Am Plansee, The Accidental Lunch Stop

I had no intention of visiting Austria during our two-week trip to Germany. I blame an insistent GPS for the most pleasant two hours of our vacation.

The morning was spent at Linderhof, one of the big three palaces of King Ludwig II. The palace didn't disappoint, and after our tour, it was time to make a lunch stop before our second Mad King Ludwig palace of the day, Neuschwanstein.

I had planned on going to Obergammergau, and headed east as we departed Linderhof. However, the GPS was insistent that we turn around. I ignored it as it wanted me to change my errant ways at the nearest street for five to ten minutes. It persisted, and doubt began to creep in - perhaps this GPS was right. Should I got the other way, through Austria? I mean, the von Trapps were from Austria, so it couldn't be all bad, right?

With a hard brake and a quick turn, I spun the Volkswagen around and headed to Austria.

We passed through the beautiful mountain passes on the Austria - Germany border on our way to wherever we were headed. There wasn't much in the way of towns, and we decided to stop at the area of civilization with a restaurant. Am Plansee was quickly upon us… and behind us. It was a very small town. So I did another quick turnaround, with a stop to look at the beautiful lake Plansee, before we returned to downtown Am Plansee, all four buildings of it.

Just off of L255, the road leading into town, was a restaurant parking lot full of motorcycles. I'm sure they were good people, but we were hoping for something less crowded. I pulled the Touareg into the town parking lot and paid the few Euro so I wouldn't get a ticket and / or seem like a jerk. Mistake! Just down the street, at the restaurant we were going to visit, was a free lot for customers. So if you to eat at the little beer garden by the campground, you don't have to pay.

A dozen or so picnic tables were scattered on the grass next to the small building selling beer, brats, and probably other things, but we really didn't care about those other things - the first two were what they were there for. After a slight language problem - my German was terrible, his English was non-existent - we had three bratwurst with fries and two wheat beers. It could have been the scenery or the hunger, but we agreed those were the best brats on the trip. Crispy, tasty fries rounded out the meal. And wheat beer is the most refreshing kind of beer to have on a nice summer day. That's not opinion, that's fact. [The mike has been dropped.]

We enjoyed the day and the pause in the driving, wandering by the lake and wading in the cold mountain water. The area by the restaurant was very rocky, so it was a challenging wade. So don't go for the swimming, go for the scenery. It doesn't disappoint.

The GPS did us well that day, taking us to one of the highlights of our vacation, one not on the itinerary. That didn't stop me from being enraged at it the next day as it led us through Munich during rush hour, but that's a tale best told in the visit to Herrenchiemsee.

A Grand Rapids weekend

The weekend plans were an anniversary surprise, and I was glad to see that we ended up in Grand Rapids instead of a Jerry Springer taping session. I vowed to myself that if ever I heard the words "Hey, let's go see Jerry Springer", I would instantly file for divorce - nothing good seems to come from that show, or did when I watched it twenty years ago. Is it still on? Maybe I should have checked that before I wrote this. Oh well.

We pulled in to the Courtyard by Marriott on Monroe and Fulton, a pleasant hotel where we have stayed before. Like the past stays, it was quiet, interrupted only by a knock at the door from someone at the wrong room. I didn't mind, and hopefully she didn't mind that I didn't stop brushing my teeth to chat with her. But the room looked over the B.O.B. and the new theater right next door. One of the things I like about GR is it's constant change - there seem to be new building going up all the time.

We didn't linger long before my wife's second surprise of the day. We trudged through the snow to Founders. But the surprise was not Founders, it was the white van parked outside - the Grand Rapids Beer Tours van. I love Grand Rapids, and I love beer, so combine these things, and you have the makings of a great afternoon. We were the last ones to arrive - but we were still early - and we were off to our cerveza-soaked day.

Stop numero uno was The Mitten Brewery. Located in an old firehouse, complete with pole - unfortunately inaccessible from the second floor - which had quite a beer list. Brian, our guide, passed around pitchers with which to fill our sample glasses. The IPA, A League of Their Own, and a coffee stout were brought out way. I enjoyed the IPA the most, and since it was early in my drinking day, I had no witty sayings to write on the bathroom chalkboard.