Sad to leave our beautiful castle hostel in Bacharach, we ate a quick breakfast downstairs (more lunchmeat, cheese, and bread… so strange!) and took a taxi to the train station. We were determined to make today’s transportation go more smoothly, so we made sure we were on time from the beginning. We got on the train in Bacharach with the goal of getting off in Mainz. Sleepy from the long day before, we both were knocked out for most of the ride. I woke up a few times to hear the announcements for the next stop, but when we both woke up at the same time to see that there was nobody left on the train, the train had stopped, and the lights were out, I freaked out a little bit. Jed and I both jumped up and tried to start opening the doors to the outside, but none of them would move. I looked out the window and saw a fence with barbed wire and noticed that our train was parked next to many others, almost like a train graveyard. I panicked for a good ten seconds until Jed got a door to open, stuck his head out, and yelled at a man walking towards us – the train conductor! He calmly told us (in German) to stay on the train, wait, and it would start moving backwards to the previous station. What the what?! We waited, and jumped off at the next station to figure out what went wrong this time.
Since we were apparently confused and couldn’t take a train to Wurzburg for our connection, we ended up taking a train to Frankfurt in order to get to Wurzburg. After that, we went from Wurzburg to Steinach, and Steinach to Rothenburg. Thank goodness for Eurail passes. We got off the train at Rothenburg, locked up our backpacks, and walked straight into medieval times… 2 hours later than we had planned to. Thank you, German train system. As we were entering the walled city, dozens of ambulances and police cars were wailing down the street towards the city center. I’m still not quite sure what happened, but it didn’t seem to affect our visit for the day, so it couldn’t have been too bad. Once we entered through the wall, we decided to take the stairs up so that we could walk along the top of the wall for a better view of the city. The Rick Steves book mentioned that there was a place to rent bikes, and since my ankle was still not cooperating, this sounded like the best idea. We spent about an hour trying to find this place, and once we reached the address, we looked back at the book and realized that it was closed anyway. We probably should’ve read that part before wasting an hour, but you live and you learn!
We made the short walk over to St. Jakob’s Church, where I was able to sit down, rest for a little bit, and appreciate the gorgeous architecture and panels within the church. Not too far away was the Medieval Crime & Punishment museum, so that was our next stop. It was a big museum, so I made sure to take lots of breaks to let my ankle relax, but I was still able to see most of it. Some of the history was crazy! People could be executed for anything back in the day, from incest to telling bad jokes. The display of masks was quite interesting. People could be put in these metal masks for the strangest reasons – and they weren’t just regular masks, they were masks that wrapped all the way around the head and hooked around the neck. I couldn’t even picture how these things were put on anybody’s head, but I guess that’s why they were on display in the crime and punishment museum in the first place.
After letting our hunger build up all day, we wanted to eat some nice traditional German food. Our guidebook had a few places listed, so after a few tries, we finally found one. Our waiter dropped off the menu, which was completely in German, and then came back a few minutes later to politely say, “Maybe I can help you translate?” Yes please! We both ordered roast beef and dumplings. OMG. This was probably the best roast beef I’d ever had in my life (sorry Mom!). The dumplings were kind of strange – a somewhat flavorless ball-shaped gooey textured thing, that was apparently made out of potatoes. Still good, but different. After dinner it was raining, so I decided to rest at an internet café while Jed took the night watchman tour of the city. I was able to let my ankle recover from the long day and also check up on a few emails and such. We met back up at the city center once the tour was over, and went to Hell. No, not HELL Hell, but a bar that the tour guide recommended to everyone who took the tour – “The tour’s over now, and you can all go to Hell!” Funny. Jed had a beer and I had a coffee. We knew that we had to leave the bar by 9:45pm at the latest in order to make it back to the station for our 10:10pm train. Hmm… sounds easy enough, right?
Well, of course not. After wandering from 9:45pm until 10:30pm, we finally stumbled upon a map near the police station, which was closed. We figured out where we were, and the only thing past us on the map was the autobahn. Great! We turned around, walked for another fifteen minutes or so, and walked into a Burger King to ask for help. The cashier smiled at us and told us that the station was only about 100 meters to our right. Seriously Germany?! We got to the station and realized that in fact, 10:10pm was the last train out of Rothenburg. There was a train listed for 11:21pm, but of course that train only came on Saturdays. Our only other option was to take a taxi to Steinach, the next station. We shelled out 26 euro for the taxi, and looked at the train times listed. We had to wait about 30 minutes, but at least there was still a train. When we got on, there was one lone passenger on the train who looked at us like we were crazy. “Nobody gets ON the train at Steinach!” he told us. His name was Pepo, and he was a German kid around our age who was on the home stretch after holidays in Spain and other European countries. He and the conductor helped us figure out how Jed and I could eventually make it to Austria by the morning. After exchanging crazy travel stories, we got off the train at Ansbach along with Pepo, who kindly led us to the bus station. We took a bus from Ansbach to the Nurnburg train station, where we slept on the ground for an hour while waiting for our train from Nurnsburg to Wels, scheduled to depart around 3am. We made it on the train, but had to pay 25 euro each because we didn’t make the reservation (a drawback of having a Eurail pass – not everything is included). From Wels, we finally took our last train from Wels to Salzburg, and 11 hours after our taxi in Rothenburg, we were in Austria!
pictures: (1) me at the entrance to the walled city (2) walking along the top of the wall (3) inside St. Jakob’s Church (4) the city center (5) the mask worn as a punishment for telling bad jokes… watch out Dad! J/K! (6) finally found the train station