For most couples planning a honeymoon or romantic getaway, Germany may not be the first destination that comes to mind. However, the region of Bavaria offers a great alternative for those who prefer to immerse themselves in history and culture over spending their days lounging by the pool and laying on the beach. It is a route that takes travelers along the Danube River, towards spectacular sights and incredible experiences. A journey down Germany’s Romantic Road offers a richness of culture, food, history and architecture unparalleled to other destinations.
FIRST STOP: MUNICH
Best known for the celebration of Oktoberfest in autumn, this city is alive with reasons to celebrate year round. In the spring, Bavarians celebrate their asparagus season by preparing this vegetable in a variety of ways. For fine dining, have a seat at the restaurant Spatenhaus and relish in asparagus accompanied by other Bavarian culinary delicacies. Asparagus can also be purchased fresh at open-air markets, where visitors can peruse the stalls for handcrafted items and other souvenirs. Another way to enjoy this city is from one of the numerous beer gardens, where authentic reinheitsgebot, or beverages that pass the German Beer Purity Law, is sold. To Germans, beer is not just a good time. It is a significant aspect of Bavarian culture. In 2016, Germany will celebrate the five hundred year anniversary of the German Beer Purity Law, which makes it the perfect time for beer lovers to pilgrimage to the many breweries and beer gardens of Bavaria.
Munich also offers an extensive art collection on display at the Neue Pinakothek, a famous art museum. Spend an afternoon gazing upon classical sculptures and medieval paintings. This museum’s collection even features modern pieces, including some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous works like “Sunflowers” and “Water Lilies”. Another Munich site worth visiting is the Nymphenburg Palace, where you can tour the incredible rooms and lavish interiors of this 17th century royal complex. The palace is surrounded by the meticulously kept royal gardens, offering the perfect atmosphere for an afternoon stroll. A great nature park in Munich to explore is the English Gardens, where you can watch surfers from around the world catch a wave on the river.
SECOND STOP: DANAUWORTH
This quaint, quiet town is located at a point where the Danube and Wornitz rivers meet. It has parks and walking paths leading along to the ruins of a castle. Walking down the cobblestone streets, one might notice the historic church and brightly colored buildings. These structures were first constructed hundreds of years ago when most residents of Donauworth were illiterate. The bright colors were used as a means for signifying what kind of business each building contained. The buildings are maintained with their bright colors intact to this day. Along the town’s main road is a shop where you can buy traditionally brewed beer, wine and elderberry liquor. These drinks are poured from the spouts of hundreds of bottles and barrels lining the walls of the shop like a candy store.
For the most incredible vista and romantic experience, stay at the Cityhotel Danauworth. Each room of this hotel features large glass doors that open up to amazing views of the village and countryside. Have dinner in the restaurant or on the outdoor patio, where you can watch the sunset while savoring a glass of Bavarian wine. For an even more romantic experience, take a zille ride for two down the river. The zille is a small wooden boat that is propelled by a boatman, who will handle the navigation while passengers relax and enjoy the river and natural surroundings. It is not uncommon to see wildlife, like white swans, while riding the zille. Appreciate the traditional architecture and gaze upon the stone city walls from the vantage of cruising Danauworth’s waterways.
THIRD STOP: NORDLINGEN
Rich not only in culture and history, Nordlingen is interesting to those who enjoy science and astronomy as well. Fourteen thousand years ago, a meteorite struck the earth in this location creating a giant crater. As a result, the entire valley is called the Norlinger Ries, or Nordlingen Crater, and is covered in unique sediments and minerals that were created as a result of the impact. These sediments include thousands of miniature diamonds that are contained within the stone used to build many of the town’s structures. You can learn more about the Nordlingen Crater and other astronomical phenomena at the Ries Crater Museum, which is associated with the UNESCO International Network of Geoparks. This museum has extraordinary pieces on display including a piece of moon rock from the Apollo 16 mission as well as a portion of the meteorite that collided with Russia in 2013.
While the city that lies in the center of the Nordlingen Crater is first mentioned by recorded history in the year 898, the discovery of Roman ruins suggests that people had inhabited this area long before medieval times. What is most incredible about this city is that the exteriors of most of Norlingen’s buildings have been well preserved so are almost exactly as they were during the middle ages. Take a walk through the old tannery district and then proceed to the 13th century “Stone House of Nordlingen”. This is the town hall where you can gaze through the bars to the dungeon, or “Fools House”, where they once tortured accused witches and other prisoners. In fact, one of the most famous witch hunts of all time happened in 1590 in the city of Nordlingen, and you can visit the same square where these trials occurred.
A trip to Nordlingen is not complete without a visit to the gothic style Saint Georg’s Church and a climb to the top of its 90 meter bell tower, which residents refer to as “Daniel”. Inside the tower, you will see what looks like a giant wooden hamster wheel. This was actually part of an elevator that was once powered by the manpower of prisoners who were forced to run inside the wheel. The view from the top of Daniel encompasses the entire Norlingen Crater as well as the city walls that surround this medieval city.
Nordlingen is one of the only towns in Germany that has its original defensive city wall intact. Visitors can walk along the top of this wall and enjoy even more incredible views. There are only five entrances to Nordlingen that are accessible by cars, and they are through what were once draw bridges over the moat. These entrances include what our tour guide referred to as “murder holes”, or the spaces where they would pour boiling water or oil onto invading soldiers. What was once the moat has been drained and is now used for recreation. This park that surrounds the entire city includes a bike path, playgrounds, sports fields, an ice skating rink and even a mini-golf course.
While the exterior of Nordlingen’s medieval architecture is incredible, visitors will find that the interiors of these structures are equipped with modern conveniences. Electricity, plumbing and WIFI are all standard amenities to the hotels and restaurants of this town. The city is great for walking and exploring with little traffic as many residents prefer to ride their bicycles over cars.
Take a journey outside the city walls to hike the Geopark Ries. Providing even more spectacular views of the crater, explore Roman ruins as well as the Ofnethöhlen Caves. This is the site where archeologists found thirty-three decorated and artfully arranged skulls. Evidence suggests that the skulls belonged to mostly women and children who were beheaded during prehistoric times.
Replenish from hiking at Jaghous Alte Bürg for some lunch with your Bavarian beer. This restaurant is located in the forest with both indoor and outdoor seating. It is run by a jäger, or a local hunter, who catches wild boar, venison, and other game. He then joins his wife in the kitchen to prepare the local delicacies for the restaurant’s guests. It would be hard for any Bavarian culinary experience to be any more authentic than it gets at Jaghous Alte Bürg!
FOURTH STOP: NEUBURG
Drive through the grand entrance of yet another defensive wall to enter the Renaissance city of Neuburg. This city is home to the Neuburg Castle, built in 1530 for Prince-Elector Otto Henry. The palace now houses an extensive Baroque art collection. Under special request, you can visit the gorgeously breathtaking rococo library, which resembles the library from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Inside the library are thousands of books, many of which were taken from monasteries hundreds of years ago. A lot of the volumes were written by hand before the printing press became widely available. In order to preserve the books, there is no flash photography allowed inside the library. Visitors must make prior arrangements in order to see it. Ask your travel agent to set this up before you go because the library is definitely a must see for anyone who appreciates history and literature.
Make sure you sit down for a Bavarian Feast at the restaurant called Arco Schlösschen. There, you can enjoy a gourmet meal on a romantic terrace that has spectacular views of the Neuburg Castle and Danube River. For starters, the restaurant brought us warm lambs lettuce with bacon, bread dumpling, weibwurst carpaccio, Bavarian obatzda savory cheese spread and tartar of smoked fish with horseradish. This was all served upon a “flying platter”, or a glass plate that was balanced on top of wine glasses. For the main course, the chef served spanferkelhaxerl, a giant pork knuckle wrapped in bacon on warm Bavarian coleslaw with bread dumpling. Is your mouth watering yet?
Outside the main city of Neuburg is the Audi Driving Experience. A major draw for those who enjoy cars and driving, check out the latest Audi models before you gear up and take a spin around the Audi race track. This attraction is so popular that you must book it at least six months in advance! If you want to stay somewhere that is in close proximity to the Audi Driving Experience, consider checking in at the nearby Wittelsbacher Golf Club and enjoy a few rounds of gold while you are there.
LAST STOP: REGENSBURG
Situated on the Danube, Naab, and Regen rivers, the entire medieval center of Regensburg is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inhabited since prehistoric times, the Romans built a fort in Regenburg in the year 179. It wasn’t until 1245 that this city became a free imperial city, and it continued to serve as a major trade center throughout the middle ages. You can imagine what the bustling streets of the medieval center of commerce must have been like as you explore the cobblestone alleys and gaze upon its many towers. There is even a building from the middle ages that was built into preexisting Roman ruins, incorporating the two architectural eras into one structure!
Stop for a quick bite or purchase some mustard at the nine hundred year old Regensburg Wustkuchl, or Sausage Kitchen, on the bank of the Danube. This restaurant claims to be the oldest sausage kitchen in the world. While by the river, take a ride on the Donaustrudel. This original fourteenth century boat was used to transport salt during the Renaissance. Today, visitors can board this vessel and enjoy a cruise on the Danube. The boat serves snacks and drinks, because a trip to Bavaria just wouldn’t be complete without a cruise down the Danube with pretzels and beer.
If a trip through Bavaria along Germany’s Romantic Road sounds intriguing, call Traveloni and speak to one of our specialists. Traveloni consultants can use their knowledge, contacts and experience to design a customized journey through Germany or anywhere else in the world that you’d like to travel. We understand that trip planning can be overwhelming, which is why our travel professionals are here to help. We’ve been there, we’ve seen it. We know where to go and the best way to get there. Give Traveloni a call at 800-510-5642 and let us plan your trip of a lifetime!