From insulation to condensation avoiding the mistakes of vanlife
When we came across a route in Germany called The Romantic Road, immediately we knew it was too tempting to miss!
The 460km long route, known as the “Romantische Strasse” in German, appeared completely idyllic. Not only because it passed through the stunning countryside of Bavaria, but in addition, the name itself sounded almost fairytale.
Our journey would begin in Würzburg, being the most Northerly start of the route. Afterwards, the drive South would take us through vast rolling countryside, amongst traditional villages. Before eventually finishing in Füssen and probably, the most romantic section of the route.
It’s here beyond green fields that you first see the most magical sight, the incredible fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein.
Of course, there’s plenty more to see along the way, including sampling a good German beer or two! Then there’s the lively locals, including plenty of music and the all important German sausage!
So, let’s dust off the Lederhosen and the Dirndl, because we’re about to begin our tour of Germany and The Romantic Road.
Offering rich scenery, dramatic river’s and vibrant vineyards, Germany is all about the land. In addition, it’s easy to reach from Calais and most importantly has an excellent motorhome parking system.
The German people love motorhome life, as a result, the country has an excellent network of places to stop the night. They also provide essential dump areas across the country.
This system for overnight parking is known as a Stellplatz which can be free, although sometimes there’s a fee of between €10-€20 per night.
Our first overnight stop in Germany brought us to the town of Merzig and Das Bad Therme, complete with a motorhome parking area.
If you haven’t heard of a German Therme, you’re in for a real treat! They are just fabulous and can be found throughout the Bavaria region. So, what is a Theme exactly? If you imagine a swimming pool complex with more emphasis on relaxation than physical exercise, then you’ll get the picture.
Most have several natural, hot mineral pools, ranging in temperature from super hot to completely freezing! It’s all about wellbeing, relaxation and soaking up all those minerals for silky smooth, thoroughly cleansed skin. Usually, the aroma of essential oils fills the air, whilst heated recliners, water jets and bubbling whirlpools treat those aches and pains.
A range of treatment rooms, a sauna, steam rooms and variety of other physical pampering options, make you feel like you have a new body by the time you head for the exit!
Best of all, they’re open into the evening and generally have a Stellplatz for motorhome parking attached. This let’s you have a good soak under the stars, ensuring a really good night’s sleep afterwards. If you keep an eye out for any town with ‘Bad’ meaning ‘bath’ in the title, there’s a good chance it will have a therme.
We weren’t too sure where to take our first stop on the Romantic Road. However, before long we were passing the historic town’s of Tauberbishofsheim and Lauda Konigshofen, so decided to take a look.
Located in the pretty Tauber Valley on the first stretch of the route, brought our first glimpse of what was to come. As well as lush green meadows, vineyards with ripening vines, provided an upmarket feel to whole area.
After a good stroll around, the local Stellplatz seemed an ideal place to spend the night.
The following morning, our route took us to the incredible Weikershiem Palace and gardens. In the meantime, the heat was building up, becoming incredibly intense. Make no mistake, Germany can get super hot in Summer!
First mentioned in the year 837, this incredible palace took over 100 years to finish! This wonderful structure is full of Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic architecture. Best of all, the indoor tour within the cool air of the ancient walls provided a welcome break from the strong sun outside.
After a quick drink under the shade of a tree, we were ready to explore the immaculate gardens. These are huge and laid out in colourful array of floral delights, mixed with neatly mowed lawns and the backdrop of palatial splendour.
Our next stop’s took us to Rottingen and Creglingen, the latter being the first main town on the Romantic Road route.
The Jewish museum here has historic details of the town’s strong Jewish links. Most harrowing, is the fact that in the 1930’s, this was the first town to murder its own Jewish inhabitants, including members of its local council.
The fabulous fortified town of Rotenburg ob der Tauber was one of the main highlights for us on the Romantic Road. Undoubtedly, one of the oldest and unique towns on the route. Before long, we found ourselves exploring intricate alleyways, evidently showcasing the ancient medieval roots and historic architecture.
When a town is this popular, equally there’s very often a downside. The worst part for us, was the coach loads of tourists slowly walking through the old town.
Nonetheless, when you visit anywhere during peak season, you have to acknowledge that it’s going to be busy. So, despite the crowds, we just made the most of the atmosphere and began to mingle, after all, if you can’t beat them, join them!
Finally, a tour of the town walls beckoned, so we followed a 4km trail which took us around the historic sights. In addition, we came across some rather lovely towers, reaching high into the sky and a landmark of the ancient town.
Our next stop involved another therme, at the delightful spa town of Bad Mergentheim. This is the largest spa resort in the region. If I’m not mistaken, the theraputic thermal water’s were founded here back in the 1800’s.
Obviously, this was too good an opportunity to miss. So, with this in mind, we gratefully parked up the campervan at the neighbouring Stellplatz before heading inside for a good soak!
No wonder we like Germany and the Romantic Road was so far proving perfect for those Spa treats.
Our drive the following day took us through Dinkelsbühl and onwards to Nördlingen, where a rather unusual event had taken place.
Apparently, it was here that a meteor had fallen to the ground, creating a large crater in the process. Not only that, but the locals decided it was a good idea to build a tower out of the rock that fell to Earth!
We soon realised, that most of the town’s along the Romantic Road had a sort of familiarity about them. Indeed, they are typically German in appearance, as a result, many have the charming half-timbered designs you’d expect, as well as being painted in an array of fresh pastel colours.
We thought it was all actually quite idyllic and certainly made a refreshing change. Undoubtedly, The Romantic Road is popular with tourists of all descriptions. Not only does it attract the motorhome folk, but the motorbike fraternity are here in abundance too.
Evidently it seems if a region puts a name to a route, for some reason, people want to drive it even more!
Winding along the route we headed on towards the town of Harbourg. It’s here that a hilltop fortress dominates the skyline, no other than a Medieval castle rising above the Wörniz River below.
A little further along from Harbourg lies Donauwörth, where the rivers Danube and Wörnitz meet. This typical German town hides a hidden past.
That’s because, despite 75% of the Medieval historic centre being destroyed in WWII, it remains relatively original looking in appearance today. This is a result of post-war re-building, resulting in the replication of the colourful pre-war architecture.
It’s position alongside the junction to the two rivers, is an ideal spot to stop en-route South.
Back on the Romantic Road after a good nights sleep, our next destination was the pretty town of Landsberg am Lech.
Our approach into the centre of town, had us pass the River Lech, gracefully flowing over a gentle weir. By contrast to the scenic cascades of the river, Landsberg am Lech is in-fact an important crossroads for Munich.
In addition, various routes branch off from here for other parts of Bavaria, including the road to Lake Constance, otherwise known as Bodensee in Germany. This in other words, makes exploring further afield, an option, for those not continuing the Romantic Road.
As we continued the route, once again, a lovely fortified town appeared. This time we’d found Schongau located within a region known as “Priests Corner”, because of a flurry of little churches surrounding the area.
Here, we found a Stellplatz parking area beside a swimming pool, ideal for our last night stop before hitting the final stretch South to Fussen.
Driving on after breakfast, the beautiful scenery began to change from gentle rolling hills to majestic mountains. This section of the route was stunning, in my opinion, simply the best part of the journey and well worth the wait.
In addition to the view from the campervan, for those wanting to explore by bike could use one of the cycle path’s meandering through the countryside.
Thankfully, the weather was still on our side. As a result, giving an extra beauty to the landscape as we drove along under the hot sun.
Next, we came across the most incredible sight on the trip, as the biggest fairytale castle imaginable came into view, at Schwangau.
The amazing Neuschwanstein Castle, is a castle like no other! So much so, that when Walt Disney and his wife visited here, Walt got the idea for his own Disney castle. Of course, now it’s instantly recognisable at the start of each Disney movie and the rest is history!
Neuschwanstein is also famous as the home of the mad King Ludwig of Bavaria and is actually situated alongside Hohenschwangau Castle, where the mad King grew up.
We couldn’t wait to take a look inside, but first we had to find somewhere to park for the night. As time was getting on, we decided to drive the short distance and final leg to Fussen.
Our journey along the Romantic Road came to an end as we reached the last town on the route, Füssen. Here we found a few Stellplatz to choose from, parking up at one that happened to have a washing machine! Always useful to do a bit of laundry, it gave a perfect opportunity to catch up on some chores.
Just as we got settled with a cup of tea, the storm clouds gathered and the heaven’s opened. As soon as the rain eased off, it was time to set out on foot into Füssen itself. This lovely town would have looked even better a few hours earlier, in the hot sun, but then again we can’t always be blessed with sunshine.
As the rain came down again, we had to retreat back to the campervan for the evening, hoping that the following day would bring the sunshine back.
Rising with the larks the next morning, we drove the short distance back to the Schwangau to visit the castle.
This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area, bringing crowds from all over the region. Including day-tripper’s from Austria and the large cities of Germany. To beat the crowds, an early start was essential.
Fortunately, the car park was relatively empty on our arrival and short queues at the ticket booths were a welcome sight. The castle is huge, with the walk just from the ticket booth taking around 40 minutes, although there are buses if needed.
A guided tour lead us on a journey through the castle interior. As you’d imagine, it was as just incredible inside as those first impressions of the outside. Our guide gave us an in depth account of the castle’s history along with the connection between King Ludwig and the compose, Wagner.
Outside, the Castle grounds provide walking routes as well as the perfect picture postcard spot. As we stood on a cute little suspension bridge, named the Marienbrucke, the castle proudly gazed back at us. With clouds still lingering, but the rain holding off for now, we managed to take a good look towards the King’s masterpiece.
The fabulous exterior of the castle was featured in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. However, more recently, you may recognise it from the Holywood film, The Monuments Men. It tells the true story of how the Nazi’s used the castle to hide stolen artwork. Incredible paintings and other valuable pieces had been removed from museums and hidden in the castle.
It was the perfect end to this Romantic Road journey. Glancing back at the most romantic setting and the fairytale dream castle, no wonder Walt took inspiration from here.
We all need a little sprinkling of magic from time to time and we’d certainly found it in Germany on The Romantic Road.