WARTBURG | Germany

Rating: 4 out of 5.

We are back on the road but, thankfully, not ambitiously too far. Germany is the location of choice as our first break of the year, and it’s also the first time we took our new (albeit used) car, a white Volvo I will henceforth call Viv – replacing Fifi our trusty, blue Fiesta – into the, at times, wanting roads of our eastern neighbor, and she’s performing great as expected.

Our first stop is Wartburg in Eisenach, in the state of Thuringia, and its main lure is a dramatic medieval castle on a hill, overlooking beautiful unspoilt nature as far as the eye can see, and where Martin Luther spent time translating the bible into German. Closeby in Eisenach old town is the birthplace of the famous musician Bach, as well as a nice enough historic center but with little much else. It may have to do with the brisk, overcast weather last Sunday but the locals who were out and about could qualify for the saddest citizenry award, and for anyone with an appreciation for traditional German cuisine served with vaguely discriminatory, humorlessly perfunctory service, a meal at the Hofbrau near St Nicolas Church would be icing on the cake.

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In the meantime the hotel we’re staying in is the so-rated five-star Romantik Hotel auf der Wartburg, which is conveniently right smack next to the castle. With the exception of an employee-trainee who appeared, at least initially, to be sorely-prepared for us when we checked in – poor explanation on parking, couldn’t find our room booking (computer says noooo), and with an oddly poor grasp of German (and English) – the staff was generally kind and on point. What confused me with their star rating were an accumulation of things – no air conditioning, no shower (just a bath), wall-mounted squeeze bottle dispensers in the bathroom, no turndown, and if we didn’t have a car, the only option to get to the property, especially if one had even the smallest of luggage, was by shuttle as climbing the steep, cobbled access street would have been torture. The area was beautiful in any case.

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Apart from a near head-on collision along a two-lane stretch of highway on our first full day out, and dashed hotel expectations, it’s been fine so far. Traveling now, with Covid times seeming more and more distant but with the specter of instability manifesting each time we stop at a gas station, still seems like a struggle for normality. There aren’t too many crowds wherever we go, which is great but I fear is a sign that we are the few lucky ones who can still indulge. Tomorrow brings another day of discovery, and that’s really all I can hope for.

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