When I went on my great adventure last spring, Daughter #1 came with me for the first leg. We spent nearly two weeks exploring Germany, Austria, and Spain before she headed home and I headed for my big walk.
Germany was one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen. There were so many shades of green and landscapes that varied from flat plains to rolling hills to the gigantic and majestic alps.
During the first few days, Daughter #1 and I rented an SUV and were driving on the Romantic Road – a two lane road that winds through picturesque villages, passes medieval walled cities, and takes one through much of that beautiful scenery I mentioned. The only issue is that the signage can be a bit dicey. Most of the time, there was a direction sign posted at the roundabouts – but occasionally, there wasn’t. We would make a guess on the direction to go and hold our breath until we finally saw another sign – sometimes miles down the road. Then we would heartily congratulate each other on our instinctual navigating skills.
On this particular day, we followed a posted turn only to find out that the street ahead was under construction and impassable. We reversed, turned around, and went back to the intersection – looking closely for any detour signs.
We decided to continue through the village, but it quickly became apparent that the main road was heading in the opposite direction from where we needed to be.
Once again, we turned around.
On the way back into the village, we saw a small road to our left that seemed to head in the correct direction, but the towns listed on the road sign did not match those on our Romantic Road map. I pulled into the left hand turn lane and stopped (as no one was behind me) and we briefly discussed our options.
As we spoke, a motorcyclist came along the road we were contemplating taking and waited for us to make the turn onto the road. I motioned for him to go ahead, but instead he drove towards us and stopped at my driver’s side window. As I rolled down the window, he said something to us in German. As I don’t speak German, I responded in English that we were looking for the Romantic Road. He then said (in excellent English) that we should pull off the road and we would “have a conversation.”
I followed him as he pulled down a side street and stopped. He then dismounted and walked back to our car, taking off his helmet to reveal his handsome face. Dieter (as the mystery man never gave us his name, we picked one for him) asked where we were from and seemed delighted that we were Americans. We explained our predicament and that we were seeking an alternate route south.
Dieter asked, “Do you want the fast road or the beautiful road?” We responded in unison, “The beautiful road!” He then explained that we needed to go to a town called “Rain” (but Dieter said this with a delightful German accent and it sounded nothing like Rain). He further explained that he had just come from there and that we should follow him as he led us 5-6 kilometers back the way he had come. He said that we would make sure we got on the correct road and would “salute” us as we continued our happy journey. He did ask us to do him one favor – not to stop our car in the middle of the road anymore, as motorcycle riders like to go very fast.
I was flabbergasted and grateful that a stranger would go out of his way to retrace his route and lead us back to the Romantic Road. When I turned to Daughter #1 and said, “How nice is this guy?” She responded, “Well, he is either super nice or he is a serial killer leading us to his death farm!” Daughter #1 lives in the big city and may be a tad less trusting than me.
We followed Dieter as best as we could. He obviously DID like to go very fast! We would occasionally lose him as he raced over hills and around curves, but he always slowed and waited for us to catch up – gesturing with his hand to make sure we were seeing the great views.
Soon, we saw a sign saying we were back on the Romantic Road – but Dieter just kept on leading the way. “This is getting a little awkward,” said Daughter #1, “Is he going to lead us all the way to Füssen?” We passed about three more signs before Dieter finally took a turn and then pulled to the side of the road – saluting us as promised as we passed by and screamed our thanks through the open car window.
As it turns out, it would have been nice to have Dieter as our guide all the way to our destination. We ended up getting lost again several towns down the road and literally drove in a huge circle that added about 40 kilometers and an hour or more onto our journey.
But we finally made it – and boy, was it worth it!