If it’s Monday it must be Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Lichtenstein

Today is Monday and according to our itinerary it must be Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Lichtenstein – and we were in some of these countries more than once. Our final destination was Fussen, Germany. Fussen is located in Bavaria, near the Austrian border, at the end of what is known as the Romantic Road. We decided to stop in here because it’s near Neuschwanstein Castle, one of King Ludwig II’s three castles, which we’ll be visiting tomorrow. In photos the castle looks like something out of a fairy tale.

Since it was going to be a long day, we had decided  our only stop on the way to Fussen would be Vaduz, Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein is a tiny country, between Switzerland and Austria, covering just over 62 square miles, with a population of about 35,000. While it was a bit out of the way, we decided it would be fun to add it to the list of countries we visited. Vaduz is a beautiful pristine, small town. No litter, no graffiti – postcard perfect everywhere. In the center is a pedestrian mall filled with artwork, expensive shops and cafes. The Prince of Lichtenstein’s castle was built in the 12th century and prominently sits  high above the town. The Prince by the way is Prince Hans-Adam II von Lichtenstein – head of the 900 year old family.

Lichtenstein is a wealthy country, with a per capita income of $134,000. The town is filled with BMW’s, Mercedes’, Bentleys, Audis, Porsches and Jauguars, most of which were black. After exploring Vaduz, we stopped at the visitor center to have our passports stamped with Lichtenstein’s seal – and from the line evidently it”s a popular stop for tour buses. Included here are also a few photos of  the sculptures and buildings in Vaduz.

We spent the rest of the afternoon driving through the countryside on small roads in Austria and Germany. The rolling hills, villages and farms were beautiful. By the time we stopped for the evening in Fussen, we were ready to cool off and relax – the weather has turned hot. Getting to our hotel was a bit tricky since it is near the center of Fussen in the old town area. After a few wrong turns and some back tracking (the GPS is not a lot of help when streets suddenly turn into pedestrian only – it still wants you to drive down them…) we made it to the Hotel Hirsch. You can’t miss it – it’s big and pink. It fit my criteria for hotels, being old and family run – in the same family for four generations. The staff are wonderful and upgraded us to a larger room in the turret at the front of the hotel. The room is huge with a small balcony. Tonight we are having thunderstorms, with thunder that I haven’t heard since living in the Midwest. But it’s a welcome change and cooling things off a bit. The temperatures have been in the mid to upper 80’s since we arrived in Annecy, France. Even in the mountains in Switzerland the highs were in the 80’s. Rain or no rain, we’re headed out to walk through the old section of Fussen, and then had a late dinner at the hotel restaurant.

 

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These photos are of Fussen and Hotel Hirsch.

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And a parting shot of Switzerland as we left Lauterbrunnen this morning. We didn’t get a chance to spend much time here and have added it to our must return to list. Next time I’d like to visit some of the waterfalls. Staubbach Falls, the one in this photo, is just one of 72 in the Lauterbrunnen Valley and is the first thing you see as you drive into town.

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Tomorrow we’ll be visiting Mad King Ludwig’s castle and then on to Salzburg.

Hotel Hunting in Europe

On our upcoming trip to Europe, where to go and what to see is pretty much up to my son Matt since he is responsible for the itinerary. I’m game for anything – except where I sleep. A well rested mom is a happy mom. I’m doing the hotel hunting in Europe – he can have an opinion, but I make the final decisions on this one.

My first criteria for finding hotels is to use hotel credits and frequent stay rewards. The next are safe locations, clean rooms, family run, old and interesting. A good review on Trip Advisor is also a plus. And, I wanted a price range of 100-150 Euros a night. The credits and rewards took care of London (Four Seasons Canary Wharf), Vienna and Ghent. Marriotts in Vienna (Imperial Riding School) and Ghent (Marriott Ghent Hotel) even met the old and interesting criteria – old on the outside but new on the inside – close enough. I wanted to stay at the Four Seasons George V Hotel in Paris but I think our credits would have bought us about 45 minutes in a room there – beautiful and luxurious but expensive. Using Four Seasons credits at the Canary Wharf in London is a great deal by comparison. The Canary Wharf property looks more contemporary than other Four Season hotels we’ve stayed at and it’s also smaller, but no doubt will have same great service they are known for.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered reading about being able to stay in castles in Austria. Why not? What better place to stay in a castle than in Austria and they certainly would be old and interesting. I found two websites (Schloss Hotels and Castle and Palace Hotels) with several listings in Austria. Some castles were beautiful but muc too expensive, however, two looked promising. The first, Schloss Haunsperg, is only 15 minutes outside of Salzburg. One review described it as, “… a fairy-tale castle, with old-world charm, operated by an energetic, gregarious husband-wife team, who seemed to genuinely enjoy their guests.” Plus it was built in the 14th century and had a chapel and a moat. It seems to me every respectable castle should have a chapel and moat. I emailed the owners and their response included, “Thank you very much for your request. We would be happy welcoming you and your son to our castle….” Wouldn’t you love to say that to someone about your home and you actually live in a castle! I booked it immediately – and it was within our budget.

The second castle is an hour outside of Vienna: Hotel Schloss Mailberg. Built in 1146, it has been continually the property of the ‘Sovereign Order of Malta’. Built in the year 1146 – that’s amazing! You could almost feel the history from the photos. According to their website (www.orderofmalta.int), “The Order of St John of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilization. Present in Palestine in around 1050, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. The Order of Malta is one of the few Orders created in the Middle Ages and still active today.” How often can you stayed in a building originally built for knights? The twin room is 80 Euros and maybe a bit spartan from the photos, but any discomfort is worth discovering the history of the Order. This is also wine country and they have a huge wine cellar. That is worth a few extra points and I booked a room.

You’ll have to wait until we visit the other hotels to hear about them, except for Paris, which deserves a post of its own. Booking a hotel in Paris can be, well … challenging. More on that tomorrow. Thanks for joining us.

 

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