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.
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.
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.
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.
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.