Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tag zwei - Kleine autos und riesige burgen (Day 2 - Small Cars & Giant Castles)

On day two, we hit the road. With breakfast in our bellies and bags packed for a 3 day/2 night excursion we left Heidelberg behind and headed toward Stuttgart. A rather large city, Stuttgart is home to Wilhelma, a royal palace turned zoo and botanical gardens (the largest in Europe). A pretty nasty storm had taken place overnight in Heidelberg, and apparently it was worse in Stuttgart. Downed trees meant the zoo opening was delayed, and because of our inability to translate much German, we weren't clear on how long the delay would be. As Josh pointed out, "the zoo is closed, Ray." Since we already had reservations for castle tours in Fussen, a ways down the road, we elected to implement plan b: take in one of Stuttgart's many museums. 

After a group discussion, we quickly settled on the Mercedes-Benz museum, a few blocks away. It seemed interesting, admission was reasonable and we hoped the boys would enjoy it. I would tell you they loved it, but Sam fell asleep about 10 minutes in. Jack really got a kick out of the provided headsets and loved scanning each area for the designated audio explanations. He even got to see a vehicle we deemed "the real Finn McMissile." We could have spent much longer at the museum, but it was time to begin the next leg of our journey. And, so we hit the road for Fussen.

The road trip was a little long, but the iPad kept Sam entertained (I think he watched the same episode of Blue's Clues at least 4 times.) Jack played his LeapPad most of the journey. My sister, Emily, was an excellent driver. She didn't seem to mind getting stuck with our family plus sister-in-law Lisa (the smallest member of our crew, who graciously agreed to ride in the 3rd row beside Jack). Emily's hubby had the other half of the crew in his vehicle. We quickly deemed ourselves "the cool car." The scenery along the way was really beautiful despite the fog and rain.

We arrived at the castle compound to a light drizzle and a slight chill. We started up the hill toward the castles from the parking area, taking a break to enjoy bratwurst, pomme frites (fries) and pretzels for lunch, our first tastes of German cuisine. After another hill climb, we arrived at the first castle, Hohenschwangau Castle. A 19th century palace, Hohenschwangau was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and was built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria.

The boys did pretty well in the castle considering the entire area was a "don't touch anything" zone. Not to mention the "don't talk when the guide is talking even though you couldn't care less about what she is saying" rule we had instituted. Sam eventually gave up on trying to follow the rules and passed out on my big brother, John.

We exited the castle just in time for a torrential downpour. We waited it out for a bit, but eventually had to saddle up and hit the slippery, cobblestone path to find the bus to the second castle. So, I slung the sleeping toddler over my shoulder and we started walking. By the time we reached Neuschwanstein, the second and much more impressive castle, we all looked like we'd taken showers in our clothes. Cold and wet is a hard concept to cope with for an exhausted four-year-old, but he hung in there. Cheez-its helped soothe the discomfort while we waited on our tour to begin. The castle is enormous (we saw a lego version a couple of days later) and its interior was only partially finished. Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland.

Sam convinced Pop (my dad) to carry him through the palace, which was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as a homage to his favorite composer Richard Wagner. Jack stayed with me and Josh and thankfully there wasn't quite as much stuff to not-touch in this palace. Much to his delight, the tour guide allowed Jack to open the secret door in the king's bedroom. It was such a simple, yet thrilling, reward for a kid who had been pushed to his limits and been such a trooper all day.

After our descent, we drove into Fussen to find dinner. We enjoyed our first German dining experience at Fischerhutte, lakeside in Fussen. With the mountains as our backdrop and the lake out the window it was a great introduction to German dining. Jack was eager to point out the volcano in view (thick clouds moving through the mountain peeks.) Dinner was great. Josh & Lisa won the best entree selection award with the shepherd's plate, some sort of snitzel over pasta and topped with bacon and crispy onions. Jack was a close second with his Vienna style pancakes and applesauce, which was a thinly veiled funnel cake complete with powdered sugar. After dinner, it was time to make the trek to Munich to check into our hotel. Sam fell asleep almost immediately. Jack watched a show and managed to stay awake for all but the last 20-30 minutes of our two plus hour journey. It was a long, wet day, but full of lots of great memories. And the trip was just beginning.


Sarah said...

I'm so excited you got to go to Neuschwanstein! It's the only place in Germany I know! Ha. Looks like such a fun trip even with the rain. Will you tell us what your favorite food from the trip was (if you haven't already)? You know, I love to hear all about food! ;)

Lindsey Brackett said...

It sounds like you guys had a great trip and really rolled with the punches. can't wait to see lots more pictures!