Friday morning we packed up our tent and camping gear one final time and set out for the final stretch of about 600 kilometers from Eastern Austria to Mario's hometown - Hilpoltstein, Germany. It just so happened to be the weekend of Burgfest, the major festival held in Hilpoltstein each year. There was no need to rush, so we took the trip easy, stopping occaisionally to stretch, make coffee, or use the restroom. It rained a bit during the trip, but by the time we got to Hilpoltstein we had good weather all weekend. Mario was happy to be back on the German autobahn, driving over 130 for the first time since Albania. Not far from the end of our trip we decided to make a little stop that involved full bladders and a cluster of trees near a place where cars can pull off the road and park for a bit. When we got back to the car Mario discovered that the car key had fallen from the hole in his pocket. I hadn't taken my spare key with me, but he knew where it had to be because he had only walked one path there and back. With the help of a truck driver the key was found and we were thankfully back on the road. Once we arrived in Hilpoltstein I met Mario's mom and dad and his mom had dinner ready for us. As part of the Burgfest tradition, the story of Countess Palatine Dorothea Maria and how she helped the people of Hilpoltstein several hundred years ago is retold and celebrated. One woman from the town is chosen to be the Countess each year and it just so happened that we could see her house from the garden where we were having dinner and watch as the horse drawn carriage arrived to take her into the city center. We relaxed at the house for a bit before heading to the nighttime carnival/beer fest portion of Burgfest celebration around 22:30. At the Burgfest Mario ran into all sorts of friends and high school classmates and it was a fun, festive evening.
Saturday morning we woke up and had some breakfast before taking a walk to the city center which was already full of hustle and bustle. There is a flee market of sorts where people can sell basically anything you would expect to see at an American yard sale/garage sale. We wanted to also go up into the castle, but it wasn't yet opened so we returned back to the house to get the car and visit a friend of Mario's a little bit outside of Hilpoltstein. The reason for the visit was to have espresso from his famous coffee machine which he was so excited about and for which he payed ONLY 850 euros. He's a really nice guy, but it was a little funny to see his complete obsession with this coffee machine and every tiny detail of making the perfect cup of coffee. We also saw his very big and very loud drumset and blasted "gansta rap" on his stereo system. His house has giant windows which overlook the countryside. After that little adventure we drove back to the house to get the bikes and ride to Rothsee. It was a good bike ride and we even had some lunch sitting by the lake. Next on the agenda was the trip up to the top of the castle for some good views of Hilpoltstein and then hanging out in the center, watching a comical race which involved "boats" shaped like pig troughs and the participants having to drink beer between the different steps of the race, walking around some more, and heading back home to relax for a bit in the early evening. We arrived at the Burgfest a bit earlier on Saturday night, but then left for a few minutes so Mario could show me his high school (gymnasium) not far from where the Burgfest is held. We had another fun night at the Burgfest and I even met a guy from Kansas who has been working in Germany for about two years. When we saw one friend who the night before had learned I was from America he felt the need to yell out "Hey! It's Miss America!" and proceed to tell the friends around him that I was Miss America. Good thing it was dark because my face was probably turning a bit red haha!
Sunday morning we decided to take the bikes out again and road around Hilpoltstein and then into the woods a bit. Now, I'm not really sure about the exact cause of the accident because it all happened so fast, but in short, my bike became a catapult and sent me flying into the air and straight onto my back. Note to self - brake more when you're going down a hill on an offroad path! Next thing I knew Mario was leaning over me and everything hurt. Thankfully all of my limbs were still functioning and although covered in scrapes, cuts, dirt, and leaves, I was able to get up after a few minutes of catching my breath and continue on the bike trip. About 5 kilometers or less from the house my vision started blacking out. I was scared and just wanted to get back and lie down, so by the time we got back to the house I was a teary mess. Mario got me some water and made sure I was okay and I laid down for about 45 minutes. Mario took such good care of me and I was so thankful to have him there. I hate being the one who needs to be taken care of and always want to do things for myself, but when I, for example, crash a bike in the woods, it's nice to know that someone cares :) Anyhow, I was ready to take on the rest of the day after that rest so we went into town for the final event of the Burgfest which we would be present for - the parade! We got there a little early so we had some ice cream and waited for the parade to get going. It was a fun watching the parade and seeing all of the flag twirlers, marching bands, and adorable children. Back at the house we gathered up our things, watched videos of fat cats on youtube, and were forced to eat cake with raspberries before taking the 17:30 train headed to Munich. Typical of a Sunday evening, the train was packed so we sat on the floor for the train ride. We had a good spot where we could stretch out our legs, so it actually wasn't any less comfortable than a regular seat. At the central train station Mario and I parted ways for the first time in 11 days. Thousands of kilometers and unforgettable memories packed into one whirlwind trip that will always hold a special place in my heart. Sitting here writing this the entire trip seems so surreal. I am so incredibly thankful to have had my eyes opened to so many different places during this trip and to have experienced it all with my very favorite German. I hope to be telling stories about "that time we camped our way across south eastern europe" for the rest of my life!
|Crossing the river between Austria and Germany|
|My failed attempt at the Germany sign - it's the thought that counts I suppose|
|Fish and chips - almost!|
|Hilpoltstein from the castle|
|HIlpoltstein from the castle|
|On top of the castle|
|Flag of Hilpoltstein|
|Race at the town pond|
|the best of friends!|