Fall in love with Germany’s countryside…
The first time I heard of the Romantic Road was from an elderly neighbour, whose dreamy expression convinced me that if the road had that name, it couldn’t be anything but extraordinary. A year later, we were cruising along 500km of mind-numbing greenness from Würzburg on the northern end down to Füssen and Schwangau, towards its chimerical climax, Neuschwanstein Castle, at the southern end, at the foot of the Alps, to check it out for ourselves. On this medieval trade route of the yesteryears, now one of the most spectacular drives in the world…we were neck-deep in all possible earthly glory. The Romantic Road was weaving us through miles of the most stunning Bavarian countryside, where delightful towns and picturesque villages dotting the surreal landscape, and we were just staring. Speechless.
The vistas are not unusual, but lose yourself unconditionally to the lush environs and every microsecond becomes a dream. You cruise past manicured meadows dotted with grazing cows sporting delightful bells round their necks. You glide through little villages with steep roofed houses clustered at the foot of gentle hill mounds. You ply through tunnels in the Alpine foothills, and bridges over valleys of evergreens. The tall conical green trees seem to close in on a narrow winding road, and suddenly the vast open green carpets stretch out endlessly on either side. The crisp outline of the grey road sharply divides the two greens, edged by old-fashioned rustic wooden fences. The sun washes the hills behind the graceful ebb and flow of the deep green landscape. Clouds floats softly on the mountain tops and little shallow rivulets tinkles over pebbles.
Along the many hiking, walking, and biking trails, one sees people exploring the area more closely, becoming one with nature. For the longest times, the roads are empty, until a tractor comes chugging along. And then, out of nowhere, an Audi, or a Porsche tears past at over 200 km/hr. Are you moving at all? You pass completely walled towns with arched gateways and towers. Inside the walls, you steal glimpses of gothic churches, beautiful historic buildings and ornate wooden chalet-style houses with flower boxes overflowing with red geraniums.
Yes, its probably a dream. Pinch yourself. Ouch! Still seems like a dream. Specially when you halt at the storybook village of Oberammaragau, home to just 3000 people. This fairytale hamlet is pinned on the map for several reasons…the Passion Plays held every 10 years, the local wood figurine crafts and the traditional frescoes on the walls of its houses (called Lüftlmalerei in German). Gawp at the houses. Try to decipher the tales that their walls narrate. Some are biblical, others are painted to look like mansions. Pick your favorite. I was fascinated with those having the Brothers Grimm fairytales…Marie Mattfeld’s Hansel and Gretel house and Little Red Riding Hood.
Stop by the Hafner Stub Hotel just to admire the pretty picture it makes with geraniums spilling from its wooden balconies and windows, as does the Heinzeller shop, famed for its wood carvings souvenirs, where vibrant wall frescoes filled every inch of its gorgeous exterior. Revel in the friendly, folksy atmosphere and blend in with the scene. The curious metal fountain in the main square, the little hotel names painted in gothic fonts, the bunches of flowers hanging from lampposts, the miniature tourist train that chugs along, laid back charm of the outdoor cafes, Alpine houses with carved balconies…its all so perfect, its almost unreal.
As you drive out of the parking lot, let your eyes trail along the little stream flowing through under a wooden fence bridge and the onion dome of the church half hidden by the painted houses at the foothills of the Alps under that brilliant blue sky. And tell me you’re not head-over-heels in love!