Now we are on the homeward trail. Prague to Paris could be possible in a single 11 to 12 hour day of hard driving but on this trip I tried to limit driving to 4 hours per day wherever possible. That came down to roughly 4 hours today, 4 tomorrow, and a short final push on Monday. Hotel-Gasthof zum Hirschen in Dürrwangen came up in my search on booking.com but I really was not sure what we would find here other than a bed for the night.
We were both awake before 7:00 am and down for breakfast before 8:00 am. Soon after 8:30 am we set off to walk to the car and were relieved to find it safe where we had parked it (at the “conveniently located” hotel parking almost a kilometre away). We drove back to the hotel, parked, collected our gear, checked out and were on our way out of Prague, heading west and south toward Paris and home though those were both some days away.
Once we had cleared the city our drive west to Germany was on modern autobahns with views of the surrounding countryside and occasional cities and villages. The countryside was a patchwork of harvested fields and green pastures with scattered woodlands. They had splashes of bright autumn colours among the green. Majella drove the first 2 hours or so out of Prague. We planned to stop for coffee as soon as possible after crossing into Germany where we could more easily spend euros. Our supply of Czech koruna had been severely diminished by buying dinner in the market last night and might procure one cup of coffee but not two.
Service centres on that autobahn section in Germany are scarce so a little way in we pulled off where there were signs for some villages and drove a couple of kilometres into Pleystein. It was a delightful village with colourful houses and trees in autumn leaves adding their extra touches. We found a small store selling bakery goods and asked about coffee. The woman there was able to provide it, in disposable cups to Majella’s displeasure but she had left hers in the car and was committed. We sat on a seat in the median strip to drink our coffee and eat the pastries we had bought to go with it. I walked off a little way to explore and see what was beneath the spire that we could see. It was an impressive building atop a rocky outcrop. We still don’t know what it was but think it may have been a convent based on the nun in habit we saw go by us on a bicycle.
I drove on from there. An hour or so later we decided it was time for lunch. We were only 40 km or so short of Dürrwangen but thought we should eat before arriving to check in. I pulled off the highway and into a village where we saw a cafe but, as usual at siesta time, it was closed. As we drove out of the village Majella spotted a Lidl supermarket so we stopped there and picked up some bread rolls and ham to go with the remnant of the sheep’s cheese we were still carrying from Slovakia along with a couple of plums. I had switched the GPS to ‘shortest route’ by then, hoping for a more scenic approach to our destination. We did not like the dirt track leading into forest that was offered soon after that point so we switched back to ‘fastest route’ which put us on respectable roads. We found a spot where we could pull off and picnic with a view of autumn colours and enjoyed our simple lunch there.
Dürrwangen is a pretty German village in an area sprinkled with such places. It has colourful houses lining tidy, though sometimes narrow streets. The front door of our Gasthaus was closed and locked but Google Translator was able to read the sign that invited overnight guests to come to the back door. Our host, Otto, greeted us there and let us in. He suggested we might be interested in visiting some of the local sights and gave us a brochure and self-directed tour map for Dinkelsbühl, a picturesque village about 6 km away.
After a short rest we set off for Dinkelsbühl. We parked near the entrance to the Altstadt (old town), walked in, and had coffee and hot chocolate to revive us. Then we spent the next hour or more walking around the very charming town. Its history dates back to around 730 and its fortifications were consrtucted in the 10th century. Considering the fate of many other towns and cities in Europe, it is remarkably well preserved. The entire town wall is there with towers and gates. Several of the towers are being used for housing and there were several other residences accessed through the town walls. The buildings in the town are still inhabited and are very well kept. They are painted colourfully and many have colourful shutters on the windows. Many of the trees around the town were showing bright autumn colours.
Back in Dürrwangen, Majella rested while I walked around with my camera to see what I might find. The houses here are similarly colourful to those we saw in Dinkelsbühl and have seen across the past week or two. They are a remarkable contrast with the uniform white we saw in some parts of Scotland or the stone in Brittany. Several trees were in brilliant autumn colours. Along the way I fell into conversation with a man who had been born here in the 50s and he was able to tell me a little about the schloss (castle or manor house) just down the road from our accommodation.
We had dinner in the hotel. Majella’s meal of pork medallions seemed to exhibit the Goldilocks effect. It must have been ‘just right’ because she managed to eat it all (almost) with two glasses of white wine. I had rump steak, suitably medium rare, with chips, salad and beer (we are still in Germany). For a day that started not knowing what it might bring it turned out very well.