Füssen is the end (or the beginning) of the so-called Romantic Road, Germany’s most popular tourist route. It links a number of well-preserved medieval walled towns. We did not have time to visit them all, so we selected four cities for the final leg of our European tour.
The old town of Regensburg has several roads, squares and alleyways with many picturesque buildings. The stone bridge across the river, dating from the 12th century, gives good views over towards the city. There is a cathedral (partially blocked by scaffolding while we were there) and several other churches. St Ulrich’s was holding a fund-raising event; we were attracted by music coming from their garden, and discovered that they were selling food and drinks as well.
A few miles outside Regensburg is Walhalla, a quasi-Greek temple build by King Ludwig I to honour Germany’s heroes. We went there by boat, and enjoyed a short cruise on the Danube, even though that stretch of the river is not particularly scenic. It is the best way to get a view of Walhalla, even though you have to climb over 400 steps from the boat landing to reach it. Inside there are more than 120 busts of musicians, philosophers and scientists as well as kings and politicians. We couldn’t help expecting them to burst into song – we’ve been to Disney’s Haunted Mansion too many times!
Nuremberg is a much bigger city, so it takes longer to walk around and see the highlights. You cannot visit without being reminded of World War II. We went outside the city to see where the Nuremberg rallies took place. In addition to the exhibition in the so-called ‘Document Center’, you can go for a 90-minute walk to see a number of historical sites, including the Zeppelin Fields (where Hitler addressed the troops) and other places which were planned for the National Socialist party but never completed. These sites are situated around a lake where people now hire colourful paddle-boats – a stark contrast with what went on there 80 years ago.
Nuremburg was heavily bombed in World War II, but has been carefully rebuilt – although there seemed to be a lot of building work still going on. We visited the castle, the cathedral and two other major churches, and wandered round the city centre. It is an attractive place, but somehow you cannot forget that the ‘old’ buildings are fake – not as old as they are meant to appear, but rebuilt in the 20th century. We found the church of St Sebold particularly moving. On display there is a cross of nails from Coventry Cathedral, with which it is now linked in the ‘Alliance of Worldwide Reconciliation’. There are photos illustrating the damage done by Allied bombs, when 1,800 people were killed and 100,000 made homeless. And one taken in 1992, when 100,000 people holding burning candles surrounded the city, declaring ‘never again must the seeds of violence germinate in our country’.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is picture-postcard pretty (think Castle Combe if that means anything to you). Because of that, it attracts a great number of tourists. During our brief visit we went to St Jakob’s Church (on the pilgrims’ route to Santiago) and walked round the walls that circle the old town. We climbed one of the towers, and also the town hall tower, to get views over the red-tile roofs and the surrounding countryside. But most of all we enjoyed strolling around the old town, admiring the picturesque buildings in a variety of attractive colours.
We ventured just outside the town walls to the castle gardens, and to the ‘double bridge’ – not terribly exciting, but giving good views back to the city.
Würzburg is the end of the Romantic Road, and the final stop on our European journey. The weather forecast for our day there was not good, and indeed there was plenty of rain. The day did not work out exactly as planned, but we had a good time nevertheless.
Our guidebooks mentioned three highlights in the city, and a fourth a few miles outside. We were not sure we would be able to visit the Veitshöchheim Gardens, but discovered when we deposited our luggage that there were various ways of getting there, including by boat along the River Main. We liked the idea of another river trip, and were just in time for the 11am boat. We had our morning coffee on the way there, and a drink on the way back – all very pleasant and relaxing. We were however rather disappointed with ‘Germany’s most famous rococo garden’: the 200+ status were grimy and the whole place seemed sadly neglected.
When we were on our way back to Würzburg the threatened rain arrived, and the downpour continued for several hours. Fortunately some of the things we wanted to do were indoors. The cathedral was closed for a concert rehearsal, but we visited some other impressive churches. Then we went to the Residenz, or palace of the prince-bishops of Würzburg. It is said to be one of Germany’s grandest and most elaborate baroque palaces, and the reputation is well deserved. Sandie took a guided tour, and found the ‘mirror cabinet’ amazing; sadly we were not allowed to take photos.
When we emerged from the palace the rain had stopped, so we were able to visit the gardens and also look inside the incredible court chapel. After checking into our accommodation we walked up to the fortress that stands on a hill overlooking the city. It was quite a trek but worth it for the views. The climb took us through vineyards, for the area of Franconia is wine-producing country; we had already seen vineyards covering the hills while on our boat trip. (By contrast, when travelling by train through Germany, we’d seen many fields covered by solar panels – they take global warming seriously here.)
Ideally for us, there was a direct bus from Würzburg station (just opposite our accommodation) to Frankfurt airport. After our previous experience with Flixbus, we were concerned that it might not turn up – but it did, on time too. We had more problems getting home from Heathrow, but finally made it. And so ended our fascinating and enjoyable trek through three European countries (five if you include Austria and Switzerland). We’d stayed in 21 different places, undertaken train and bus journeys too many to count, and walked an average of 9.4 miles a day – meaning that we achieved our goal of walking 1000 miles when only just over half way through the year. More importantly perhaps, we managed to tick four places off our bucket list!