This road trip starts in Berlin, covers parts of the Romantic Road, takes us to Liechtenstein for a day and ends in Munich (which in our case meant Oktoberfest time!). All that happens with the addition of some local beers and must-try sweets as well as crazy-fast rides on the Autobahn and living my best Helga (my German alter ego) life in Bavaria.
Our first stop of the day was in Bamberg – 4h30min ride away – so we got up early, had breakfast and coffee and were picking up our car at 9am. We set the GPS to a Parkhaus located within walking distance to all our points of interest and excited for the Autobahn we started our ultimate German road trip.
If you don’t know why Autobahn is so exciting, let me explain. There is that magical road sign with five black stripes that end all limits – including the speed limit and allows you to put the pedal to the metal. On the contrary to what many people think, the no-speed-limit thing doesn’t apply to the entire Autobahn but only to some parts of it.
Before you go and realize all your Need for Speed dreams remember – safety first. Make yourself familiar with the road rules and signs, make sure you’re not blocking others in the fast lane and that you’re a confident driver. Having all that out of the way – we did floor it a couple of times (we travelled in a Mercedes E-class – good car for the Autobahn), it felt awesome and made the advisory speed limit of 130km/h feel like a turtle speed.
Bamberg is a Bavarian town with a well-preserved old town (that includes the fascinating building of the Old Town Hall), which was exactly what we wanted to see while there. Other two things on our list were lunch at Zum Kachelofen (they serve some traditional Franconian dishes) and trying the local smoked beer called Rauchbier. Lunch for 4, including 3 beers and one driver-friendly drink cost us €54.70.
Bamberg surprised me with the amount of the modern sculptures dotting the Old Town – it may sound like they don’t belong but somehow they made it work beautifully. The local smoked beer also turned out to be much better than I expected – I’m not a fan of Guinness and was afraid this is going to taste similar. Fortunately, it was much more palatable.
Fueled and happy with the first bit of sightseeing we were ready to continue the road trip. Our second, and also the last, stop of the day was in the dreamy town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, about 1h30min away from Bamberg.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
When I was planning the trip, I’ve seen some photos of Rothenburg’s well-preserved medieval old town but that didn’t make me ready for what I was about to see. It was straight out of a fairy tale. We were all in awe and quickly running out of words that would describe what we were seeing.
We booked ourselves into Hotel Zum Breiterle for the night. It’s located right in the old town and we felt like considering the location and price (€88 per room for 2 including breakfast and free parking) was a decent deal.
Every article I read about Rothenburg recommended the Night Watchman Tour. Wanting to learn something about the town we went to the meeting point for the tour – Market Square, in front of the Town Hall. Despite the rain, it was crowded when we arrived. When the guide showed up it turned out everyone in the square was joining the same tour (easily 200 people). It was a Friday night, all the hotels in the old town were booked out and I guess it wasn’t just me who heard the tour was good. After 60 minutes of walking around and listening to very entertaining stories, it felt more like a comedy act with an addition of interesting bits and pieces of history. Definitely fun and educating way of spending an evening.
Our first big fail of the trip happened when we wanted to get dinner. We had a list of restaurants that came recommended (Zur Höll Tavern, Altfränkische Weinstube and Zum Pulverer) but we hadn’t booked a table. At the first one, we were told we wouldn’t get in without a booking and arrived too late at the other two (kitchens close early). We ended up at Ratsstube, just opposite the Town Hall. It was a pretty good turn of events as the food was very good and the service friendly and welcoming. Cold weather and warm food quickly sent us into a food coma so we called it a night and went to bed early to be well rested before our 6.30am alarm rings.
Having my beautiful dirndl dress in my bag and being in a town this charming I couldn’t say no to a small sunrise photoshoot. Looking at the photos, I must say it was definitely worth getting up early and braving the chilly (4°C) morning. We had the town pretty much to ourselves until busloads of tourists started arriving around 8am.
Food-wise you shouldn’t miss the traditional Rothenburg speciality called schneeball. It’s a ball made of shortcrust pastry. The most common are decorated with confectioner’s sugar and used to be prepared just for special occasions but nowadays they come in many flavours and are available year round. I bought myself 4 mini balls there for €4.35 from Bäckerei Striffler.
We were all very excited about our next stop – little Liechtenstein. The drive was supposed to take us around 2h40 but with toilet pit stops and Austrian vignette confusion (apparently you can buy a digital vignette online and save yourself some time which we didn’t know then) we arrived an hour later than planned.
First, and the most important thing we had to was to get our passports stamped. It costs 3 CHF and can be done at Liechtenstein Center in Vaduz. While there, we also picked up a 6-pack of local craft beer, which turned out to be rather good (who would have thought).
While we were having lunch on a terrace of New Castle Restaurant (tasty soups, on the pricey side like most things in Liechtenstein), we had a great vantage point to do some people watching. Looking at the road, expecting supercars we were surprised by all the tractors driving down the main street.
But that wasn’t the end of the surprises this tiny country had for us. There were also cows pastured next to the Royal Castle, a random encounter with a local farmer who was a contestant of the Swiss edition of the Farmer wants a wife reality show, a fine for driving just slightly over the limit which was caught by one of the two-speed cameras Liechtenstein owns as well as the fact that we all really enjoyed our 5 hours there (and that it was enough time to see the ENTIRE country). Little Liechtenstein, who would have thought it’d end up being one of the highlights of the road trip?
What else is there to do in Liechtenstein? I highly recommend climbing up to the lookout just next to the Royal Castle in Vaduz and a visit to Balzers to see the Gutenberg Castle (castle itself is beautiful but for me, it was the view from the castle hill that was just perfect). The castle in Balzers makes for a good picnic spot in the afternoon.
We arrived at our last stop for the day – the island of Lindau on the Bodensee – after sunset so we had to leave the sightseeing for the morning. Once again on this road trip, our hotel was inside the old town walls but this time, we were able to drive in only to drop our bags and then had to park outside the walls.
I’m not sure if that’s the case every weekend, but Lindau hotels were all booked out months in advance for this last September weekend. I couldn’t find two rooms for the 4 of us (we were travelling with our dear friends Jodie & Cristian) but managed to grab the last remaining room, the deluxe suite, at Hotel Spiegel Garni. Other than the fact we had to drag all our stuff to the 4th floor, the suite turned out to be great for 2 couples. We had separate rooms, the shower was excellent and you can’t beat the location. It could use a separate toilet though, as there were queues to the bathroom in the morning. €235 for the entire top floor suite included also breakfast and coffee in the morning.
What I didn’t get to do while planning the trip was finding dinner options in Lindau. As it was late and we were all in urgent need of food and beer, I decided to trust quick Google search on this one. “The best dinner in Lindau” took us 3 minutes walk from the apartment to Wissingers im Schlechterbräu. What can I say – it was our favourite meal of the trip. And they had some great beers as well.
As a nightcap, we taste tested the beer we brought from Liechtenstein. If you ever get a chance to try beers from Liechtensteiner Brauhaus, go for it! They really were pretty good.
It was a perfect morning for a stroll around Lindau. The sunrise over the lake was serene and gave us good energy for the rest of the day.
Ah, Neuschwanstein. It’s always been on my bucket list and I couldn’t pass the opportunity to finally visit it. Originally, we booked our spots for the tour inside the castle. But after chatting to people who’ve been there I wasn’t sure if it’s worth it. There are many rules and requirements, i.e. you have to pick up tickets 90 minutes before your booked time slot or they go to the next person and you’re charged a penalty fee. I was leaning towards cancelling and after chatting to my cousin (who came from Switzerland to hang out with us in Liechtenstein) we all decided to cancel the tickets.
And it made a huge difference. We would be all stressed driving there from Lindau, especially the last 5km that took us 30 minutes of mostly standing still in traffic.
If you can visit Neuschwanstein Castle on a weekday, you most likely won’t have to deal with traffic but on this sunny Sunday, it was a nightmare. 30 minutes for the last 5 kilometres and then another 15 minutes waiting to get into the parking.
But then, we got out of the car and saw the castle. I almost cried it was my dream finally coming true. I quickly forgot about the traffic and just wanted to climb up to get a closer look at the castle. You can go to the inner courtyard without a ticket but that’s also where people wait for their tours. It was packed to the brim and not enjoyable at all.
We had a little bit more walking to do – to Marienbrücke, the bridge that offers the best views of the castle. And guess what? Hundreds of people had the same idea and we got stuck in a queue for a long time. I took a quick pic and, due to my stupid fear of bridges, I had to run away. It didn’t feel safe being so high on a crowded bridge.
Having ticked off the Neuschwanstein Castle, we were very much ready to leave the crowds and the traffic. We scratched the plan to visit the nearby lake (Alpsee) and decided to drive out of there as soon and as fast as possible.
After a very late lunch at a randomly picked place, that felt far away enough, we were ready to drive to Munich. But then I spotted a perfect place for an impromptu photo shoot. Jodie and I transformed quickly into Greta and Helga and took the advantage of the picturesque Bavarian countryside. We had the best time, which resulted in some of my favourite pictures ever.
If you ask Hubby (who was our only driver for the trip), he’ll say returning the car in Munich and not having to drive anymore (read: being finally able to drink beer) was the best feeling.
We checked ourselves into the overpriced Ibis München City Arnulfpark (prices were high due to Oktoberfest, 2 nights there cost us €401 per room, without breakfast) and started pre-Oktoberfest beer drinking.
First up was Wirtshaus Rechthaler Hof which with the much needed cold beer and interesting decorations was definitely a good choice. Then, for dinner, we moved to Augustiner Keller where staff had probably the busiest two weeks of their working year but still were able to serve us with patience and smile.
Day 4 – Oktoberfest!
Breakfast in Munich
First things first – we start our days with good coffee and there wasn’t much of that on this road trip. Dressed in our best dirndl dresses, we headed to Man Versus Machine Coffee Roasters. It’s a small cafe with cheeky quotes about coffee on the door that serves great flat whites. No fluff and trying too hard – just great coffee (which we liked so much we returned next morning).
Wanting fatty breakfast before beer drinking we went to Café Frischhut for their famous schmalznudel (or two). Freshly fried, dipped in sugar. What’s not to like? Same as with the coffee, we returned for round two the next day.
The start of the second week of Oktoberfest 2018 was finally my time to visit. I waited for this moment for a long time and was ecstatic to be ticking yet another thing off of my bucket list in such a short time.
Going on Monday, which we hoped would be quieter and following bad advice from locals, we didn’t pre-book our tables.
It wasn’t a problem though when we arrived right after the gates opened and we were able to secure a great table at Paulaner tent. We had our giant pretzels, giant beers and live music. All was going well until we had to vacate a pre-booked table at 2.30pm but we managed to find another one upstairs. Unfortunately, we were asked to leave that one as well before 5pm. But having done pretty much everything I wanted, including dancing on a bench to my favourite German song Fliegerlied, we were ok with that.
After leaving the Paulaner tent we tried to get into another one, where charcoal fish is served. We spent HOURS in the queue, but again, we should’ve pre-booked that one. Being near tears after 2 hours of waiting I was persuaded not to hold our entire group in the cold weather anymore and we waved Oktoberfest goodbye.
I said it’s a once in a lifetime thing for me but here comes the “but”. With better planning, pre-booking tables and knowing I won’t have to queue for anything other than toilets, I wouldn’t mind going again. After all, I’m looking for another excuse to wear my dirndl.