In the small town of Oberammergau, Germany, there’s a mom and pop B&B that typifies exactly why I love staying at one of a kind, local, family establishments.
It’s called Gasthof zur Rose and it’s a simple hotel and kitchen run by a husband and wife duo whose children are now grown.
Jim and I happened upon Oberammergau and Gasthof zur Rose on a spur of the moment trip where we decided to rent a car and check out the Bavarian countryside outside of Munich.
We often travel Europe without booking hotels in advance — it allows us to split up, shop around, and get a feel for a place before committing to stay there. Plus, we’ve often scored killer deals just by showing up on the doorstep the day of, especially in the shoulder season.
This time around, I didn’t find anything especially awesome, but Jim said he found a place that he thought I’d like. I followed him over to a large A-frame house with cheery green shutters and wooden balconies overflowing with late season flowers. It felt familiar.
We walked past the dining hall filled with people and delicious aromas, to the check-in counter. It was plastered with photos of the hotelier and her children, husband, and other family members participating in Oberammergau’s famous Passion Play. I realized that this was the place I had stayed as a teen years earlier on a family vacation in the summertime.
The hotelier’s husband bustled by out of the kitchen and offered to show us a room. The atmosphere was a little chaotic and fun. The room was perfect with big doors opening onto a large shared porch with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. We decided to take it.
Back downstairs, the husband went back into the kitchen. At the check-in counter we made small talk with the wife as we gave our information. I mentioned how incredible it was to drive on the autobahn. I told her I was averaging 175 kph (108mph), and that cars were still whizzing by. She laughed, and said it was not uncommon for cars to average 250 kph (155mph)! And she thought it was so interesting how foreigners found it such a unique experience, when for her as she said with a shrug and smile “it’s just typical.”
We decided to eat dinner at the hotel. And it was as tasty as it smelled. I recounted my first visit there to Jim.
The first time I visited, I was a teen on family vacation in the summertime. The hoteliers children still lived at home at the time, and the place was packed. Oberammegau is known for its woodcarving guilds, and the B&B hosted a free marionette show with gorgeous puppets made by the towns’ woodcarvers. We decided to check it out, and though my youngest brother at the time was already older than the average attendee, we absolutely loved it.
We sat on the back row bench in a large basement room. It was filled with young children, townsfolk, German tourists, and a miniature stage for the puppets. It was fascinating to watch the story unfold in a language we didn’t understand. It seemed like a variation of Hansel and Gretal, with a witch in the woods and children protagonists.
The climax of the story happened when the witch puppet offered the puppet children some poisoned soup. A narrator standing in front of the miniature stage called out to the audience and asked us if the puppet children should eat the soup. All the German kinder started yelling “nien! nien!” Several stood up on the bench yelling a warning to the puppet children, before their mothers pulled them back down and quieted them. It was a fun and unique experience and became a favorite refrain for the rest of the family trip.
Jim laughed at my story. He had heard it before, and wondered how we had just happened on the same hotel again 15 years later. It was a pleasant and cozy evening.
The next day we explored the surrounding area. We enjoyed the town and Gasthof zur Rose so much, we decided to stay another night before returning to Munich. It’s exactly the type of experience we look for when we’re finding a room for the night. And exactly the reason why I love staying in mom and pop B&Bs.
This is what it feels like to drive on the autobahn (Laura’s account)
Being a passenger on the autobahn is terrifying (Jim’s account)
— Laura Rowley