Swiss Alps – Baden-Baden – Rhine Valley
June 11, 2019
It was an early morning today as we loaded up and headed onwards toward Germany. We left the wonderful country Switzerland, drove in France for just a bit, and entered Deutschland! It wasn’t too long after we entered that I saw cars racing by our coach, and I realized that we were officially on the Autobahn. We were probably going about 70 mph, and I’d say some cars were going 30 or 40 mph faster than us, so that would be about 110 mph or so. One thing that I did notice is that there were no potholes or really rough areas in the road. If there was a new section of pavement, it was made extremely level so you could hardly tell you went over a patched section. Seems much different than the US where we tend to just fill the hole and make it “good enough”.
Our lunch stop today was in the lovely town of Baden-Baden, baden meaning “bath,” as the Romans used the area as a bath. Baden-Baden gets its official name in 1931 because it was the town of Baden in the territory of Baden. There are 29 natural springs in the area, varying in temperature from 115 to 153 °F. The water is rich in salt and flows from artesian wells 5,900 ft under Florentine Hill at a rate of 90 gallons per minute and is conveyed through pipes to the town’s baths. I really loved the area–it was so quaint but at the same time felt like a pretty large city. Driving in, we went through a long tunnel, which raised the question to me if the main thoroughfare/bypass for the city was underground. After research, yes, the bypass is underground (see Q&A below)!
There were many fountains scattered around the town, as well as cafes and shops. The classic German architecture was present in most of the buildings as well. We actually didn’t buy our lunch today, but instead ate some sandwiches that we had from the day before. After eating, we walked around the streets of the town, admiring its cleanliness and the architecture. There was a nice main square with lots of shops and seemed to be the “downtown” area.
We continued on our journey towards the Rhine Valley and reached our first stop of Sankt Goar. We visited a local cuckoo clock shop in the town, where we learned of the different styles of the clocks: the traditional, the Bavarian house, the hunting style, and one other. The ones she showed us were so neat! One of them showed a man drinking a beer every hour. The other showed a woman ringing the bell. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in this shop, as many of the clocks were custom made for that shop specifically. The shop also boasts the largest free-hanging cuckoo clock outside. I was disappointed when the top of the hour hit and it didn’t make any noise, though! There was a Birkenstock store next door, with virtually every shoe that they make. The prices seemed really good–way better than the US prices for sure. After exploring Sankt Goar for a bit, we headed to the dock to get on our Rhine river cruise boat!
We waited for probably 20 minutes for the boat to clear out–it was absolutely packed! We saw it pulling up and were so thankful they were getting off and not just picking us up! There were a lot of Asian people on the boat, and Emma mentioned that many of those people were up on Jungfraujoch yesterday when we were there. Apparently their itinerary was a bit different than ours.
The cruise itself was fantastic! Emily and I started of by getting “Bratwurst mit Pommes Frites” (sausage with french fries), as we were hungry by this point due to our light lunch. It felt great having a food so German cruising down the most German river with the most German views! I really loved seeing the Rhine and the castles along it. I had seen so many pictures of them in my German textbooks in high school, so seeing it with my own eyes was a wonderful thing. The current moved pretty quick, too. I wanted to make sure I had a German beer while here, so I got a beer as well. It was .3 liters of a bit lighter beer. Beer isn’t my favorite but this one wasn’t bad! We got to enjoy the scenery of the Rhine for about 45 minutes or so until we reached our destination of Boppard.
Once we got off the boat, we headed to a local wine shop for a wine tasting of three wines, one of which we were told would be eiswein (ice wine)! The first wine was a sweet Chardonnay, so sweet that I thought it was the ice wine. Very light and sweet. The second wine was a nice red, which was a blend of Pinot Noir and a local German red grape. It had a nice taste to it, but was especially surprising by the hints of vanilla in the first smells of it. And last came the ice wine. It was fantastic–just like eating a dessert. Apparently it has 10x the sugar of the regular wines. This is due to the fact that they have to harvest the grapes at -7° C (19° F) which means the sugars crystallize and yield a higher sugar content in the process (there is a law about the temp…if it’s warmer than -7° C then it can’t be called ice wine). The craziest thing about it is that the vineyard workers get up around 3:00 AM on the coldest mornings and harvest the grapes. Many of the vineyards around here are on the mountainside, which means the grapes can’t be harvested by machine. So, people have to go up and down those hills in frigid temperatures during harvest time. Crazy!
After exploring a bit of Boppard, we headed back to the coach to our hotel. We had a fantastic view from our hotel room. The outside wall was solid glass, exposing the full view overlooking the hills. There was some sort of space needle we could see as well…not sure what it is. We had an included dinner which featured typical Germain cuisine. We had a buffet of pork ribs, tilapia, mashed potatoes, and vegetables, as well as a salad. I forgot that German food is usually heavy, and this dinner was no exception. It was heavy but so good!! The dessert buffet was good as well–lots of different creams with some fruit sauce and vanilla pudding. Yum!
Step Metrics: 8,848 steps; 4 miles; 402 cal; 1h 37m time
Q: What percentage of the Autobahn has no speed limit?
A: A 2017 report by the Federal Road Research Institute reported that in 2015, of the 15,683 miles of autobahn, 70.4% of the network had only the advisory speed limit, 6.2% had temporary speed limits due to weather or traffic conditions, and 23.4% had permanent speed limits. Where no general limit is required, the advisory speed limit is 130 km/h (81 mph), referred to in German as the Richtgeschwindigkeit. The advisory speed is not enforceable; however, being involved in an accident driving at higher speeds can lead to the driver being deemed at least partially responsible due to “increased operating danger” (Erhöhte Betriebsgefahr) (from Wikipedia).
Q: How do they keep their roads pothole free on the Autobahn?
A: To accommodate higher speed traffic, Autobahn road surfaces are constructed with multiple layers of concrete. Autobahn roads are also inspected regularly for irregularities in the road surface or any damage. If anything is found during these inspections, the whole area of road around the damaged section is replaced. (from Business Insider)
Q: What’s the tunnel under Baden Baden?
A: Michael’s Tunnel. The existing traffic, noise and fume burden in the heart of Baden-Baden is irreconcilable with a spa and holiday center and could best be solved by the construction of the Michael’s Tunnel. The tunnel circumvents downtown Baden-Baden but in doing so, intersects the main thermal vein. During the driving of the pilot tunnel, it emerged that no problems at all arose when penetrating the thermal zone. There were no complications during the drive in technical terms. Furthermore, no water encroached from the thermal zone. This proved that the construction of the tunnel would not affect the resort’s baths, nor affect activities or the accessibility of the thermal springs. The Michael’s Tunnel project with a total length of 1.56 miles. (from DAUB)
Q: What is the space needle we see from our hotel?
A: I researched this for awhile and couldn’t find an answer!