Taking The Road Less Traveled

October 14, 2015

My wife and I just got back from a trip to several legendary European cities—Vienna, Salzburg, Munich and Prague. But, surprisingly, the highlight of the trip wasn’t any of them.

It all started late last spring, when my in-laws asked my wife and I to meet them in Munich so we could drive to the small German town of Ruhpolding, which is in the Bavarian Alps about 10 miles from Austria. My wife’s grandparents met a German couple while traveling there in the late 1950s, formed a remarkably enduring friendship, and they’ve since become close friends of my wife’s entire family. We planned to visit Ruhpolding for just one night during the middle of our stay in Munich, and to make a final visit to these friends, Hans and Anna Marie, who are now 90.

I had heard stories about Hans and Anna Marie, and I was definitely excited to see Ruhpolding. But at the time we planned the trip, I was even more excited for the opportunity to extend our travels to visit what I considered bucket-list cities.

And indeed each of the bigger cities we visited was absolutely amazing. The architecture, art, history, food, people, and culture were stunning.

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Grabenstrasse in Vienna. Vienna is an absolutely gorgeous, walkable city with a surprisingly wide variety of gin and tonic offerings.

Salzburg

Hohensalzburg Castle sitting above Salzburg.

Munich

Obligatory stop at the Hofbrau Haus in Munich.

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The central square in Prague’s old town. Definitely one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen.

But, after returning home, and much to my surprise, I realized that my favorite part of the trip was our visit to Ruhpolding and traveling the rural countryside of Bavaria and western Austria. That Julie Andrews was really on to something in “The Sound of Music” (the story took place in Salzburg, only a short drive from Ruhpolding). Everywhere you look, it’s just so friggin’ beautiful you just want to sing.

Ruhpolding 2

Ruhpolding’s Main Street.

Ruhpolding 3

A typical Bavarian house.

Hallstat 3

Hallstatt, Austria. Not ugly.

In what turned out to be a fortunate turn of events, we took a detour to avoid construction traffic on our way out of Ruhpolding and ended up making a meandering, half-day drive through small towns in Bavaria that seemed like they’d been untouched for 70 years.

Bavaria 9

Bavaria is unbelievably green. It seems to almost glow.

Bavaria 5

A church near Hohenschwangau.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what was so great about Bavaria. It might have been the Alps and rolling green hills. It could have the perfectly manicured pastures or the flower boxes with geraniums in the windows of every house. Or it might have been the relaxed pace of life compared to the bustling cities and throngs of people we’d been around the week before we arrived. Probably a combination of all if it.  But, whatever the reason, Bavaria’s serenity and natural beauty made it the best part of our trip — and a place I hope to visit again one day.