By Andy Bestor

A super bargain is found in Reutte and some Wieskirche visitors are scolded.

Though sorry to leave our great little Salzburg hotel, the Trumer Stube (Gemütlichkeit, October 1997), three days of crowded Salzburg was enough and we moved on to Reutte, a quiet country town in the mountains with easy access to some great sights. Just over the Fernpass from Innsbruck, and only a few minutes from Füssen in Germany, Reutte is very near Bavaria's Royal Castles and the beautiful Wieskirche.

Gasthof-Pension Waldrast, a ski hotel in winter, is away from the town center and a huge bargain! Our corner room with large windows on two sides, Number 15, was beautiful. It included satellite TV in a separate sitting room, separate shower and toilet rooms, attractive, comfortable furniture and a deck. From the room and balcony the view is of the Ehrenberg ruins.

One night, with spectacular weather, we returned from dinner and wanted to sip a beer on the patio. Finding the lobby and reception deserted, we decided to sit outside and breath the mountain air. Moments later, the owner's wife came down the path walking her dog. She greeted us and inquired if there was anything we needed. We asked if it was to late for a beer. She smiled, said no, and immediately brought us some. We sat undisturbed for an hour enjoying the night. Afterward, I carried the bottles in and set them on the bar. Our hosts were at a corner table in the dining room. I thanked them and said good night. We are more familiar with impersonal American motels and not used to such warmth and hospitality. Gasthof-Pension Waldrast is a special little family hotel. We paid 700 AS ($58) for our luxurious double room.

Reutte is about 30 minutes from Füssen, home of Germany's two most famous castles. Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, I am sure, are sights most readers have visited. Thus, there is no need to attempt a description of them here.

I should note, however, that the Neuschwanstein tour was a disappointment. Our tour guide spoke very little English and her poor pronunciation was compounded by an inability to project. In addition, our tour was joined by a group of about 30 Japanese tourists whose English-speaking guide translated for this subgroup. The result was an echoing, interrupted presentation. We finally gave up, slid to the back of the tour and viewed the castle without benefit of guide. Tours are 10 DM ($6) person for each castle.

The nearby Wieskirche, another well-known sight, possesses beauty which should be respected. Unfortunately, many of its visitors are too self-centered to do their part in maintaining the church's condition. There is no entry fee and no guards to monitor behavior. The church asks only for a small donation and that visitors follow a few simple rules. No picture-taking inside. But flashbulbs and camera clicks were a constant during our visit. Insensitive camcorder carriers saw the church through their view-finders and never laid a naked eye on the place. I found this disregard for the wishes of the Wieskirche embarrassing and disturbing and, frankly, it tainted the whole experience.

While in Reutte we tried two restaurants. Carina, in Breitenwang, a nice Italian place, has an outdoor patio and family atmosphere. The other, zum Mohren, serves heartier dishes such as Hungarian Goulash with polenta. This restaurant also has outdoor seating and service is friendly. At zum Mohren, two dinners, four beers and dessert was 450 AS ($38). Both places are affordable and serve well-prepared food.

From Reutte we headed north to the scenic Mosel Valley. Enroute we decided to revisit Heidelberg.

Haide Heidelberg, a campground, has cabins for rent at about 32 DM ($19) for two persons. Having been there in 1996, we knew what to expect. The drive from Reutte took four hours.

In Heidelberg for only one night, we decided to return to a favorite restaurant from our 1996 trip. It was raining on first visit to Gastätte Essighaus and we couldn't sit outside. This visit, however, turned out to be the last of nine straight outdoor dinners. But Essighaus was very busy and the service suffered, though the food was still quite good and we were served by the same waitress. Specials include soup, salad and entrée for around 12 DM ($7). Though it is very difficult to recapture the romance of a local joint on a rainy night, we still recommend this restaurant.

Before leaving Heidelberg, we took in Schloss Heidelberg, where our humorous, friendly guide helped make this the trip's best castle tour.

The Mosel

One of Germany's most famous wine regions runs north from Trier along the Mosel River, twisting and bending its way to Koblenz, where it meets the Rhine. Each weekend during the summer, towns up and down the river host festivals to celebrate their lush vineyards.

We spent one night at Stolz Zimmer in Cochem. Located in the private Stolz home, our room was large and included a shower and toilet. The cost was 60 DM/$35 (discounts for longer stays) including breakfast with eggs to order. Mr. Stolz has access to a local parking lot and guests park free.

It rained that night and we were glad to be in a hotel. The following day we set up camp just north of Cochem at Campingplatz Pommern, right on the river, a great location. The shady, grassy bank of the Mosel made a comfortable home for the next three days. Two nights here only set us back 50 DM ($29).

For dinner the first night in Cochem we found La Baia (Bruckenstr. 1), another Italian chow house. We found the quality of food a bit below average and the presentation very poor. A salad was drowned in Thousand Island dressing and full of cheese cubes the size of fuzzy dice. I had a calzone which looked delicious from the outside but contained uncooked ingredients. The onion, bell-pepper and mushrooms were all raw, much of the cheese was unmelted and some of the stuffing was just plain cold. La Baia uses low-quality ingredients and that is evident in the final product.

While strolling the streets of Cochem after dinner, we found Römerstube in the Hotel Müller. The sounds of clanking dishes and lively conversation poured out into the alley. We stopped at the low window and peered inside. Warm lighting, happy faces and delicious-looking food were enough to convince us to return the next night.

Dishes like Schnitzel Jäger art (hunters style) and Cordon Bleu are prepared in traditional style. Since the kitchen seems to be on the floor above, there is little dining room noise and the waitress had an odd way of appearing and disappearing. She simply steps behind a small partition and, presto, emerges with two steaming plates of food. Obviously, this restaurant utilizes a dumbwaiter to deliver food but for a moment, it was magic!

The first views of Burg Eltz when hiking to it are spectacular. This fairy-tale castle, completely surrounded by dense forest, is majestic. Unfortunately, there are no English tours and a printed version leaves something to be desired. However, I think this unscathed castle is a slice of history that everyone traveling this region should visit. The tour costs 8 DM ($4.70).

On Sunday we went to Zell for the Stadtfest. The local youth band played and there was a long table full of homemade baked goods. Cakes, pies, cookies and other sweets were being sold and, of course, there was plenty of wine. This was a family event and the town's children were out in force. After lingering at the festival for a while, then window shopping on the main street, we stopped at a wine shop for a tasting of some of Zell's own Schwartze Katz Wein (Black Cat wine). We purchased a bottle as a reminder of an enjoyable day.

This was our last stop in Germany and it was time to head back to the Netherlands for a day or two and then the flight home. After three weeks of sight-seeing, walking, riding buses and boats, we were ready to slow the pace.

Accommodations & Restaurants

Gasthof-Pension Waldrast, on Ehrenbergstrasse, Reutte-Ehenbichel A-6600, tel. +43/05672/62443, fax 62443. Doubles 640 to 740 AS ($53-$62)

Restaurant Carina, Bachweg 17, in Breitenwang, near Reutte. Inexpensive.

Restaurant zum Mohren, on the main street, Reutte, tel. 2345. Dinner for two without beverages about 350 AS ($30)

Gastätte Essighaus, Plck 97, Heidelberg D- tel. +49/06221/22496. Dinner for two, without beverages, about 24 DM ($14)

Haide Heidelberg, campgrounds, Heidelberg, tel. +49 06223/21 11

Stolz Zimmer, Obergasse 20, Cochem, D-56812, tel. +49/02671/1509. Rooms about 60 DM ($35).

La Baia, Bruckenstr. 1, Cochem, D-56812. (Not recommended)

Römerstube in Hotel Müller, Moselpromenade 9, Cochem D-56812, tel. +49/02671/7131. Dinner for two, without beverages, about 60 DM ($35).

• Campingplatz Pommern, Moselweinstrasse D-56829, Pommern

November 1997