Roam to Reykjavik - Part 5
Arriving by train from Strasbourg a little after 11am we made our way out to the bus stop to find a ride into town. The car we hired was located in 'central Baden' so logically we found a bus to the middle of town. This all would have been fine if the car hire office wasn't closed at midday for Boxing Day and the 'central Baden' depot wasn't about 8km out of town. A few stern phone calls, a confused tourist-information employee, two rounds of gluhwein and 4 hours later an apologetic hire car company employee came to pick us up. En route we were offered a breakneck example of just how fast it was legal to go on the autobahn (maxed out at 210km/h). Let's just say after a 4 hour wait with the stuffy Russian billionaire crowd in Baden-Baden, our nerves weren't really processing the thrill.
One apologetic ‘car class’ upgrade to a visually identical vehicle later, we had our car. I took a few minutes to work out that the handbrake was a small button in the centre console and we awkwardly-as-I-got-the-hang-of-right-hand-drive drove off. To the Black Forest, nature, greenery, shrubbery and an obscene quantity of Sauerkraut.
We wanted to visit the Black Forest based on Alexis' recollection of it from a childhood family road trip. She had fallen in love with the fairytale forests and had desired to return ever since. That night, as the road got increasingly smaller and bendy, all we could see was the trunks of tall pine trees forming a wall of ancient timber which cloaked the black-dark forest beyond. We knew waking up here would reveal a piney paradise and were almost too excited to sleep once we found a room at the only motel in the village (yes, that is a Little Britain reference to the quaintness of the hotel and the town).
Abandoned logging trails, woodpecker pecks and gliding owls filled the next few days as we found some of the spots Lex could remember from her childhood. Breakfast on our second day was at the stunning Lake Mummelsee, perched on the high edge of a mountain with a swank hotel on its lip. We decided to pay the 20euro per person penalty for the breakfast buffet at the lakes only hotel, getting value for money by filling our jackets with lunch and snacks. We didn’t make much effort to hide what we were doing, and it appeared as though the staff were indifferent to our scheme.
We spent the rest of the day hiking around different mountains, only stopping to be attacked by some sort of Jurassic period rabid bush turkey (see photos). The next day we stopped to eat Black Forest cake at 'The original Black Forest Cake Bakery'. On arrival we were bluntly advised, "No cakeh before eleffen eyh hem!". I was fearful of Black-Forest cake. The memory of making myself paralysingly ill by consuming ¾ of one on my 11th birthday still a bit too fresh. So we pressed on, sans cake.
Next stop, Füssen, home of Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.
Looking at the map we decided it would be pointless and fun to pop in to Switzerland for lunch. Why not cross off another country? Fog, rain, cold and an almost post-apocalyptic scarcity of people or vehicles was what we saw in Switzerland. Inspired by the dullness of the place I drove the car on the footpath for a while, at speed. This wasn't a problem because apparently there is no one in Northern Switzerland around 1pm, on a Wednesday. We are still befuddled by this - Where was everyone? Coming across nothing but an ALDI, and assuming it was Swiss we filled a basket with a selection of products 'Made in Switzerland'. Apparently Swiss supermarkets don't accept Mastercard, VISA or Amex so without a Swiss Franc we walked away empty handed (ALDI is German owned - the whole situation was redundant).
After grabbing some food and offering another offensively-close-to-the-service-station-protest-for-having-to-pay-for-the-toilet moment, we were off. Reaching Füssen, Germany and finding a room with just enough time for a beer at sunset.
The next morning we found a little cafe selling coffee, breakfast and fireworks for 6euro a bag. Yes in the cafe, it was too perfect (Australian readers will understand my excitement here - fireworks are illegal in Australia). Chuffed with my 6euro selection, I packed the explosives into the car like father would a newborn. We reached Neuschwanstein castle, got our tickets and walked up the hill to wait for our obligatory audio tour to start. A morning gluwein helped us ignore the dangers of rogue selfie-sticks. After the castle tour and a few photos we found our way down the mountainside by sliding on in the deep ground-covering of fallen leaves. We saved roughly 10 minutes opting out of the winding, low-gradient path down. Again choosing to let the GPS and the wind of opportunity guide us. We set it to navigate 6 hours away to Prague... Because why not!?
We reached Prague a touch under 5 hours later down the policeless Czech freeways.
It turned out a cheap meal in Czech Republic was easy to find and there just so happened to be a Vegetarian/Indian joint next door to our hostel. Making friends in the hostel, we formed a squad and went out for a drink. This all descended into a gleeful raucous on the Charles bridge, lighting up cold early morning air with laughs and showers of green sparks over the Vltava River.
On recommendation from the hostel we moved the car in the morning. Thankfully it didn’t get clamped overnight. With mugs of coffee in hand (we rushed out from breakfast to the car), walked back from the carpark to our hostel without any shoes on. According to the glares, stares and smartphone photos of strangers, no one has ever walked barefoot in Prague. We drove up to Prague castle and got a coffee from a young, friendly doppleganger Czech version of Stephen Merchant. Ascending the cobbled lanes to be stunned by the Prague cityscape. A strange mix of architectural genres presented itself as as the sun warmed our faces and made silhouettes of the scenically fluttering pigeons.
We found the car and pointed it towards Berlin.
About 5 minutes out of Prague we spotted a young Ukranian couple with a sign indicating they were hitching to Berlin. We picked them and their very limited English vocabulary. A road work zone detour led us through half-an-hours-worth of rural, visibly poor villages. It seemed the money spent on re-guilding the castle, and keeping downtown rubbish-free wasn't leaving much change for the often unseen subsistence farmers of the Czech countryside. Beautiful as it was, we crossed the German border with a sour taste in our mouth having glimpsed the visible lack of equality to the South.
I had a very audible tizm with the German self-serve car wash. It appeared to only have one setting - flaccid foaming. Our hitchers bailed in fear on the outskirts of Berlin. Taking their boiled cabbage body odour with them.
And we were in Berlin.
Berlin will need another article so keep an eye out for 'Roam to Reykjavik - Part 6'.