On the Road in Bavaria Day 1: Palaces and Pork Knuckle

Day One of Bavarian Road TripIn anticipation of our upcoming Southwestern US road trip adventure in October, we’ll be revisiting some of our most memorable travels. We love a good road trip, especially the ability to get behind the wheel, press the gas pedal, and just keep going—anywhere— as well as to stop when and where we like. Road trips aren’t always the most affordable travel option, but if you can land a great deal on a rental car (or save money elsewhere), they’re a wonderful way to experience places and things you might otherwise miss on a tour or public transportation. We’re firm believers that travel isn’t just about the destination, but about the journey, too!

In October 2010, Nicole and I kicked off our very first trip together: a 9-day drive through Germany and Austria. First stop: the medieval walled town of Rothenburg.

After an uneventful overnight flight (memorable mostly for the elderly man in front of Nic who insisted upon fully reclining his seat into her lap for six hours), we landed in Frankfurt. Since this city held little interest for us, we picked up our cute rental (which we dubbed Gunter) and GPS (Dita) and hit the road. Our early morning arrival meant that the roads were relatively empty—plus, we could enjoy an artist’s palette of a sunrise over the highway.

rental car

Gunter, our trusty rental car

sunrise in Germany

The upside of an overnight flight: Enjoying this vibrant sunrise on the drive to Wurzburg.

Soon, city scenes gave way to frost-laden fields. It was late October, the sun was out, the air was crisp, and we were on our way!

sunrise over fields in Germany

The sun rises over a frosty field outside Wurzburg, Germany.

Despite our jet lag, we were determined to tick off a few attractions on the way to our guesthouse in Rothenburg. First, we stopped at the Wurzburg Residenz, an 18th century Baroque palace in Northern Bavaria. Because it was still so early—the palace had just opened—and guided tours in English only run twice a day, we opted not to spend too much time indoors. (Some of the Residenz is only viewable via tour.)

View of the Wurzburg Residenz

Morning at the Wurzburg Residenz

Front view of the Wurzburg Residence

Is that a palace or what? Germany’s Wurzburg Residenz

Instead, we followed a Japanese tour group up the grand white marble staircase and through the accessible, over-the-top rooms. We passed an hour or so exploring the Court Gardens, which reminded me of some of gardens I’ve toured at French chateaux. The verdant grass, falling leaves, and melting frost all made for a picture-perfect walk.

Court Gardens at the Wuzburg Residenz

The verdant Court Gardens

A frosty staircase at the Wurzburg Residenz

A frosty staircase at the Wurzburg Residenz

Next, we drove the short distance to Wurzburg’s Marienberg Fortress. With the oldest structure on site dating back to the 700s, we were excited to soak up the history. As we started up the hill to the fortress, though, our 4 hours of airplane sleep finally caught up with us. Too tired to commit to a full tour of the castle, we again chose to stay outside.

The Marienberg Fortress in Wurzburg, Germany

Cool shapes at the Marienberg Fortress

The view of Wurzburg, Germany from the Marienberg Fortress

View of the town from the Marienberg Fortress

We didn’t regret the decision. The weather was beautiful, and the views from our walk around the fortress walls were unbelievable. We could see the red roofs of the houses, spires of churches, and other buildings in town. The grounds are also home to a vineyard, and we enjoyed reading the descriptions of different varietals grown onsite.

The rooftops of Wurzburg from the Marienberg Fortress

The rooftops of Wurzburg

Vineyard at Germany's Wurzburg Fortress

Yum! The vineyard at the Marienberg Fortress has some tasty options.

After Wurzburg, we were ready for a nap, so we packed back in Gunter, fired up Dita, and made our way an hour south to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

The town square in Rothenburg, Germany

The town square in Rothenburg, Germany

There’s no doubt that Rothenburg is a major tourist destination: The Gothic style town hall, the quaint timber-framed houses, and the preponderance of toy and Christmas-themed shops had me wondering if I’d landed at a Disney World attraction instead.

Christmas-themed goodies in Rothenburg, Germany

Christmas-themed goodies in Rothenburg, Germany

The Gasthof Goldener Greifen guesthouse in Rothenburg, Germany

Our digs for the next two nights: Hotel-Gasthof Goldener Greifen in Rothenburg, Germany

But Rothenburg lives up to its hype. And because we were staying here two nights, we could largely escape the crowds by doing our exploring before and after the tour buses arrived. Tonight, though, we were content to take a quick walk through the town square before tucking in to one of our favorite meals on the trip: pork in a creamy mustard sauce over spaetzle, washed down with a few glasses of locally made white wine.

Interior of the Gasthof Goldener Greifen

Interior of the Hotel-Gasthof Goldener Greifen. Some parts were 900 years old!

Blackboard offering pork knuckle in Rothenburg, Germany

Blackboard offering pork knuckle—just one of many delicious options in Rothenburg, Germany. Sign possibly written by Dan Quayle.

Next up: Shame masks, Christmas in October, and the dreaded schneeballen: We explore Rothenburg in earnest!

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14 thoughts on “On the Road in Bavaria Day 1: Palaces and Pork Knuckle

    • Thanks. We went in October, but after Octoberfest–so we had great fall weather but fewer crowds.

  1. Oh Bavaria I love it! You’ve taken wonderful photos that brought back much memories! And did you go on this Night Watchman walk in Rothenburg? I blogged about this some time back and now I’m craving for a Schneebälle :)

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