On the bright side, at least Tony could fit inside.
Photo courtesy of the Internet

My car has been in ICU now for 13 days. The problem that plagued the car in Italy resurfaced in Vienna. The technicians here have given up, and last week sent the computer data to Gothenburg and the Swedish technicians in order that they might hopefully diagnose the problem. Being without a car is a minor issue; I very rarely drive the car during the week. But come Saturday mornings, however, escaping Vienna is crucial to our well-being, so earlier in the week I reserved a “Model Guaranteed” BMW station wagon for the weekend. After all, our plans had us in Germany, where Fahrvergnügen was born. No children, and no place to be until Monday morning. Why not have some driving fun?

No, this is not a BMW station wagon. It was our rental Fiat minivan. In Red. Seems “Model Guaranteed” means nothing. We think the white roof was a marking to protect the car from being picked off by large birds of prey.

The plan had been to tour Regensburg, a UNESCO magical combination of “stone and charm.” With the forecast calling for blue skies and equally delightful temperatures, we scrapped Regensburg at the last minute and decided on Chiemsee, the lake just across the border in Bavaria with an island home to the “Bavarian Versailles,” an over gilded but unfinished rival to the French palace built by King Ludwig II, who, as we decided after the tour, really did have a big old boy crush on Louis XIV.

Bavaria is “mad” for its King Ludwig like Vienna dotes on the good Kaiser and Klimt. Unlike Austria, however, the last Bavarian ruler never technically gave up the throne, so the possibility of an independent Bavarian kingdom hangs out there.

Our ferry ride to the island was short, the lake breeze particularly welcome.

We had attempted to tour the palace twice before; once in 2009 when on a Bavarian holiday with the children, and again last autumn on our return from a Munich trip. Weather foiled us on both occasions. This third time was the charm. Because Clayton Theodore was welcome on the palace grounds (are you listening, Vienna?) but not within the palace proper, Tony and I took turns with our guided tours allowing us each the opportunity to enjoy our packed picnic lunch while CTF snoozed in the cool grass. We were far from the only dog owners doing this; in fact, dog owners may have almost been the majority (if you don’t count tour busers).

So let’s play, “Who does Versailles better?” Versailles’ back garden photo taken on a winter family holiday to Paris.

Königschloss Herrenchiemsee’s back garden.
The grand Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. We found it stunning.

Photos are not permitted on the interior of the Königschloss, because the guides feel that doing so distracts other visitors. I asked. Personally, I thought the two under-5’s rolling around on the floors in each room while their parents ignored them was a little more of a distraction. But there’s always the Internet.

Photo courtesy of the Internet

This comparison could go on for another ten rooms or so, but you get the idea. We enjoyed the tour a great deal; the opulence of each room was so over-the-top that it was fun.

On our Bavaria holiday a few years ago we also toured three of Ludwig’s other properties. This is Hohenschwangau, his childhood home.


Perched atop a hill above the village of Hohenschwangau is Neuschwanstein, Ludwig’s retreat from public life. This castle is perhaps better known for being the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.

The view from the balcony during our visit was every bit fairy-tale like.

Marienbrücke, Queen Mary’s bridge, is near to Neuschwanstein and makes for picture-perfect viewing of the fairy-tale castle. We had the good fortune of visiting when the castle was undergoing restoration.

Tucked along the alpine road in southern Bavaria is Schloss Linderhof, also modeled on Versailles but being the only palace Ludwig saw completed. Of all of Ludwig’s palaces and castles, I think this one is my favorite, perhaps because we visited on a late spring day, and the light snow and blue sky added to the romance.


From Königschloss Herrenchiemsee we overnighted in a Bavarian Gasthof (where we were asked if we were Danish?) with a Michelin-starred restaurant (that I did not know was there). Just before dinner we enjoyed cocktails on our balcony as a summer thunderstorm moved across the mountains. Oh, and our meal was so spectacular I am not even posting photos. Be jealous.

On Sunday morning, after an equally spectacular breakfast, we decided to route home via Passau, through the National Bavarian Forest, and into the Czech Republic toward a blueberry festival I had read something about. Passau is somewhat tucked into the corner where Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic come together. The confluence of the Inn and Ilz rivers into the Danube occurs at Passau and, as some say, it’s “where the Balkans begin.”

Here the Inn and Ilz rivers are coming together…
…and flowing into the Danube.
Along the Inn, pretty pastel houses. Just like in Innsbruck.


Slightly underwhelmed with our stop, we anticipated great scenic beauty driving through the forest the borders Germany and the Czech Republic. In the valleys and lowlands, lots of marshmallow farms.

Soon enough, the beautiful forest surrounded us as we crossed into the Czech Republic.

Unfortunately, our chosen route also came with women offering “roadside assistance” every 10 kilometers or so. Some of the women seemed a little young to be plying that trade; while others, I cringe as I write, seemed a little old for the sport.

The uncomfortableness didn’t end when we left the forested area, either. In the first village we drove through we were requested to pull over and provide “documentation.” Not for ourselves, but for the car. We can only guess that the illegal transportation of stolen vehicles is a bit of a problem for this corner of the Czech Republic, and a shiny red Fiat minivan is a hot commodity?

After a lengthy stop for a delicious roadside lunch for a mere 75 Koruna (€3), we lost interest in the blueberry festival and stopped, naturally, at a Tesco to gather supper provisions before we crossed into the land of the Sunday Shutdown and headed home.

We have plans for the upcoming weekend. But will our getaway be in Volvo-style?