Monday, June 22, 2015

A brief trip to Germany - The Bavarian Alps

... and got there just ahead of the rain.

We stayed in Oberstdorf and found a number of places we could eat, both reasonably priced and with reliable food, to our surprise.  We particularly enjoyed Riegers Restaurant, which is off the beaten track but well worth finding.

You can see how overcast the town was:

As it wasn't actually raining we dropped our car outside our hotel, parking with other cars, and walked to the cable car in town.   On the ascent we passed through thick cloud and on exit from the car visibility was between 5 and 15 metres, this is actually quiet helpful when your vertigo is as bad as mine.

We were able to do a walk (that on the following trip up looked daft frankly) given this limited visibility and snapped some of the local flora:

The clouds did part briefly:

We headed down to check-in to find that the hotel was only staffed part time, and that we had a parking ticket for parking on the road.  It turns out only staff cars can park on the road.  All tourists have to park in paid parking and failure to do so gets you a fine!  What a joke.  There are no signs, no warning, nothing, just an ongoing gouging of tourists.

Anyway the following morning the hotel staff arrived, connected us to wifi (overall getting internet access in Germany was trickier than it was in Costa Rica which is really saying something) and sorted out a refund of our cable car trip (as a resident guest this is included in the price) which was partly offset by the parking fine.

A brief period of sunshine:

Persuaded us to visit Breitachklamm, the number one rated spot around Oberstdorf, which is a narrow gorge with a very strong river running through it.

It's a very wet place but well worth a visit, even with our combined claustrophobia and vertigo:

After Breitachklamm we drove to Austria (not as far as it sounds) headed up a cable car to a mountain top that proved a disappointment so then headed back to Germany and the one we'd visited previously.  We caught some sunshine again and were able therefore to capture more Alpine flower images:

Together with this Alpine Chough (looking very Game of Thrones-esque I think): 

Our penultimate day in Germany forecast a clearish morning with an afternoon downpour so we headed straight from Oberstdorf to Fussen with our hotel close to Neuschwanstein, a castle I've wanted to see for quite a while now.

Following some advice from previous travelers and friends we took the cable car up to Nebelbern for the views of the valley and to walk down.   An endeavour that took nearly three hours and which has led to sore calf muscles as I write this some five days later!  I won't mention the sheer drops, precipitous ravines, sliding down a dangerous bit or anything else, the views were worth it even if it did rain for the last half an hour of our walk.

We did photograph a couple of wild orchids on the way down:

The following morning we got ourselves to Schwangau in good time, collected our pre-booked tickets (again excellent advice, thank you) and then walked to the castle.  We didn't have time, given our afternoon flight home from Munich to visit Schloss Hohenschwangau:

So headed straight up to Neuschwanstein:

 We did our tour, it's brief as a lot of the castle went unfinished after the murky death of Ludwig II, and left the castle in a torrential downpour.  We had to walk back to our car, for half an hour, getting absolutely soaked.

We dried out on the way back to Munich and our flights home.

Despite the weather we did expand our Alpine birds list but dipped out on the Alpine Accentor again.   So perhaps another visit to the mountains will be required...

A brief trip to Germany - Bavaria and Munich

We'd long planned a trip to stay with friends in Germany and then to do some limited exploration of the Alps in search of Alpine flowers and birds.

We reached Frankfurt and were collected by our hosts, before heading out to a wine festival at a castle.   German food can be complicated for vegetarians but they did do cheese covered flatbreads and of course beer!

The following morning we were driven at autobahn speeds to Lower Bavaria and the area around Rohr, a Unesco heritage area.    We first visited a nature reserve, spotting amongst other things a Small Tortoiseshell:

And this which looks like a Scotch Argus but I have very new 'L' plates on for butterflies so not sure:

Tree Pipits seemed to be everywhere, singing and doing their parachute descent into the trees:

Another apparent specialist is the Black Redstart, a rarity in the UK but as common as Blackbirds in Germany by the looks of it:

We got to Rohr around lunchtime so it was quieter than we hoped.  From the nature area we had lunch in a local monastery come brewery come canteen, odd place, and then home for pizza.

The next day we were dropped at Mannheim train station for a trip to Munich, which was pleasant enough although we arrived more than an hour late!   On a German train!

The forecast for our stay in Munich was miserable but on arrival we passed through a rain shower and then the sun came out.  Seizing the opportunity we went out for a long walk into the Englischer Garten, main old town area and around the riverside.  We walked miles but it was worth it as we got to see a lot of Munich's buildings in the sunshine.

I like the way the sun caught the Angel of Peace and made it glow in the early evening light:

The following day the forecast was bang on, non-stop rain all day.   We did what most of the other tourists did and visited the Residence which is frankly a ridiculous building, this is the main hall (by way of example) where his nibs used to be seen to dine on festival days.  Of course.

 Somewhat bedraggled we picked up a hire car the following morning and headed on to the Alps...