My revisit to my homeland of Germany was planned for June of 2017 and since I wanted to visit relatives as well as explore southern Germany, Austria, and Italy it was decided that we would rent a car for this trip. Flying from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to Mexico City to Madrid, Spain to Munich Germany was our best deal with Iberia Airlines and it was to be our first time on this Spanish airline.
Traveling from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico has its challenges especially as my friend Daniel could not fly through the USA without an American Tourist visa, we had to confine our flights through Mexico City. Flying out of Puerto Vallarta to Mexico City was in the afternoon as most flights to Europe leaving from Mexico City later in the evening for the time change landing in the afternoon the next day. We decided to fly the new Economy Premium from Iberia Airlines that is offered by most airlines now and it was worth the extra money when you have these long 10 to 12 hour flights. I have found Iberia to offer the best rates on flights to Europe leaving from Mexico City. Their hub is Madrid, Spain so you always stop their first before continuing on to your final destination. Landing in Madrid, Spain with long lines at immigration we had to hustle to make our connection to Munich, Germany. But we made it, landing a few hours later in Munich as planned. A quick car rental and then we were off to begin our 2 week road trip.
We head downtown to the area of the Marienplatz for our 2 nights at the hotel nearby to begin to explore Munich, Germany. Since it was later in the evening the only place we found for German beers and some German food was at the Augustinerkeller a few blocks away. Ah, we are finally getting to enjoy the Bavarian life!
Our next morning takes us to the walk around down the pedestrian zone in order to see the famous City Hall with the Glockenspiel around midday. We walked all the way down to the end of this zone to find the Viktualienmarkt at the end around the corner where you can find everything in the way of food products from cheeses, meats, pretzels (yes lots of pretzels), produce, fish, and so much more. It gets to be time for me to enjoy my usual herring on a German roll and a Weissbier. That is the breakfast beer for Bavarians and I immediately felt back on home where I spent many of my youth years with my family. A weekly trip to downtown Munich was usually on the schedule with my grandmother or my uncle, so had been here many times before.
For the afternoon we pick up the car and drive out to the 1972 Olympic Grounds and BMW headquarters and museum just across the highway from each other. I always pay the extra fee to go up to the top of the Olympic Tower because the views are spectacular. The rest of the grounds are free to enjoy because it is a large park now. I am a lifelong BMW fan, so I like going over there to see the newest updates. The last time I was here, there was no Customer Delivery Center and the museum was under renovation. It was nice to see these new facilities and the latest BMW innovations!
The next day we have to do our obligatory family visiting so we head out to visit my Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin who now live in the village of Weil, Germany about 1.5 hours northwest of Munich. I love the drive because I get to hit the autobahn with no speed limits and the Audi Q3 we rented allows me to get up to speed! Weil is really a small farming community with just the basics of a small butcher shop, bakery, and small grocery store. I know the move was difficult for my uncle because he had lived in the town of Hohenschaftlarn for his whole life of almost 80 years. The family owns a 4th generation of the a Gasthof Schlee (German Bavarian Inn) has been his life long passion.
It is time to hit the road and start our adventures and sights going south from Munich to southern Germany, then into southern Austria to visit with my cousin, and then finally as far south as Venice, Italy. Using the car rental company GPS that came with the car turned out to be a life saver instead of using my handheld GPS that I had used on my motorcycle for all those years of riding. Our first stop is of course to visit Neuschwanstein Castle the Disney logo castle that many of us have seen throughout our lives. We drive south into the Alps along some back roads to give my partner a feel for the mountains, valleys and sights so commonly seen in Bavaria. Of course after our tour we have to make a lunch stop at a Bavarian restaurant. As I child I remember the long hikes we had to see these places, but always, I mean always, there was a place to stop and have lunch or coffee break along the way in the middle nowhere!
Our second stop for the day will be my favorite Castle of King Ludwig II and I believe his favorite located in the middle of a lake called Chiemsee on an island called Herreninsel (Man Island). Obviously accessible only by boat we catch a boat ride and spend the rest of the afternoon looking around at the grounds and this fabulous castle. Our first overnight is located right in that area at the Bonnschloessl Hotel, a wellness and beauty farm of which many such places are located throughout Bavaria. Germans love to go to these lake and mountain retreats to get clean fresh air as well as spa treatments to recover their bodies and their minds.
We are off early the next morning to go to Salt mines in Berchtesgaden, a famous old salt mine that now allows visitors to travel into the depths of the salt mine and see how things used to work there. I had been there several times before and I always enjoy the visit there. We end up in Salzburg, Austria that evening where I had booked a Mozart concert and dinner package up high in the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Great views, great dinner, and an intimate 6 piece Mozart concert and we concluded our day for the overnight at the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten a four star hotel in the heart of Salzburg.
We continue on the road and head to the small town of St. Veit an der Glam where my cousin and her husband live. They had relocated some years ago from Germany and had a small apartment where they were retired, but it was close to their grandchildren as their getaway place for most of the summers was their sailboat in Croatia. We enjoyed a few days of rest with them while seeing a few sights in their area like the Pyramidenkogel Tower, made from steel and wood atop a 2800 ft mountain in the area that provides breathtaking views and for the adventurous a slide all the way down from the top! The Burg Hochosterwitz a fortress dating back to the 14th century and with its 14 impressive gates, it was considered the most secure place in all of Austria.
After relaxing a few days, we are off again for our drive south to Venice, Italy. Since we are so close we arrive by midday and park our car in one of the garages at the entrance to the city and take the water taxi bus to St. Marks Square where our very small hotel called the Ca’ del Duca is located. Since Venice has no streets it was a bit of a challenge finding the place, but the owner had provided us a detailed map to get there. Time to explore after a quick pizza lunch as we only had 1 night in Venice to enjoy the sights. Our water taxi bus ticket allowed 24 hours of usage, so we headed out to Murano to see the glass factories and maybe buy some glass items. Later than afternoon we do our obligatory Venice Gondola ride. If you go before 6pm, then you can get it for $100 for a private Gondola.
Our short but sweet trip to Venice is very nice and we will probably come back again another time when we have more time. But we have to head back north for the last few days of our trip by finding some snow for Daniel! Living in the Puerto Vallarta area his whole life, he never has seen real snow. We also need to revisit the relatives in Germany and say our goodbyes. We connect with some life long friends of my German family and we head up to the highest point in Germany, Zugspitz. We are certain to find snow there!
And boy did we find snow! Lots of it and with borrowed hats and gloves, we enjoyed a little snow ball fight. Unfortunately, the views from the base and then beyond to the top were limited due to low cloud cover. However it was a day to be remembered!
Since our flight back to Mexico was later on the next day, we still had one more day to just relax. So we decided to take a 4 hour paddle boat ride around the Starnberger See, a lake in the area of Germany near my family’s town. I had spent many hours enjoying this lake from its beaches to sailing as my uncle kept a sailboat on this lake. A great finish to a great trip……..family, sights, beer, food, and fun exposure for Daniel to see a little part of my youth’s world!