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Roaming Raiders Visit Germany and the Alps

06/10/2019

The Roaming Raiders were on the move again this summer with a trip to the Alpine region of Europe. On a nine-day trip organized by Jr.-Sr. High Assistant Principal Dana Schlotterer, they visited Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. (You can read about the full tour on Facebook (Join the Roaming Raiders group) as the students and their chaperones journey across the breathtaking landscapes of Bavaria.)
 
 After landing in Frankfort, they traveled to the medieval town of Rothenberg where they walked along the sixteenth century ramparts of the old walled city. From there, they followed the winds of history into Nuremberg to see the Hitler era rally grounds and Zeppelin field and visit the nearby memorial site of the Dachau concentration camp. Later, in Munich, the group explored a Baroque palace and saw the famous Glockenspiel in the Marienplatz. 
 
Also on the tour: Mozart’s childhood home in Salzburg; Hitler's famous mountain retreat of Berchtesgaden; the fabled Neuschwanstein Castle, (Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella castles are said to be modeled after this one.); Lucerne, and finally, Heidelberg.
 
In case you’re not on Facebook, below are daily travel posts and a few photos submitted by Mrs. Schlotterer.
 
JUNE 6: Day one in Germany did not disappoint! We landed in Frankfurt at 9 am and hit the ground running. Before we knew it we were on the Autobahn headed toward Rothenburg as we watched the fields of beautiful red poppies go by, juxtaposed by gigantic wind turbines and solar panel farms found throughout the German countryside. This part of our journey is known as the “Romantic Road” which is a route that links a number of picturesque and noteworthy towns and cities throughout Bavaria and we were about to find out why!
 
Upon arriving in Rothenburg we immediately entered the city center and were able to walk along the medieval fortification wall that still surrounds the city today. This was definitely a highlight for me. After lunch on our own, we checked into our hotel, then headed right back out again to do some more exploring! The town of Rothenburg is incredibly picturesque and we all had fun snapping loads of photos throughout the city. We found some fun local pastries called schneeball which are giant balls that taste something like bits of differently flavored cooked pie crusts. They are beautiful!
 
After a long, jet-lagged day of exploring the old city of Rothenburg, we made our way back to the hotel for a dinner of kohlrabi soup, meat loaf with frites, and neopolitan ice cream. Needless to say, we are all grateful for a bed after two full days of travel and exploring! Tomorrow, we will spend the morning in Nuremberg, then head to Munich where we will be staying for 3 nights.
 
 
JUNE 7: Day two started with a one hour bus ride from Rothenburg to Nuremberg where we visited the Documentation Center at the unfinished Congress Hall which resembles the famous coliseum in Italy but was never completed by the Nazi party. The Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg was the area that the Nazi party used to gather large crowds to develop Nazi propaganda. Now, it is apparently the site of music festivals because there was a huge music festival (“Rock im Park”) happening all around the grounds of Zeppelin field. Festival goers were camping out EVERYWHERE! Unfortunately, the festival kept us from being able to also visit the platform where Hitler used to give speeches and hold all his rallies. But, the museum provided a fascinating peek into the history of the Nazi regime.  
 
From there, we headed into the old part of the city which is surrounded by another fortification wall. The centerpiece of the old city is a medieval castle which offered us some incredible views of Nuremberg down below. We made our way down the steep road into the old city and had lunch in the main market square “Hauptmarkt Nürnberg”. The traditional lunch here are the famous Nuremberg sausages... tiny sausages served with sauerkraut or potato salad. The square is also home to a beautiful marketplace of fresh flowers, fruit, and delicacies which we enjoyed exploring, and tasting!
 
There is also the stunning Church of our Lady “Frauenkirche”.  We left Nuremberg and headed to Munich where we will spend 3 nights. Our first stop was a brief visit to the BMW World showroom and manufacturing plant. We were then treated to a lovely buffet dinner of German “meatballs” and pork medallions with spaetzle at Löwenbräu Restaurant before checking into our hotel which lovely and centrally located next to the Olympic Park. Tomorrow we visit the concentration camp at Dachau then spend the afternoon and evening in Munich. Until then, Gute Nacht!
 
JUNE 8: Today brought us two completely different experiences. Our morning started with an intense and educational visit to the memorial site of the concentration camp in Dachau. This was the first concentration camp built in 1933 after Hitler came into power. The camp was liberated in 1945 by US troops. Our visit there was important and quite eye opening as you would expect. It’s quite impossible to wrap your brain around all the horrors that occurred there, this experience made quite an impact on all of us.
 
After leaving Dachau, we headed back to Munich where we picked up our local guide for a bus tour of Munich. We had a quick stop at Schloss Nymphenburg, the former summer palace of the royal family. The palace is modeled after Versailles in France and is quite impressive. We all had fun exploring the grounds.
 
We ended our tour in the Marienplatz (the central square of Munich) where we were then left to explore on our own for a couple of hours. We made our way to several highlights including the beautiful farmers market, Höfbrauhaus, and the Odeonsplatz. The kids also decided to climb St. Peter’s tower which offered breathtaking views of Munich and the Alps in the distance. One highlight of our free time was being able to watch the Glockenspiel on the impressive New Town Hall... a famous clock that chimes each day at 5 pm and re-enacts a scene from the 16th century.
After free time we had a delicious buffet meal at the top of a popular shopping center. We all enjoyed the variety of options and being able to taste several different dishes. We finally headed back to the hotel, but a few of us took a little late adventure with our tour director, Atto, out to the Olympic park across from our hotel. The park is home to the former Olympic stadium and was hosting a concert by the famous German heavy metal band, Ramstein. We made our way to the highest point in the city, the top of Olympic mountain, and enjoyed an outside view of the concert with a ton of other Munich residents. It was a great little bonus that popped up that the kids loved!
Tomorrow we head to Salzburg, Austria for the day. Until then, Gute nacht!
 
Juine 8 (part 2): We enjoyed a lovely day exploring Salzburg, Austria which is a 2 hour, picturesque bus ride from Munich. Our visit to Salzburg included a guided walking tour of the city which included many highlights featured in "The Sound of Music." Salzburg is also the home of Mozart and we were able to see his childhood home as well as purchase some of the famous Mozart chocolates. Running right through the city is the Salzach River, which provides some fantastic photo opportunities! Some other highlights included the Mirabell gardens, University Church, St. Peter’s Cemetery (Freidhof St Peter), and Mozart square.
 
Upon departing Salzburg we headed to our next stop, the salt mines in Berchtesgaden. This is a town right on the border of Germany and Switzerland that Hitler used as his summer retreat when he was in power. Along the drive to this location, we started to realize why. The journey to Berchtesgaden took us directly toward the Alps along a clear blue river of glacier water that was absolutely breathtaking.
 
The salt mines tour was part Disney-like experience, part education. We loved it. We suited up in large suits to protect our clothing inside the mine, then climbed aboard a train that took us into the mine. Once we were deep inside, we headed down into the caverns via two fast, fun wooden slides. It was a blast! There is also an underground lake inside the mine that we crossed via a small wooden ferry in the dark while they projected a light show on the cavern walls around us. It was definitely a unique experience. (Unfortunately, photography was not allowed inside.)
 
Upon emerging from the mine, our tour director walked us down to that beautiful blue water we had been admiring during our drive and we were able to play in the water for several minutes. The water was bitterly cold, but we were all very excited to be able to stick our toes in it... it was quite a treat!
 
After playing in the river, we headed back to Munich for dinner. We enjoyed a lovely traditional dinner of pork and rice pilaf with chocolate pudding for dessert, then headed straight back to crash from exhaustion at the hotel!
Next stop, Switzerland!
 
June 9:  We enjoyed a lovely day exploring Salzburg, Austria which is a 2 hour, picturesque bus ride from Munich. Our visit to Salzburg included a guided walking tour of the city which included many highlights featured in The Sound of Muisc. Salzburg is also the home of Mozart and we were able to see his childhood home as well as purchase some of the famous Mozart chocolates. Running right through the city is the Salzach River which provides some fantastic photo opportunities! Some other highlights included the Mirabell gardens, University church, St. Peter’s Cemetery (Freidhof St Peter), and Mozart square.
 
Upon departing Salzburg we headed to our next stop, the salt mines in Berchtesgaden. This is a town right on the border of Germany and Switzerland that Hitler used as his summer retreat when he was in power. Along the drive to this location, we started to realize why. The journey to Berchtesgaden took us directly toward the Alps along a clear blue river of glacier water that was absolutely breathtaking.
 
The salt mines tour was part Disney-like experience, part education. We loved it. We suited up in large suits to protect our clothing inside the mine, then climbed aboard a train that took us into the mine. Once we were deep inside, we headed down into the caverns via two fast, fun wooden slides. It was a blast! There is also an underground lake inside the mine that we crossed via a small wooden ferry in the dark while they projected a light show on the cavern walls around us. It was definitely a unique experience. (Unfortunately, photography was not allowed inside)
 
Upon emerging out of the mine, our tour director walked us down to that beautiful blue water we had been admiring during our drive and we were able to play in the water for several minutes. The water was bitterly cold, but we were all very excited to be able to stick our toes in it... it was quite a treat!
 
After playing in the river, we headed back to Munich for dinner. We enjoyed a lovely traditional dinner of pork and rice pilaf with chocolate pudding for dessert, then headed straight back to crash from exhaustion at the hotel!
Next stop, Switzerland
 
June 10:
The highlight of today is easy to identify in one word: Neuschwanstein. We all arrived bright and early to the bus, excited to see the castle of the “fairytale king”, Ludwig II. Before arriving at the castle, we were treated to a fun, quick ride on a Swiss summer luge! We each loaded up on a small luge that pulled us to the top of a foothill, where we were released to fly down the silver slide of the luge. It was a blast!
 
Next, we headed five more minutes up the road to the castle. A visit here is not for the faint of heart... it is quite a climb to the top of the mountain to see the Neuschwanstein Castle and even more to the wooden bridge overlook for those Instagram worthy pics we were all hoping for. After 14,000 steps and 55 floors of walking (according to our Apple watch), the journey did not disappoint! We enjoyed breathtaking views and stunning vistas everywhere we looked. We were also able to tour the castle which is a relatively “new” one, completed only about 130 years ago. It was built in honor of composer Richard Wagner and many rooms inside ornately depict Wagner’s famous operas.
 
After our castle hike and adventure, we loaded to bus to head to our next country, Switzerland! This was a 5 hour bus ride, so we were able to make a pit stop along the way in the tiny country of Lichtenstein, nestled in the Swiss Alps between Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. The kids were excited about stamping their passports at the visitation station with a new country!
 
The journey to Switzerland was such a treat. Everywhere you look, there is another jaw-dropping scene. Through our bus window we gazed over open green fields of cows and sheep, waterfalls, villages, snow-capped mountains, and crystal blue lakes... the view changed and got even more beautiful as we made our way up into the mountains toward Lucerne.
 
After a long bus ride, we finally arrived at our quaint Swiss hotel in Eggiwil (the Emmethal region of Switzerland... home to the famous cheese by the same name)... which is about an hour outside Switzerland. We were greeted warmly by the staff here, despite our late 9 pm arrival, and enjoyed a welcoming dinner of roasted chicken, potatoes, and green beans. Everyone agreed this may have been our favorite dinner so far. Tomorrow, we head back down into Lucerne! I see some Swiss chocolate in our future. ??
 
June 11: We awoke this morning in the tiny town of Eggiwil to the sound of what we thought were chimes, but soon learned were actually cowbells. The air is full of the sound of the bells hanging off of the dairy cows that live all around this emmental (as in emmental cheese) region of Switzerland. It was charming to say the least.
 
After a delicious breakfast at this precious hotel, we loaded the bus to head back into Lucerne for the day. The first activity was a lovely stroll through the old town, the highlight of which was a walk across the famous Chapel Bridge. Then, we headed over to Mt. Pilatus (nicknamed the “Dragon Mountain”) where we loaded onto gondolas and made our way up into the clouds... 7000 feet... to the top of the mountain. We had a fun walk through the Dragon Trail at the top which led us through caves, lookouts, and breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps. We then made the trip back down the mountain via cogwheel train which took us right down to Lake Lucerne (in German, known as Vierwaldstättersee).
 
Our 45 minute boat tour of Lake Lucerne was cold, but beautiful... depositing us conveniently back into the center of old town Lucerne for a couple of hours of free time. The kids enjoyed time to purchase some souvenirs and, more importantly, chocolate and macaroons!
 
We then took a quick walk over to see the famous Lion Monument which is a rock relief sculpture that commemorates the Swiss guards who were massacred during the French Revolution.
 
A dinner of geschnetzeltes (pork strips in a wine and cream sauce) welcomed us back to Hirschen Eggiwil after our drive back up into the Alps and we devoured it! Tomorrow we load up again to head back into Germany for one last night in Heidelberg. A little sad that tomorrow is our last day of exploring.

June 12:  We said goodbye to our charming hotel in the Swiss Alps this morning and made our way back toward Germany. The trip took us briefly through a little corner of France as we crossed over the Rhine River (which is at very high levels right now, similar to the Mississippi), stopping for lunch back in Germany at a lovely town called Freiburg. Running through Freiburg are a series of Bächle... a tiny canal that meanders all along the cobblestone streets. We saw precious German children playing with their little wooden boats attached to a string... pulling their little toys along the cobblestone stream like a little storybook scene. So cute. There is also a gothic cathedral in the center of the city: Freiburg Minster. The inside of the cathedral is simply stunning.
 
Another couple of hours back up into Germany, we arrived in Heidelberg which is home to the longest shopping street in Europe, the Hauptstrasse. Before Atto released us for shopping, he treated us to a tour of Heidelberger Strass, the castle that towers over the city of Heidelberg. This castle from the Renaissance period is technically only ruins, the castle was demolished in the 17th and 18th centuries and has only been partially rebuilt since. A walk around the castle grounds provided incredible views of the city below.
 
We then returned to the city center and were able to explore the famous Hauptstrausse, treating ourselves to a quick hour of shops of chocolate, gummy bears, and strudel. Dinner tonight was just a short 5 minute bus ride outside the city center to Kaffeehaus Schwetzingen. We were treated to a special, final German meal of Maultaschen, a stuffed pasta very similar to ravioli or dumplings. It was delicious!
 
As we settled into our hotel this last night in Germany, the kids enjoyed some time swimming in the indoor pool and playing with all the other students on our group. It was a fun and perfect way for them to finish the trip. We have happy bellies, empty wallets, and tired feet.... all the signs of a perfect trip. Tomorrow, we head home!