The name Romantische Strasse, or Romantic Road conjures up images of a fairytale road, lined by roses, lilies and floating Cupids, with pretty hamlets and castles on the way. In reality it was a narrow single carriageway road with great views of meadows and small towns, and most importantly, speed limits unlike the autobahns that we had been given reason to fear. However, the road was aptly named for the very gorgeous romantic towns that lay on the way, the smooth drive with practically no one on the road, and the stunning vistas of the German countryside from vineyards to the snow-capped Alps.
“What’s so romantic about this road, mommy? Are you going to hop out of the car and start dancing?” asked the irritating smirking brat. “Or something worse?” She added wickedly. Remind me not to take her on the next trip. “The Romantic Road was a gimmick, a 350 km long tourism booster in the 1950s to tempt travellers to drive along this road after the devastation of WW II,” I explained. The road could be driven from North to South as we did, or reverse. Our Romantic Road drive began in Würzburg where we picked up our Volkswagen Golf and ended at a lakeside town just ahead of Füssen. In all, we spent 4 nights on the Romantic Road.
Its tough to drive on a road with 20 charming towns with a man who hates pausing the trip. Würzburg, the beginning and Füssen, the end point were undebatable. Rothenburg ob der Tauber where we stayed the night, was essential too. Stops other than these required careful planning to avoid visiting towns that looked similar to each other. We finally agreed on stopping at Dinklesbühl, Nördlingen and Landsberg am Lech ( a lot of effort was spent in convincing the hubby). As we were keen on driving the romantic strasse, we keyed in the names of the next Romantic Road town to stay off the autobahn.
The drive to Rothenburg was the first leg of the journey, very scenic with the undulating meadows, vineyards and forests on a warm sunny day.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber was undoubtedly the most romantic of all towns on this road.
Both these towns have been covered in previous posts, so I continue my story with the day we left Rothenburg. The drive out of Rothenburg was beautiful with cloudy skies, gentle rain and lush green fields. Small towns dotted the road here and there.
As we took the exit to Dinklesbühl, we were a little worried about parking (because we hadn’t figured out how to work the parking machines) but we found free parking outside the walls.
Dinklesbühl is a mini-Rothenburg. Just like its more crowded and famous version, it is a walled town with a night watchman tour. It dates back to the medieval period as well, but has somehow been spared in WW II, so all the buildings are the original ones. It seems much smaller than Rothenburg, far more real and infinitely less touristy. However, it’s just as high on charm and good looks.
Adorable little houses with sloping red roofs and windows with contrasting shutters greeted us as soon as we entered the town. As we walked towards the town centre, the half-timbered buildings with intricately carved signs started coming up.
The town square was simply gorgeous with a church at one corner and stunningly colored half-timbered houses on both the sides. It was a lovely overcast day and the recent rain seemed to have washed the entire town clean.
The most beautiful of all the houses was a hotel, but the others were lovely too. I simply loved the lace curtains on all the windows.
Cafes lined the sidewalks and flowers peeked out from everywhere.
A wedding party was climbing into a horse cart driven by a pair of adorable horses.
We strolled along the street so taken in by the city that we lost count of the time. The gentle breeze blowing through along with the chocolate high from the morning breakfast set us all in a great mood. After walking down the entire main road, we walked through the wall to emerge on the side of a little stream with pretty houses around it.
We walked into St George church for a moment of peace and to rest our legs. In contrast to the colourful town, the church was a dull grey and brown, the stained glass and the flowers being the only color there.
We had walked only on the most famous road of Dinklesbühl for want of time, but I managed to peer into one of the crossing lanes and found it just as charming.
As we walked out of the town, I felt so happy that we chose to stop at this town, even if for very little time. I know I went trigger-happy but it wasn’t my fault, it was that of Dinklesbühl.
We drove off with the next stop Nördlingen keyed in to Maps, again staying on the smaller motorways. Romantic Road isn’t very well-defined as a road, and there are many alternate routes to reach any town along this route, so we were very worried when the smooth-as-silk motorway was replaced by this.
With no other road in sight, we drove through this partly closed road instead of doubling back and taking the autobahn. Not a very good move in retrospect, as it turned into a dirt road and we were flung about. The only reassuring things were Google Maps pointedly leading us on and a BMW that had followed us.
We managed to reach a proper road and were thoroughly relieved to see this signboard.
“Thank God we are getting somewhere!” exclaimed the hubby, convinced that I was leading him on a wild goose chase through Bavaria. Relieved was I when we drove up to Nördlingen, yet another walled town.
I’d chosen this town because my best friend Olivia, who’d driven the Romantic road in the Easter break, had stayed here and recommended it strongly.
Also, the scene of the elevator rising above the town in the first Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie was shot here. Since I’d loved the original movie, I was keen on seeing this view in person.
Nördlingen is a unique town as it is built in a crater left by a probable asteroid impact onto a graphite deposit. The impact created tons of tiny diamonds to get embedded in stones, that were used to build the stone buildings when the town was constructed in the 9th century AD. Of course they are microscopic, which is why we haven’t heard of this “glittering” town, but the time we reached there, Nördlingen was certainly sparkling under the fierce sun.
For some reason, the town was totally empty. All the shops, all the cafes were closed. It was like a sleepy town. Also, it was so hot and sunny that I couldn’t even enjoy the walk or the very attractive buildings.
The hubby was not pleased at all with my addition of this stop. Hence I was clearly told, “Get to the bell tower for the view, have food and get out quick.” So my limited pictures are of the walk to the bell tower.
The bell tower, the Daniel, is part of St George church, from the top of which the whole town and the surroundings can be viewed. “No church, only tower,” repeated the man. So, we started climbing, and climbing, and climbing, almost 8 storeys up.
It was such a long way up that the hubby and I had to take breaks and rest in the middle while our little mountain goat scampered up and found a friend.
We climbed up the last steps and out onto the viewing platform. The red roofs glistened in the sun and the circular walls could clearly be made out.
I felt like Charlie, soaring above the sky in the great glass elevator. I found myself wishing that I could inherit the magical Willy Wonka factory too. I could even smell the chocolate bubbling, the chocolate river flowing, the bubblegum swelling, even hearing the breaking of a bar of chocolate. Snap, and I was jerked back to reality. The hungry hubby and kid were merrily devouring a slab of Cadbury chocolate by themselves while I was lost in Wonka land. Hmmmpphh.
Since I wasn’t going to wander about the town, I decided to view it from high above with the zoom lens, and was pleasantly surprised to see very gorgeous buildings.
It was terribly sunny and we were all very hungry, so we left quickly. The kid was whining for pizza, the hubby for the car. I climbed down carefully and slowly, thanks to my unstable ankle. The kid and the hubby had sped past me 2 storeys above. Suddenly, I heard a huge thud. Fearful about the kid, I rushed down to find the hubby groaning in pain, holding his head in his arms. He’d lost his balance and had broken his fall by holding the railing with his left arm, that was already very painful because of a frozen shoulder. He was in so much pain that i was worried he’d torn his rotator cuff. Somehow, he made it down the tower and to the car where I had some painkillers. We had a quick MacDonalds lunch and drove off, the hubby managing with the painful arm.
Guilt flooded through me. This town wasn’t on the original plan I’d made in Mumbai. This was a last-minute addition that the hubby hadn’t been keen on. “No more going anywhere the man doesn’t want to,” I thought to myself. Nördlingen will always stay a bad memory for me, and bell towers a bad one for him. I dropped all plans of visiting Landsberg am Lech and chose the shortest route to Hopfen am see, the lakeside town near Füssen, the end of the Romantic Road and our stay for 2 nights.
The views of the surroundings got prettier and the towns we passed seemed to get cuter.
All of a sudden, we turned left and merged onto a large highway, a dual carriageway road. “Oh no, the autobahn!” I thought. “Yaay, no speed limit!” thought the hubby.
The big surprise was that the man loved this highway, after he’d insisted earlier on never driving the autobahn. He grew more and more confident and drove faster and faster, despite his injured arm. He even started overtaking other vehicles Mumbai-style and now, I was really scared. Luckily, we took another turn and were back on the smaller, slower country roads.
The autobahn had fortunately cut down on the long drive, both by distance and time. After 2 hours on the road, we started seeing snow-covered mountains. “The Alps,” I gasped. We were nearing our destination for the day.
Large meadows with wooden houses spread out on all sides around us. Fat cows grazed on the lush green grass. Pretty yellow wildflowers covered the fields. “Germany is prettier than Switzerland,” I thought.
We reached our hotel in Hopfen am see soon after that, but our journey on the Romantic Road doesn’t end here. It continued the next day to the fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein and the last town on the Romantic Road, Füssen. But that needs to be temptation for the next post, so I leave with these pictures as a sign of things to come.
The reason for this outstanding drive was the hubby. I can’t thank him enough, for driving expertly on the other side of the road than he’s used to, getting us everywhere safely and especially for driving despite his injury and the considerable pain he was in.