Tom and Linda’s 2008 Europe Trip

Reutte: Tirol in Austria and Bavaria in Germany

Munich Station

Salzburg to Munich was a nice, quiet train, but we missed our tight connection in Munich and had to wait an hour. We wandered out to the street and found an internet café to try again to find the gear. The train from Munich to Kempten was small, but not uncomfortable.

Slow Trains and the Biggest Experiment of All Time

Our information on trains was incomplete and we weren’t sure of our route. We wanted to go to Reutte in Austria, but thought we might have to settle for Füssen in Germany (they’re not far apart.)

But we told the conductor where we were going when he checked our pass. He found us a connection to Reutte.

Little did we know it was a sloooww one. In its 30-km run it had 5 or 6 scheduled stops, and would stop at any station along the way if anyone was waiting there or anyone on the train pushed a button when they announced the station. It took about an hour and a half.

Meanwhile, we found this article about the new Large Hadron Collider, about to start up not far from here. Unfortunately, you can't go see it, but we felt close anyway!

Arriving in Reutte

We got to Reutte near 20:00, long after the TI had closed. Walked down the street with our packs and found one of Rick’s hotel recommendations,


Das Beck, which was much farther away than it looked on Rick’s map. Not to scale, indeed! But they had a room and we checked in for one night, not knowing how long we’d stay.

Walked around the corner to The Golden Hirsch for dinner – good food and lousy service. We waited a good 15 minutes after we’d finished, and finally had to hunt down the waitress to pay the bill.

B&B breakfasts in Germany and Austria had reached a pattern – a boiled egg, served in the shell in an egg cup, coffee or tea, cold cuts and bread. It was getting a little old.

Breakfast at Das Beck was the best we’d had in a while. There were boil-your-own eggs, lots of interesting breads, cheeses, cereals, toast, homemade jams, fresh fruit and juices. That’s part of the reason we booked a second night.

Walk to the Ehrenberg

Our first real day here was quite an adventure. We walked out to the local group of castles, Ehrenberg, about an hour’s walk away on well-defined, paved walking paths and roads through the Tyrolean landscape.

It was a pleasant walk, partly through woods. Tom spotted this intricate web beside the path.

There are three castles in the Ehrenberg

The Castle Ehrenberg was the home of the local king, built on the hill over the narrow pass.

The Klause was a fortress built to block the pass for the sake of exacting tariffs on the passing trade.

The Fortress Schlosskopf was built many years later, on the next mountain, overlooking the Castle. In fact, the castle was once successfully attacked from this position. More about that below.

See that little white dotted line up to the Schlosskopf? Been there!

Our path took us first to the Klause. We looked around at the area, had a drink at the cafe,
visited the cute kid-friendly museum,
Rick was knighted here just a few months ago.
saw the Sword of Sir Rick Steves, had lunch at the little café and headed up to the main castle ruins.

Up to Ehrenberg Castle

It was an invigorating hike up a well-paved path. There were occasional informational signs along the way, in English as well as German, and they were a good excuse to pause for a breather.

When we made it to the ruins we were fairly tired.

A steep entry, up through multiple defendable gates.

There was a guy up there with buckets and ladders, a little cement mixer and a small lift, working on the paving and walls, but mostly it was just an open ruin overgrown with weeds.

There were a few “safety message” signs around, but mostly they just let you climb all over the place at your own risk. This would never happen in the US. It was quite liberating.
View from the Castle back down to the Klaus. You can definitely tell what's coming from up here!

And the other way as well.

I believe that round building stored gunpowder. Good to keep it away from the main castle.

Looking back toward Reutte and our walking path.

Hike up to the Schlosskopf

After a bit of a rest we decided to take the challenge and climb on up to the third castle – the Schlosskopf – atop the next hill. It was a very steep, sometimes tricky climb to a point that overlooks the main castle, and from which its former owners lobbed the cannonballs that destroyed it. They later built the Schlosskopf on that spot.

I was quite exhausted when we got there. In the last several switchbacks on the narrow root-filled path, I’d had to stop every few yards, it seemed, to catch my breath – everywhere I could find a reasonable place to sit for a minute.

We met a couple hikers at the top who asked us for the way down to the Klause. There was a language barrier, but it seems they’d come up a different way. I think there’s a mountain-bike path on the other side.

Just as they were leaving we discovered the drinks machine, and that we had no change. They changed our 5 for us, and I was saved from the stupidity of not bringing water with me.

The ruins have been partly rebuilt using replica equipment of the time, which is also on display on the site.
Sure get a good view of the Castle from here! You can even see the guy with his scaffolding. And you can tell where the cannonballs hit.
Here's the story.

From the highest point of this hilltop, looking back over the ruins of the Schlosskopf and to the modern villages beyond.

Most of the bottom floor of that building on the right has been rebuilt and has new roof and doors. The orange spot outside is a picnic table, and the drinks machine is just inside the door next to it. These things became important to us.

We wandered around the top for a bit, looking at the views and climbing the steel towers that overlooked the valleys on either side. And the dark clouds started to gather.

Storm moving in, the wind picked up and the sky darkened.

We moved a bench from the lonely picnic table outside into the rebuilt rooms.

The thunderstorm moved in and we dove for cover. This picture was taken while the sun was still shining and the doors were open.

And there we were, all alone in a thunderstorm in two stone rooms with a new wooden ceiling and doors, water leaking in around the edges and under the doors onto the gravel floors.

We had our bench that we put near a wall so we could lean back.

We had our drinks machine and a little change, and a kitschy pirate’s chest. opening the chest started a recording of what sounded like a German-speaking, Scottish-accented pirate, accompanied by thunder and rain sounds. But after that was done, the chest gave some light.

Eventually the castle’s outside spotlights came on, as the sky darkened further. Thunder rolled across the mountains outside, the rain fell harder, and there was wind blowing in even after the doors were closed.

They’d put plexiglas panels over the windows, each with some sort of pirate-figure decal. They didn’t seal, but they overlapped on all sides by a little bit and didn't leak much.

We found a hole through the wall under one window where we could see the rain as it fell through the spotlight – good way to tell how hard it was actually raining.

So we sat and listened to the storm, mixed with the phony sound effects from the pirate’s chest, and watched the rain and the clock. We thought about the setting sun and talked about the possibility of being stuck overnight. The gravel was big and chunky and couldn’t be comfortable, but that path was not one to attempt in the dark, even if it were dry!

We had no rain gear with us, and it was getting colder. The storm was a noisy one – bolts of lightning and loud rolling thunder.

Eventually it eased off and we could see lighter sky behind the dark clouds.
We decided it was time to risk it, and set off down the path carefully, avoiding the slippery cross-path tree roots when possible and creeping along the uphill edges of puddles that sometimes filled the narrow path.
We got a few falling drops, probably mostly coming from the overhanging trees, but stayed relatively dry, if a little cold.

The light lasted long enough to get us back to the Klause.

By then the place was pretty much empty, although we had met a young man running up the hill a few switchbacks up, in the well-paved section below the main castle. There were people at the bottom looking for him, and were surprised when we told them he was headed up at that time!

We found a dry seat under a shelter beside the café, and sat down to rest a few minutes, then headed for the “wanderweg” back to town. Happily, it was lighted, so the dark settling in wasn’t too bothersome.

The little creeks along the way were much more active than they'd been on our way up.

Got back to town around 20:30 and found an inviting restaurant open along the way. Cushioned seats!

Had pizza and salad and a rest. When we left, we found Al Capone’s Pizzeria right next door – they do like their pizza here. And their ice cream.

Finally back to the hotel, Tom checked email for news about the riding gear (no replies), I took a hot shower and we fell into bed.


The next day dawned bright and pleasant, with many people talking about the storm. No one else had a story like ours, though!

One of our fellow hotel guests was Irene Trullinger, a journalist from NYC on a 3-month fellowship to Reuters TV in Berlin. She was taking a holiday just before her return to America.

Turned out that her plans for this day were the same as ours, and we got a chance to travel and talk together.

We were headed to Füssen and the famous castles of Schwangau.

We took a stop-everywhere bus from Reutte to Füssen, then another to the foot of the Höhenschwangau. There are a lot of hotels and other touristy things here.
It was only a short walk up to Höhenschwangau, a real working castle where the famous Mad King Ludwig spent his childhood. The castle was build by his father and later run by his uncle.

It was a guided tour with tickets and start times and different groups for different languages. After the previous day at Ehrenberg, when we were free to climb around anywhere we wanted, the guided tours felt confining.

Here we are hanging out in the garden waiting for our tour to start.

It was a bit of a wait and we got to talk to Irene for a while.

The castles was full of murals and sculptures, on every surface available, and I would have liked to spend a little more time with them. In Höhenschwangau they are from Bavarian mythology and I would like to know the stories behind them.

No photography allowed inside, though. You'll have to go yourself sometime.

Ludwig's view of his castle under construction.

This telescope is in an office in the Höhenschwangau, and points to Prince Ludwig's pride and joy.

Neueschwanstein was designed by a painter for aesthetics rather than by necessity of defense. It's sort of the imagination's idea of what a castle should be. Then the masons had to figure out how to build it.

St. Mary's Bridge

Nueuschwanstein sits on a hill overlooking the older castle.

You can travel up on foot, by bus, or by horse-drawn carriage. On Rick’s advice, we took the bus up and the carriage down.

The bus drops off at St. Mary’s Bridge, a 10-minute hike above the castle, and one of the best places to see it from.

This is where Ludwig went to watch the building progress and micro-manage it. The view is pretty much perfect.

I think the scaffolding is up for cleaning the outside walls.

Ludwig died (mysteriously) at 40, before the castle was finished, and work on it stopped immediately, as it did on the two other castles he was building at the time. He’d spent less than 200 days in it. Within 6 weeks of his death it was a tourist attraction, and was never finished.

In Nueuschwanstein the murals that cover every wall are all from Wagner operas. Richard Wagner was a friend (maybe lover) to Ludwig, who patronized and publicized him.

This castle was built as a tribute to Wagner. There’s even an artificial cave, a set for a scene from one of the operas.

Ludwig wanted no depictions of himself in the castle, but there’s a bust of Wagner in the entry hall. Wagner was the only guest he ever had stay there. Ludwig cancelled his only wedding engagement.

View of Höhenschwangau from the walking path down from St. Mary's Bridge. What a fairy-tale place.
Höhenschwangau from Nueuschwanstein
St. Mary's Bridge from Nueuschwanstein

OK, snuck a couple pictures of the inside. This is Ludwig's office, which included a crown-shaped chandelier and a telephone!

Just before his 40th birthday, a court declared Ludwig insane and unfit to rule. He was sent to Munich the next day, along with his tutor, and both mysteriously drowned along the way. In a 6"-deep puddle.

It wasn't long before Ludwig's younger brother was also declared insane. Sound like a power play?

But Ludwig was impoverishing his people for the sake of his elaborate building projects. You bring down the tyrant any way you can.

And the kitchens in the basement. Very modern compared to other's we'd seen on this trip.

After a bite in the touristy cafe in the castle, we headed back. The horse-drawn carriages pick up from the parking area just below the castle, so our transportation choices saved us both uphill climbs. Thanks again to Rick Steves!

One last night in Reutte and we were headed for Munich to hook up with our scheduled Motorcycle Tour.

The train from Reutte was a little tricky. We took the slow train to Garmisch and made our tight 5-minute connection to Munich. Irene was headed out as well and was on both trains, but we lost her at the change when we went to first class. Second was quite crowded. We've been in touch a bit since then. We certainly enjoyed her company and wish her all the best in her journalistic pursuits.


1 Beginning 5 Paris 9 Frankfurt and the Night Train 13 Bavaria and Tirol
2 London to Edinburgh 6 Bruges 10 Vienna 14 Motorcycles in the Alps
3 The Fringe 7 Amsterdam 11 Hallstatt and the Salzkammergut 15 Switzerland near Interlaken
4 Scotland and Wales 8 Bacharach in the Rhine Valley 12 Salzburg 16 Home again

If the journal is narrow, adjusting the width of your window will make it easier to read.

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