ALL THE THINGS
HIRSH AND SARAH'S ADVENTURES THROUGH "GREATER EUROPE"
WHERE WE HOPE TO EAT, SEE, AND DO
ALL THE THINGS THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE HAS TO OFFER
We came to Munich for one reason and one reason only: beer. We've both been to this city before - Sarah with her family and Hirsh with work - so we didn't have to rush around and see all the sights like we may have done otherwise. Since we're still nice Southerners, after all, we thought it would be poor form to start drinking right away. Instead, we spent much of the day running life errands that we'd been putting off. And Germany seemed like the perfect place to get everything done efficiently.
Our first stop was a shipping location where we packed up and sent off some goodies we've acquired along the way to lighten our load. After much research, we settled on Deutsche Post/DHL as our agency of choice. The funny thing about this DHL branch is that it's located inside a liquor store! (Germany has shut down many free-standing post offices and integrated them into other neighborhood stores). However, we feel reasonably confident that German organization and efficiency will outweigh our communication barrier with the store clerk. So...we'll see how this goes. We may have sent our extra pants and shirts and gifts off to Siberia.
We took the highly efficient and convenient metro from our Ibis in the 'burbs to the center of the city. First priority, as usual, was food. We found a great casual lunch spot in the open-air market that seems popular with the locals. On today's menu were beef goulash soup and broth soup with liver pâté, and a couple giant German pretzels! We stuck with Coke to drink, but there were plenty of folks in business suits enjoying a beer. Deutschland!
Next agenda item was finding a place to get Sarah's hair "did." You know when your hair gets to that point where it feels disgusting and you just can't handle it anymore? Sarah's hair had gotten to that point a couple of weeks ago, and Hirsh was tired of hearing about it. We assumed we could wander around this metropolitan city and pop into a few hair salons until we found a place with an opening, but we assumed wrong. Turns out, most hair salons are closed on Monday in Munich, and the ones that are open mostly require appointments, so this became an odyssey where we visited about ten locations before finding our hair styling Goldilocks that was open with availability, not too sketchy, and not too expensive.
Success! Sarah could not stop raving about how soft and clean her hair felt. This was followed by an equally successful trip to Starbucks - a first on this entire trip! With freshly cut hair and a Starbucks in hand, Sarah was in hog heaven.
This was followed by shopping for new clothes. At this point we're pretty sick of wearing the same thing every other day, so we made our Zara/H&M runs. There's an H&M store about every ten feet in Munich, so we had the opportunity to see the same merchandise over and over and over, just searching for our sizes.
Not sure what's going on with the Mr. Burns pose here. Perhaps Sarah is plotting additional things to buy.
Then we walked to the center of the main pedestrian zone, the Marienplatz, to see the famous Munich Glockenspiel do its thing at 5:00. This super fun clock puts on a show two or three times a day (depending on the season) where the figurines reenact a royal wedding, a famous jousting match, and a traditional local dance. The groom in that wedding famously opened the Hofbrauhaus.
After a fun 15 minute show to signal the hour, we decided it was finally beer o'clock. We made a beeline straight for the Hofbrauhaus because despite having both been to Munich before, neither of us had visited this establishment. Blasphemous, we know.
This place is of course touristy, but great fun. It's lively and raucous with a live band and everyone's there to have a good time. The tables are large and you typically have to share with strangers. What turned out to be the highlight of our time in Munich was when these four wonderful young professionals from Ukraine sat down with us. We had so much fun talking to them about politics, traveling, borscht(!)...
The more we travel and the more people we meet, the more we realize how similar we all are. It was great getting to know you guys!
We were able to check off another bucket list agenda item today - Neuschwanstein Castle! We left one of our favorite Airbnb's and said goodbye to our lovely hosts, Doris and Norbert. After about four hours on the road, we arrived in the village of Schwangau in Bavaria, Germany to see this stunning sight up on the hill...
In keeping with our mission to see Disney-inspired places on our journey, this dramatic castle served as the inspiration for Maleficent's castle in Sleeping Beauty, as well as the much-loved castle at Disneyworld.
We chose to go full-on fairytale and take a horse and carriage ride up the hill. So worth it!
We arrived at the top in time to poke around a little before starting our scheduled tour. It is very very important to book tickets well in advance because they do sell out. In fact, we had originally planned to visit Neuschwanstein about ten days ago, but tours were sold out, so we had to change our entire itinerary to make this work. They have tours every 5 minutes with groups of about 30 people and they still book up, so make sure to plan ahead! Even without tickets though, you can walk around the beautiful exterior for free.
Here's Hirsh channeling his inner king...
The tour of the inside lasts only about 30 minutes but it's well worth it. The interesting thing about this castle is that it's relatively new compared to most castles in Europe - construction having been completed in 1886 - so it has a very different style and feel from other castles we've seen. This castle has it all: dramatic architecture, sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, and creature comforts like running water. Seeing the King's bedroom alone is worth the price of admission.
No pictures allowed inside, of course (and we don't mess around with German rules), so we had to wait until we got outside the living quarters to take a few more.
And after all that grandeur, we made the drive back to our favorite Munich hotel, the Ibis Styles. If you don't know about Ibis, it's the extremely economical hotel-in-a-box popular with post-grad students who've outgrown the hostel scene. The only real difference is that they put sheets on the bed for you and provide towels. Each room comes equipped with a double bed and a twin bunk on top to help ease the transition from hostel living. The beds are so hard, we use the duvet from the top bunk as a too-small makeshift mattress pad, and it makes sleeping actually possible. We also use the top bunk as our dining area for take-out pizza. Because let's be real - we're not going out to a fancy dinner just to come back to the Ibis. Go cheap or go home, and we're not ready to come home yet!
Since we loved Rothenburg so much, we wanted to linger as long as possible. We woke up early to avoid the tourist crush that usually starts around 10AM. As mentioned previously, we've found that the very best way to enjoy these tourist towns - even the very small ones - is to spend the night in town so you can enjoy its true character late in the evening and early in the morning. We started off with a leisurely walk through the length of the small town. It takes no more than ten minutes to walk from one town gate to the next.
See the clock tower in the picture below? Several times a day, on the hour, the two windows flanking the clock open and a large figurine of a guy pounding a beer appears on the left. He takes a good long chug for a full minute. Legend has it that back in the 1600's, the town mayor accepted a challenge from the Catholic General to drink 3 liters of wine in one gulp in order to save the town from occupation. Why not create a silly clock tower show to recreate the story every day?
We couldn't miss the famed Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas market shop. They don't want people taking pictures past the main entrance area, but believe us when we say they have every Christmas-related item you could ever imagine inside! Although it sounds cheesy--as many Christmas stores tend to be--it's actually quite lovely and classy. There's even a museum to illustrate the history of the Christmas ornament.
We also found a wall of beautiful cuckoo clocks. So far, every cuckoo clock display we've found has the clocks set to all different times. This is probably so customers can enjoy a steady stream of animated entertainment and excite them to the point where they'll shell out several hundred euros to own one. We are still on the hunt for a wall of clocks all set to the same exact time. What a fun cacophony that would be every hour!
There aren't too many attractions, per se, in Rothenburg, other than walking around and enjoying the town's abundant charm. One of the few is the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum, which had come highly recommended by online reviews and our hero, Rick Steves. More than a macabre fright show, this is an actual museum with artifacts and descriptions of the legal system as it existed in the Dark Ages. Very dark, indeed. A person could be punished for anything including: wearing clothing incommensurate with one's social class, musicians playing music poorly, bakers baking bread loaves of the wrong size/density, or even drinking too much coffee. The punishment ranged from wearing a Saw-like mask for gossiping or acting like a pig, to being placed in stocks in the town square with your feet exposed so everyone who walks by can tickle your feet, to wearing a "shame flute" if you're a bad musician, to death.
Horrific chair used to elicit "confessions"
Double neck violin for quarreling women or married couples. The necks and wrists of these misbehaving folks were secured in the holes until they could resolve their issues. Wonder how many died while still locked in there?
The frightful shame masks
On the way out of town, Hirsh had to get a picture of this hotel with his [almost] name on it. Hirsch is a big family name around here, and we see it everywhere!
And one final picture of us in front of Rothenburg's most picturesque spot, Plönlein ("Little Square").
We had no idea where we were going to spend the night, but this town has free Wi-Fi throughout and we just looked at the map and chose a city and hotel in the eastward direction. We settled on the budget friendly Ibis in Munich, and off we went. This happened on the way, while Sarah was sleeping and unaware...
After checking out of our Ibis Budget hotel and eating another cheapfully delicious McDonald's breakfast (hey, gotta save money somewhere!), we launched into our day of the -Burgs/Bergs. Our first stop was central Würzburg to the Residenz, our reason for arriving here the previous night. The Residenz is a huge palace built by the prince-bishops of Würzberg in 1720-1744 as their personal accommodations and offices, after they got sick of living in the gigantic Marienberg fortress on the hilltop that had been their home since the 1200s. I know, life can be so hard sometimes. They were determined to make it grand, rivaling Versailles, and so they built it exactly two meters wider than that storied palace. All this even though they were only the rulers of their little town, and the King of France was, well, a king. It must be nice to have unlimited money to fulfill your slightest whims, a sentiment that was borne out by the rooms within.
Unfortunately photos are not allowed inside this UNESCO World Heritage Site, so we turn again to Wikipedia. The Residenz is known most for the gigantic fresco over the ceiling of the main staircase, painted by the Italian Tiepolo in 1753. It is 32 by 18 meters, which was described by our very drily funny (i.e. German) guide as the largest single scene painted in one fresco, because after all the Vatican has larger frescos, but they are all broken up, making them less impressive.
We proceeded through a series of more impressive rooms, including one with extravagant white stucco decorations (a "palate-cleanser," if you will, after the riotousness of the fresco), and the Imperial apartments that became progressively more dramatic as we walked through, culminating in the famed mirror room with delicate paintings behind mirrored glass.
Unfortunately, this room, like many, is a complete restoration. Würzburg was bombed in World War II, destroying the majority of the town and large parts of the Residenz, including the ceiling above the fresco (but thankfully not the fresco itself), large swaths of rooms, and all of the glass in the mirror room. It was a sobering reminder of the multifaceted devastation from just 80 years ago, a theme that was to repeat itself throughout the day.
Fortunately, much of the exterior was salvaged, and we spent a lovely hour wandering through the gardens, the sun breaking through the steady drizzle just for us.
We moved on from Würzburg to the town of Bamberg, where not just one building but indeed the entire town center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it was untouched by war bombs. Unfortunately it was raining and parking was scarce, so we did our worst impression of American tourists and took photos from our car windows as we drove through what we can only hope is not a pedestrian-only zone.
We carried on to Nuremberg, whose name is quite familiar to most Americans, and the reason we went there ourselves. There is a top-notch Nazi documentation museum that describes, fairly objectively and impassively, the history and rise of Hitler and the Nazi party. With our busy day, we could only spend an hour and a half there; Hirsh the museum aficionado estimated it would take three hours to do it justice. The museum was filled with artifacts, photos, and videos of the Nazis history, and explanations of how such a thing was even possible in a seemingly sane society. Hitler glorified himself alone and built a cult of personality and myth as he designated swathes of society as outsiders and ultimately crossed boundaries thought to be unbreathable. (Although we differed on the degree to which this was history repeating itself, we at least thought that the words and actions of a major presidential candidate shouldn't even generate the thought of comparing the rise of Hitler and the Nazis). It was thought-provoking and chilling, and it was quite striking to see the museum visitors, most of whom appeared to be Germans, taking in a depiction of their very recent history.
The museum is actually built into the former Nazi Congress Hall, which is essentially a large open air stadium. Since it wasn't destroyed in the war, the Germans didn't tear it down after. You can't really use it for its intended purpose, so the town of Nuremberg today uses it as a parking lot and junk storage, which seems appropriate. We were even able to drive right into the middle of the arena, which is quite an odd feeling.
Our last stop of the day was our resting place for the night, the medieval fortified town and world-renowned tourist attraction Rothenburg ob der Tauber (or "Red fort on the River Tauber"). Well-loved for its preserved and rebuilt medieval charm reminiscent of so much we saw in Alsace, this town is the heart of the Romantic Road of Bavaria. And we fell in love with it too.
It is nowadays especially prominent because our good friend Rick Steves raves about it, which has brought this town tourists by the busload and Rick a plaque of his very own.
We thus chose, as we often do, to avoid the 10 AM - 5 PM rush and arrive late in the day, which worked out beautifully for arriving to our well-located hotel, the Pension Gästezimmer Michelangelo, just inside the city walls (Raleigh denizens are familiar with ITB, or Inside the Beltline. Our hotel was ITW, which made us very happy indeed). We headed into the town center to enjoy the sights by dusk and ran into the Night Watchman, a famed tour given nightly by a costumed resident of the town who took us through the town's ancient history with humor and a quite-distinctive vocal inflection.
We heard about the impact of the Black Death, the attempted invasions of the town (and the unlucky defender who blew himself up trying to check on the gunpowder stores by torchlight), and the World War II bombing of the town that destroyed 40% of the buildings. Even the bombing had a neat story: the American officer in charge of operations in the region knew about Rothenburg from a painting his mother had bought of the town when she had visited in the 1910s. His mother adored the town, so once he learned Rothenburg had been targeted he ordered the bombing to stop. Clearly, Rothenburg was as loved then as it is today, and after the war the citizens of Rothenburg appealed to the world for funds to rebuild the city, promising them their name carved on the city walls in thanks. The money came, and Rothenburg was rebuilt.
We then walked back to our hotel, which conveniently also hosted a lively and well-rated Italian restaurant (our attempts to continue avoiding German food still in full effect), where we relived some of our finest memories of our July in Italy with caprese salad, pasta, wine, and gelato. And then, a well-deserved rest!
This morning was like Christmas morning! OK, so when we were spending hours and hours watching Rick Steves videos while planning our trip, he introduced us to the sommerrodelbahn. We have been looking forward to this experience ever since! The best part is, they're scattered all throughout this region, so we can continue to enjoy them as we migrate.
The sommerrodelbahn is a single person roller coaster built into the side of the mountain. You strap into your little individual car, get hauled to the top of the mountain on some sort of lift device, and let gravity do the rest. It is exactly as amazing as it sounds. We aren't supposed to take videos while riding, and we don't have a GoPro, so check out this video to get an idea. This is actually the coaster we rode!
So we arrive at this place and see that not only is there a roller coaster with minimal safeguards built into the hillside, but the complex also houses a trampoline park. We henceforth referred to the complex as the "Tort Park." Ugh, what lawyer approved this idea? But this is also why Europe is so great!
Those of you who know me (Sarah) well, know that I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I adore roller coasters, have jumped out of an airplane, and am looking forward to the day I can bungee jump and swim with sharks. Back when I was in law school, our old family dog, Lucy, lived with me. When Lucy turned 15, her body was falling apart and the poor old girl became pretty depressed. To cheer her up, I got her her very own kitten, Chloe. The day I brought Chloe home, Lucy was so excited that her entire body was shaking uncontrollably. I am not exaggerating when I say my entire body was trembling with excitement as I waited in line to get on this silly sommerrodelbahn, and I couldn't help but think of my beloved Lucy.
Here we are putting on our flimsy little seatbelts and hoping for the best.
And here we go!
We loved it so much, we did it twice! The experience was extra exciting for a few reasons: you're held in only by g-forces and a normal seatbelt that no one really checks, there appears to be no external braking system so it's entirely up to the rider to stop at the end of the track by using the hand brakes, they allow 8-year olds to ride alone and use their 8-year old judgment when braking, and these cars go fast.
We left the Tort Park for the attraction next door, the Black Forest Open Air Museum. Built around a farmhouse dating back to 1612, this museum focuses on the traditions and lifestyle in the not-so-good ol' days. This museum was not unlike the folk museum we visited back in Norway. The main highlights, though, were some of the workers wandering the grounds. Here are two teenage girls dressed in traditional Black Forest garb.
And our beyond precious tour guide whom we both loved. She was so sweet and proper and lovely, we mistook her for British at first. But she told us she grew up here in the Black Forest and she and her daughters used to wear the above outfits to church. Several other members of our tour wanted pictures with her, as well. She really was that charming. We wanted to pack her in our luggage and bring her home.
After about 3 hours at this museum, we headed through increasingly more beautiful parts of the Black Forest.
We went to a clock museum that we thought was going to focus almost exclusively on cuckoo clocks, but that was not the case. It was somewhat interesting for geeky people like us, but it's not a can't miss kind of thing like the sommerrodelbahn!
Then we headed to our destination for the next couple of days - Eguisheim, France!
We ended the day with a very nice Alsatian dinner at a subterranean restaurant in the village.
Fortunately for us, our day to explore Baden-Baden was the most beautiful day we'd experienced in Germany so far. This town is devoted entirely to leisure and it is absolutely, positively utopia. There's beauty everywhere you look, and it's so perfect with the bright green grass, sparkling stream, and colorful flowers everywhere, it barely feels real. We took a leisurely walk along the Oos River in the Lichtentaler Allee, the town's famed central park and promenade.
We especially loved the rose garden.
We spent some time walking the loop through the small downtown and doing plenty of window shopping. This is the kind of town with an excessive number of gourmet food and housewares stores, fine jewelry stores, Furla and La Perla. That's why our shopping was limited to the window variety. 😄
We then had "lunch" at Café König, a local institution that has been in business for 250 years serving all varieties of gourmet cakes, torts, and truffles. We enjoyed fancy coffee and Black Forest cake.
Fighting aggressive food comas, we sadly said goodbye to Baden-Baden and drove into the heart of the Black Forest. Rick Steves said that anyone who has ever seen more than a few trees in one place (read: Americans) would not be impressed by the Black Forest, but we decided to forge ahead anyway because it's been on the proverbial bucket list for awhile. Ultimately, we disagreed with Rick. It's true that the initial drive through the "scenic" route is not much to behold. Our very own Blue Ridge Mountains win this beauty pageant by a long shot. We did happen upon this fun surprise...
Yep, a Tesla show at a popular tourist stop right at the top of the mountain. Of course, we had to try the cars out to make sure they fit. Good news!
And just like that, Hirsh found a new object of his dream car desire.
Hirsh also had a déjà vu moment because this appears to be the location where he went paddle boating with his family about 18 years ago.
The real magic of the Black Forest can be found - as is true with most things - off the beaten path. We drove through any number of adorable towns and got slightly lost once, only to be rewarded with majestic views of small mountain villages tucked away from the rest of the world. The way the sunlight filtered through the trees and hillside and bathed the homes in golden light looked like something straight out of a story book.
Our B&B for the night was located in a tiny town called Oberprechtal. Run by a very funny and accomplished pastry chef and his lovely wife, Café-Pension Endehof was an unexpected treat. They serve dinner if you arrive in time and you're interested, and the menu consists of whatever they're serving their family that night. We were interested! We had outstanding homemade beef, spinach, and ravioli soup to start. The main dish was pork shoulder, copious amounts of mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut. Dessert was homemade strawberry and vanilla ice cream with a handcrafted artisanal chocolate thingy on top. When we told the chef/owner/husband how good it was, he said "I know" with an adorable smirk. It was German food at its best!
We woke up to clear skies, finally! Still not ready to try a German meal - we clearly didn't come to Germany for the food - we allowed ourselves our first indulgence in McDonald's since we left the US. It was everything we'd hoped it would be. They even served American-sized drinks!
But that wasn't our only indulgence that day, because we spent most of it at Friedrichsbad!
Friedrichsbad is a thermal bath spa located in the resort town of Baden-Baden, Germany. The word "Baden" is derived from an ancient form of the word "bath," so the fact that they named the town twice was pretty telling about what kind of experience we were in for.
Friedrichsbad is modeled after the traditional Roman communal bathhouse - and we mean traditional. After paying the entry fee, we went into the locker room and stripped down to our wedding bands. The days alternate between separate and mixed gender bathing days - meaning every other day, men and women of all ages bathe together in nothing but their birthday suits. We went on a mixed day because we wanted to enjoy the experience together. The first five minutes of walking around nude with a bunch of strangers was a little bit unusual, but we quickly became accustomed to it and felt so liberated! The bathing process at Friedrichsbad has 17 steps, comprised of a combination of showers, thermal pools, cold pools, saunas, massages, etc. The purpose is to slowly raise your body temperature and then slowly bring it back down.
A true highlight was the scrub room where a staff member scrubs your whole body with soap and a stiff brush. Hirsh was assigned a cute young woman and Sarah was assigned a very no-nonsense middle-aged German man. My (Sarah's) Mom used to tell me that she bathed me in the sink like a chicken when I was a baby. I couldn't help but think of that throughout this process, because my German bather was thorough and efficient and signaled that the scrub was over with a quick slap on the bottom and a terse "now go shower."
Another true highlight of the experience was the relaxation room. In here, you lie down on a gently heated padded table and get wrapped up like a burrito in warm sheets and plush blankets. You can sleep as long as you'd like. It was absolutely divine. Afterward, you wander around nude and choose a snack. We chose organic fruit smoothies and a Mediterranean platter with cheese, grapes, and olives. We relaxed for another hour in loungers in a sun-filled room with our snacks and magazines. Five hours after we entered, we got dressed and reluctantly re-entered the real world.
While pictures are not prohibited in the bathing area, we felt it would be in poor taste to wander around with a camera. Instead, we took this makeup-free, hair's-all-a-mess picture in the lobby.
And a picture outside the spa...
It was a wonderful life experience that we would love to do again. We seriously considered doing it again the next day, in fact. We have never felt so clean!
Check out their website to see pictures of the actual baths and plan your visit! Bonus points if you go with someone you know who's not your partner. 😉
After bathing, we checked into our wonderful hotel in the heart of downtown, Hotel Merkur. Family owned and operated, they were lovely people and the hotel was quite a steal.
The welcome gift was a mini pack of Haribo gummy bears!
We had dinner at a forgettable restaurant in the middle of town, but at least we enjoyed excellent people watching. We finally tried German food for the first time on this trip, and it was everything we had imagined it would be, and less. The beer was delicious though!
Then Hirsh found his dream car...
We spent this rainy morning taking a two hour Rhine River cruise. Since the boat dock was conveniently located directly across the street from our hotel, we just hopped on the first tour boat that stopped by and rode for an hour upstream to the town of Bacharach. It's exactly as precious as you might imagine a quintessential Rhine River town to be.
After about 45 minutes of walking around and looking around, we hopped back on another boat for the ride back downstream to Sangt Goar.
We had a very nice lunch at what is clearly a local favorite, Café St. Goar.
The café is best known for its desserts, and most especially the Black Forest cake. Here, they cut their huge fancy cakes with the same electric knife you'd use to carve a holiday turkey, so as not to disrupt the perfect layers.
We then headed out for sightseeing adventure #2 of the day - Marksburg Castle in Braubach. Dating back to the 12th Century, this castle was used as a protective fortress rather than a royal residence, as evidenced by its many cannons.
We were clearly allowed to take pictures inside this castle, so we did. 😄
Hirsh wanted a picture of his favorite rental car riding on the ferry.
Still not ready to sample traditional German fare, we headed to a lively pizza restaurant in St. Goar to refuel after a long, wet, chilly day.
We chose to start our German adventure in Cologne for one reason - it was by far the cheapest flight to Germany out of Bergamo, discovered by Hirsh after multiple intense sessions with Google Flights and Skyscanner.com. Fortunately for us, it is also home to the Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage site. Dating back to 1248, this cathedral is the most visited landmark in Germany, and it is the tallest twin spired church in the world. Obviously we had to visit. Cologne was rainy when we arrived the night before and rainy this morning, as well, but that just added to the drama and majesty of this place.
After a quick visit to the cathedral, we bid adieu to our youth hostel (our first experience with a hostel on this trip!) and hopped on the subway to the airport to pick up our rental car.
Back when we were in Norway, we were impressed by the efficiency of the Norwegian public transit system. Our Airbnb host at that time, Inge, told us to just wait until we got to Germany. Well, he was right! German culture is nothing if not strict and efficient. Even riding the clean, modern, punctual subway is a pleasure.
We had an equally pleasurable experience picking up our rental car: having booked a compact car, we were upgraded to an SUV with GPS by a lovely rental agent who smiled more than we thought possible for a German. Once we hit The Autobahn, we had both quickly fallen in love with Germany. It's like a more orderly, more efficient, more modern, better version of America with all the rules and consequences Sarah loves, and the disregard for speed limits that Hirsh enjoys. The only downside is, worse food. If we could overcome the food hurdle, we could live here. Sorry, Mom and Dad.
We drove to Burg Eltz ("Eltz Castle"), a Medieval castle dating back to the 12th Century. It has been owned by the same family for 33 generations! It is also Rick Steves' favorite German castle.
We enjoyed an outstanding guided tour and got some drizzly pictures outside. You aren't allowed to take pictures inside the castle, but it's truly worth a visit because it's filled with much of the original furniture and you get a real sense of what life was like here centuries ago.
We then drove to our accommodations for the night, located in the Rhine River valley town of Sankt Goar. When the Indian-German hotel owner saw Hirsh, his face lit up and he upgraded us to a top floor room with the best view.
We weren't quite ready to dive into traditional German cuisine, so we found the one Asian restaurant in this very quiet and tiny town. Owned and operated by a kind Asian gentleman and his somewhat more brusque wife, "Asia Kim" has about five reviews online, all of which are positive. The restaurant is tiny, and there were a total of three occupied tables when we were there.
We selected two dishes from the extensive menu that seemed familiar. When our food was presented to us, we started cutting at the meat and mixing it with the rice. Sarah had only made a couple of cuts and her plate was pretty neat, but Hirsh's plate was a hot mess by the time he was done mixing it up. This is when the real fun began. The wife quickly realized she'd served us the meals that the next table over had ordered. She was very upset and made a show of it. She tentatively picked up the plates and we thought she was going to take them back to the kitchen. You know, like a normal person. Much to our horror - and to our delight, let's be honest - she took the plates to the next table and presented them to their rightful owners. The young couple was shocked. Since we were sitting four feet away from each other, they had seen everything. Good natured as they were, they only hesitated for about a minute before digging in. We promised them we hadn't eaten any of it--fortunately, we looked like clean, normal, non-diseased people--and we all shared an uncomfortable laugh. We felt sorry for them but it was really funny!
Oh yeah, this restaurant exists in an underground bunker. Check out the emergency exit. It really was "special." But hey, the food hit the spot!