European Driving Tour
7/2/15 to 7/17/15

Due to the length of the review, it is in four parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top and bottom of each page. 

Page 1:  Farchant, Germany, days 1-3 
Page 2:  Farchant, Germany, days 4-7
Page 3: 
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, days 1-3
Page 4:  Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, day4; Colmar, France, days 1-3


Farchant, Germany – Day 4
Since the new week had started and the BMW rally was officially over, we were going to visit Garmish, since parking should be available.  We had started out late, so that we could sleep in and relax a bit.  Hans was able to find a good parking spot and we were quickly out exploring.  Garmish is a great shopping town, with lots of interesting shops and beautiful buildings.



My goal for the day was to find a walking stick that I would need for our visit to Switzerland, since I had planned on a lot of hiking there.  We did find some good deals there and Hans bought an extra pair for himself, since it was such a good price.  But it wasn’t quite what I wanted and I kept searching, while enjoying the beautiful sights in Garmish.



We went to a restaurant for a light lunch; but we all ended the lunch with a dessert.  Hans got the biggest, a banana split.  I got apple strudel and ice cream.  It seemed appropriate for a German lunch.  Carol and Barbara got ice cream.


While walking around the lovely town, we came upon a pair of Afghan Hounds.  Shortly after that we saw a couple of Dachshunds.  Those pairs of dogs were at opposite ends of the dog spectrum.


The buildings in town were so fascinating with so many having paintings on them.  I was really enjoying Garmish.  A lovely town indeed.




All during the vacation we were craving ice cream, probably because it was so hot outside.  Carol even tried to lick this large cone.

Everywhere we went on this vacation, we saw so many flowers.  It really made the towns so pretty and special. 




After leaving Garmish, we headed to the town of Mittenwald.  The trip down was quite pretty through the mountains.


When we arrived in Mittenwald, we once again saw a nice maypole, but more importantly we saw a beautiful city, set next to an impressive mountain range.



I just couldn’t get over how many beautiful cities there were in Germany.  Each one was so nicely kept up and decorated.  During our previous visits to Germany, we were most impressed with how clean and well maintained the cities were; but now we were also seeing such gorgeous landscapes in addition.








While we were looking around the stores, I finally found a nice walking stick at a decent price.  It was surprising how much some of those sticks could sell for.  Although they looked to be about the same quality, the prices ranged from between $10 and $200.  Hans pointed out a beer bottle holder in a shop window.  It says “Beer is the Best Medicine”.  I must say I didn’t have a bad beer the whole time I was in Germany. 

At the end of the main street there was a church.  The exterior was nicely done.


The interior was also quite nice; but after seeing such ornate churches the previous two days, it made this one seem somewhat plain.  It was still a gorgeous church.



Carol was impressed with the decorative pews.

Just outside the church, the view of majestic mountains in the background was so breathtaking.  The Karwendel Mountains are the largest range of the Northern Limestone Alps. 

After returning to Farchant, we headed out to dinner at an Italian restaurant named Di Nico.  It is run by an Italian immigrant and his brother.  It was very close to our hotel and it turned out to have very good food.  It was a most enjoyable evening.  Carol and I had lasagna and Hans and Barbara had a veal dish.


Farchant, Germany – Day 5
We woke up early, because this was going to be a long day.  We were going to go to Munich by train.  Munich is a city that I have always wanted to visit, since I have heard so many good things about it.  The only problem was that it was supposed to be very hot, with an expected high for the day of 97.  That is even hot for Florida.  We were concerned about how well we would do, since there isn’t a lot of air conditioning in Germany.  When we boarded the fairly new train car, we were thrilled that it was air conditioned.  After so many days without it, we were really enjoying it.  The train was quite comfortable and got us into Munich in about an hour and a quarter.


Our train took us to the main square of Munich, the Marienplatz.  The imposing building at one side of the square is the New Town Hall that was built in 1908. There were lovely statues and fountains in the square also. 



Every day in the summer at 11:00 AM, noon and 5:00 PM, there is a 12-15 minute show on the Rathaus-Glockenspiel.  We were a little early, so Hans wanted to show me a restaurant close by.  It was the 150 year old Ratskeller Restaurant, which is located under the city hall.  It is a Munich tradition and highly regarded.  It is also quite an attractive restaurant.  I wish we had been able to eat there; but maybe another time.




As we were leaving the restaurant, we could hear the glockenspiel playing.  We were able to watch the detailed mechanical characters perform to the music, since we were close to it.  It was interesting; but since we were standing in the hot sun, it did get uncomfortable and we didn’t stay for the full performance.  If I were to go again, I would bring binoculars to be able to see everything that was going on.  It is quite a show.



Our next destination was to the Victualienmarkt.  It is a 240,000 sq. ft. food market that has been in operation since 1807.  With its close proximity to the Marienplatz, it is a very popular place.  There were lots of tables set up for people to drink beer and eat; but mainly lots of stalls selling fruits, vegetables, flowers and other products.  It was a colorful sight.  I am sure the locals spend a lot of time shopping there.



On the edge of the market was another maypole, a very big one.


Not far from the market was Munich’s number one tourist attraction, the Hofbräuhäuse.  The beer hall was founded in 1589.  We walked into the main interior hall, which was quite attractive with its uniquely decorated ceiling.


It wasn’t very crowded when we arrived, which Hans said is unusual.  He had never seen it so empty when he had been there in the past.  We continued on through the hall to the open beer garden.  It looked quite inviting and a great place to have a beer.  It was also a bit cooler there than in the hall due to a slight breeze.

After we ordered our beer, a lady came around with pretzels for sale.  They had the large normal pretzels and a squatty looking one that appeared to have a cheese glaze on it.  We tried one of the squatty ones and it was quite good.

Carol and I ordered the bratwurst and sauerkraut, which should be a required meal at the Hofbräuhäuse.  It was just delicious. 

While we were eating, we could hear an oompah band playing in the main hall.  They then moved out into the beer garden for our listening pleasure.  I was surprised that there were only four people in the band.  It sounded like more.

 I can understand why the place is so popular, especially in cooler weather, when it would be most pleasant to just hang around. I guess that is why the Octoberfest is in October.

The only other destination that I had to visit was a church that my son, Craig, had told me was a “must see”.  He had been to Munich several times for business. I knew that if he said I had to see it, I was going there.  He said that the Asam Church was very close to the glockenspiel.  With the help of the GPS, we were able to track it down several blocks away.  If we hadn’t been looking for it, we probably would have just walked right by the narrow building in the middle of a block of what appeared to be apartments.  The facade was quite attractive and different looking.  The church, which was built in 1754, was a private church built by two brothers named Asam.  It was in a residential neighborhood and they tore down two homes to build the church itself.  


Once we walked inside, we understood why we had to visit the church.  The church is considered to be one of the most important buildings that represents the southern German Late Baroque style.  It was just gorgeous.  The photos speak for themselves.



We wanted to do a little shopping while in Munich.  Several years ago, Barbara had picked up a very nice stainless steel wine bottle stopper for us from Munich.  Now that I have just started to get interested in wine, I thought it would be nice to get some more of them, since they weren’t available in the US.  We found the shop; but they had modified the design some.  It actually looked like it would work even better plus the price was half what it had been.  After buying a couple of them, we stopped for some ice cream before heading toward the train terminal. 

Carol had brought her TravelScoot with her on the train, which was no problem at all; but it was an issue at the terminals to find elevators or escalators that were working.  We finally did find what we needed; but it was a bit frustrating.   Germany is not as handicap accessible as the US.

After being in what turned out to be a record setting high temperature for the day of 97 degrees in Munich, it felt so good to get into the air conditioned train car.  Barbara said that these were new cars and that in previous years the cars hadn’t been air conditioned.  We were grateful that the cars had been upgraded.

When we went out to dinner that night, Hans and Barbara wanted to find a restaurant that they had previously seen while driving around.  We are not sure that the one we did find was the one that they were originally looking for; but it turned out that the Oberauer Alm restaurant was a winner.  The food was great.  Carol was especially glad that the waitress brought out a full glass of ice with her Coke.  It had been difficult while in Germany to find places that had ice for drinks, and those that did only gave her two cubes.  One place even charged us extra for it.

Carol asked Hans why Germans didn’t use ice in their drinks.  He said that his mother always told him that if you drink ice cold drinks it will hurt your body.  Germans also think that air conditioning is bad for you.  They had rather sweat!  Strange.

It had been a very hectic and enjoyable day.  We were surprised that we had not had any rain while in Germany other than a big storm that rolled through one night.  I hoped that it would continue, especially for when we got to Switzerland.


Farchant, Germany – Day 6
Hans had told us that Farchant has a very nice swimming center.  He had driven us by it on the day we arrived; but I didn’t remember exactly where it was.  One morning, the hotel receptionist told me how to get there, so I walked for a long time and finally gave up.  After Hans gave me better directions telling me how far it was, I decided that I would drive to it this morning.  It was a cloudy day with a chance for rain.  At least the temperature was going to be milder.  I had arrived at the center just before 9:00 AM, thinking it would already be open; but then found out that it did not open until 9:30 AM.  Since I had time to kill, I decided to drive around a bit to see what I could find.  I guess I took a wrong turn, since I was on the entrance to the highway to Munich and couldn’t turn around.  Good grief!  I really didn’t need to deal with getting lost.  With the confusing roads, I hoped I could get off and find my way back without having to use the GPS.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to drive far.

Since I was killing time, I decided to find a gas station, since gas is cheaper in Germany than Switzerland.  Diesel was the cheapest fuel at 1.25 € per liter, or 4.73 € per gallon; or $5.25 per gallon converted to US$.  When we got to Switzerland, it was 1.55 € per liter or an adjusted $6.51 per gallon.  Thank goodness, the US$ conversion rate was now only $1.11 per Euro compared to the $1.30 per Euro it had been the prior year.

I went back to the swimming center that didn’t look like much from the outside.  With the card that the hotel gave me when I checked in, I didn’t have to pay to enter the facility.  When I walked in, I was definitely impressed.  The place was huge with a very nice concession area/café. 


They had a kid’s pool, and adult pool, an Olympic size pool and a diving pool.  All were well maintained and would have looked more inviting if it hadn’t been in the low 60’s temperature wise.    Even with the cooler temperature, quite a few people were in the pool doing what appeared to be their daily exercise routines.  It helped me to understand why when on a cruise, people are swimming in the outdoor pools even in colder weather.  They must be Europeans.  I know that we wouldn’t find any Floridians among them.



We were being picked up at 11:00 AM to head for lunch and then take a tour of one of King Ludwig II’s palaces.  We stopped in the town of Pfarrkirchen at the Hotel Eingang.  Like most places we had visited, it was a lovely town. 


The interior of the restaurant was cozy and since we were eating early, the restaurant was almost empty.

We all got either one of their delicious salads or what they call their Bavarian Hamburger.  It wasn’t the type of hamburger we are used to; but it was very good.  Carol and Barbara were super impressed with the chef salad.


After lunch we drove toward the town of Ettal, where we would visit the Linderholf Palace.  It was the smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II and the only one he got to see completed and actually live in for several years.  Construction took 23 years and was completed in 1886.  The palace grounds are just gorgeous and spread out for as far as you can see. 


The first thing that catches your eye is the large fountain with a golden statue.  The whole area in front of and behind the fountain is quite lovely and most impressive.


The palace itself does appear small with all the grandeur of the grounds; although it is a fine looking building.  It is just smaller than one would expect for a king’s palace.  The statuary at the top of the building had so much detail work on it.



Before going into the palace, the water to the main fountain came on.  It apparently is turned on every half hour.  It is quite a stream of water, shooting up 82 feet into the air.  I was glad I hadn’t missed it.

As we entered the palace vestibule, I could tell that this was going to be a tour worth taking.  This was one very ornate palace.  Versailles was the inspiration for it. Photos were not allowed inside the palace; but I can understand why.  The tour group was quite large and it would have been very difficult to even take decent photos; especially since it was kept rather dark inside.  I must say that the rooms were as ornate and maybe more so than any palace we have been to; and we have been to many of the most famous ones.  Some of the rooms are just jaw dropping gorgeous.  It is the only place where I purchased a souvenir book so that I would have photos to remember it by.

After the relatively short escorted tour, I went outside to tour the royal gardens.  I only had time to see the gardens and areas behind the palace.  The gardens in front of the palace on the other side of the fountain up the hill are also supposed to be quite gorgeous.  I certainly enjoyed what I did see.


On one end of a garden is the Neptune Fountain.  I liked how it was set in the hill with the shrubs and statues lined up behind it.


There were numerous statues spread throughout the gardens, including one of Ludwig II in an arbor.



Another arbor climbs up the hill toward the next area I wanted to explore, the Venus Grotto.

It was a long way and steep climb to get to the grotto entrance.  I had to wait about 15 minutes for the group to be allowed to enter the grotto.  The artificial dripstone cave with its lake and waterfall was modeled on the Hörselberg from the first act of the Wagner opera "Tannhäuser".

It was nicely done and rather interesting; but after looking at the main room and another section with some fake stalagmites and stalactites, there was nothing more to see than a mostly empty tunnel to the exit.  It left me wanting more.  It also made me wonder if it was worth the long walk up the hill to see it; but I decided it was.



The walk down the hill was also a challenge, since there weren’t any signs directing me back to the palace.  As a result it did take quite a while to finally make it back to civilization.  But I did get a great view of palace and grounds from the back side.  My timing was good, since the fountain was spraying again when I went by it.

After returning to Farchant, Hans and Barbara invited us up to their apartment, since Carol hadn’t seen it yet.  They served us drinks and some delicious cheeses and sausages with bread and crackers.  It turned out that it was our dinner for the night; since we ate so much of it, we were too full to go out.


Farchant, Germany – Day 7
This was our last day in Germany.  Since our tour guides had done such an outstanding job of showing us the local highlights, we didn’t have much to do today except get ready to travel the next day and enjoy the last day with our friends.  We would be meeting before lunch, so I had time to turn in the plastic bottles we had accumulated.  When we purchased bottled water or soft drinks, we were charged .25€ per bottle to encourage recycling.  It worked.  I dragged a bag with the bottles we had emptied over the week and took them to the store for reimbursement.  I was most impressed with the machine that you put the bottles into for your refund.  You insert one bottle at a time, which the machine reads the bar code from.  It rejected any returns of products that were not sold in that store.  When I was finished with all the bottles, it printed out a receipt for me to take to the counter to get my refund.  Very nice way of handling it.

Earlier in the week, Barbara had shown me how the grocery stores also handle cart control.  When you go to where the carts are stored in the parking lot, you insert one Euro to release the cart from the group.  After you have finished shopping, the cart is returned and a Euro pops out of the securing device.  Very clever.  I am surprised that grocery stores at home don’t try this system.  It keeps loose carts out of the parking lot and probably prevents some theft of the carts.

Once again we headed to Garmish.  The scenery along the drive, as always, was lovely. 


Our first order of business was to drop off our laundry at a laundromat.  They would wash, dry and put it back in our laundry bag for us for 10€.  We were quite pleased and arranged to pick it up later in the day.  After lunch, we walked around town, getting a last look at the quaint town.



We were surprised the whole time we were in Germany at how reasonably priced the restaurants were.  It was particularly reasonable considering that the price on the menu is the price you pay, since taxes are included in the price.  On the other hand, the cost of clothing products seemed quite high compared to what we are used to.

After lunch we walked over to the Michael Ende Kurpark (spa-gardens).  It is a very relaxing large park in the center of town.  At the entrance, they were doing some maintenance on the floral clock.


In the park, they were setting up booths for some activities later in the day.

The highlight was all the colorful flowers throughout the park.  It was a most enjoyable peaceful place to stroll through.


Along the path was a long wooden building.  Hans asked if I knew what it was.  It looked like a covered bridge; but it was actually an old fashion bowling alley.  I sure wouldn’t have guessed that.


Everywhere in the park were more arrangements of lovely flowers.



For our last evening in Germany, we went back to the Oberauer Alm restaurant we had discovered two days earlier.  They had a menu that had lots of items not found at many of the restaurants.  The meal was once again quite good.  We said our good byes to Hans and Barbara and thanked them for providing us with such great tours.  They had been awesome hosts and really took such great care of us while we were in Germany.  As we left, I felt sorry to leave and that we would miss them; but then remembered that in a couple of weeks they would be back home across the street from us.  They are truly great friends and neighbors.  

Click Button to Continue to Page 3 of the Review


© 2015 • All Rights Reserved