|Wanda didn't know about this, apparently
Lesson of the day: just because you punch the name of a town into your high-tech, German-engineered GPS system, doesn’t mean you can relax and follow directions and expect to get there.
Our plan was to leave Partenkirchen first thing after our morning muesli, and head to the fairy-tale castles by 8:50 to get our reserved tickets. The hostess of the Fraundorfer assured us that no matter which way we went, we’d end up at Neuschwanstein in an hour and five minutes.
Two hours later, we were hopelessly lost somewhere Southeast of Munich, three maps and a Rick Steves book all unfolded and bookmarked and crumpled on my lap, while Kirk, whose scratchy throat has turned into a full-blown cold, was nervously negotiating the single lanes through black forest and green glen.
At one point, after our GPS Lady (Wicked Wanda, we’ve decided to call her) commanded us to make a U-Turn, leading us the wrong way down a one-way street the width of dental floss, we frantically punched in some alternate towns—getting us even more lost. Here’s something we learned: “fastest” and “shortest” are very different options. Here's what we also learned: do your homework the night before. Foreign travel by the seat of the pants is stupid, risky, and likely to bring out Mrs. Crabby Seat-of-the-Pants.
Of course we missed our ticket time, and with a three-hour drive ahead of us into Austria, southeast of Salzburg, we scrapped our castle plans in favor of the Autobahn. Wicked Wanda recalculating our route periodically so we could avoid “traffic hazards” that magically cropped up every twenty kilometers or so, sending us off the A-route and onto various B-routes. Her circuitous plans for us took us through some incredible scenery as well as a few less stellar burgs whose prominent features included abandoned overhead electric lines.
Our trip continued to Bad Ischl, the Imperial mountain burg where the fated Franz Joseph-Sisi engagement took place. I'd booked us a cheap room in a pension on the far end of town, and Googled up some directions before leaving the States. Stupidly, though, instead of following my printed directions, I convinced Kirk to give Wanda one more shot, and when she ordered us off the main road, and onto an assortment of charming goat paths, there I was, like the girlfriend of a notorious womanizer, believing the curt, no-nonsense voice as she weaved us along precarious roads, around haystacks, and down more skinny lanes. She promised that our "destination will be on the right," but all that was on the right, before the road block, was a rusty fence, where we parked, got out, and wandered around heavy machinery for the next hour, hoping that our Pimsleur German and frantically waving map-wielding hands would lead us to a person who'd point to our destination.
Meanwhile, Wanda was back in the car, telling all her GPS robot buddies what a pair of idiots we were.
Eventually, we found our digs, retraced our steps and negotiated the rental Ford "Kuga" around several detours, narrowly missing a tour bus and a Mercedes cement truck going about 60.
I’m also happy to report that Kirk and I have not quite killed each other yet, though testier words between us have never been sprechen.
I promise to post some pretty pictures soon--and report on the more lush, lavish and lovely aspects of this spa town that has haunted me since I started my Empress Elisabeth obsession. First, though, I have to convince my travel partner to get back on that horse. So to speak.