We continued our way down the Romantic Road making a slight detour to check out part of the “Castle Road”. We ended up in Velburg, a cute and very small village we had read about. It was practically a ghost town, so we didn’t linger.We got ourselves a bit lost at times which led to some beautiful countryside views. Eventually we found the Romantic Road again and continued moving southward. We visited a couple more churches and monasteries on the way.
We then drove to the very charming village of Dinkelsbuhl where the weather cleared for us long enough to get some good pictures. We also wondered the cobblestone streets, poking in & out of shops. Sylvie got herself some traditional-looking German slippers.
By late afternoon the weather started turning for the worst, so we decided to try and get a B&B place for the night as the hotels there were very pricey. We inquired at the tourist information center. One place we just missed out on as another couple reserved it minutes before us. We tried a couple other places, but one was full and the other no one was home. We gave up on Dinkelsbuhl and headed for the next town, Nordlingen, another charming medieval town (of course). Every place we inquired into we got the same response of “no zimmer”, despite the sign outside saying “frei”, meaning available. It was during the week and we weren’t aware of any special events in town, so we started to take it personally. We were getting cranky and hungry at this point and started back down the now deluged darkening not so “Romantic Road”. We arrived in the tiny (and yet cute once again) village of Harburg where we parked in the “main plaza”of town and frantically went door to door of each hotel and B&B and inquired about an available room. We had almost reached the point of resigning ourselves to just sleep in the car. Finally, what was probably going to be our last attempt, we poked our heads into a restaurant/hotel and spoke with a very nice young woman who said she had a room for 49 euros with breakfast. We didn’t care at that point what the room looked like, whether it had an in-suite bathroom, etc. We were desperate and the price was right. To our astonishment, the room brand new, never been slept in, and was huge – more like an apartment. The next day we strolled the town and toured its beautiful castle before getting back on the road heading towards our RESERVED B&B in a small ski village of Rinnen/ Berwang in the Tirol region of Austria.
The drive going into Austria was really beautiful and felt much more serene and less busy than Germany. But things in Austria would get ugly for us pretty soon though…We arrived in Rinnen to our charming bed and breakfast late afternoon.
We chose that village as our base over the next couple of days to go see the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles and do some hiking from our village. Hohenschwangau castle was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and was built (or re-built) by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria before King Ludwig had his own dream castle built -the Neuschwanstein Castle -between 1869 and 1886. This is the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle.
The hike above our village in Rinnen took us uphill passing some beautiful viewpoints and the local wildlife. By end of afternoon, we reached the hut we had been aiming for where a very nice charming man served us the local fare as well as “schnaps”on the house. We returned to our B&B tired and took a sauna before retiring to our room to change and take a drive through the countryside.
The next day, we started leaving Austria and heading towards Italy as our next destination was the Dolomites. We passed some beautiful villages along the way but soon found ourselves on the Autobahn. This is where things started getting ugly. A white van seemed to be cutting us off and acting weird. To us it looked like a construction van with its 2 lights on top trying to get over to stop and start their work. Of course if we had spoken any German we would have known that it was an official autobahn van that wanted us to stop and pull over. Eventually since we didn’t get it, the van blocked our way (like a cop car would do in the US) and forced us to pull over. The Austrian man that got out of the van was furious!! He was yelling in German and then when noticed we didn’t understand started speaking English saying how we should have pulled over and how we had to pay 120 euros as we didn’t have the vignette toll to use the Austrian Autobahn. We had no idea what he was talking about as our guide book did not mention that and the only tolls we know in Europe have gates. He was extremely rude (even by European standards): acted like a Gestapo official and demanded we pay now or we could not leave. We asked if we could just get the vignette but he refused and stated there were signs everywhere- only in German- and we found out later not so many signs are present, and they like it that way so they can keep trapping tourists and cash in. We argued vehemently (we would have gotten shot or tazed by now in the US) but he kept saying “this is your problem and now you’re going to pay!”. We still refused. He took James’ international DL and the rental car info and came back to us saying that if we did not pay now the fine would increase to 300 to 3000 euros and we would not be able to fly out of Germany. All pissed off , we took a chance and left. This left us a very bad taste in our mouth about Austria and even though we should have somehow known about this vignette, the way this was handled by this official and the way we were treated was not right. To make matters worse, as we approached Italy, our rental car started acting funny and several lights on the dashboard (including check engine/oil light) came on.We looked at the oil level, tire pressure etc, and it seems OK to us but we might need to call Europcar for assistance soon. But of course, if the Austrian authorities have sent the ticket to Europcar, not sure what kind of assistance we will get!!! So we still have this huge potential ticket hanging over us and time will tell what will happen on this one.