We like being directed to the sites and fun things to do off the beaten path when traveling. Rick Steve’s travel guides are excellent at pointing these sites and activities out. We used Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door 2013: The Travel Skills Handbook on our first trip to Europe in 1989 and have been a fan of books ever since. Over the years, this book changed more into a text about how to travel as opposed to a book on Rick’s favorite places and things to do.
View Walking directions to Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau, Germany in a larger map
When I found the book Rick Steves’ Germany and Austria 2007 I was pleasantly surprised to find out it had the tips and tricks I had grown to love about Rick Steves’ books. Although this book hasn’t been updated since the Rick Steves’ Germany and Austria 2008 version, it is still an excellent and accurate tour guide. You can use the Internet to check to see if the recommended attractions/hotels/etc.. are still in business before going to them. If they are, then they are really good because they have withstood the test of time!
The best thing about this book is that it is a tour guide, not a city guide. It has recommended routes to take and points out the best things to do at each place along the way. It includes directions on how to get from one location to the next. It isn’t a comprehensive guide to each city in Germany and Austria. Instead, it points out the very best places to go and best things to do on a predetermined route. You can follow an entire route or pick it up along the way and drop off when you want. These are places and sites that Rick Steves visits in his tours. With this book, you get the benefit of his experience, for less than 20 bucks.
The summer after my wife and I married, we took a train to the market town of Reutte, Austria on the border of Austria and Germany based on a recommendation in Rick Steves’ Through the Back Door tour book. We rode bikes through the Tyrol Mountains, hiked up to the town castle ruins, and visited the nearby Neuschwanstein Castle all based on a recommendation from Rick’s book. While eating lunch on the peak of the hill at the castle ruins, the air was suddenly filled with dozens of hang gliders buzzing the hill-top. It was a magical day, and we have wanted to return ever since.
On our 2009 trip, we finally returned to Ruette using the suggestions in Rick Steves’ Germany and Austria 2007 book. He recommended staying in a nearby town called Pinswang, Austria at the Hotel Gasthof zum Schwanen.
This is a rural hotel off the beaten path with a very strategic location for a unique experience. You can walk from Austria to Neuschwanstein Castle (King Ludwig’s Castle) in Germany. The hike originates at the back of the hotel, up a mountain trail, to a pass that gives you a flat walk for a while. Your cross from Austria into Germany at the top of the pass.
When you get to the other side of the mountain, you end up on the far side of a small lake from the Neuschwanstein Castle with great views and a chance to take a swim to cool off after the hike. We had lunch and went on the castle tour before heading back. This is a great way to see Neuschwanstein Castle, avoiding the car traffic and parking hassles while at the same time having the pleasure of going back in time and walking to the castle. It is a relatively easy hike as you can see we did it tennis shoes and flip-flops!
Even though this book is many years out of date now, we will take it with us on our next trip to Austria and Germany; revisiting some of our favorite places and explore new ones.