Updated: Jul 23, 2020
One of my favourite parts of living in Europe is just how close everything feels - especially compared to living in a country as vast as Canada. From where we are you can drive 30 minutes west and hit the French border, or head one hour south and you'll find yourself in Basel, Switzerland. Heck, you can even drive across an entire country in less time than the commute Jason and I made to visit each other when living in neighbouring provinces. The proximity to other cities and countries makes for near endless possibilities when planning a road trip.
After what felt like three weeks of relentless rain and ever-present grey skies a road trip is exactly what we needed. Me, Jason and our friend Sam (you'll remember him from our trip to England) decided to rent a car and hit the open road. With a decent forecast finally on the horizon, I booked a car through Enterprise on a Wednesday and we set off on a Friday afternoon with plans of hitting Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria.
Our little rental car that could. Yes, all three of us with our backpacks and snack bags piled into this little Toyota - there's more room than you think!
Driving in four countries in the span of one day.
Travelling through the beautiful, though sometimes harrowing, switchbacks of the Austrian Alps.
Eating a traditional Bavarian meal, with a Bavarian beer to wash it down of course - keep reading for photos!
We picked up the car Friday afternoon and we were off. Heading towards Switzerland we drove through Ravenna Gorge, the road saddled by sheer cliffs of the Black Forest, past Lake Titisee and the picturesque town of Neu-Stadt. We drove into the countryside dotted here and there with small towns. There would be nothing but farmer's fields for miles and then seemingly out of nowhere small communities would appear in the distance. Houses, barns, restaurants and small shops clustered together, thriving on the support of one another.
We arrived at the Rhine Falls in Switzerland just as the sun began its decent. The three of us stood in contented silence while the golden hour light illuminated the mist rising from the gushing falls.
Top photo captured by Sam Bacon.
After a walk around the falls to Laufen Castle, medieval castle turned restaurant and hostel, we set off towards our hotel back in Germany along Lake Konstanz.
Laufen Castle, perched above the falls, is a former castle converted into a youth hostel and restaurant.
We woke to the most dazzling view of Lake Konstanz from our hotel balcony at Naturfreundehaus Bodensee. I stood there listening to the birds chirping in the early morning sunlight and watched as a pair of swans skimmed the surface of the otherwise calm water.
We were treated to a delicious breakfast spread of fresh breads, a myriad of jams and yogurts, cheeses, meats and veggies - all included in the room price! It was by far the best "continental" breakfast I've ever seen. With full bellies and our morning coffees finished we set off again, stopping in the town of Konstanz before crossing the border into Switzerland.
We drove further into Switzerland on route to Liechtenstein and the haze rolled in over the fields until it felt like we were driving through the clouds.
As the sun rose in the sky the haze began to burn off and before long we were greeted by stunning mountain landscapes.
Top photo captured by Sam Bacon.
With the sun shining we drove into Liechtenstein with no fuss or fanfare as we crossed the border. Liechtenstein is a small, doubly land-locked country nestled between Switzerland and Austria and is home to just over 38,000 people. We arrived in the town of Balzers to see Gutenberg Castle before continuing on to the capital city of Vaduz.
It took all of 15 minutes to hit the city limits of Vaduz, about midway through the country. Much to our surprise many of the main streets were shut down for a parade, part of the Fastnacht celebrations touched on in my earlier blog post. We parked the car and joined the festivities where we were showered with paper confetti. People of all ages dressed in elaborate costumes paraded through the streets followed by impressive marching bands.
Photo credit: Sam Bacon
We took in the festivities, collecting candy thrown at us and left feeling like ecstatic children on a sugar high. Before leaving the city we took a quick drive to Vaduz Castle, the official residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein.
Soon after leaving the capital of Liechtenstein we drove into Austria and promptly turned on the Sound of Music soundtrack. We wound through small towns as we began climbing the narrow roads through the mountains. We marvelled at the dramatic views, taking special care not to focus on just how close our car was to the cliff edge.
As Jason manoeuvred the twists and turns with Audis and Benz whipping past us at breakneck speed we assured him the beers would be our treat tonight. I looked on from the back seat at the snow capped mountains around us and simply marvelled at the beauty of the drive.
As the sun set we made our way to the base of the mountains and crossed into Germany with the moon rising above us. We checked into our hotel, Gästehaus Guggomos, in a small town along Lake Hofsee. Seeing as we were in Bavaria, one of the most respected beer regions in the world, we set off for a traditional German restaurant in search of a traditional Bavarian beer and meal. We ended up at a quaint family-owned restaurant called Uli Pickls Restaurant and were pleased to discover they offered a dish made up of traditional Bavarian specialties. We enjoyed our tasty Bavarian beers while we waited for our food to arrive.
Our meals arrived piping hot in a skillet and came complete with:
Maultaschen - fried pasta pocket filled with savoury meat, onion and spinach
Krautkrapfen - essentially a sauerkraut pancake surrounded by a tasty dough border
Schupfnudeln - a potato dumpling rolled into thick noodles and fried
After what might now be my favourite meal since arriving in Germany, we went back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.
We set off early and headed to Neuschwanstein Castle. The castle, commissioned by King Ludwig II, is a marvellous site to see. Construction of the castle was ongoing for nearly two decades starting in 1868. King Ludwig II actually only lived in his palace for 172 days before his death in 1886. We walked to the top of the hill where the castle is perched and began our guided tour. The inside was absolutely stunning with its carved oak features, tile mosaics and swan fixtures. Although it is most certainly a tourist trap, which I usually try to avoid, it is definitely worth a trip if you're travelling the area.
We began our trek home and arrived back in Freiburg around dinner time. Since we all still felt like we were on vacation, and no one felt like cooking, we treated ourselves to one last meal out. We stuffed ourselves with delicious Thai food at Chada Thai and celebrated a successful road trip, hitting four different countries and accumulating over 800 kms.