Americans in Bavaria ~ A Spring Stroll by the Danube River

“I thought there’d be booze. Shouldn’t there be booze?

“It’s not the real Valhalla, mother. I mean, we didn’t even have to cross the Bifröst or anything.”

“Climbing this monster of a hill doesn’t count?”

“‘fraid not.”

“Is there a manager I can talk to?”

“Regarding what? The unconscionable lack of feasting and mead and general mayhem, or that hauling ourselves up here doesn’t warrant the former?”

“Both?”

“I think I could manage a little mayhem,” elder Valkyrie interjects mildly. Kind soul, she can’t bear to see mother moping.

“You two go on wreaking and havocing. I’m going to check out this view!”

“Oh, alright then. I didn’t bring my horse and shield anyways.”

Walhalla (1)

Walhalla.

Not the real one, as established above, but still a pretty neat little place high above the Danube River, just a hop and a skip from ancient Regensburg. A neo-classical hall of fame for Germans and sort-of-Germans, built between 1830 and 1842 because king Ludwig, First of His Name (no, not the guy with the Disney castles), thought it would be more fun than getting involved in another stupid war to reap glory. Can’t fault the old boy there.

The place is accessible by boat or road – you can book a little roundtrip cruise right in downtown Regensburg, and enjoy floating down the mighty river while the white marble framed by lush shades of green grows larger and larger in your view … until you realize a lot of this marble represents stairs. Mother Valkyrie and her Shieldmaidens learned a lot of interesting new German epithets that day.

Slightly less harrowing, though requiring the skill to navigate roads where two donkeys can scarcely pass (and a good GPS system!), is the approach from the rear. Skirting the beautiful town of Donaustauf and its medieval charm, one gets lost once or twice and eventually enters a dense forest. There one climbs a winding, narrow road until a friendly German in an orange vest appears out of nowhere and directs one to a fine spot in the shade of a giant oak. How those buses ever manage it up there in one piece remains a mystery.

At least the gravel parking lot is halfway up the hill, and any climbing that remains to be done is over shady forest paths. Unpaved paths, as a vexed fellow tourist in heels had to find out.

The view alone is worth the hike, as youngest Valkyrie so succinctly pointed out. Off to the west there was Regensburg basking in the spring sunlight, the towers of the famous cathedral barely visible in the distance. Villages scattered between fields south of the river, and dense forest to the east. A few sailboats were trying to catch a breeze on the big blue ribbon cutting through all that green.

Having strolled around the premises and looked their fill, the Valkyries decided to enter through the hallowed gates.

“Definitely no carousing and throwing of axes.”

“Pity, that.”

“I think that’s why they have beer gardens. For the carousing at least.”

“Is that a not so subtle hint, mother?”

“I wish. Driving and Bavarian beer do not mix so well. Oh look, Mozart!”

Walhalla (38)

Walhalla (24)

There are Germans, quasi Germans, nabbed Germans, and people who happened to speak something similar to German. Warriors and poets and scientists (of this, the Valkyries heartily approved!), men and women. Plaques commemorate people whose likeness is long forgotten, busts line the walls for the younger additions. Sophie Scholl has a place of honor all by herself, representing all the resistance fighters against the Nazi regime. She’s in fine company, her marble eyes surveying heroes such as Kepler, Heine, and Einstein, next to movers and shakers of history like Catherine of Russia, Martin Luther, and old Arminius the original superhero with a shaggy cape, havoc wreaker against the Romans and rabble-rouser of Teutoburg.

For all the marble weight of history it’s a lovely place. Bright and airy, with intricate details for the visitor to discover. If the Valkyries felt that some fine spirits and rousing songs to commemorate the fallen wouldn’t go amiss, it wasn’t because the great hall was lacking splendor.

What kind of a dream is it,’ said Óðinn,
in which just before daybreak,
I thought I cleared Valhǫll,
for coming of slain men?
I waked the Einherjar,
bade Valkyries rise up,
to strew the bench,
and scour the beakers,
wine to carry,
as for a king’s coming,
here to me I expect
heroes’ coming from the world,
certain great ones,
so glad is my heart. 
Walhalla (20)

“Take me to the beer garden or lose me forever!”

“Look, I know I forgot the water bottles. No need to keep rubbing it in!”

“Really? Of all the movies to quote from, you pick that one?”

“I blame the heat. What’s the legal beer-ing age in Germany again?”

“Now who’s doing the rubbing?”

Perhaps some people manage peaceful walks. Quiet, serene strolls, listening to bird song and smelling the flowers. I wouldn’t know, because all we ever manage is to be entertainment. Sure, we smell the flowers- we even call out to each other and show off a particularly pretty or exotic find. From above, it would likely look like three cats joined by an elastic band. Traveling in a general direction, but each following her own trajectory, occasionally converging in a pile, then moving off again. All accompanied by a good deal of meows and playfighting.

Somehow we made it back to the car, and down the hill. We had spied a charming beer garden on the way up, but had not counted on the German automobilist’s bane – nowhere to park, unless you want to back up traffic all the way to Stuttgart. The beer garden’s tiny parking lot was crowded with cars nearly sharing paint at this point (yes, Germans have been spotted exiting their vehicles through sunroofs if it meant securing a good parking spot). If not for youngest Valkyrie’s eagle eyes spotting a narrow gap near the church that left a whole two inches for us to exit on either side, we might still be circling (say what you will, this country teaches you how to drive).

Donaustauf (9)

Positively parched by now, we crossed the distance like lionesses with a juicy zebra in sight. And were rewarded by a pint-sized but utterly delightful beer garden. The premises, we learned, had been a poor house and hospital once, lovingly renovated and converted into a restaurant and cafe.

As it was early in the afternoon, they served only “Brotzeit“, the Bavarian equivalent of snacks, though that hardly does the savory dishes justice. Brotzeit is designed to complement the center of the Bavarian Universe – the beer – and it does so magnificently. While only elder Valkyrie indulged in a Weizen (mother and youngest stuck their heads into a bucket of water instead), we all sampled some traditional cuisine and emerged ready for new adventures…

Donaustauf (4)

Donaustauf (3)


 

Inspired by RestlessJo‘s Monday Walks – a weekly favorite with never anything less than absolutely stunning pictures (when I grow up, I want to take photos like Jo!)

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A Call to Suitcases ~ An Austrian Adventure

“Boots!”

“Check!”

“Rain gear!”

“Check!”

“Pants?”

“Who needs those?”

“You need to get off Twitter. Undies!”

“Check… and check.”

“I’m not even gonna ask. Socks!”

“Che.. ahey, those aren’t mine! Catch!”

There are certain advantages to raising military brats. One of them is that they can mobilize with the speed of a SEAL team, going from lounging leopards pawing tenderly at iPads to tossing socks and unmentionables across a hallway in 2.26 seconds flat. Another is that they have been hammered, honed, and tempered in the forge of military moves, and thus are capable of assembling basic necessities (Toothbrush! Favorite T-shirt! Snacks! Plush Eeyore!) without assistance or prompting.

There are drawbacks, too. First and foremost there is the Laissez-Faire approach to packing. Aka “If it won’t fit I shall make it fit!” Aka “Mom really doesn’t remember why she even owns an iron.” Aka “Come over here and sit on this!’ – “Did you just call me fat?” Secondly, it requires naught less than a crowbar with a steam engine attached to divert them from their mission. Once the hosiery and toiletries are airborne, mother can only dodge and evade; any and all appeals to help retrieving an errant shirt from the happy dog fall on deaf ears.

Right. The dog. Travel bowls? Check. Leash? Check. Squeaky duck? Che… I sure hope they weren’t planning on bringing those pants. Wait, didn’t she have a shirt earlier?

Road Dog
Road Dog

We’re horrible at planning. Abysmal, lousy, harrowing. We are the unchallenged Queens of the Very Last Minute, flying by the proverbial seats of our pants while our aircraft is cheerfully shedding screws and the odd bit of wing.

As the merry mayhem progressed upstairs and I was absentmindedly squeaking a disheveled chew toy, I wondered, wistfully and a bit enviously, how our sweet neighbors do it. I wouldn’t call them organized to within an inch of their lives, but they always manage to tell us two, or four weeks in advance when they need a dogsitter. They have itineraries, lists of good restaurants and interesting sights. They have their clothes washed, ironed, and packed the day before departure, they have a tank full of gas and a plan.

We have bright ideas.

Such as the one that started this latest upheaval. The email had been sitting in my inbox for a week, largely ignored. A 30% off coupon for a fancy hotel with horses and a spa. Horses and a spa! Well, it’s October and the weather in the mountains of Austria is likely somewhere between abysmal and depressing. But … horses! Spa! 30% off! If you take the horsey 3-day package, you even get another discount. But… we did have plans. Of a sort. On this glorious, rare 4-day weekend, elder daughter was going to visit some friends while younger and I would park our resplendent selves on the couch for a “Vikings” marathon and only move under duress (YOUR turn to order pizza!).

Yet as the date drew nearer, so did the feeling of “Ugh. Boring” increase. But what to do? Summer season was long gone, winter not even a blip on the radar yet. Rain, that’s what was on the menu. More rain. One sunny autumn day, followed by … yep, rain. And the Lion King musical was sold out, when mother peeked online – just in case. Prague? Rain. Berlin? More rain. Spain? Too short notice by now, plus we’d practically have to leave again soon as we touch down. Couch? Pizza it is.

Bright ideas happen randomly in this family, as do odd food hankerings, and left-field interjections during perfectly normal breakfast conversations about politics and astrophysics and Kirk vs Picard.

“Voting for this guy would be like flying into a quantum filament just to see what happens. Positively Kirk-esque recklessness!”

“I want Kaiserschmarrn!”

“Me, too. Let’s go to Austria. And vote for the other guy.”

“Agreed. On all counts. With quince jelly.”

It took about an hour to find the email, call the hotel, find the lady who spoke English, find out they had an opening, several actually, and if the ladies would like a suite it’s an extra 10% off the package (off-season you understand), whip out the credit card, and book a holiday starting… today. T minus 6 hours.

Let the melee commence.

 

 


Inspired by and written for Wander.Essence‘s beautiful “ANTICIPATION & PREPARATION” series. Check her out, she not only has the most amazing pictures, but she has Plans!


 

The Austrian Adventure continues here: Mountains, cows and coffee!