in light blue T-shirts. Walter and I enjoyed several hymns before finding out the choir was from the University of Flagstaff in Arizona! I had come halfway around the globe to hear my fellow Americans sing!

History revealed

Back in Germany, our next stop was Berchtesgaden, where Hitler once met leaders from all over the world. This is where news clips showed Eva Braun and many of the Nazi bigwigs, as well as Mussolini, chatting with Der Führer. At the end of WWII the American army blew up his headquarters, but the bunkers are still there and one can visit them in addition to a museum depicting what went on before, during and after the war. It was interesting to see but left chills running up and down my spine.

Walter had booked us into Hotel Wittelsbach (phone 0 86 52 9 6380 or visit www.hotel-wittelsbach.com — €40 single). Once again he had picked a wonderful place to hang our hats. My room had a balcony and looked out at the mountains in the distance.

A memorable evening

Back in Passau, we took a one-hour tour on one of the many tour boats that depart from there to see the local sights on both the Danube and Inn rivers. After having dinner in our hotel and walking to a nearby café for an after-dinner coffee, we sat outside to enjoy a view of the Danube and noticed a crowd gathering at the church a stone’s throw away.

A male choir dressed in local Bavarian costumes typical of the area sang several hymns, and as dusk turned to night the crowd filed past our table to the riverbank a few feet from us. What happened next was like a fairy tale: hundreds of candles, each in a small boat about five inches long, came drifting down the Danube past us.

Someone informed us that several hundred years ago the church’s priest drowned in the river, and ever since then the local parishioners have performed this ceremony in his memory. How lucky we were to be there on that day to witness it.

After the last of the candles drifted past the town, several fireboats fished the candles out of the river.

Returning to Austria

Our next stop was to visit the town of St. Wolfgang in Austria, which sits on Lake Wolfgang. We stayed at Hotel Peter (phone +43 6138 2304 or e-mail hotelpeter@aon.at — €65 single). My room had a balcony which looked out across the lake and to the mountains surrounding the area. There was still snow on the peaks of some of them.

We walked around the small village, window-shopping and just enjoying the picturesque shops and buildings that have been there for hundreds of years. Once again we had our evening meal at our hotel and then another stroll around the winding streets, which were devoid of the tourists who had departed on their buses, leaving us to enjoy the ambiance in solitary splendor.

Nature’s grandeur

Returning to Salzburg the following morning, I enjoyed the many villages and farmhouses along the way. Upon arrival in the city, we became very frustrated. Well, at least Walter did. The traffic was horrible and the narrow one-way streets made it difficult to find our way to our hotel, which was only a couple of blocks from the city center.

Walter had arranged to have us stay in the center of each town or city on this trip so we could park the car and not have to use it till we left.

We checked into Hotel Kasererbräu (phone +43 662 84 24 45 or visit www.kasererbraeu.at — €75 single), then drove to Königssee. Surrounded by towering rock faces, the lake’s emerald waters reminded me of a Norwegian fjord.

We took a tourist launch, powered by electric batteries to keep the lake pure and clean, to the far end of the lake and passed mighty waterfalls thundering down over the steep rocks.

We got off our launch and were enchanted by the red-roofed St. Johann and Paul Chapel sitting on the banks of the lake with the towering mountain Watzmann in the background. At the east base of the mountain, nature has created an enormous, dome-like ice vault which doesn’t melt even in midsummer. It was grandeur as far as the eye could see!

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped to photograph the small chapel in the village of Ramsau. Artists come from near and far to sketch or paint this church, Walter informed me.

Winding down

Our week in Bavaria and Austria was coming to a close, and our last overnight was at Hotel Luitpold am See (phone +49 8051 609100 or e-mail info@luitpold-am-see.de — €60 single). Located in the town of Prien, it is situated right on Germany’s Chiemsee, the largest lake in Bavaria. The hotel is next to the docks where the tourist boats leave to visit the islands.

We took the paddle-wheel steamer out to the castle built by Bavaria’s legendary King Ludwig II. He purchased the largest island on the lake in 1873 and started to build his “Neues Schloss” (new castle), Herrenchiemsee. He was enamored with King Louis XIV of France, who built Versailles, and decided to build a small replica for himself. He ran out of money before it could be completed, but I was impressed by what had been finished. It was one of the highlights of our tour.

On our way back to Regensburg we stopped briefly at Wasserburg to see the ancient houses in the old part of that interesting city as well as Landshut, which also has many old buildings and churches and an impressive castle high above the city.

Walter once again had done a wonderful job in organizing our tour. How fortunate I am to have such a good friend who also is nice enough to act as a chauffeur and translator. I’m glad we met almost four decades ago. If not, I would never had had the chance to see and enjoy the many towns and cities he has introduced me to.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

by Theodore Lewis, Severna Park, MD

A little over two years ago, my longtime German friend, Walter, invited me to visit him in Germany and we took a wonderful tour along the Romantic Road (see Jan. ’03, pg. 52). For 2004 he suggested we visit the quaint and colorful towns and cities in another part of Bavaria and also include the charming city of Salzburg in upper Austria.

Making plans

My wife of 43 years (never a cross word) urged me to go alone, since she no longer wants to sit in economy airline seats for eight hours. I e-mailed Walter and we set up a date in May. It would be springtime and the countryside would be in full bloom, the farmers’ fields golden with the crops of rape and green where they had sown spring wheat.

Going online, I searched for a cheap airfare from Baltimore to Frankfurt and found that Northwest Airlines had a promotional fare of $338. The catch was that it departed from Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington, D.C., and I would have to change planes in Detroit both coming and going. For a saving of about $250, I could put up with that.

My flight was on time and I arrived at Frankfurt airport at about 8 a.m. After claiming my one bag, I walked to the train station, which was adjacent to the terminal. I purchased a one-way ticket for the 3-hour trip to Regensburg, where I would meet Walter.

Walter’s friend Renate made me feel right at home. She is a wonderful hostess and a marvelous cook — Auf Wiedersehen, Atkins diet!

Passau

After a day resting up from my flight I was on European time, and we started out on our tour. Walter, the ex-Luftwaffe pilot, sped down the Autobahn to the city of Passau, where we would spend the first night in the Altstadt Hotel (Bräugasse 23-29; visit www.altstadt-hotel.de — €76, or near $99, for a single room), which is situated right on the Danube. In fact, three rivers meet there — the Danube, Inn and Ilz — and I could look out my window at the points of land where they connected.

After checking in, we walked around the Old City, taking in the several large churches and admiring the old buildings. We then took a small bus up to the large, fortified castle above the city. As we entered the gate and walked into the central courtyard, we heard typical Bavarian oompah-pah music, and there on a stage was a dozen or more costumed dancers performing various dances of the region.

The view from the parapets was magnificent on the clear cool spring day.

I should mention that a typical German/Austrian breakfast was included at every hotel in which we stayed. Anyone who has stayed in Germany knows that breakfast can be almost enough to get one through the whole day. I would start off with juice, cereal, yogurt and fruit, then have hard rolls or dark bread and all kinds of cold cuts and cheeses. There were always hard-boiled eggs and many times scrambled eggs, bacon and sautéed mushrooms plus sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, all topped off with pastries and great coffee or tea.

Salzburg

The next morning we strolled across the river and then headed back to the center of the city, just taking it all in.

After lunch we took a tour bus out to Hellbrunn Castle, located outside of Salzburg and known for its trick water fountains that were designed to catch unwary strollers when they passed by.

We continued to Salzburg, where we were shown Mozart’s residence as well as his birthplace and numerous other attractions. The cost of the tour was €33 ($43) and included a Salzburg Card we could use on local transportation as well as for entry to museums and other sites.

Using the card, we rode the funicular up to Festung Hohensalzburg, the largest fortification in Europe and residence of Salzburg’s prince-archbishops. It looms high above the city — and what a magnificent view in all directions can be had on a clear day!

Back on the main square of the Old City, we entered the Dom (cathedral), where we could hear a choir. They were situated to the left of the main altar and all dressed in light blue T-shirts. Walter and I enjoyed several hymns before finding out the choir was from the University of Flagstaff in Arizona! I had come halfway around the globe to hear my fellow Americans sing!

History revealed

Back in Germany, our next stop was Berchtesgaden, where Hitler once met leaders from all over the world. This is where news clips showed Eva Braun and many of the Nazi bigwigs, as well as Mussolini, chatting with Der Führer. At the end of WWII the American army blew up his headquarters, but the bunkers are still there and one can visit them in addition to a museum depicting what went on before, during and after the war. It was interesting to see but left chills running up and down my spine.

Walter had booked us into Hotel Wittelsbach (phone 0 86 52 9 6380 or visit www.hotel-wittelsbach.com — €40 single). Once again he had picked a wonderful place to hang our hats. My room had a balcony and looked out at the mountains in the distance.

A memorable evening

Back in Passau, we took a one-hour tour on one of the many tour boats that depart from there to see the local sights on both the Danube and Inn rivers. After having dinner in our hotel and walking to a nearby café for an after-dinner coffee, we sat outside to enjoy a view of the Danube and noticed a crowd gathering at the church a stone’s throw away.

A male choir dressed in local Bavarian costumes typical of the area sang several hymns, and as dusk turned to night the crowd filed past our table to the riverbank a few feet from us. What happened next was like a fairy tale: hundreds of candles, each in a small boat about five inches long, came drifting down the Danube past us.

Someone informed us that several hundred years ago the church’s priest drowned in the river, and ever since then the local parishioners have performed this ceremony in his memory. How lucky we were to be there on that day to witness it.

After the last of the candles drifted past the town, several fireboats fished the candles out of the river.

Returning to Austria

Our next stop was to visit the town of St. Wolfgang in Austria, which sits on Lake Wolfgang. We stayed at Hotel Peter (phone +43 6138 2304 or e-mail hotelpeter@aon.at — €65 single). My room had a balcony which looked out across the lake and to the mountains surrounding the area. There was still snow on the peaks of some of them.

We walked around the small village, window-shopping and just enjoying the picturesque shops and buildings that have been there for hundreds of years. Once again we had our evening meal at our hotel and then another stroll around the winding streets, which were devoid of the tourists who had departed on their buses, leaving us to enjoy the ambiance in solitary splendor.

Nature’s grandeur

Returning to Salzburg the following morning, I enjoyed the many villages and farmhouses along the way. Upon arrival in the city, we became very frustrated. Well, at least Walter did. The traffic was horrible and the narrow one-way streets made it difficult to find our way to our hotel, which was only a couple of blocks from the city center.

Walter had arranged to have us stay in the center of each town or city on this trip so we could park the car and not have to use it till we left.

We checked into Hotel Kasererbräu (phone +43 662 84 24 45 or visit www.kasererbraeu.at — €75 single), then drove to Königssee. Surrounded by towering rock faces, the lake’s emerald waters reminded me of a Norwegian fjord.

We took a tourist launch, powered by electric batteries to keep the lake pure and clean, to the far end of the lake and passed mighty waterfalls thundering down over the steep rocks.

We got off our launch and were enchanted by the red-roofed St. Johann and Paul Chapel sitting on the banks of the lake with the towering mountain Watzmann in the background. At the east base of the mountain, nature has created an enormous, dome-like ice vault which doesn’t melt even in midsummer. It was grandeur as far as the eye could see!

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped to photograph the small chapel in the village of Ramsau. Artists come from near and far to sketch or paint this church, Walter informed me.

Winding down

Our week in Bavaria and Austria was coming to a close, and our last overnight was at Hotel Luitpold am See (phone +49 8051 609100 or e-mail info@luitpold-am-see.de — €60 single). Located in the town of Prien, it is situated right on Germany’s Chiemsee, the largest lake in Bavaria. The hotel is next to the docks where the tourist boats leave to visit the islands.

We took the paddle-wheel steamer out to the castle built by Bavaria’s legendary King Ludwig II. He purchased the largest island on the lake in 1873 and started to build his “Neues Schloss” (new castle), Herrenchiemsee. He was enamored with King Louis XIV of France, who built Versailles, and decided to build a small replica for himself. He ran out of money before it could be completed, but I was impressed by what had been finished. It was one of the highlights of our tour.

On our way back to Regensburg we stopped briefly at Wasserburg to see the ancient houses in the old part of that interesting city as well as Landshut, which also has many old buildings and churches and an impressive castle high above the city.

Walter once again had done a wonderful job in organizing our tour. How fortunate I am to have such a good friend who also is nice enough to act as a chauffeur and translator. I’m glad we met almost four decades ago. If not, I would never had had the chance to see and enjoy the many towns and cities he has introduced me to.