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


Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland – Day 4
After yesterday’s invigorating and spectacular walk, I had great hopes for the last day in Lauterbrunnen.  Once again we had a forecast for rain during part of the day; but it was also supposed to be cloudy all day.  Looking outside, it appeared that the forecast could be correct this time.  It was a very cloudy day with no sunshine in sight.  I was disappointed; but after such great luck we had been having with the weather, other than the heat wave, I couldn’t complain.  I would just pack my umbrella in my camera bag and make the best of it.

My friend Steph had also suggested that I take the trail on the west side of the valley from the town of Murren to Grütschalp, the town right above our hotel.  That is where the cable car just outside our balcony goes to.  Since Murren is at a higher elevation than Grütschalp, it made sense to start the walk from Murren, so that it would be an easier descending walk.  To get to Murren, I would take the bus to Stechelberg.  Since the bus stop was right across from the train station, it was most convenient.  During our stay in Switzerland, I tried to charge as much as I could, since I didn’t want to be stuck with a lot of Swiss Francs at the end of the trip.  I would be happy to have excess Euros, since we would be able to use them on other upcoming vacations; but I didn’t see another trip to Switzerland in the near future so I didn’t want to be stuck with francs.  Many stores would accept Euros on a 1 to 1 basis, since they were worth about 5% more than the Francs.  The tourist information office told me that I could purchase the bus ticket from the driver; but that I would have to have Francs, since they would not take Euros.  With the bus ride only costing 4.40 Francs, I had enough in change.

When we arrived at Stechelberg, the bus pulled right up to the cable car station, where most people exited.  It was very convenient.  The cable car ride to Murren was only 11 Francs. Since it was cloudy, the view wasn’t as pretty as the two days earlier when I went up the Schilthorn; but it had an interesting look with the ribbons of clouds hovering around the mountains.


After leaving the station, I wanted to take a look around town before starting my walk.  It was a pretty town with the quaint houses and colorful flowers everywhere.




It appeared to be a pretty quiet town with not much activity going on.  It did seem like most of the buildings were residences or small hotels rather than lots of shops catering to the tourists.  But the attraction to Murren was the view.  And what a view it was.


It would have been even better on a sunny day; but I had already had pretty good luck with weather the previous days.  While walking through town looking for the trail, I took every opportunity to look out toward the east where the deep valley and tallest mountains were located.  I couldn’t see the mountain peaks; but it was still a spectacular panorama before me.

I finally found a sign pointing toward Grütschalp.  It said 1.5 hours.  I stopped at a scenic overlook area to get some photos before hitting the trail.


The beginning of the trail went right beside the railroad tracks.   This was an issue, since evergreen trees were on the other side of the track obstructing views of the valley and mountains.  It did take away from the type walk I was hoping for.

Every once in a while there was a break in the trees; but I was getting concerned that the whole trail would be like this.  It did make me change my perspective of the walk to one of a nature walk rather than just mountain viewing.  There were wild flowers and lots of trees to appreciate, plus the occasional view of mountains and waterfalls in the distance did make the walk most enjoyable.






I was surprised at how many people were walking toward me and how few were going my way on the path.  There is a 500 foot elevation drop from Murren; which means that those folks were climbing uphill most of the time on their walks.  Looking on the web, many sites recommend taking the uphill walk.  I was getting enough exercise already going downhill.  There were enough sections where I had to go uphill also.

As I got close to the halfway point of Winteregg, I was able to see the modern railway station in the distance.  The terrain was also getting prettier, since the railroad tracks had taken a different route than the walking trail.  The clouds were also breaking up allowing the sun to shine through at times.  Things were looking up.  This was turning out to be very nice walk.

At Winteregg, I was able to see the town of Wengen were we were the previous day down below on the other side of the valley.  It was different to be looking down on it rather than looking up at it, as we had been doing from our balcony.

There wasn’t much in Winteregg itself.  I’m not sure why they even had a railway stop there; but I guess that it is the only transportation method for people living on the mountain, since there are no roads going this high up.

Once past Winteregg, the trail became even better.  There were small mountain streams and lovely pastures up the mountain.





Every so often, I would hear a cowbell not far away; but I couldn’t see any cows.  I almost started to walk up into a pasture to find one; but realized that it was private property and that I should just stay on the path.   Further down the road I heard what sounded like a xylophone orchestra.  It was very loud.  When I came around a corner, I saw that it was a herd of cows grazing in the field.  I couldn’t believe how much noise they were making.               


I had to take a video of them, so that I could capture the sound of all the cow bells.

After not being able to find a single cow, I had finally hit the mother lode.  They were everywhere.  They started to move across the path I was taking, which got me a bit concerned.  Some of these cows were bulls with horns.  Should I be worried about them?  When I saw a break in the cow parade, I hurried down the path to avoid finding out if they were aggressive.  As I passed by, one of the cows gave me an affectionate look.  Well, at least it wasn’t a mad look.

I finally arrived at the Grütschalp train and cable car station.  The hour and a half walk had taken two hours.  I will say that I was surprised that as I was walking the trail, the signs kept showing that it was an hour and a half to go, even after walking for a half hour.  Perhaps they need to update the signs.  It didn’t matter how long the walk was, it was well worth it.

I took some photos from the viewing platform, since it would be 20 minutes before the next cable car to Lauterbrunnen would leave.

The ride down only cost 9 Francs.  The view of the valley was amazing as expected from the different angle. 


After returning to the hotel, Carol and I headed to town for lunch.  We both felt like having a salad, so we checked out different places along the main road to see what we could find.  When we got to the Oberland Hotel, where we had an excellent salad with our fondue the previous night, we decided to eat there again.  Their meal salad was so good.  We would have liked to try other restaurants; but when you find a winner, it is hard not to come back.  Plus many of the restaurants weren’t accessible to Carol’s scooter.

Since we would be leaving Switzerland in the morning, we needed to get back to the hotel to start the packing process.  My role in that, other than packing my electronics, is to put the suitcases on the bed for Carol to load up.  She prefers me to keep out of her way after I have done my part, so I decided to take one last walk through town to the Staubbach Falls.  I would miss the beautiful mountainous terrain.  When I passed by the cemetery, I decided to go in to take photos, rather than from the fence, like I previously had done.  Quite a special place.



As I continued my walk, I went right past Staubbach Falls.  I was so enjoying the view of the mountains and lush valley, I decided to walk a little further to see how much I could see of the snowcapped mountains in the distance. The further I walked the more of them I could see.  I came to the next large waterfall, Spissbach Falls. 

From there, I was able to get a great view of the mountains that were hidden from view when closer to Lauterbrunnen.

It was time to turn around and head back.  This was such an enjoyable walk.   I wish that I had been able to walk all the way to Stechelberg and beyond where cars weren’t allowed to go, since it wasn’t that much further away. When coming back toward Trummelbach Falls, I was able to get a good view of the tunnels that people would go through to get behind the falls.  They were really high up on the mountain.  You can see the fences in the openings to the right of the falls.


 The waterfall itself was pretty weak and was turning into a heavy mist before hitting the lower rocks.  Earlier in the summer the flow is supposed to be very heavy, which would make the climb up to the viewing area more worthwhile.

I took my last few photos which included one of a grass covered roof.  Very Swiss!


Our last dinner at the Oberland Hotel was once again most delicious.  Carol’s risotto was to die for!

The Swiss Alps had always been on our bucket list and we had finally been able to check it off.  I had very high expectations for Switzerland and they had been exceeded.  There was such incredible beauty everywhere we looked.  We were so fortunate to be able to experience this magnificent natural beauty.


Colmar, France – Day 1
The drive to Colmar was only 139 miles and was supposed to take two and a half hours.  Like the roads we came in on, the roads to France had so many tunnels to go through and so many turns to stay on the right road.  For lunch we stopped at a Burger King at a rest area.  A Whopper by itself cost 9 Francs; but like at the German McDonalds we had previously stopped at, it had lots of veggies on it and was really good.  I don’t mind paying for it if it is as good as it looks in the advertisements!   Once we entered France, we didn’t have a single tunnel to go through and the roads were much straighter and easier to navigate.  That was probably due to the lack of mountains in that part of France.

We got to Colmar and were able to find our hotel, the Best Western Grand Hotel Bristol (  The hotel had good ratings; but a main reason I booked it was because it had an elevator and air conditioning.  With the temperature forecast to be in the mid to high nineties, it was a good decision.

When we checked in, a lovely receptionist named Hannah assisted us.  She was so pleasant, sweet and helpful.  Since we were arriving around noon and check in was at 3:00 PM, she was able to put us at ease by taking our bags, telling us how to get to the parking lot and where to go until we could check in.  With our arriving in France on Bastille Day, many of the restaurants in the hotel and around the area were closed.  She gave us some suggestions.  She was such a pleasure to see and talk with every day we were there.  She gave me a piece of paper showing where to find the entrance to the parking, which was on a different side of the building; along with a remote control to open the metal roll up door at the entrance and lift arm at the other end of the garage entrance.  There was a lot of security.  The entrance to the garage was narrow and curved as it descended to a basement level.  The garage itself wasn’t too tight; but I always get paranoid trying to park in this type of a garage, especially in a rented car that I am not that familiar with.  I was able to find a spot that had extra side space, so it worked out well.


While we were waiting for check in, we decided to walk to the area called Little Venice.  It was supposed to be one of the major tourist attractions in Colmar.  To get there, we passed through the largest park in the city, Champ de Mars.  Carol got a kick out of the large brightly colored planters.

The park has two statues made by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty.  He was born in Colmar.


I was concerned that visiting Colmar would be a letdown after visiting Switzerland.  But we started to get excited about the town when we came to Little Venice.  It is a small area of quaint buildings along a canal.  Quite attractive and very picturesque. 




While taking photos, I saw people pointing into the water.  There was a small animal swimming around.  When it got closer to the bridge we were standing on, I could see that it was a large rat.  I didn’t tell Carol.  I didn’t need her to be worrying about rats for the rest of the trip.

The area near Little Venice was quite popular.  There were lots of tourists running around; as well as a sightseeing tram and canal boats.


I was really impressed with how pretty the area was.  The half-timber houses and flowers everywhere made for a most enjoyable walk.



The further into town we walked, the prettier it got.  I think we picked the right place for our base of operations while in the Alsace region of France.







As with many of the places we had visited on the trip, Colmar had a nice Cathedral.  The Église Saint-Martin church building was originally constructed between 1234 and 1365.  The helmet crowning the bell tower had been added in 1572.  This was an old building.


After being wowed by the beautiful baroque churches in Germany, this one seemed rather plain in comparison.

But the church had some beautiful decorations, ornaments and statues.



Since we wanted to get back to the hotel, we didn’t have time to do a thorough tour of the city; but we did see one of the most recognized houses, the Pfister House.  The house was built in 1537 and has become one of the symbols of Colmar.  I had not seen windows that were made on angles before.  Rather different.


When it got close to 3:00 PM, we headed back to the hotel.  We were ready to get in the room and enjoy the air conditioning, since it was already in the 90’s outside.  The main complaint about the hotel that I had read about in reviews was the slow small elevator.  Those complaints were valid.  I couldn’t take our suitcases and Carol on her TravelScoot in one trip.  But all that was forgotten when we walked into the cool comfortable room.  Room 411 was adequately sized and once again, the beds were comfortable.


The bathroom was on the narrow side; but the shower was very large.

While playing with the light switches, we discovered that there were metal blinds on the outside of each of the three windows.  There were separate controls for each window to either partially close, completely close with small holes allowing some light to enter (as shown below) or totally close.  It was blackout curtains extraordinaire. It was an outstanding feature.  I also took a photo from the outside to show what they looked like.


For dinner, we weren’t interested in a big meal or in going into town to find a restaurant.  There was a small fast food restaurant a couple doors down from the hotel called Capitol Kebab.  I got a gyro type sandwich and I got Carol a sandwich on a French roll.  They were both very good.  But the best thing we found there was that they had a Lipton peach tea in bottles that was very cold and only 1.90€.  That was about half what we had to pay around town for a cold drink.  We would visit there regularly.

The hotel was not as close to the main tourist area as I would have liked, since it would take about twelve minutes for me to walk there; and I walk pretty fast.  But it was very convenient to the railway station which was right across the street.  This hotel would be perfect for tourists traveling by train.


Colmar, France – Day 2
After a good night’s sleep, we were refreshed and ready to do some touring in the area.  Each morning we would get some type of a croissant from the store in the train terminal.  They were quite good and it was a much better deal than to pay 17€ for the hotel’s breakfast buffet.   We planned on driving a section of the Route du Vin or the Wine Road of Alsace.  I picked out a few towns that I had previously read about that we could easily do without too much driving.  They were also towns that people really enjoyed visiting.  Since we aren’t big wine drinkers, we were going to focus on the towns themselves rather than vineyard tours.

The first town we were going to visit was Turkheim.  It wasn’t one of the three cities that I wanted to visit; but it was the closest to Colmar and appeared to be a good place to start our drive along the wine road.  When we got to Turkheim, I couldn’t find the main city and there was some road construction that prevented us from going where the GPS told us to go.  So I found a place to stop to reset the GPS for one of the cities that I really wanted to visit, Kaysersberg.  The stopping spot was a rather scenic location with a nice view of some vineyards and a statue.  So I took some photos and moved on.

On the way to Kayersberg while at a stop light, I took a photo of a vineyard that had an interesting tower and a large wine barrel built into its rock wall.


As we drove into Kayersberg, we were concerned about where we would be able to park.  The roads were narrow and no parking spots were available.  We went further down the road and finally found a spot in front of a store where we could park for an hour.  Since Carol wanted to look in the shops, she just hung out around where the car was and I headed into the main part of town.  This place looked really nice.  It was just a lovely town with such cute buildings and decorations.




Other than being just a gorgeous little town, Kayersberg was the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer.  Our next destination was to be the walled city of Riquewihr.  It is considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in France.  That sounded like a great reason to stop there.  As we were getting close to town, it didn’t appear that we were anywhere near a town.  We were wondering if the GPS was wrong.  We saw a parking area, so I decided that I would find a place to park and check to see what the deal was.  Once again parking was an issue; but we actually got a pretty good spot just outside a rock wall.


When I walked around the corner, I could see that we were very close to the entrance to the town.  Since it was a walled fortress, it was hard to tell that there was a town inside.  Once we got up to the tall tower at the entrance, it was like looking into a fairytale land.  The town was just too cute.


We went in and started looking around.  There was lots to take in.          


With the sun shining on this side of the tower, it was much more impressive than the other side.

We started down the main street to see everything.  Because the streets were cobblestone, it was not pleasant for Carol to go too far down the road, since it was very bumpy for her on the scooter.  She decided to go back to the entrance area to wait for me to explore.  The town was just so pretty.  The vineyards on the mountains added to it.  I was so glad we had taken the wine route.






Since it was lunch time, I thought it would be so enjoyable to be able to have a meal in Riquewihr.  We stopped at the restaurant close to the entrance, Le Medieval.  We were able to sit outside and enjoy the scenery and people watch.  We had a very sweet waitress who could speak English.  It was most helpful, since the menu was only in French.  We wanted to have a salad, but it was a challenge to determine what was on the various salad entrees.  What we picked didn’t actually look much like the type salad we wanted; but it was good.  I was particularly glad that we had Munster cheese on the salad, since the town of Munster, where the cheese comes from, was in Alsace and close by.


I had a beer with my meal.  When I saw the couple next to us order a glass of wine, I thought that I had to have at least one glass of wine while on the Wine Road.  I got one and as expected it was delicious.

Our next destination was the town of Ribeauville.  On the way there, I had to stop to get some photos of the beautiful vineyards and some of the grapes.


I was also finally able to get a photo of a Route de Vins sign.  I had been frustrated that I hadn’t been able to pull over to get a photo, since there was no place to stop on the road.

When we came to Ribeauville, we were most distressed, since there were no parking spaces anywhere.  We drove up a road that had cars parked all along it.  When we finally found a spot, it was probably a mile from the town entrance and up a hill.  We turned around and hoped to find something better.  Carol spotted a handicap spot, the only parking spot within miles.  We had lucked out.  We put our handicap sticker on our mirror and headed toward town.

Ribeauville was another fairytale looking town.  It was just so quaint.








When we were driving to Ribeauville, we had seen what looked like a large bird’s nest with artificial birds in it.  Then while walking down the main street, we saw another one; but there were live birds living in the nest.  It was a rather unusual sight.

Since it was a rather hot day, the first place we stopped was an ice cream stand.  Carol chose a melon flavor.  It was unusual because it was cantaloupe flavored, but oh was it ever delicious!  Next we stopped at a shop to have a peach/apricot slushy.  It sounded very good and we shared one.  It was so refreshing, that on the way back down the street, we got another one.  At one shop along the way they had a large teddy bear blowing bubbles over the crowd.

After leaving Ribeauville, we had one more stop before going back to the hotel.  One of Colmar’s tourist attractions is a 39 foot replica of the 151 foot tall Statue of Liberty.  With Colmar being Bartholdi’s birthplace, the replica was installed on the 100th anniversary of his death in 2004.  It is in the center of a roundabout and not easily accessible.

When I returned to the hotel I parked at a free parking lot just down the street from the hotel.  It is mostly used by people that take the trains; but is popular with the hotel guests.  It should be since the hotel charges 15€ per night for parking.

After resting in the cool environment of the room for a while, I headed out to do some more sightseeing in town.  On the way there, I was able to get a photo of the top of a The Église Saint-Martin church I had visited the previous day.

My main destination was to visit Place des Dominicains (the Dominican Church).  I wasn’t interested in the church as much as I was what the church was temporarily displaying.  With the Unterlinden Museum undergoing a major expansion, their major pieces had been moved to the church so that tourists could see them.  The church’s interior was similar to the Saint Martin Church I had visited the previous day. 



But the museum pieces made the visit much more special.  The two main over 500 year old pieces from the collection, the Isenheim Altarpiece and Madonna of the Rose Garden are prominently displayed.  The Isenheim Altarpiece is unusual in that it folds into different configurations to display different pictures.  The main display is of an image of the crucified Christ covered in plague type sores.  This is because the monks in the monastery where the altarpiece was originally placed helped victims of the plague and other skin diseases.  The other panels from the altar piece are displayed around the room.


I was very impressed with the Madonna of the Rose Garden.  It was such a beautiful work of art and it was in such good condition that it looked like it was recently painted rather than being over 540 years old.  The painting and gilded enclosure are just gorgeous.


There were other lovely pieces on display.

I was intrigued by the expression on a wooden statue of Mary.

When I went outside to take exterior photos, I was surprised to see another large birds nest with birds occupying it on the roof of the church.  It must be the thing to do in France.

One of the other top attractions in Colmar is the House of Heads.  The house, built in 1609, is known for the 106 heads or masks that decorate the façade.  It was quite an unusual house.



For dinner we went to the popular and highly rated restaurant in the hotel, La Nouvelle Auberge.  We ordered a Chateaubriand for two.  It was a bit pricey; but not outrageous compared to the other menu items.  It was just outstanding and the service staff so accommodating.  We liked it so much we also reserved a table for the next day. 


Colmar, France – Day 3
Our vacation was almost over.  For our last day in Colmar, I wanted to go back into town and see if there were some attractions that I had missed; as well as get some better photos of places I previously visited.  On the way there, I passed by the Carrousel 1900 at one corner of the Champ de Mars Park.  It is proclaimed to be the largest wooden carousel in Europe.  Because the interior is completely enclosed in glass, it can operate all year.

I took a few more photos of the lovely street scenery. It was such an enjoyable city to walk around.  Although I had walked around several times, each time I would find something new. 




One building I hadn’t previously found was the former Customs House.  The city map was very confusing, especially since there are very few straight streets.  To add to the confusion, many intersections didn’t have street signs, and the ones that did, had very small signs.  I finally found the Customs House; but a delivery truck was parked in front of it the whole morning obstructing the photos.  I tried to work around it.  The roof design, like many in the city was quite attractive.


We had read that there was an excellent gingerbread shop across from the Pfister House.  Since Carol was a gingerbread fan, I went back to the area to get her some gingerbread.  The shop was a cute place and it did smell so good.  I tried a sample of one of their types of gingerbread and knew immediately that it was perfect for my darling wife.  It was also perfect for me, too.


In one area of town a farmers’ market was in progress.  The vegetables looked like they had just been taken out of the gardens. 


The market was just outside a large building, the Marché_Couvert or covered market.  The 150 year old building looked its age on the exterior; but the inside was quite modern and spacious.


There were all kinds of foods for sale and they did look quite appetizing. 


I decided that I needed to try a French pastry while I was in France.  I found an almond treat that looked like it would fit the bill.  I would have gotten another one for Carol; but I knew that if I did, it would probably not make it back to the hotel, since it was incredibly good.  And after all, I did have the gingerbread for her.

While walking around, I looked down an alley and saw a photo opp.  It was a rhino statue in front of the Colmar Museum of Natural History.

Walking back to the hotel, I pulled out my city tourist map to see what was in the neighborhood.  Right down the street from our hotel was the Court of Appeals building that was built in 1906. It was quite a stately looking structure.  Very different from the half-timbered houses we had been seeing.

In the next block was the 174 foot tall water tower that was built in 1886.  We had caught a glimpse of it when driving into Colmar, but hadn’t seen it since.  It is hard to miss.  It was used for almost a hundred years until 1984.  Quite impressive.        

In the same block as the water tower is a statue of Bartholdi.  There was also a Bartholdi Museum in town; but I had read that it wasn’t worth spending the time to visit, so I passed on it.


With the hot sun beating down on me, I decided to give up on sightseeing.  I had seen most all of the tourist attractions on the very comprehensive tourist map.  It was time to focus on our return home the next day.  With Zurich only being 95 miles away, it would be about an hour and a half drive.  We were ready to return home.  Carol would be having a complete knee replacement in just ten days and we had lots to do to before the surgery.  Hopefully the surgery would allow her to be able to enjoy our next vacation a lot more.

When we planned for this vacation, we knew that we would have a great time, since we would be spending a week with good friends in Germany and exploring new destinations.  We normally go on cruise vacations, which are easier than a self-driving vacation, since getting to the different ports is the captain’s job and not a concern for us; and we normally have tours arranged well in advance.  With this vacation, we found that it was such a pleasure to not have anything planned for other than the hotel stays.  We were able to take our time doing what we wanted to when we wanted to.  This was especially nice since we were visiting some of the most beautiful places in the world.  We were able to thoroughly enjoy them at our own pace.  We had just a marvelous time and each destination exceeded our very high expectations.   







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