Many of the places that we talk about on this website are located in countries where we spent a long time or to which we made multiple visits. We learned about those countries in depth and thus felt qualified to comment in detail about what we noticed. Let us therefore now go to the other extreme and travel through seven countries in seven days, giving ourselves only brief but intriguing glimpses of the interesting places “here and there” through which we passed. Regarding a few of those places on our route, we have much more to say. We have therefore linked those particular places to other items on this website.
This was a 1300 mile journey, which we made by car in October 2009, with our youngest daughter, Anna at the wheel. Our journey started and finished in the picturesque Bavarian city of Bamberg in southern Germany. Therefore we cannot claim to have visited Germany, even though we saw much of Germany during the trip, for the simple reason that we were already there. The seven countries which we did visit in seven days were the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and France. We even passed through a part of Germany, which operated as a separate country from 1919 to 1923 with its own passports, currency and postage stamps. Known as The Free State Bottleneck (Freistaat Flaschenhals). This short-lived state on the banks of the Rhine came into being when its bottleneck shaped territory was cut off from the rest of Germany by rivers, mountains and allied occupation zones. The republic was quickly re-incorporated into Germany, so we cannot fairly claim to have visited an eighth country during our trip.
Leaving Bamberg on the first day of our journey, we headed east and spent the first night in Prague – capital of the Czech Republic. The second night was spent in Bratislava – capital of Slovakia. The third night was spent in Budapest – capital of Hungary. All these cities are relatively close to each other, so not a lot of driving was involved on the first three days and ample time was available for site-seeing as we crossed and re-crossed the River Danube. Yet the fourth day did involve more driving. Early in that day, we crossed the border from Hungary into Austria and quickly arrived in Vienna, the Austrian capital. Vienna is a large city with very grand public buildings. It is totally disproportionate to a small country such as the Austria of today. The reason for this anomaly is that Vienna was once capital of the much larger Austro-Hungarian empire, dismembered in 1919 after its defeat in World War One. Then, continuing to travel westwards, we passed through various Austrian cities, including Linz. Finally, we reached the city of Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, where we spent our fourth night. We began the next day by crossing back into Germany and visiting Berchtesgaden, which is the Alpine village above which Hitler had his mountain retreat – the Eagle’s Nest. We continued on into Germany and spent the fifth night in the Bavarian resort town of Garmisch, which was the site of the 1936 Winter Olympics and is surrounded by high Alpine mountains. Our sixth day involved much less driving. Our destination was Lindau, on the northern shore of the Bodensee which is Germany’s largest lake. This allowed us time to detour and to pass King Ludwig’s fairytale castles at Neuschwanstein and Linderhof before arriving in Lindau to spend our sixth night. Bright and early on the following morning, we left Germany to cross back into Austria and to go through the city of Bregenz, which sits on the eastern end of the Bodensee. We were on our way to the little country of Liechtenstein, where we inspected the castle in Vaduz, where its princes have lived for centuries. Then we headed into our next country, Switzerland, and made our way along the roads south of the Bodensee towards the big Swiss cities of Zurich and Basle. After leaving Basle, we entered France which meant that we had succeeded in reaching our seventh country on the seventh day. We then followed the course of the Rhine northwards until we reached Strasbourg, where we spent our seventh and final night and saw the parliament building of the European Union.
On the following morning, we remained at first on the French side of the Rhine and drove north alongside the great river. Eventually the river ceased to act as the border between France and Germany, and the territory on both sides of the river became German. We finally crossed the river by ferry at Lorch, the small town which once served as the capital of the Free State Bottleneck, referred to above. At this point, the Rhine travels through deep gorges, with castles perched high above the river. We visited St Martin’s, Lorch’s 14th century Gothic church. Its beautiful interior was the perfect setting for the church orchestra, which was rehearsing there at the time of our visit. We then lunched at a riverside restaurant and this allowed us to view in comfort the many contrasting vessels moving past us up and down the river.
After lunch, we headed eastwards into Germany and visited the city of Darmstadt, where our daughter Anna had some years earlier been stationed by the US Army. This huge American military base was inactivated in 2008 and is now becoming derelict. Nevertheless, it held many memories for our daughter and we accompanied her as she drove around the deserted base. By then, it was late afternoon, so we drove further east into Germany until we reached Bamberg, the starting and finishing point of this great circular journey, which we had accomplished over the previous seven days and nights.
This piece, written by Bob, originally appeared on our website on May 29, 2010.