Our plan for the first day of the trip was to fly from New Delhi to Munich, go to the car rental agency, and then make a day trip from Munich to Innsbruck by car. We reached T3 at the IGI airport much before we were supposed to. That gave us enough time to do all our “duty-free” shopping in advance. This actually works out better as that way one can head straight home after picking up the purchase on the way back.
- Journey So Far: How to Plan a Trip to Switzerland from India
That especially makes sense if one is landing a little late at night and has plans to go to work the next day. Immigration, security, everything was a breeze and the flight was reasonably comfortable as both of us managed to get at least some sleep, if not for the entire flight duration.
We landed sharply on time at 5:30 am by the local clock. However, we wanted to delay our rental pick-up as much as possible. The later we picked the car up, the later we would have to return it on the way back. So an 8 am pickup would imply an 8 am drop-off, which was still reasonable as compared to a 6 am drop-off.
Munich to Innsbruck Day Trip by Car
We were at the ‘Budget’ counter dot at 7 am to open our surprise gift. You see, picking up car rentals is always like opening a birthday present. The person sitting on the counter is like the person who has gifted, knowing exactly when he is going to give you. You have absolutely no clue what it is going to be, but you really really wish for an upgrade.
At the same time, as you are old enough you cannot jump with joy once you get an upgrade; or show disappointment if you get the same plain old vanilla that you booked.
In our case, it was a mixed bag. Recent research showed that we had to have snow tires fitted for the routes we were covering in the Swiss Alps, as some of the passes still had snow on them and we could be fined if were ran on normal tires.
One does not mess with the Swiss traffic rules at all and if you do be prepared to file for bankruptcy on your return. The gentleman at the counter mentioned an additional 90 EUR for the snow tires and an additional 20 EUR for an all-EU permit.
We were now ‘upgraded’ from a Mercedes B class hatchback to an Opel Antara SUV – Automatic AWD with snow tires of course. Both of us tried to look normal and sober as we exit the counter. I don’t think we succeeded though.
The car looked beautiful and it came in black, our favorite color. It looked very similar to a Honda-CRV but I think was slightly bigger as the interiors were as spacious as our own Tata Safari. The boot was sufficiently large to guzzle a trans-Atlantic suitcase, ours was the standard 23kg package.
Munich to Innsbruck Route Map
Sadly, there was no English manual present for the cockpit like controls the car had. That meant under-utilizing the car for a day and looking up an English manual online at the end of it.
The direct route to our destination for the day, Innsbruck, was to head south and then turn west on the autobahn connecting the two cities. It would have been 60 km shorter and would have taken a good 2 hrs less than the route we intended to do. But we weren’t in Europe to do Point A to B, right?
As soon as one gets out of the airport one can feel the crisp and clean air, especially if one is coming from Delhi. Don’t get me wrong, the Delhi government has worked a lot on getting pollution levels down but we are still miles away from where these guys are.
Even though we were on the autobahn, well-manicured fields rolled by as we sped along westwards. Since it was our first day with the car, and the bond had not been sealed, we decided not to go above 120, at least not yet.
We left the autobahn 100 km west of the airport and joined what the Germans call Romantische Straße, meaning Romantic Road (Straße = Strasse = road).
This North-South Road connects Wurzburg in the North to the Austrian border town of Fussen in the south. They say that 2 million people ply the route every year, making it by far the most popular of the German holiday routes.
It crosses a dozen cities and towns, which have been marked as ‘romantic’ by the tour guides by virtue of something that I could not entirely understand. I think it was a combination of picturesque towns and countryside with loads of churches, spas, and resorts.
We were on our 10-year anniversary drive, so needless to say when in Bavaria, do what the Japanese do. Catch the Romantische Straße.
A stud farm near Munich, off the autobahn. The views during the entire Munich to Innsbruck day trip just keep getting better.
That’s our ride for the next few days. Very comfortable and spacious and it’s black!
Green, green fields
The romantic road
A church which we thought was WiesKirche but turned out to be some other church
A pretty hotel next to the wrong WiesKirche
Our first stop was planned at a church by the name Wies Kirche (Kirche ~ church), located near a village by the name of Steingaden, southwest of Munich. This is one of Bavaria’s best-known churches and a UNESCO-listed heritage site.
Legend says that in a time long gone, a German farmer saw a weeping Christ statue at the site and hence all hell broke loose, and we the world got a beautiful church which is now infamous.
When we reached the parking lot, our hopes of playing Kajol and SRK of DDLJ were squashed to bits. Being the Good Friday weekend and being Friday at that, the parking lot was full of vehicles and big Japanese groups with their tour guides leading them with a flag in their hands.
So no, it would not have been possible for me to have a monologue with the statue kneeling down in front of the weeping Christ. I suspect, even if I managed to do an SRK gig, the Christ would have wept all over again, and the Germans would have to build another church to honor the ‘new’ weeping Christ.
That thought apart, back at the parking lot, a great thing happened as I was trying to translate German off the parking slot machine. A kind German fellow walked up to me and said that he still has a good hour left on his parking ticket and gave it to me for free. The gesture was very heart-warming.
Inside the Church
The church was indeed very beautiful and so were its surroundings. It was a mixture of devout Christians praying in silence, standing in queues in front of the confession box, and a couple of German and Japanese guided tours. A little crowded for our taste, but less crowded than the Badrinath temple for sure.
The interiors of the church had some really exquisite carvings and paintings and it would have taken hours to truly appreciate that artwork. Outside, far away, one could see the Alps loom above, enticing us to go to them soon. Right outside the church though were several cows stinking up the place, so we made a quick exit. Cow shit smells the same everywhere!
WiesKirche, you can see a beeline of people heading in
Did not have a wide-angle lens, so ended up stitching a panorama of the exquisite painting inside the church
Outside, the Alps loomed in the distance
Cows are found everywhere as one nears the Alps
WiesKirche again, from the other side
Before we stepped into our next destination of the day, it only made sense to stop by to have brunch first, so we headed into Fussen towards McDonald’s to have a cheap brunch and pick up some groceries as well.
And the Alps start getting closer
Alice in Wonderland
Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander and McDonald’s shall always serve a hearty meal at very reasonable prices, anywhere on this planet. It was 12:30 pm already and we did not have too much time before our deadline ended, the deadline to reach our homestay on time.
Hotels are typically expensive but are convenient when it comes to having the flexibility of checking in and out. Homestays are relatively cheaper; however, timing becomes inflexible especially if your hosts prefer to tuck in early.
We had to rush towards the castle. We had already seen a glimpse of the notoriously difficult to pronounce but extremely pretty Neuschwanstein castle. (Noysh – waan – sty – ene). With our bellies full we were ready to roll.
The parking lot was as crowded as the Taj Mahal on a Sunday afternoon. There was a queue that was as long as the river Nile itself for those who wanted to take a guided tour inside the castle.
Located on a hill, one can either walk up to the castle or take the touristy horse-driven carriages. And they were no ordinary horses! Stout and muscular, they were the biggest horses we’ve ever seen! I suspect that the Germans must have been feeding them a beer!
There was a scheduled bus option too, however, there was another queue for that as well. Walking is free and is good for one’s health as well.
The castle is not that old, built by the end of the 1800s. The construction of the castle had bankrupted the then Bavarian king. Ironically, it is one of the biggest money-spinners for the Bavarian tourism industry now.
Although one hears about the Neuschwanstein castle more, as it is the prettier one, there are two castles next to each other. The other one, the Hohenschwangau castle, was actually used much more as living quarters by the king than the fairy tale one. We decided to visit the prettier one first.
The weather was taking a turn for the worse and thus we scurried along. The castle tantalizes you as it peeps in and out of the trees surrounding it. You do not get a clear view of its beauty until you are at the base of it. By then you are too close to it to be able to shoot it.
We strolled around the courtyard for a bit. Then we headed towards Marienbrucke, a bridge connecting two hills, next to the castle. From this vantage point, one can catch a clear view of the entire castle.
The castle peeks through trees and tantalizes those who walk up to it On the last bend, it clears up a bit and one gets a clear view of the castle.
The courtyard where visitors are allowed to go
The castle was bustling with tourists and queues were everywhere. The small hanging balcony is another viewpoint for the castle. That was way too crowded and we gave that a miss.
Marienbrucke hangs over a deep gorge and can be scary. But it is from here that one can get a picture-postcard view of this fairy tale castle. Now the king himself was no photographer, but he had the vision of building this bridge.
To quote the king’s own words (well his own words loosely translated in English)
“The view from up above is enchanting, especially the view from Marienbrucke of the castle, which will far outshine the Wartburg for all its acknowledged merits of location, architectural splendor, and magnificent paintings”.
To get this enchanting view one has to struggle and jostle with the bustling tourist crowd. It is a problem that I guess the king did not anticipate back in the 1800s.
There were hikes that went down towards the waterfall and some further into the woods crossing the bridge. However, we were running late as it was 2 pm already and our Munich to Innsbruck day trip was far from over. The weather which had held up until now could unleash rain soon.
We decided to skip the visit to the other castle. We got inside the car just in the nick of time to beat the rains and the drive began to cross over the border to Austria. A quick stopover at the first grocery store got us the Austrian vignette. Thankfully, the Austrian authorities issue a 10-day Vignette which is priced at 8.5 EUR.
The Swiss are notorious on that front. They give a vignette for a one-year period, even though we were going to use it for a week. For the uninitiated, a vignette is essentially a prepayment of road tolls for all highways and tunnels.
Some tunnels do charge an additional toll but the majority are included in the respective country vignette. Not having a valid vignette affixed on your vehicle can make you poorer by as much as 250 EUR. They are readily available at gas stations/grocery stores located on every border.
Castle Hohenschwangau and the two lakes next to it. The bigger one is Alpsee, the smaller one Schwansee (see = lake)
Neuschwanstein castle from Marienbruke
The waterfall below the bridge
The drive towards Innsbruck was literally a washout. It rained, then it rained and then it rained some more. The rest of the highlights of the drive were either given a miss or were hidden by the clouds. Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany was shrouded under dark clouds. We could not stop at the top of the Fern Pass.
Fernstein Castle ruins could have been interesting; however, it was raining steadily when we reached there. By 6 pm we had reached our destination village, Oberperfuss. The village was chosen as it boasted of great views of the Alps from high above the Tyrol valley, and at the same time, it was close to Innsbruck. The views were blocked off though, and we hoped for clear weather the next morning.
Fern pass was a simple pass to climb. The only pass en route Munich to Innsbruck day trip.
This little fellow was a daredevil, came pecking for food at my feet, I had to shoo it away.
Fernstein Castle – not much to look at – but the ruins could have been interesting
That’s the village of Nassereith – down below
Almost reached Oberperfuss, our halt for the day
Before heading to our homestay and marking an end to our Munich to Innsbruck day trip, we visited the supermarket to have an affordable hot meal and buy groceries for the next day. By 7 pm we had reached our stay and were greeted very kindly by our English-speaking hosts. The room was very clean, boasted of WiFi, and included breakfast the next day. It had an attached bathroom as well.
- Journey Ahead: Innsbruck to Italy to Switzerland – Day 3
Our hosts informed us that we could have breakfast as early as 7:30 the next day. I think by 8 pm both of us had crashed with the lights on, we were so tired. I think I woke up around 10 pm to finally switch off the lights and take my shoes off. Please click on the link above to continue reading the next part of the travelogue.
Munich to Innsbruck Day Trip – Conclusion
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