So, in my last travel post, I mentioned that I was planning our next dental side trip. If you are a regular follower and actually care about my posts (I don’t like to assume), you might already know we’ve done a few of these trips. Basically, they entail going down to Stuttgart, seeing our fabulous dentist down there, then taking a few days off to explore.
Bill and I love planning these breaks. These dental side trips give us a much appreciated break from Wiesbaden, and provide content for my travel blog… which is not as popular as it used to be. Of course, thanks to the pandemic, and the fact that we both had to get some work done last time we went to Stuttgart, we haven’t broken much new ground on the last few excursions.
We moved to Wiesbaden in late 2018, so prior to that, we had no need to do “excursions”, since we still lived in the Stuttgart area. In May 2019, we went down to Stuttgart to get cleanings and see Elton John perform, supposedly for the last time, but I believe he came back to Stuttgart again after that show. We never got around to coming down for cleanings in the fall of that year, because Bill was very busy at work. Then came the pandemic…
Our next journey to see the dentist occurred in August 2021. I got the bright idea to book a few days in Baiersbronn, which is a small town near where we used to live, famous for its many excellent Michelin starred restaurants. We stayed in a nice resort, but that only made me curious about an upgraded experience at the Bareiss Hotel, which is where we went last fall. We spent lots of money and ate wonderful food, but what really sticks out to me, besides the friendly goats and ponies, is the Bareiss Hotel’s incredible pool complex. I’d go back there just for that!
In the spring of 2022, we visited Sessenheim, an area of Alsace, France we had not seen on our many prior visits to the area. We stayed in an awesome little hotel that had its own Michelin starred restaurant, and we bought lots of new French pottery. We mostly decided to go to France because its COVID rules were much less obnoxious than Germany’s, but that was a great trip, anyway. I love Alsace!
Now that the pandemic panic has somewhat passed, it’s time to branch out a bit, and go further afield. As I revealed in the previous post, the Czech Republic won the coin toss. Folks, I think it’s going to be a really great trip. I think we’ve got a good itinerary shaping up.
Although Esslingen won the coin toss for local lodging in the Stuttgart area, I couldn’t find a hotel that was particularly exciting. I ended up booking us at Hotel La Casa, which is a boutique hotel in Tübingen. If you search this blog, you will see that we’ve spent a lot of time in Tübingen. We lived near there during our first Germany tour (2007-09), and visited often when we last lived in the Stuttgart area (2014-18). We have also dined at Hotel La Casa on three occasions.
Even when we lived down that way, I was keen to stay at the hotel one weekend. I actually thought about putting our dogs up and just doing a weekend at Hotel La Casa, even though we lived about 20-30 minutes away from the town. I liked the staff, the restaurant, and the hotel’s interior design. Now that we live in Wiesbaden, we have the excuse to book a stay. Plus, Tübingen is just a really cool town.
Once I booked that hotel, though, I realized we might have a slight problem. In retrospect, I should have listened to my friend, Susanne, who had suggested a visit to Schwabisch Hall, a very beautiful town about an hour north of Stuttgart. I decided against it, because traffic around Stuttgart is a nightmare, and I didn’t want to be stressed about getting to our appointment. But Schwabisch Hall is actually more conducive to getting to the Czech Republic, as it’s just off Autobahn 6, which is the route we’d be taking under normal circumstances. Staying in Schwabisch Hall would have been more convenient (and I do plan to stop there sometime– maybe in the spring!).
Tübingen is south of Stuttgart, so to access A6, we’d have to drive about an hour north, and that might involve dealing with more traffic. It would definitely require backtracking, which I wanted to avoid if I could.
But then I got to thinking… We really have no agenda. The one place I do want to visit in the Czech Republic is Brno, which is pretty far east. There’s nothing to say we have to access it via A6. We can always get there using a different route.
Then I remembered that in 2008, we went to Passau, Germany for my 36th birthday. I had been there before, in 1997, when I was coming home from my Peace Corps stint and spent a month hopping trains all over Europe. I knew nothing at all about Passau in 1997, and just got off there because I was tired of being on the train. I ended up loving the city. It’s very pretty… and it happens to be exactly halfway between Tübingen and Brno. Below are a few shots from our 2008 trip to Passau. I love the cathedral there, and it’s mighty pipe organ! And I love the confluence of three rivers: the Inn, the Ilz, and the Danube.
Then I remembered that October 3, which is the day we’d be traveling, is a German holiday. And I wanted to get out of Germany for the holiday, because things tend to be closed on German holidays, although restaurants, tourist attractions, and hotels aren’t. I’m as excited about German Reunification Day as anyone is, but I’ve been here for nine years (this time), and I already know how Germans celebrate that day. Besides, what better way to celebrate that day than going to a former Eastern Bloc country? Why not cross back over the eastern border for a chance of pace?
In the late 1980s, Bill actually used to help guard the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. When we visited there in 2008, he got visibly nervous as we approached the border, which, of course, was wide open! I remember stopping to change money and get a vignette, and two sexy Czech girls started cleaning the windshield of our Toyota RAV 4. I said to Bill, “I think you are expected to tip them”. He did, and we were on our way to a very memorable exploration of southern Bohemia.
I briefly considered maybe staying in Austria. I stayed in Linz back in 1997 and found it kind of boring, but we went back in 2008 and discovered a great Biergarten there. But other than the Biergarten, on our last visit, I still found Linz kind of boring. Other travelers’ reports confirmed that it wasn’t just me; there are more exciting places to be. So then I remembered Cesky Krumlov, which is a VERY charming town east of Passau.
Funny story about Cesky Krumlov. We visited there in 2008, too. The owner of the hotel where we stayed in Passau had recommended it. The day we were there was my birthday, and it happened to be when they were having their annual Five Petalled Rose Festival. We ran into many locals dressed in medieval garb, and there were games going on. I took an awesome photo there that remains one of my favorite pictures of all time. I thought we’d stumbled into a theme park! I had no idea the festival was happening. I remember thinking the town was very charming, and I would have liked it even if the festival hadn’t been happening. The fact that it was going on only added to its charm.
From Cesky Krumlov, we went to nearby Cesky Budejovice, which is where the Czech Budweiser is made. 😉 I remember having lunch there and thinking I’d like to stay in that town. Below are a few shots from our 2008 trip. I wasn’t as much of a shutterbug in those days. I also used Microsoft computers, which aren’t compatible with my Mac.
For our upcoming visit, I found us a cute hotel in Cesky Krumlov that gets excellent reviews. We’ll stay there for two nights, then move on to Brno, which is maybe three hours away. I found another hotel in Brno that isn’t quite as cute as the one in Cesky Krumlov is, but has a lot of amenities. It’s located on the outskirts of town, but from what I’ve read, a lot of Brno’s charm is found outside of the city itself. Since we’ve never been to Brno, we’ll stay three days there, then move toward home.
At this point, I’m tentatively planning our last stop to be two nights in Prague. We last visited Prague in November 2008, as part of a trip we did to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. In those days, we had a lot less money, but thanks to Hilton Honors Points, we were able to score two free nights at the Hilton Old Town Hotel. I remember they brought us sparkling wine and strawberries because we were there on our actual anniversary. I also remember they had an awesome old school pool that was DEEP. But I think this time, we’ll stay somewhere different.
I still came home with tons of cool souvenirs from Dresden, Poland (Bolesławiec), and Prague. I’m hoping we can find some art for the house. Last time we went to Prague, I bought a painting at an art gallery with an Armenian proprietor! I got to speak some crappy Armenian with him. I had (and have) forgotten a lot. Below are a few shots from Prague. It was COLD during our visit!
I can’t book the Prague hotel yet, though, because we have to make sure Noyzi can stay an extra night at the Hundepension. I don’t expect it to be a problem, but you never know. I gave some thought to stopping at the Chodovar Beer Wellness Land in Chodova Plana (very close to the German border), but recent reviews of the place make it sound less than enticing. I’d like to go there, though, if only to pick up some beer and their awesome flavored mineral water. Last time we were in the Czech Republic, we found some at a grocery store, but there wasn’t much of it to be had.
Chodova Plana isn’t far from Karlovy Vary, which is a great spa town overrun with Russians (last time we were there, anyway). We bought two paintings from a talented Russian artist, last time we were there. The town of Chodova Plana itself, though, is pretty desolate, other than the brewery, beer spa, and hotel. Prague offers a hell of a lot more to do, plus they’ve now got beer (and wine) spas, too. That wasn’t the case in 2008.
From Prague, we can reach Wiesbaden in about six hours, barring terrible traffic. I think it’s doable… If it turns out Noyzi can’t stay another night, maybe we’ll stay somewhere a little bit closer to home. Brno isn’t super far from Prague. I think it’s only a couple of hours’ drive.
Hopefully, we can finalize these plans over the weekend. Bill is coming home from his latest trip today. I look forward to seeing him, as it’s been a very quiet, boring week here in Wiesbaden. On the other hand, my liver has gotten a break, as I have mostly been teetotaling. I had two beers last night, but they were my first since Saturday.
Anyway… I love trip planning. I hope to do more of it… at least until the next war or pandemic sidetracks everything. Maybe we’ll even get a chance to stop by the border of Slovakia, so I can get a new mug to replace the cracked one we bought in 2015. 😉