Eagles, Choughs, Cuckoos and Black Forests

Having been recommended to go to Burchesgarten in southern Germany and visit the Eagles Nest, we made the effort to climb high in to the Alps where we were immediately thwarted by poor weather so hung around for a few days until the view from Hitler’s mountain retreat looked like this:

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There is a wiggly, windy, narrow road that takes you the last 11 km. to the top but fortunately it is only accessed by the busses that run tourists up and down, their Teutonic schedule meticulously planned to ensure that the down busses only meet the up busses at the one point where there is a passing space.  

Adolph had his own modest hideaway here and that can only be reached by going through a tunnel and up the last 160 metres in a gold lined lift.  You emerge in the interior of a rather austere building equipped with stunning views all round.

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For the energetic, a stroll outside and a little climb brings you to a point at about 2,700m. above sea level.  Here the views are even more stunning:

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and the birdlife is equally as exotic at this altitude with a pair of Alpine Choughs raising their brood on sandwich crusts, sausage ends and sauerkraut flavoured crisps. 

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The building was finished to a very high standard with impressive wood panelling, oak beams, cast iron and a marble fireplace. (Apparently a gift from Mussolini – its good to have friends!)

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A close look at the mantelpiece will reveal the scratchings of American G.I.s made after they liberated the Eagles Nest in May 1945 in order to take  home a few souvenirs.

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It was downhill from then on – literally – we drove to the Black Forest where there are towns devoted entirely to Cuckoo Clocks.  There is a recognised and well published route through the southern Schwarz Wald (Black Forest) called originally enough in English the “Cuckoo Clock Route” which takes the unwary traveller to all the places you could spend your money on cuckoo clock related merchandise.  It does, however, lead you through some very interesting scenery:

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Like the Triberg falls with an overall drop of 163 metres. (Not to be confused with the Reichenbacch Falls where Sherlock Holmes died which has a drop of over 250m.)

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We shared the rainy day with our portion of the half a million a year visitors so getting decent photographs was a challenge.  The visitors did bring a couple of bonuses, however. They brought with them peanuts to feed the red squirrels and that also attracted an unusual robber – the Spotted Nutcracker  (Aah – How suite I heard Tchaikovsky say.)

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The cuckoo clock towns though are for real.

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Here, you can buy a clock for anything from 25Euro to 25,000Euro depending  on your resistance to the annoying clicks, chimes and cuckoos they will inevitably produce. 

 

I resisted buying a clock but we did lash out on some alternative transport for Sheila and I:

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Genuine Stella Scooter with Cozy sidecar snapped through a window at 100kph.

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Yer actual “Trabi”.  One of the 2,815,547 made between ‘63 and’90.

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Electric bikes are the way forward but they aren’t as pretty as this. 

Pity we haven’t yet had a chance to try them out as the clouds came rolling in soon after:

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Castles, Cathedrals, Churches, Romance and even a bit of Liebnitz

There is, in Germany, a little tourist magnet called cleverly “the Romantic Street”.  It is loosely based on the route the Romans took crossing that part of the continent and runs from Wurzburg in almost the centre of Germany down to Fussen  on the Austrian border.  The premise is that it is full of romantic castles, medieval houses, palaces and that kind of thing. 

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The route starts at this point.  This modest semi detached in Wurzburg was built by a “Sea” of Bishops so that they would have somewhere comfortable to relax after a hard day’s Bishoping.

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Here is one of them showing just how demanding the job was way back then in 1720.  None of these endless committee meetings you get nowadays.  If a job needed doing you just wrapped yourself up in the living room curtains, Grabbed your pointiest hat and sharpest sword and got on with a bit of slaying or whatever was needed.

There are of course lots of more modest houses and public buildings all along the route.  Most of them are extremely well maintained and make a wonderful background to the towns and cities along the way.

 

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We spent several days covering the northern half of the Romantic Route but were not alone on the roads.  This man couldn’t decide whether to ride his motorbike or his skateboard so took both on the road.

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Other forms of transport, were of course accompanying us.

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The interiors of German churches and cathedrals are incredibly ornate and seem to be made almost entirely of gold. 

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No surface is left unadorned, whether by gilding, carving or by painting, not least of all the ceilings 30 metres up where no one without a decent camera and long lens can see the detail.

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The symbolism used is slightly different wherever you go but wherever you look you are left with a distinct feeling of awe.

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St. Aqualin, a locally born bishop seemed to have met a rather violent end and is celebrate with this statue in Wurzburg Cathedral.

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We left the cathedral by a side door leading to a small courtyard where we saw many people eating pretzel and drinking wine whilst listening to an “Oom Pa Pa” brass band.

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Never had we seen a musician more suited to his instrument than this tubist.

We mingled long enough to be handed two half pint glasses of “Muller Thurgau” wine and a couple of pretzels so had an entertaining and free lunch. 

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We took a bit of a detour part way through the Romantic Strasse and went to Regensburg on the Danube river where we saw the “Walhalla” a neo classical hall of fame created by this chap:

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Good old Crown Prince Ludwig in about 1807.  This impressive building houses dozens of busts of distinguished Germans (or those honoured by the German people.) Here are a few that I cobbled together:

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The Walhalla is a most impressive structure both inside and out.

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Here is Sheila waving from the top of the steps whilst I walk right down the bottom just to take this photo.

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The view from the top of the steps across the Danube (Donau in German) is also quite spectacular.

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Most towns and villages in this area have a “Maibaum” or maypole.  Not a simple pole and ribbon affair often seen in Britain, but an enormously tall and elaborately decorated tree trunk erected on the 1st of May in the village square, clearly a hark back to pre Christian fertility rites.

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Each pole is decorated with symbols representing different aspects of the community. 

Now comes the “Romantic” bit:

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And the end of the Romantic Strasse is the mist enshrouded fairytale castle in Fussen if you can make your way past the fields of Japanese tourists!

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