Part 1 - The Rhine
Sept. 13, 2000
It's 2:30 p.m. and we are just walking out the door...but, wait! Have to get the phone...could be the Pentagon, right? Nope...just USAirways informing us that our flight is 4 hours late. My curiousity wins out and I ask, "Why?" Just a small mechanical problem, I'm told. Our two traveling companions, Carson and Michelle, are here also and I impart this information to them. "Probably just missing an engine" is Carson's deduction. (Very calming, Carson...thanks for the input!)
Oh well...nothing we can do about this, so we decide to head out for the Pittsburgh Airport anyway with a stop at Dino's in Latrobe. Dino's has the most fantastic garlic bread you could ever imagine...and great beer to boot! We stop in for a very late lunch, beers for the boys and water for the girls...being the designated driver, I'm not about to drink and drive.
Back in the van to continue our trip. We check back in with USAirways and find out the plane is now 5 1/2 hours late. Just a backup in Frankfurt...no mechanical problem at all. Carson's twisted mind is sure the pilot and crew spent too much time at Oktoberfest and they're all drunk! "Takes one to know one, Carson", I smirk.
While the stop at Dino's was fine, it proved to be a major mistake in one way. Seems Carson's bladder is about the size of an English pea and every 20 minutes, we have to make a 'pit stop' for him. (He's getting on my nerves and we haven't even reached the airport yet...argh!...you're lucky I love you, Carson). Finally arrive, check bags, park van and settle into our seats.
The Airbus 330 is a marvelous plane...great room in the peon section and nice and clean. Unfortunately, the food is not too good - at least as compared to our last trip in December. My only other complaint is the air conditioning system. I sat next to the window and it was so cold we actually saw frost...true story! I borrowed Ed's blanket and tried to barricade the AC duct, but to no avail. While I was traveling in a very comfortable seat, my feet were traveling in a meat locker...they froze!
I did not sleep at all...typical for me. And, I must say, the trip over the Atlantic was simply breathtaking! The sky was crystal clear...all the constellations were shimmering in all their glory...and the clouds below looked like a carpet of freshly fallen snow. Quite a sight!
Sept. 14, 2000
Arrival time in Frankfurt was to be 6:40 a.m. After circling for about 1/2 hour, we landed at 12:30 p.m. A half day gone! But, at this point, I didn't care. I just wanted my feet to thaw out...they actually burned they were so cold. (I took this as an omen to down a bier the first opportunity I had...the gods had spoken!)
We claimed our bags...breezed through customs...and headed for Terminal 1 to catch the train to Oberwesel am Rhein. Met a lovely Canadian couple on the train who shared their pictures and insights with us. The landscape suddenly gleamed upon the Rhine...so lovely and lively with all the barges going to and fro...the vineyards stretching majestically on the hillsides...and the castle ruins just beckoning us to explore them!
Carson and Michelle thought we were spending our first two nights in Bacharach, but I surprised them with an overnight in the Castle Auf Schonburg in Oberwesel. What a treat! After walking our bags up "cardiac hill" (since the tractor to haul our luggage was no where in sight), we settled into a lovely room overlooking the Rhine. The view was awsome, as was this very pristine and comfortable castle hotel.
We all took some time to wash up, change, and headed
downstairs to the courtyard for some libation. By this time, it was almost dinnertime. We opted to get a taxi into
town, as we would be eating breakfast in the castle and wanted to check out the lovely, little town of Oberwesel.
Our taxi driver recommended a bistro for dinner and it was just super! The bartender/owner was more than accommodating.
His wife was the head cook and all the soups were homemade. I had Gulaschsuppe (my first of many) and the Zweibelschnitzel
with a mixed salad and wonderful fried potatoes. This was, without a doubt, one of my best meals of the entire
trip...and, I found it in a little bistro!
Ed's Champignonschnitzel was superb also...he raved and raved about it! Michelle followed Carson's lead and they had cheese sandwiches...yes...cheese sandwiches.. (A little side note, if you please: Carson had been in Heidelberg in March and fell in love with Vetters and their meat and cheese platter. We heard about that cheese platter for all of 4 1/2 months...nearly drove us insane! So...all he wanted was a cheese platter. The bistro didn't have such an animal and he had to settle for the sandwiches. Poor soul...he doesn't know what he missed in not ordering the schnitzel! Reader beware! This is just the beginning of the "cheese saga" as far as Carson goes.)
The owner provided us with his favorite bier...can't remember what it was, but it sure was good. He also suggested we try the Neue Wein. It was great and very potent! We were all feeling very happy...something akin to dying and going to Valhalla. But...the night was young and so were our spirits!
Back to the hotel, where we pulled out our stash of biers that we had bought at a grocery store before eating. We sat out on the terrace beneath our bedroom windows. It was a glorious night...so cool, serene and quiet. The lanterns on the terrace cast a warm glow on the gorgeous flower boxes...quite lovely, to say the least!
We met a family from Iowa celebrating their father's 90th birthday. He was a wonderful gent...very spry with a keen sense of humor. Seems his son-in-law, who was there, is a radiologist at the same hospital in Waterloo that my father had worked at in the 50's. It never ceases to amaze me how small the world is!
We drank alot of bier...don't know how much, but we finally ended up in our room...still downing the bier! By now it was 2 or 2:30 a.m. and I am bushed. I relented to the sandman and slept like a baby!
Sept. 15, 2000
Awoke at 10 a.m. Pretty late to sleep and we missed breakfast, but felt rested and raring to go. We checked out and waited...and waited...and waited for a taxi to take us to the train station. Finally got there, after a harrowing ride down the hill...thank goodness the car had brakes or we would have been goners for sure!
A word about Auf Schonburg: If you ever get the chance to stay in this charming hotel, please don't hesitate! It was everything we had hoped for in a castle stay. The rooms were nicely sized, with very comfortable beds and those delectable german comforters! The bathrooms were modern and immaculate...the staff very congenial...and the whole property just stunning! It's a treat and well worth it! Our rooms, which were Rhine View, were about $150 USD per night including breakfast, service and all taxes. A bit of a splurge, but I'd stay there again in a second...even if I had to sell my firstborn to do it. Of course, my firstborn is a teen now and I probably wouldn't get much for her! :o)
After a short train ride, we arrive in Bacharach. The town didn't disappoint us after our night of living like royalty in the castle. It's very quaint with lots of gingerbread and beautiful flowers flowing out of every window. We walk to our hotel...the Kraneturm.
Much has been said about this hotel. It is located directly on the railroad tracks in Bacharach and some have complained about the constant noise from the trains. I had tried to get rooms at the Altkonischerhof Hotel, but it wasn't available. So, I settled for the Kraneturm. The price was certainly right...about $50 USD for the night, all inclusive. And, since Carson lives next to railroad tracks and is used to sleeping through the noise, plus the fact he is hard of hearing, I thought this place would be great. My plan was to drink enough that I, too, wouldn't be bothered by the noise. Wrong! I didn't sleep a wink...guess I didn't drink enough! Just as I would fall asleep...I could swear a train was going to run right up my rear! Sorry...but it's the truth! It got so that I could tell the direction the trains were going in...going north was much louder than those traveling to the south, and...they never ceased. "Click-clack, click-clack...whoosh!" What a night!
But I regress! After we settled into our rooms, we were anxious to get out and explore! (We laughed with glee at the American who boasted that he was staying in one of the tower rooms where Prince - the musician - had stayed. The Kraneturm doesn't have an elevator. We were thrilled not to have to haul our bags any further than the 2nd floor. "Take the tower room you oaf...you braggart...you still can't escape the trains!!!!!" (There...got that off my chest!)
Walked the few blocks (about 2) to the center of town. Sat outside at the Altkonischerhof Hotel for lunch. And, what a lunch it was. Carson opted for a liquid lunch, but Ed, Michelle and I had the special: Cream of Potato Soup, Mixed Salad, Roasted Chicken Breast in Fruited Curry Sauce with Rosti and Dessert. It was terrific and only $11.00 USD. Tried my first Spezi...coke with orange fanta...super and quite refreshing! After the night before, I needed to rehydrate, so I drank more than a couple. Just couldn't bring myself to have a bier.
After walking a bit in town, we decided to take the train to Rudesheim. Caught the ferry after having a lovely dunkles bier at an outside cafe. (A little hair of the dog that bit me!) Landed in Rudesheim and headed straight to the Drosselgasse. This is a marvelous little street...filled (and I mean filled) with weinstubes, music and people everywhere! We listened to the carillon for a few minutes, took lots of pictures, and found a seat at the Linderwirt. They had a band playing and people were dancing all over the place. Lo and behold! Carson found his first cheese platter...the saints be praised! But...ahem! Carson...it's
true that cheese 'binds', isn't it? Not what dear old Carson needed at that point, but he went for it anyway (after Ed assured him that he had Dulcolax on hand, that is).
A word about the male digestional system...Just what gives here? For our entire two weeks of travel, all Michelle and I heard was how things were going with Ed's and Carson's intestinal tracts. Get a grip, boys! And Carson...lay off the cheese...please! After a few cold ones, we decided to take the funicular up to the statue of Germania. Naturally, we waited until we only have 15 minutes before the last cars return to town! We scurried to the statue...took the obligatory photos...and ran back to the funicular. Whew! We made it back down.
Caught the ferry and train back to Bacharach and rested awhile before heading out for dinner. We lucked upon the Wolfhohle. It was packed with people, who we later learned were a local bowling team who always came in after their game. It was terribly hot and loud inside, so we sat outside with some very rowdy German men. It was a little chilly, but we were warmed by the great bier! Michelle and I were in the mood for pizza and we weren't disappointed. We both ordered the pizza with ham, salami, and pepperoni. Ed ordered a pepperoni and mushroom pizza. I don't think Carson ordered any food...he was into his 'hydroburgers' again. When the pizza arrived, we quickly deduced that salami was actually our version of pepperoni and that pepperoni were peppers. I loved it! Great flavor...one of the best pizzas I've ever had. Unfortunately, too hot for Ed, but the great Kolsch bier eased his scorched tongue!
We stayed awhile as things got louder and louder from the group of male bowlers. Some of their female cohorts joined them and they were having quite a time! We finally got to know this raucous group and they turned out to be such fun people. Johnny, who had been a taxi driver in Sydney, spoke great English and was such a help to us. Crazy Rita was the rabble-rouser of the group. She had a 'hankering' for Carson...went so far as to try to put her hands down his pants, which I think Carson thought was quite a compliment...typical male! But, she was actually harmless. We talked and talked and took quite a few pictures...one of which I vowed I would send to Rita. Yup...a picture with just her and Carson...hands all in their proper place however! :)
Back to the Kraneturm where we watched the Olympics and drank a few more biers. Just as we were settling in, we experienced a fantastic thunderstorm... complete with awesome lightening, etc. It was sensational to look out across the Rhine and see the lightening light up the vista! I just love a good thunderstorm! Then....trains, trains, and more trains. (They should exhume Casey Jones and inter him at the Kraneturm!)
Sept. 16, 2000
Can't say I awoke at any such time, as I never did sleep. Dressed and went down for breakfast. It was quite good...the usual meat, cheese, hot rolls (what a treat), jams, etc. and a nice extra...scrambled eggs (well done...hooray!) and sausage. Plus orange juice and coffee. Super breakfast and one of our favorites...until later.
We checked out but left our bags in storage. It was very chilly out...definitely sweater or jacket weather. We walked into town again and hiked up to Burg Stahleck, which is now a youth hostel.
It was quite a hike for me...after all...I get "winded
running to the bathroom". I was nicely warmed up by the time we reached the top...O.K., O.K....truth be told,
I was...shall we say..."perspiring"? But on the plus side, I figured I dropped about 5 lbs. of bier from
all the sweating! (Thank goodness I brought my Mitchum topped off with Shower-to-Shower powder!) Everyone is bundled
up and I'm now in a sleeveless top, wishing I'd had a bikini...not to mention, wishing I looked good in a bikini!
After exploring the castle as best we could, since they had a group staying there, we took photos and walked back down to gather our bags. Headed for the train station. We just missed the next train to Mannheim so we waited awhile for the following train. Boarded the train and Carson just has to have a bier, so we pop a few. What terrific beer this is...Marker Clausthaler. I could have let him drink it all down before I informed him it was alcohol free, but I just couldn't resist. I wish I'd had a picture of him telling us how good that beer was and then the look on his face when I told him it was alcohol free! Priceless!
We change trains in Mannheim and head to our next destination...Heidelberg. We had loved the Rhine! Felt a little shortchanged because of our late arrival into Germany. We had planned on traveling up to St. Goar our first day there, but just didn't have the time. Oh well! Our short stay had been wonderful...made all the more memorable by the nice people we had met, plus...now we had more reason to return some day.
At this point, I guess I should refer to my subtitle: "Never travel with a brand new tube of mascara". We've all been there...traveling abroad where we just know we'll never find our favorite brand of makeup...right? So, I bought a new tube of my favorite mascara... Maybelline, no less. Can probably find it in any 'hole in the wall' store anywhere... probably in the Serengetti, even! But I had to pack my new one!!!
So, I spent most of this trip doing my best Norma Desmond impersonation...that darned mascara clumped so much that my eyes would stick together when I blinked. I missed alot that way! And, I would constantly have little flecks of black under my eyes which, naturally, nobody told me about, until I'd come in for the day and wash my face and see it. Then...horror! Shades of the Little Rocky Horror Show. I kept wondering why the locals were all muttering "Crazy American" when I would walk by..... The good news is that, now that I'm back home, that mascara is just perfect! Isn't that the way it always goes?!