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Hope Hertz Doesn't Read This! (Germany's Romantic Road)

The Plan: Rent a car, and drive from Krakow, Poland to Bamberg, Germany spending five days making our way up the Romantic Road. It was a good plan. In theory it should have worked.

The Execution: After discovering that there would be a SUBSTANTIAL fee for renting a car in Poland and dropping it off in Germany, Bob came up with the next most logical plan. He'd take a bus to the airport in Krakow, fly to Cologne, sit in the airport for four hours, fly back across Germany to Dresden, rent the car there, drive five Sshhhh. That's her behind me.hours back to Poland, get a good night's sleep and hit the road the next day. Sure!

So on a beautiful, sunny Thursday in the last week of August we packed the car to the brim, and headed out of Krakow (stopping oh so briefly on our way out of town to snap a pic at our favorite curmudgeony meat counter and then get chased out of the store by the security guard). Farewell Poland -- Hello Romantic Road!

An hour out of Krakow, Owen threw up in the backseat (actually ON the backseat, the front seat, the door, the floor mat, his backpack and himself). Poor guy. "This is bad," he kept saying, looking around at the damage while Bob tried to get to the nearest exit. "This is really bad!" After about an hour of Hazmat work on the rental car we refueled and Bob learned that you really don't want to top off the gas tank in Europe. They don't have those gas-catching-accordion-tube-things like we do in the US, so the gas splashes out. All over the guy whose kid just vomited. So Bob added his diesel-soaked shirt to the bag of "dirties" that Owen had changed out of, and sealed it all in plastic bags for the next few days, and we bought one of those awful ubiquitous pine tree shaped air-fresheners, and we were off again. Farewell Polish truck stop -- Hello Romantic road.

Now the nearly new rental car stinks. Bad. Almost chain-reaction-puking bad. Even the vomit and diesel fumes were better than the god-awful orange pine tree air-freshener Bob had hanging on the vent. Four hours of holding my breath later, we hit a cute sleepy little border town called Görlitz, where we planned to spend the night. Görlitz isn't big, and not really a tourist place, so we thought we'd get in around five o'clock, and have no trouble finding a hotel. With all of our delays we rolled into town smelly, tired and hungry around 8pm.

Now, to find a hotel. The first one wasn't booked, but it was small and lacked charm -- and for some unknown reason we decided to be picky. The next several hotels we checked were all booked. It was past time to eat dinner, so we found a tiny place that served Italian and Mexican (she's German and he's from Cuba so that makes sense). The owner told us that the whole city was preparing for a huge festival that started the next day. So that's why there aren't any rooms! Bob and I were getting a little concerned. The kids couldn't have cared less, cause the nice restaurant lady surprised them with ice cream with sprinkles. We left the restaurant at 10pm, having decided to drive on another hour to Dresden and try to get a hotel there.

With the kids asleep in the car we pulled into our first Dresden hotel to check it out just before midnight. Booked. They suggested a place just down the street. Booked. They suggested a place just a few kilometers away. This one was booked too, and suggested trying the big hotels farther into town. We ended up carrying sleeping children into a Hilton at one in the morning, and paying three times the price of the hotel we'd passed up hours earlier. I must say however, that the included breakfast the next morning was simply lovely.

Having learned our lesson the night before, I started the next day (after my lovely included breakfast), on the phone trying to book someplace for that night. After the Hilton on the riverfront, CHEAP was the word of the day. I got lucky, and booked for the next two nights in quick succession, feeling very proud of myself for pulling German out of places I didn't know I had to communicate with, and we headed to the Deutsches Museum, where I sat on benches, feeling queasy with Owen's stomach bug, while my family wandered among submarines and ships and airplanes. Awesome museum. 

Our next stop was the town of Pfronten, and the most delightful little family hotel -- The Hotel Birkenhof. The owners, Michael and Martha, were so warm and friendly! They sent us to a traditional beer garden down the street for dinner, where Bob and I revealed ourselves as the only tourists in the place by ordering ridiculously large beers. I had to pick mine up using both hands. Seriously. The locals were laughing. Hopefully with us...

When Bob woke up the next morning with the bug (it couldn't have been a hangover. He only had one beer!), Martha sent up camomile tea and dry toast to the room, and in a few hours Bob was a little queezy, but good to go.

From there, it was up the Romantic Road to Neuschwanstein Castle, which really is such an incredibly lovely, surreal, and fairy-tale-like place, no matter whether you call it castle or folly. That particular area of Bavaria is just breathtaking. It's the most beautiful landscape we've seen. We hiked up to the castle, following the pictures on the signs more than the words, and ended up not at the castle, but on a bridge that had a really wonderful view of the castle. Or it would have, if that Neuschwanstein Castle getting a facelift under all that scaffolding.entire side of the castle hadn't been covered in scaffolding. Seems restoration time was at hand. It's quite often restoration time in Europe evidently, because many (many) of the beautiful buildings we've been looking forward to seeing have been covered in scaffolding. We're thinking of devoting a Flickr page to "Great European Buildings We Didn't Quite See." Keep your ears to the ground for that one. Anyway - I decided to not be bothered by a botched view of Neuschwanstein. I'd already bought a postcard!

It was a chilly morning, but a warm and sunny day, and when we got back into the rental car the bag of Gummi Bears in the center console had liquified into one Big Gummi. Everything would have been all right if there hadn't been a huge rip in the bottom of the bag. Owen, Ella and Bob took turns sticking their fingers in the puddle of gummy goo lying in the car console, competing to see who could pull the longest string off before they ate it, which was SO GROSS and looked like a giant sheet of glistening red and blue slime! We scooped the rest of the mess out of the console the best we could, muttering apologizes to our poor car.

Rothenburg from the towerNext -- to Rothenburg, the medieval walled city. Rothenburg has been around for a thousand years, but it fell a bit out of favor during the Black Plague. Upside? It got frozen in time in the 17th century. We stayed in a funky, wonderful, 650-year-old Inn with six rooms called Hotel Altfränkische-Weinstube am Klosterhof. They have every taxidermied animal you can think of, peeking and lurking out of every corner of the lobby. At dinner that night in the Hotel restaurant we met two locals, and let them order our dinner for us. I got a wonderful pork something with spätzle. Bob got cold meat and vegetables in aspic. More scaffolding at St. Jacob's. Come back in 2011.He ate it all, while our new friends watched. They showed us how to toast when drinking a weissbier (from the bottom only!), and about where to wander in Rothenburg. They're in a local band that's been together for 30 years.

The next day we walked the wall, climbed the towers, looked at more scaffolding, and watched the kids peer out of ramparts. Ella had Jeero with her, and Owen was busy figuring out what kind of weapon (Crossbow? Longbow? Bucket of boiling oil?) would Brenna sipping coffee in Rothenburg. Check out the super secret leather money cuff on her suit the imaginary attack. Then it was back into the somewhat less smelly car, and on to Bamberg. Home for now. I have to say that it's becoming clear to me that the two-week whirlwind vacation just would not work well for this family. Everyone needs more time and space than it allows, and we all end up a little cranky. Of course it could have been the stomach bug. Or the smell.

When Bob returned the rental car, the woman at the desk asked if everything went well. Bob smiled and nodded.Our new temporary home on the River Regnitz in Bamberg, Germany.

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Reader Comments (16)

I cannot tell you how much I LOVE your posts...
Many thanks to you all.

Sep 7, 2009 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterYo Lama

I love your alternate plan, I don't know if I would have thought of it myself, or if I would have trusted my husband to execute it out so well. So you ended up at the Hilton, you probably deserved it after all of that AND the stomach bugs. Enjoy Germany! Eat a few Kit Kat's while you are in Europe for me, they are made of the Nestle chocolate there still, like they used to be here in the States -- but for some really dumb reason they are now made by Reese's and EVERYONE knows that Nestle has the better chocolate of the two.

Sep 7, 2009 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

Great photos as usual, but c'mon where are the pictures of the inside of that car? The picture of the singularly huge gummy bear? And where is the picture documenting the gummy bear gut eating contest? Just saying...

Sep 7, 2009 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterGerry

How come even when you guys are puking on each other, you still can make me wish I were on this trip with you??? As always, looking forward to the next installment!

Sep 7, 2009 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterMelody

Your posts are always so enjoyable!!! I'm sittting here by myself just laughing out loud....everyone else is in bed sleeping. Neuschwanstein Castle and Rothenberg were two of my favorites when I went to Germany. Did you make it to the Cathedral in Cologne? It's also amazing!!!

Sep 7, 2009 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterPamela Sinn Hargan

I look forward to your posts also. The pictures are fab. and the family posts are fab. I love them all.
Don't forget the book tour that will follow with more adventures. Keep a posting

Sep 8, 2009 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterDarleen

It's totally wrong that I had a ridiculous grin on my face while reading this, but, c'mon...I was just imaging the movie version, and all I can say is your tragedy, our comedy. The visuals were fantastic. Vomit, and air freshener, and gummi ooze...just great. I agree with Gerry though...where's our gummi ooze pic? Your description was truly grosstastic enough, but we're gluttonous freaks. On the other hand, it couldn't have been that hilarious to actually endure...egads, you people are amazing. I have been in that castle, it is bizarre and dad took lopsided illegal video there (he popped the camera lens, and shot while holding the camera by his leg) when I was nine, maybe you supplement your flicker stash with that...Hugs...this is going to make a fantastic book/script someday...

Sep 8, 2009 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterTamara

We agree with those gluttonous freaks for detail among you. We should have had pics of the ooze. The more we whip out the camera in times like those, the funnier it is. Well - it's always funny at some point, but it's funnier sooner if we know we're going to be telling all y'all about it.
We'll work on it,
Brenna & Bob

Sep 8, 2009 at 11:09 PM | Registered CommenterBob & Brenna Redpath

All I can say is that Gerry and all those others must have mighty strong stomachs! I'm a little bit glad y'all miss the photo-op of gummi bear guts. Though it would have been cool to see a photo of your favorite curmudgeony meat counter lady (why does it look wrong when I spell it? Curmudgeony. Darn.).

The kids and I are off with Grandma to Boston to visit the son/spouse/dad who has been working his little heiny off (and biking to and from work) since July. Don't feel too sorry for him though; when I called early tonight, he asked to call me back: he was meeting co-workers at the game and he had all the tickets - sorry, can't talk right now! If you get Facebook, he's been posting photos there. He's learning how to post video (1.5 minutes of his bike ride...) I'm sure he'd love a few more "friends"...

Cody got his first postcard. Response forthcoming forthwith...
Love, love, love y'all!

Sep 8, 2009 at 11:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicole

The curmudgeonly meat lady is over my left shoulder. Click on the photo and you'll see her bigger.


Sep 9, 2009 at 12:05 AM | Registered CommenterBob & Brenna Redpath

SOunds like a typical Antry trip..Only the Vomit part replaced by stopping frequently For the potty break. The pictures are wonderful, I realy enjoy your posts Keep up the great job!

Sep 9, 2009 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Antry

I somehow missed this blog..............I am very glad all of you are well because I have had my " teacher sickness" for this month, and I do not want to be sick in Germany.. Sooooo STAY WELL! I can only get sick after I get home.........everyone I teach seems to be sniffing, caughing or sneezing all over my room. I am going to take desperate measuresa and start spraying students with Lysol as they walk in. see you in 2 weeks.

Sep 9, 2009 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMOM

LOVE THIS! I just laughed and laughed! I know it was brutal at the time, but Come On ... It's just too glorious! I mean hey - if you are going to go through that anywhere ... Why not have it be in those beautiful surroundings all the way across the globe! Bless y'alls Hearts for being stuck in that car for so long! I pity the people who rented it after you guys!

I Love and Miss U So! I am just getting through all the blogs, because we are at the beach, and I finally have time to breathe. And ... EVERY time I read one ... I just want to pack up and hit the trail with you ... Even after a story like this! Live it up, Redpaths! We Only wish we were there to live the life with you! We have all been reading all your blogs aloud to everyone at the beach, and we all agree that you are changing your children's lives - in very profound ways - Forever! Here's to you both!

Love You All SOOO!!!

Sep 9, 2009 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

Oh! Your new temporary home looks amazing. I am so jealous....and you are about to have a real Fall, while we swelter under clouds of smoke. How long do you get to stay there?

Sep 10, 2009 at 1:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterDenine

No great journey comes without a few minor bumps in the road :) It sounds like a great trip overall. Glad I found your blog!

Sep 21, 2009 at 1:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlison

We'll be retracing your steps ourselves as a family going from Rothenburg down to the Neuschwanstein area by car. Hopefully we'll have a better rental experience. Thanks for all the photos.

May 10, 2010 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterLise

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