Our summer vacation this year was a 10 day trip through Bavaria. We drove as far as Heidelberg the first day, since I had to work a half day and we only wanted to drive a few hours. A three hour drive turned into five hours because of traffic slowdowns on German highways. 😝 After we checked into a guest house in Mannheim, we drove into Heidelberg for dinner. A restaurant known for it's schnitzel was highly recommended and we found it easily. We were given a spot in the back at a shared table with a Polish guy and an Italian couple who were communicating in English. The schnitzel lived up to it's reputation and we left very satisfied. Heidelberg is very picturesque and since it's a college town, it's pretty lively. We were able to walk around the old city for awhile before it got dark. A band was playing on the terrace of a restaurant near the river, which added to the ambience as we snapped pictures on the old bridge.

Day one in Bavaria was planned to start around 1pm after a four hour drive from Heidelberg to Oberau, but it took an extra two hours of drive time. Summer is road construction season everywhere! Our home base for part one of our trip was a guest house in Oberau. When we arrived, there was an envelope with my name on it taped to the door. Inside were our keys and some instructions about our room. So, we unlocked the door and located our room — the self service seemed a little strange! After a quick dump of our stuff, we drove to our first planned activity — a hike to Hell Valley Gorge in Grainau. I had read several blog posts and TripAdvisor reviews of this hike, but we still didn't know exactly what to expect. Parking was our first hurdle. The pay machine wouldn't take any of our cards and we didn't have the correct change. Dick ended up driving further to a free 2 hr spot with fingers crossed that we'd make it back in time. A lot of people passed us coming out as we were walking into the trail. I started to think that maybe we were too late (4pm start time), but I thought if the gorge was closed when we got there we still would have had a nice hike. The hike into the gorge was an invigorating uphill challenge that took about an hour. I should note here that we haven't seen mountains upclose for over a year and the most incline we've hiked recently was a relatively short, but steep hill in France. Seeing the Alps took our breath away! We had to pass through a pay gate to get into the gorge (yes, it was still open!), which consists of waterfalls (many of them), aqua blue pools of water, scenic views of mountains & valleys, tunnels and bridges. The trail is wet and SLIPPERY, but absolutely worth the effort. Awesome! We found some pretty decent Mexican food in Oberammergau that night and Kathryn tried her first Radler.

The second day we met our hostess at breakfast and she was super nice. We drove to Innsbruck, Austria where the mountains get bigger! We took the Hungerburg funicular, cable car, another cable car and then a short hike to get to the top of the Nordkette. It was such a cool trip up the mountain! It was a partly cloudy day with a chance of rain later in the day; we watched the clouds move around and by the time we left it was mostly cloud covered at the top. Even with some cloud cover, the views were amazing! On the descent, we stopped for drinks at the bottom of the first cable car and then got off the funicular at the Alpen Zoo. We gave ourselves about 40 min to browse through the zoo and that was about the right amount of time to see deer, moose, buffalo, lynx, golden eagles and other alpine animals. Next up was a late lunch at a strudel cafe in town. We each had a savory strudel and then shared an apple strudel. They were delicious! The Hofburg Palace and The Golden Roof were stops on our list. The Hofburg Palace was pretty boring. It doesn't contain much furniture and the history of this section of the Habsburg family just isn't that interesting to me. The Golden Roof was also not that exciting. Dick got engrossed in the story of Maximillian II, though. Thunderstorms rolled through while we were in the museums and the rest of our visit was wet. A climb to the top of the town hall tower was rewarded with a view of a beautiful rainbow. 

Day three was wet, wet, wet — steady rain all day. I wasn't able to reserve tickets for Neuschwanstein Castle online so we had to wait in line at the ticket office to get what was available. The rain reduced the crowds, which we had to take as a postitive. We were able to get into a audio tour with a start time that gave us time to hike up the hill and go to the overlook bridge to get photos. I should get real here and admit that I had a little hissy fit during the walk to the castle. Traveling with my dear husband can stretch my patience. He has a different pace and he often misses things that I say because I'm not willing to be the loud American. Communication can be a challenge. Most of the time, I take some deep breaths, complain silently to my self and carry on. This time I just lost it and unfortunately Kathryn was witness to my little rant. But that's life and Dick and I always resolve our conflicts asap. At the top of the hill, we had a conference with apologies and problem solving. Kiss and make up. Okay, now back to the good stuff. 😬 Neuschwanstein lived up to it's reputation and the exterior view of it, even in the rain, is jaw dropping. The interior is also pretty impressive; it's just too bad that it was never occupied or served a function beyond a tourist attraction. Even with rain coats and umbrellas, we were water logged by the time we got back to the car. Wet feet are apparently a crisis for teenagers. We decided to go back to our hotel for dry shoes before going on to Linderhof Palace. We grabbed lunch from a bakery on the way. Linderhof is off the charts and is like a small version of Versailles. The gardens and grounds are beautiful and I imagine they are spectacular in sunshine. The interior is Baroque/Rococo to the extreme and I've never seen so much Meissen porcelain! There was even a chandelier made of Meissen. Our last stop for the day was Ettal Abbey (Kloster Ettal). Dick was interested to see it because Dietrich Bonhoeffer stayed here for a few months during the WWII. Since it was late in the day, we were only able to see the basilica and the store. We browsed the shops in Oberammergau after that and then came back to have dinner in one of the Kloster restaurants — more good German food and the Kloster beer. 

Despite the rain and a little angst, we really enjoyed being in the Bavarian Alps. On to Salzburg, Austria!