Our preferred mode of travel is to get off the beaten-path in a rental car, away from expensive big cities. Here are suggestions for places to drive your rental car; interesting, pretty and, in many cases, historic towns where the price of hotels and food is much lower. Though you’ll miss the wonders of cities such as Munich and Vienna, you’ll be more than compensated by the peace and beauty of authentic country life.
The Proper Equipment
As always, when driving in Europe, especially on back roads, we recommend road maps scaled at 1:200,000 or, for even more detail, 1:150,000. If you have a GPS, so much the better; but maps remain essential.
Next to the maps and a GPS, your best traveling companions will be the Michelin Red Guides for hotels and restaurants—including vital information on thousands of small towns—plus Michelin’s Green Guides for sights and history.
In recent years, we have come to rely on the same mobile phone we use in the U.S. With AT&T’s overseas roaming, the cost is 99 cents per minute and we use the phone mainly to call ahead from our car for same-day hotel reservations. If we’re just wandering, with no specific itinerary, sometime in the early afternoon when we have a good idea where we’ll be around 4 to 5pm, we consult the Michelin Red Guide for nearby hotel possibilities. Even on this short notice, we almost always find a room available at our first-choice hotel.
Here are seven interesting small town destinations in Germany with affordable hotel/restaurant recommendations:
This almost idyllic, way-off-the-beaten-track hamlet, about 15 km northwest of Füssen, is close to the main tourist attractions of southern Bavaria, especially the Royal Castles of Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, and Linderfof. Among Seeg’s attractive features are a quiet, comfortable hotel and a simple but authentic restaurant that serves good farm food to locals. The town’s hilltop location commands long views of mountains, forests and meadows. Like many Bavarian towns, life centers around an onion-domed rococo church, St. Ullrich, which shelters a perfect little cemetery. The entire scene is backdropped by the jagged peaks of the Allgäu range.
Nearby towns worth a short visit include Nesselwang, Mittelberg, and Rosshaupten.
The Heim is an exceptionally welcoming, small family-run hotel, already known to many readers. Room Number 20, on the first floor, is on a corner and features a snug sitting area with couch, easy chair, coffee table and TV. Its pleasant balcony, accessible from the bedroom and also from the small, adjacent dressing room, offers a fine view across the valley to the “pre-Alps” beyond Füssen.
Pension Heim Aufmberg 8, D-87637 Seeg, tel. +049/08364/258. Double rooms from about €70
This lively “local,” where tables are sometimes shared, consists of two low-ceilinged rooms; the front is casual with bare wooden tables and the back more formal, with tablecloths, napkins and flowers. There are fabric-covered light fixtures and wood banquettes around the perimeter of both rooms. The deep window wells are filled with indoor plants.
The simple food is delicious. You’ll pay around €11 for such dishes as crisp, greaseless Wiener Schnitzel, and about the same for beef fillet on a skewer bathed in a reduction sauce of the juices and herb butter, served with French fries and mixed green salad. A half-liter of Allgäuer Bräuhaus is €2.3
Gasthhof Hirsch, Seeg, Kirchplatz 3, tel. +49/08364/353
The island is easily accessed by rail or car via a bridge at Straslund. From Rostock, the drive, over a busy two-lane road, is about two and a half hours—traffic permitting. Most visitors will want to headquarter in the beach town of Binz, where miles of white Baltic sand invite walkers, sunbathers and swimmers.
From Binz, easy auto excursions are possible to the fishing town of Sassnitz and the remote village of Lome for lunch high above the sea on the terrace of the Panorama Hotel Lome. Not to be missed is the Prora, the failed, Nazi-constructed monstrosity that was to be an every-man holiday resort. Had not more pressing matters, such as the Russian Front, intervened, the three-mile-long series of six-story buildings, joined in a way as to result in a single “hotel,” would have accommodated 20,000 guests.
In the village of Baabe, just down the coast from Binz, the Villa Grantiz’s Victorian-Gothic architecture is reminiscent of our country’s Old South, and feels like a private residence. Covered wooden walkways connect various wings of the house through the lovely garden. Ask for Number 123, a spacious, comfortable double with a generous sized terrace. There is no restaurant.
This is relaxed, easy-to-live-in luxury, at an amazing price. Wreecher Hof’s country location, in tiny Wreechen, about nine kilometers southwest of Putbus, seems far from sea and beaches. The half-dozen thatched-roof, all-white bungalows are surrounded by well-tended grounds featuring colorful flower beds and clipped lawns intersected by walkways of red and gray pavers. A yellow awning shelters an inviting outdoor terrace that overlooks a large lily pond. The 43 guestrooms apportioned among the six cottages are five-star in terms of size and quality of furnishings. The hotel’s excellent restaurant merits a red Karte designation from Michelin.
At the southern end of the Binz beach crescent sits this high-ceilinged, Victorian building stuffed with a wild mixture of antique furniture, potted plants, and the bric-a-brac of decades, including a life-size religious statue. When not smothered in some heavy, overwrought sauce (ask for the sauce on the side), the absolutely fresh fish is first-rate. Be sure also to try the grilled potatoes mit Speck (bacon pieces). Including a beer or two, a couple can eat well here for about €50.
Restaurant StrandhalleRestaurant Strandhalle Strandpromenade 5, D-18609 Binz, tel. +49/08393 31564.