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European Road Trip – Day One

[Finally blogging about our trip to Germany and Austria we took in September 2010!]

Or I should say, Day .5 and Day One.

On the Sunday before we left, Tim had to work a 12-hour day shift. So, we packed the car up on Saturday afternoon – I dragged everything outside while Tim was at work, and then when he got home we spent a few hours stuffing it…and boy, do I wish I had thought to take pictures of the packed car! My friend Lou lives down near Dover, and she offered to let us spend the night at her place on Sunday so we wouldn’t lose a half day driving through England. What a lifesaver! We didn’t actually get to her house until past 10PM, and didn’t get to sleep (too busy chatting!) until around 12, but it was well worth it to get on a Ferry around 8AM. Thanks again, Lou (Lou is currently cruising in the Caribbean with our favourite band, Barenaked Ladies)!

Our plans for Monday were to drive across France, through Belgium and Luxembourg, and finally into Germany. The drive was LONG. I think when we do this again (plans are for 2012 or 2013!), we’ll be breaking the journey sooner, as Tim was really tired. Unless by then I’m driving, in which case we would be able to switch off. But we had important plans and a sort-of itinerary to follow. Plus, I booked us a room for the night in Oy-am-Mittelberg.

We took an early morning ferry, around 8AM BST. Unfortunately, we crossed into a new time zone and we actually lost an hour. I think next time, we’ll aim for a 7AM sailing, as well. I also discovered that P&O sail continuously through the night, so we could have driven down after Tim got off work, gotten on the ferry and stayed at a hotel in France and given us a jump start. Oh well. We know for the next trip. The ferry was also cold. We went outside on the open deck while the ship was leaving port in Dover and while it was docking in Calais, but then we went inside and ordered breakfast. Food on the ferry was expensive, but it was worth it – They had a breakfast deal where you got something like 6 or 7 items for a flat rate. I took a picture of Tim’s plate!

We reached Calais around 9:30AM local time, and started in on the long drive. We made a bathroom stop somewhere in France, and stopped in Belgium for Lunch. I packed things into our cigarette lighter socked powered cooler so we could have a picnic lunch and we took a decent break. Original plans were to get to our Gasthaus in plenty of time for Abendbrot (evening meal), but that wasn’t going to happen. We finally gave in and stopped around 8PM at a service plaza. Our options were an expensive authentic German meal, or Burger King. Needless to say, we opted for Burger King. No reason to break the bank on a dinner break! This also is where we learned about Frauenparkplatz.

A Frauenparkplatz is a parking space, or series of spaces, reserved for women. The spaces are a little wider than traditional spaces, which lead you to think the Germans perhaps don’t think women can park. However, these spaces were actually created for women’s safety and are located close to doors and well-lit. Personally, I think it’s a great idea…it just also has the potential for jokes!

Around this time, we also discovered one of the perks of the Germany Autobahn — Many sections have raised speed limits or even NO speed limit. At first I was afraid for Tim to be driving at 100, but then I soon realized that if he didn’t, we’d get squashed by all the other passing cars! The sections aren’t very long, or at least, driving along at 100 they don’t feel very long. It helped us to make up some time, too. Our Gasthaus had a check-in time of by 10PM and if we didn’t get there, we’d lose 80% of the room rate plus not have a place to sleep. Fortunately, I was able to call the Gasthaus from my mobile and they were willing to “wait up” for us until 11. As luck would have it, we managed to arrive right at 10PM!

We stayed at the Ratskeller. A Gasthaus I picked completely by random based on it’s location and price. I just looked at a map of where we planned to be the following day, and picked out a few towns to check that looked like they were within an hours driving distance. I picked the Ratskeller completely blind, but it turned out to be an excellent choice.

Our room was basic, but it had all the basic commodities you expect from a hotel – comfortable, clean beds, a clean WC with shower stall, a telephone, television, and as luck would have it- free WiFi. Our hosts even offered to cook a meal for us when we arrived at 10! We declined, since we had made a stop already for food. We did make the mistake of assuming there would be a kettle or coffee maker in our room though and wished we had asked for some tea. We were really tired, so we set our alarms for 8 the following morning, plugged in some of our electronics to get them charged up, pushed the beds together (we booked a double room, but it consisted of two single beds), and collapsed.

The following morning we pulled back the curtains to absolute beauty. We missed it the night before since we arrived in the dark, but Oy-am-Mittelberg is in a valley of the Bavarian Alps. It’s stunning. Most of their tourism comes from skiing in the Winter, so in the off-season it is fairly quiet. When we went down for breakfast, there was only a handful of people present.

Breakfast (Frühstück) in Bavaria consists of a continental breakfast of meats and cheeses, and then there is usually a second breakfast called Brotzeit (“Bread Time”). The Gasthaus gave us a nice spread of breads, meat, cheeses, cereal, and hard-cooked eggs. The meal also included tea, coffee, milk, and apple juice. Surprisingly, the tea wasn’t bad! Tim and I adopted the continental style breakfast for the duration of our trip, as it made Frühstück a lot easier to prepare before we headed out for the day!

We were soon on the road and on the way to our first tourist stop of the trip – Neuschwanstein Castle. We stopped a few places along the way to take some photos. I’ll try not to overwhelm you with photos, but it’s going to be hard to pick my favourites!

If you click on the photo once, it will take you to that photos page. If you click on the photo again, you will be able to view it full size. I have no idea why WordPress made it so complicated!

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