Living in Europe means that there are so many places to visit in our backyard. Paris and Madrid are short flights away and Germany itself is pretty accessible by train. And then there's always the option of a rental car for more out-of-the-way spots where trains don't (frequently) make stops.
In addition to our church ski retreat, we also made two separate trips to different cities near Munich. We visited Regensburg by train (an easy hour and a half-ish ride from Munich Hauptbahnhof) one weekend just for an overnight trip, and then this past weekend we drove to Passau, Bad Füssing, and Landshut. Passau is a larger city with three rivers that run through it, and is near the spa town of Bad Füssing where we drove for a day at the German spa (more on that below). We stopped for lunch in Landshut on our way home, and enjoyed a walk around a really lovely old town. And even though it was cold and most things were closed on a Sunday afternoon, we managed to find a cozy cafe open for coffee and sandwiches.
Regensburg is a university town with a charming center of town. A friend of ours that worked with me in Salamanca, Spain for a summer studied in Regensburg during college, and she commented that Salamanca and Regensburg reminded her of each other. And we both agree with her--maybe it's the university atmosphere or just the way the city is laid out. Either way, both towns are beautiful! Regensburg was especially lovely with a light layer of snow atop the roofs.
Passau (below), an Austrian border town, is a gorgeous "three river city" that sits on the banks of the Danube, the Inn, and the Ilz Rivers. We were going to stay in Bad Füssing, but on Friday one of John's coworkers (who happens to be from the town) told us we probably did not want to stay there, since there's not much happening in the area. So we quickly changed our hotel booking (thanks, Booking.com!) and found a place in downtown Passau, just 30 minutes from Bad Füssing. We navigated the six-point-turn-inducing driving conditions to make it to the hotel "parking lot" (that's a really generous term), walked around the old town, and hiked up to The Oberhaus, a restaurant perched over the rivers and the city, with incredible views of the surrounding area. The food and drink are wonderful, and I can only imagine this place is crazy busy in the summer when the weather is good and its massive beer garden with thousand dollar views is probably chockers (that's Australian for "full"--I like being as multi-cultural as possible).
Guys, I'm so sorry that I didn't snag some photos from the German spa! I know you're disappointed.
Just kidding. But yes, we now have had the full (well, full-ish) German spa experience. Here's the overview, in case you ever want to try it for yourself. We went to Europa Therme in Bad Füssing (click on that link at your own discretion...I can't guarantee how clothed people are in the photos), and all in all we left having had a great experience. However, I heard no English that day, and there were maybe a total of two signs in English, so it was a little confusing about what to do and how to get around. But we managed.
A day pass for all the thermal baths and the sauna was 18 euros. You can rent towels and bath robes (or just bring your own), and your day pass includes a locker. You must shower before entering any of the pools or the saunas. The pools were really fun, especially the ones outside where the air is cold but you're really comfortable in the steaming water. The temperature is listed for each pool, and they vary between 18 degrees Celsius (64 Fahrenheit) to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees). I think the idea is to get really warm for three to five minutes, and then to spend twenty seconds in the 18 degree pool. There are pools that are more room temperature with lots of jets to relax tired muscles and even a lazy river. The good news is, everyone is clothed and people of all ages are hanging out together. There are even some quiet rooms where you can sit in a comfy chair and read a book or just take a nap. The restaurant on site had good, reasonably priced meals and we had our lunch there.
Then there are the saunas. They are in a separate area and requires a specially purchased ticket. They start at 50 degrees Celsius (122 F) and progressively get hotter, depending on the ones you choose. They are also scented differently with various essential oils depending on when you visit during the day. Oh, and there are certain "dress code requirements," shall we say. You're absolutely required to be nude, although I read online you can wear a towel, people will just think you're weird. So I let people think I was weird, whatever. There's just a lot of nudity going on, especially of the 80-year-old man variety. And let me be real: I was the kid who didn't like changing in front of others in gym class, and I haven't changed a whole lot. So what exactly made me think the nudist colony portion of the spa was going to be my thing, I don't know. Anyway, I can now say I've tried that, and while I like the sauna-heat experience, I don't like the sauna-nudity experience so much. When I own a sauna one day, you're all invited to come...in your swim suits. :)
Landshut was a nice place to stop for lunch on the way back to Munich. It's fun to have a car and the flexibility to stop and see small towns on the way somewhere, instead of being locked into a train schedule.