Die Deutsche Alpenstraße

A good night, we wake up with the alarm at seven and the first thing we do is look out over the lake to watch the sun come up. As predicted the cloud cover is pretty low, but there’s a hole that makes the lake glow with the reflection of the new day. Off to breakfast, where we’re the first to arrive. We pick a table with a view of the lake and investigate the big buffet. A chef makes me a delicious omelet with mushrooms, cheese and herbs, I select some meats and warm vegetables and then a small dessert platter to make sure I won’t run out of energy halfway up a hill somewhere. The plan is even to skip lunch entirely, should be doable after the amount I’m eating this morning.

We check out around nine thirty and drive towards the ferry landing. We figure it will be a close call, but manage literally at the last minute to slip onto the boat to Meersburg.

We’re really close to the Alps here and quickly we climb to the foothills and start seeing some serious snow. Most places above 500 m or so have a white blanket over the fields, with the evergreen trees lightly dusted. It’s a beautiful drive, there’s no highway heading due east, so we cut through the landscape on local roads, passing small villages and hamlets. They have a thing here with lions, eagles and cheese: each village has a guest house named (the German equivalent of) ‘The Lion’s Inn’ or ‘Eagle guest house’ and their own cheese making shop. It looks like a great region for hiking, but we’re just passing through.

We planned this final leg of the journey to pass by Füssen, where you have the two famous castles Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. As far as I can tell, the latter translates as ‘new swan stone’. Gau is an old word for region or district, so the first one means ‘the high swan district’ – or a high place in the swan district. We park with the mass of (other) tourists and start the walk up to the Neuschwanstein castle. We’ve actually been here before twice, so we’ll skip the interior and walk past it to the Jugend viewpoint, coming back down by Hohenschwangau. Yes, they really are that close by. This is unusual, but not if you learn more of king Ludwig II’s history.

We can tell that most people come here and do exactly the same thing, as all the info on websites and boards by the road is aimed to get you to, through and from Neuschwanstein castle in as efficient a way as possible. What we’re trying to do seems exceptional, because there is no mention anywhere of the road closure that we encounter near the castle, stopping us from reaching the hiking path we need. It’s a pretty steep mountain side, so there are only a few safe paths and it looks like all of them are blocked for construction/maintenance works. We improvise a plan B and get over our grump quickly: we did have a great view of the castle, there is snow everywhere and the crowd thickness is pretty acceptable. We walk up to and around castle Hohenschwangau – which we hadn’t done before – then down to the lake and back to the car, looking forward to a piece of banana cake as ‘lunch’.

We continue east, often following the Deutsche Alpenstraße or the Romantische Straße, both long distance, popular vacationing routes in this area. I’m not sure about the romance, but the Alps are definitely unavoidable. Usually a veil of clouds covers the higher elevations but we sometimes catch a glimps of a snowy peak in the background. The roads continue to be well maintained and snow free, so we make good time and arrive at our final destination Inzell around five. Definitely lots of snow here! We unpack, get our electronics organized and hooked up to the TV and go out for dinner. Tomorrow we’ll put on warm and snowproof gear to brave the local hills! Or mountains? I’ll have to look up the exact elevations..

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