06.06.2013 - 06.06.2013 21 °C
We had great hopes for this part of Germany. Ben had spent time researching the Romantic Road, a 250 km route of historic, picturesque, medieval German towns. I recall that twenty years ago, we stayed a night in Rothenburg, likely at a youth hostel not being able to afford anything else, and walked the town wall at daybreak, marvelling at the hues the sun cast on the medieval town below. This memory spurred us on to consider other aspects of the route; with a car, we might go further afield and see other vantage points along this special section of Germany. We knew we would have to find housing mid-route to ensure we could make reasonable day trips up and down the route. Back in Turkey, when we were doing a major planning session, Ben researched and requested a stay near Ausberg. It had proven hard to find something affordable and appropriate in the vicinity. However, it was some time before we heard back regarding the request and, unfortunately, they could not accommodate us. Because it was a complicated piece of the travel puzzle, we would return to it off and on over the weeks but never be able to settle on the right locale from which to explore. Finally, last week, knowing time was up, we booked a place south of the Romantic Road, knowing that we could not pursue the day trip plan. We thus agreed we would leave Mayen relatively early today and travel the route, stopping in two medieval towns along the way to explore for a few hours. That would have to be our compromise to seeing the Romantic Road.
As we were all busy doing our various pack up chores, we asked one of the girls to put Rothenburg into the GPS. Then we happily set off, the sun in front of us and the wind on our tail. Ben became very familiar with the German autobahn, weaving in and around the truckers. Even though he was going about 140 kmh, small but powerful Audis and Mercedis were passing us as if we were standing still. That's the German freeway for you. No holds barred when it comes to speed. We spent the morning listening to podcasts and music and talking about the trip. Hannah has been downloading tons of podcasts from various sites like Stuff You Should Know, The Vinyl Cafe, This American Life and DNTO. Over the course of the last several months, she drops little-known facts and interesting tidbits here and there, and we wonder "Where does she get this stuff? How come SHE'S so smart?" The podcasts, combined with her rock solid memory, provide her with much fodder with which to impress us. Today, we all listened to a podcast from This American Life detailing the journey of a 23-year-old man who walked across the United States. It took him eleven months and just under $1000 -- our trip is costing considerably more but the girls didn't want to hoof across Europe, sleeping on couches and under bridges. Along his route, he would talk to many people, and he asked many of them a similar question: "What would you tell your 23-year-old self if you could?" He recorded many of his encounters and his thoughts over the year and is now writing a book on his adventures. It was quite a mesmerizing story and this, together with other podcasts, kept us amused until and after our picnic lunch at a rest stop.
As we entered the car renewed after lunch, we saw that we had only 30 minutes left to go before we would be in Rothenburg. However, as we got nearer and nearer to our GPS destination, we did not see any medieval town appearing. In fact, we were off the highway and in farmland. How could this be? When we heard the fateful words from the 'American female' GPS voice (affectionately named Jane) "You have reached your destination" and yet found ourselves looking at cows, we knew we were slightly off track. How much off track remained to be seen. We were indeed in a community called Rothenburg as evidenced by the single street sign we saw there; however, when we looked at the GPS options again, we saw that there are a few such towns so named in Germany. We reselected 'Rothenburg' on the GPS, this time with the all-important suffix 'ob der Tauber'. Four pairs of eyes watched as Jane chugged through all the possible routes to see which one she would present to us. We were eager to know the precise distance between where we were and where we thought we were. She displayed her findings in bold, impartial text: 302 km; 2 hours and 45 minutes. What, 2 hours and 45 minutes off course!? Her voice seemed cold and unsympathetic. Boy, did we ever go astray. We could either start finger pointing or we could start driving. We elected on the latter. Regrouping, we turned south and headed for our accommodation near the Germany-Austria border. Realizing we had just lost three hours of sightseeing time, we now knew we couldn't stop or else we'd be late arriving for our appointment with our new host, still six hours away. We saw the Romantic Road hopes fading quickly. Passing by the 'real' Rothenburg a few hours later, we couldn't seem to let go totally. Those lingering hopes blazed momentarily as we still felt that there might be an option to quickly see the town and pop by a phone to alert our host to a change in plans. However, as we turned off the autobahn, we saw that the traffic in the opposite direction was stalled -- it was a virtual parking lot for several kilometers, possibly due to an accident. We felt that, if we elected to see Rothenburg, we might have to negotiate the backed-up stretch to get back onto our side of the highway. That is when we gave a big sigh, truly resigned ourselves and said goodbye to the Romantic Road for good.