Germany has thoughtfully laid out several tourist routes that simplify trip planning, especially for rental car road trips. Then, when you get to Germany and head out, it really simplifies driving to follow the scenic route designation road signs because the recommended route involves a lot of changing of roads. You can ignore the route number signs, just follow the designated route markers. There are at least three such routes:
I like the Black Forest route the least of the great German Road trips. If you have explored America's Appalachian mtns, the Jura or Vosges on the west side of the Rhine, when it comes to the Black Forest, you have been there and done that. All that's added by visiting the Black Forest are cuckoo clocks. Yeah sure, if you live in some flat place like Kansas, you will be impressed by these minor hills, but just wait until you see real mountains. The twisting, turning narrow roads make for very slow going. We saw it. Didn't like it. Hove nothing more to say about it than don't do it.
The Romantic Road runs through 28 designated towns between Wurzburg and Fussen. The star attractions on the Romantic Road are Rothenburg o.d.T. and Neuschwanstein Castle, but there is much more worth seeing. Augsburg was home to the Fuggers, the richest family in the world in the Middle Ages. Fugger the Rich was a banker, and lived like one, but keep in mind, that in those days, even rich was poor by later standards. That's why the Fuggger palace in downtown Augsburg doesn't knock your socks off the way something like Versailles does. Fugger the Rich had a modicum of social responsibility. He built and operated the Fuggerai, a complex of small rent free houses for the poor of Augsburg. Today the Fuggerai seems to be housing for the elderly
A short side trip off the Romantic road is the Wieskirche (church in the meadow), one of the great masterpieces of Baroque architecture for its perfection of restrained decoration.. When Domnicus Zimmerman, the designer and builder of the Wieskirche. finished the job, he retired, built himself a house nearby, and spent the rest of his days visiting his masterpiece. As soon as you step inside the Wieskirche, you will understand why, because the interior of the Wieskirche exudes rightness. It just could not ever be anything other than the way it is. You need to see it to understand it.
From the size of the parking lot and the crowds, Neuschwanstein Castle must be one of the EU's major tourist sights, but almost everybody sees Neuschwanstein Castle wrong. Typically, wait 45 minutes to buy a ticket, wait 45 minutes for the transportation up the steep hill to the castle entrance, 45 minutes for the tour, and wait again to ride back down the steep hill. The interior is not finished. The tour of Neuschwanstein Castle not worth either the time nor the money required for the visit. What makes Neuschwanstein Castle a world famous sight is the tourist parking lot. The view of Neuschwanstein Castle from the parking lot is second only to the view from the parking lot at Sundance Ski resort in Utah as parking lot views go. Even better is the view from the Marianbruke bridge, especially at dusk when the chandeliers in the great hall of Neuschwanstein Castle are illuminated. Take a flashlight. You will probably end up hiking back down the hill in the dark.
Other fine views of Neuschwanstein Castle are from the front windows of the Hotel Lisl's restaurant and from the corner room where we stayed in the Hotel Lisil where the front window overlooks Neuschwanstein Castle and the side window overlooks Hoenschwangau Castle.
The German Alpine Road really connects Salzburg and Lindau. Near the Salzburg end, a side trip to Bad Reichenhall, a small attractive spa town without too many tourists who are not there taking the Waters. Another worthwhile side trip here is Bad Reichenhall to Lofer in Austria, drive south of the Wilder Kaiser stop at Soell, to Kufstein, and re join the official German route. This will require a little back tracking.
I'm looking at some official German web site on the Alpine road, and oddly, it does not mention Herrenchiemsee All of which brings up Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. King Ludwig III built or remodeled five palaces. Four of them are on the Alpine road-- Neuschwanstein Castle, Hoenschwangau Castle, Linderhoff, and Herrenchiemsee. First, Ludwig spruced up the ancestral palace in Munch. Then he remodeled Linderhoff, his best completed effort. Then he started Neuschwanstein, and before Neuschwanstein was finished, he began Herrenchiemsee with express intention of making Versailles look like a dump in comparison. All these pleasure palaces for the King brought Bavaria, one of the richest kingdoms in the EU, to the brink of bankruptcy, so Ludwig's Cabinet Secretaries drowned him early in the morning one day in the lake behind the Hotel Lisl. There are more finished interior rooms in Herrenchiemsee Place than Neuschwanstein, and they are orders of magnitude more impressive. Drive the Alpine Road. See Herrenchiemsee.
Four of Mad King Ludwig's five palaces are more or lees on the Alpine Road. Shortly after Linderhoff palace, the Alpine Road joins the Romantic Road for the trip into Fussen, the Alpine Road also includes Neuschwanstein Castle, Hoenschwangau Castle, and the Wieskirche.
The Alpine Road officially ends at Lindau on the Bodensee (Lake Constance). That's dumb. If one town on the Bodensee is part of the route, why isn't all of the lake, especially since it gets better traveling west from Lindau. We find Meersburg more attractive than Lindau and there re several outstanding Baroque Churches along the north shore of the Bodensee, and on the south shore in St Galen, Switzerland.
An unusual trip within a trip-- the islands of southern Germany-- can be incorporated into the Alpine Road trip: 1] Herrenchiemsee Island with gardens and the palace. Drive to the pier, take the boat to the island, transfer to horse cart for the trip thorough the forest and gardens to the palace; 2] Lindau is a town that completely covers an island in the Bodensee; Also in the Bodensee are 3] Reichenau Island, a wind swept coastal vacation spot, very free of foreign tourists when we spent a night there; and 4] Mainau Iselnd, by ferry boat from Meersbung, a mansion and a rich collection of tropical plants.