by PStuyvsant (Larry)
Day 1 - "You go first"
(Wednesday - September 15th)
Another long year of planning has finally passed. Despite numerous rewrites, it looks like we have managed to come up with another winner of an itinerary. New territory beckons and we are up to the task. The only difference this time around is that logistics has forced us to have to depart solo. It appears Ben has lucked out and scored a freebie in the form of going standby, because he rates the family plan since the daughter and son-in-law are airline employees. Some folks get all the luck...
I, on the other hand, have done the usual scouting of all the major internet sites looking for the best deal for a direct flight from DFW. Once again, at least for me, ever reliable Flights.com comes through with a R/T on Lufthansa for $660 which I quickly pounce on.
The other major expense, and it seems to get worse every year, is of course the car. After checking at least a dozen sites, I am starting to get numb from the sticker shock when none other than Andy at Gemütlichkeit manages to get us a compact price, but with a free upgrade to a standard, for $580 for 15 days. We grab it.
As always, we divide up the task of making reservations for accommodations. Because we are both farm buffs, there is no argument about where we will be staying along the way. We divy up the trip into seven different layovers, comprised of six two-nighters, and one three-nighter.
Just days before departure I make one last trip to Ben's house so we can go over the game plan one final time. Because this is a first for him going the standby routine, he has a last minute change and has decided to try and get out on Sunday Sept 12th, whereas I am due to depart on Wednesday the 15th. Since I am picking up the car, and then meeting up in Rothenburg, the last thing we can afford is for him to get bumped to later in the week and me get there ahead of him. His reservations in Rothenburg are already confirmed, and it's a little late to be rolling the dice.
About two hours after his scheduled departure I call up Dee Dee and sure enough, get the good news that he managed to get the last available seat and is on his way. First hurdle out the way, so far so good.
The next potential problem gets a little tricky as we have never tried it before. The plan is for him to stop by the EuropCar counter on arrival, flash them a copy of the contract which is in my name, and see if they will go ahead and add him into the computer as the alternate driver. This should save us some extra time. Nice plan... however.....
The next few days pass quickly for me and on Wednesday morning I swing by the office to go through the motions of actually doing something, which I do quite well. I set up an out of office reply for mail, leave a voice mail for the phone, and within a couple of hours I am out the door.
My flight is at 3:30, and since old habits die hard, I show up at the counter promptly at 1:00. More good luck, there are only three people checking in, and within ten minutes I am done. Security is happy I'm not carrying any "no no's", and I head over to the bar and order up a Samuel Adams to await my ride.
Right on time Lufthansa 438 from Frankfurt lands at 1:30, and it looks like my lucky streak is continuing. From here all goes smoothly from boarding until arrival a full 45 minutes early the next morning (love those German timetables). :0)
The carousel is spitting out bags as I grab a cart, just in time to see mine coming off. This is great I'm thinking as I head off to the car counter, only to encounter the first unplanned event. I whip out a copy of Ben's license and ask them to sign him up as the other driver. No can do. They don't accept copies and state that both parties must be present. It wasn't until later I found out Ben ran into the same problem. Looks like we lose this round.
After much wrangling, to no avail, I manage to get a listing of all their offices in Germany, resigned to the fact we will have to go to Plan B and take care of things somewhere along the way. As a last resort (I always have to ask), I kindly plead with the counter attendant for a free upgrade to a station wagon, (even though I already had an upgrade from compact to standard) and, Voila.... my wish is their command and I am given a new Opel navy blue 4-door, with beaucoup room for bags. Maybe the guy just took pity, who knows, but at least it takes some of the sting away from losing the battle.
In minutes I have cleared the airport grounds and pick up the A3 toward Würzburg. I haven't gone a mile when I hit hurdle number two.... a three lane Stau with me in the middle lane. :0( For the next twenty minutes it is creepy crawly. Ben is expecting me around noon, having followed my flight on the handy internet flight tracker, but at this rate it may be noon tomorrow. Finally, the traffic on the right starts to pick up speed near an exit, as I see all kinds of Fest signs advertising something going on in Frankfurt. The main thing is I am soon free and off and running to make up some time.
With no further glitches the rest of the two hour trip goes smoothly, and a few minutes before noon I am pulling up to the parking lot by the Gasthof-Hotel Zum Rappen, just outside Gallows Gate (Galgentor), the appointed meeting spot. Looks like Ben has gotten a step on me and is already cooling his heels on a bench just outside the entrance, looking quite relaxed after three days lounging around Rothenburg. But hey.... THE PLAN WORKED!!!
After a quick stop at a Sparkasse so I can change some moolah (1 Euro = $1.27), we pick up his bags from the Haus Karin where he spent the last couple of days, and are soon outbound for points South. Our first destination is the little town of Weltenburg, about two hours away in the Altmühltal. I feel like death warmed over due to jet lag, so Ben takes the wheel the rest of the way (gutsy huh). Around 3:00 we arrive at the Ferienhof Köglmaier and are greeted by our friendly hosts the family Lehner-Köglmaier.
We have scored two nice DZ's on the top floor of the house, each with shower and toilet, and breakfast, for only 26E per night each. Not a bad start.
While yours truly begs to lay down for a few minutes just to "rest my eyes" in what turns out to be a dead-to-the-world two hour nap, Ben manages to scout out the local area to get the lay of the land. Around 6 pm I feel up to venturing out for dinner to a place recommended by fellow Stammtisch member - Charbown, who has also explored this area before. We end up at the "Brauereigasthof Schneider", a nice looking brewery/gasthaus located on a quiet canal beside the river in Essing where we proceed to order up a couple of delicious Putenschnitzels with mushrooms and rice...yum...yum...
While waiting on the meal we strike up a conversation with the owner, who seems to recall that Charbrown has indeed been there. "Oh yes, he was that nice gentleman with the American Military". Oh well... who are we to ruin the moment.
Luckily I managed to make it through the night without
the usual body clock disorientation, which has a bad habit of waking me up around 2 am. By 6:00 we are up and
getting ready for a full day of playing tourist. It definitely got chilly last night as I had to turn on the radiator
next to the bed. I venture out for my usual morning stroll to check out the farm. It has been in the family for
generations and it shows. Tons of old equipment are stored in the barn, there are the usual flock of chickens and
even a couple of hogs. There is even a herd of deer inside the fenced in area next to the house, but we find out
later they belong to a neighbor who turns them loose to graze.
At 8:00 the Frau shows up in the Frühstück room which is roomy and quite cozy. Since we are the only guests, seating is our choice. The table is soon loaded down with a delicious selection of the usual goodies. Meats, cheese, those great crunchy rolls, and best of all... a huge pot of coffee which we quickly dive into.
She draws up a couple of brews and sits down to chat
with us. All of a sudden through the front door comes one of the locals carrying a freshly killed deer from the
nearby woods. It appears it will soon be on the menu as it has already been gutted. Renate states that venison
is one of the house specialties. Unfortunately we don't have the time to hang around and find out.
After about an hour we get up to leave and ask what the tab is. Nothing she states - Anyone who knows Chuck is worth a free Bier. Now that's hospitality :0). We offer to leave some money for Bier for Chuck in return, but she won't hear of it. Another nice encounter with the locals, who just a short time ago didn't even know we existed. I guess a smile and kind words do go a long way after all.
The next stop on our list is a nice looking Sommerrodelbahn which we know to be in the area. Being luge addicts we cannot afford to pass up this opportunity. As it turns out we have the place to ourselves, and are soon strapped-in and making our way up to the top of a large hill for the ride down. With cameras going we let off the brakes and off we go (now I know why dogs like to stick their head out of the car). The cool breeze in my face feels great as I zoom over the course. I could stay at one of these places all day, but we do have a schedule to keep and so off we go.
Our last stop of the day, as it is now getting on to mid-afternoon, is Castle Prunn. A huge medieval affair with a foundation carved out of solid rock, and perched high upon what appears to be a sheer vertical cliff . We join a small group just starting the tour (in German), but once inside we are free to roam and take our fill of pics. This is definitely an old place, and I can only assume the death rate was quite high in winter as it is definitely cold in the rock lined corridors and dark room.