Having satisfied my Frau's occasional yearning to travel by including her, her aunt and uncle and two other friends in our travel group last year - this year I was looking forward to a solo trip via public transportation. Main problem to resolve - cheap airfare. Turns out I waited too late to start looking. I found an excellent fare for the dates I wanted to travel via a consolidator (bucket shop) - paid for the ticket and got a confirmation. Next day I got a "Sorry we had to cancel your ticket" story because American Airlines terminated their deals with all consolidators (Orbitz, Travelocity, etc) and were no longer accepting tickets purchased via outside agencies. So I waffled for a few months but finally bit the bullet when it looked like the prices were not going to decline like they sometimes do for Fall travel. Ended up using American Airlines (their prices and Lufthansa's were virtually the same) mainly because of the in-flight entertainment modules on all seat backs. Turned out the AA planes flying that route this year did not have the individual monitors and had terrible food service (based on their previous standard that I was expecting) and I have flown AA for the final time (unless they surprise me with some fantastic deals in the coming years - which I seriously doubt will happen). At any rate I had my ticket secured. Next priority - finding a place to rest my head for my first few nights that I would be in-country.
Along about that time I started to have
a few health issues that put the entire trip into question. Thankfully I had purchased trip insurance so if I had
to cancel it wouldn't be a total loss. First I had a stomach hernia (hiatal) which I resolved to deal with by having
minor surgery whereby the surgeon goes up through the belly button and inserts a type of mesh screen. The surgery
would have kept me out of work for a month or so and considering this was during the heat of summer in Texas -
I almost looked forward to it. (I'm a mailman who works outside in the weather). I passed a treadmill stress test
and the surgery was scheduled. Shortly before the surgery date I started having a burning sensation in my chest
while carrying my mail route. I had x-rays to determine if the lungs were at issue but they were not. Next a Cardiologist
determined that I might have blockages to my coronary (heart) arteries so a cardiac catheterization was scheduled.
Two procedures and three stents later and after two months off work out of the grueling Texas sun I was feeling
like a new man thinking happy thoughts about my upcoming trip to Germany. Skip the hernia situation until later
as it is strictly elective surgery anyway.
With just about two months to go - the only thing I had nailed down for my trip was the air and insurance. With my medical situation up in the air I wasn't really sure I wanted to firm up much more than that until I was pretty certain I could make the trip. As my recovery continued in a positive manner I saw no reason to delay more planning. I planned on doing two weeks by train and bus and spending most of it in the Schwarzwald (because of the KONUS program). I had hoped to nail down the first few nights and then just hop a few trains and find the other accommodations a day or so before I needed them. I was looking to find a village I hadn't visited before that was slightly north of the areas that I usually visit in the Forest. A few years ago a Fodorite recommended the village of Kappelrodeck which is just southeast of Achern along a train line in the Achertal. So I lined up an inexpensive Privatzimmer for the first three days. Since I would have to pay for that first train ride from the Frankfurt airport to the Schwarzwald I knew the train to Kappelrodeck would be cheaper than anything further south. Then I found a farm in the Simonswald (along a bus route) for three days. Thought it was for four days but a miscommunication left me with an open day and it turned out to be the exact day I needed for a trip to the Oktoberfest. That worked out very well. Then three days at a farm in the Oberharmersbach area - and on to the Rhine Gorge area for final three days.
Nothing left to do but go over my packing list and ensure everything ready to go. Passport - two ATM cards from two different banks - a credit card for backup - a few hundred in dollars and a few hundred Euro left over from last year and six novels to read along the way (lots of filler time when you travel by public transport). Big day arrives - Frau drops me at DFW - flight is on time - uneventful ride except for excess turbulence, poor in-flight entertainment and less than average food. No fault of the attending crew as they were very polite and friendly. Arrived FRA on time - easy baggage and customs process - and I'm quickly onto a terminal bus to the Frankfurt FernBahnhof (long distance station). Another disadvantage of using American Airlines is that they use Terminal 2 which requires additional ground transport to and from the Bahnhof.
Three more hours and three train changes and I arrive in the small village of Kappelrodeck. I arrive before noon so I check in with the local Tourist Information office. My first accommodation was supposed to be a small inexpensive Privatzimmer a short walk from the town center. I wanted to thank the TI office for their assistance in securing that Privatzimmer for me a few months ago. The Haus did not have a website and no email so I emailed the TI office requesting their assistance. They emailed me back saying they had phoned the Haus and a room was available for me. I wrote back asking them to again phone the Haus and confirm the booking for me. Apparently the booking was not confirmed and the Haus had no room for me this day. But the TI staff were very nice and did find me a Zimmer frei in a Pension a little further outside of town. Turned out well for me as the Pension-Haus was better than and just a few Euro more than the one I thought I had a reservation for. Also turned out to be near a secondary train stop which was to my benefit.
The hostess Frau Hils was wonderful and friendly and the Haus was everything you could expect of German Gemütlichkeit. My room was a spacious doubleroom (with one bed made up) with toilet and shower en suite.
The views from the balcony were excellent as you can see...
The buffet breakfast was typical of what you would expect a German breakfast to be - meats, cheeses, breads, jams, juices, good strong coffee and an egg. Everything I look forward to.
Two excellent restaurants in town...
Try the Vegetarische Küche...
I enjoyed the Putenschnitzel so much I had to go back again...
From Kappelrodeck you can enjoy day trips to neighboring towns on the train line. Ottenhöfen with it's Altstadt and many mills is well worth a visit. My second day I trained and bused to Achern, Rastatt and the beautiful little village of Gernsbach.
I also traveled to Baden-Baden to purchase some train tickets out of the Schwarzwald to be used at later dates (all part of my Seven-P's philosophy (Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance). My third day I just rode the trains here and there - stopping in Gengenbach for the first of several visits and re-conning a farm for my third overnight location the following week. I was hoping to find a shortcut (the hostess had mentioned there was one) from the train station to the farm so I wouldn't have to hump all my baggage so far (and I did find a shortcut thank goodness as the farm is situated on a hillside above the town and would have been much longer had I gone the standard vehicle route).
I was under the impression that the TI office had reserved my room at the Haus Anita for four days but I found out on the third day that I was not covered for the fourth day. Turned out to not be a problem as that fourth day was the 22nd of September and the day some of the Stammtisch were to meet at the Oktoberfest. I gave the Frau a few Euro for watching my bags that day and headed off to Munich on an early morning adventure that got me to the Fest with about a half hour to spare before the guys met in front of the Augustiner Tent at noon. I had not told any of them my plans to travel to the Fest (although they later speculated that they half-way expected to see me there). I was standing out front of the tent off to the side keeping an eye out for Tooooobah or PStuyvsant (knowing they wouldn't be hard to spot). Turned out Jim and Roosia were standing in front of a little building off to the side and I didn't see them but I did spot Larry approach and start talking to them. I had my camera in front of my face snapping photos and got in their faces before they knew I was there.
Good deal - so we went inside and snagged a table (open but reserved from 5 pm out). Gary's brother Jim was there also with his grown son Chris. We had a good reunion of sorts and shared trip adventures for several hours.
I had brought my handy-dandy Magellan GPS
gizmo (with German and Austria maps loaded) for Larry to use the rest of his trip. He said later it had worked
OK for the most part and he named it Hildegarde. He said she told him to turn at several places where there wasn't
a road. I told him if he had called her by her given name of Inga - there wouldn't have been a problem. :) Gary
left around 3:30pm and I didn't last much longer nursing the one Ein Maß. I'm sure Jim and Larry were working
on 3, 4, 5 or more before they left. I wandered around the Fest grounds, in and out of tents, just people watching
and eating Brats. Ended up sitting on the hillside for drunks and nap takers for about an hour just enjoying the
sights. I had time to kill before my late night train ride back to the Schwarzwald. I got to know the Munich Hauptbahnhof
pretty well. For a free toilet (many of the train stations have the pay toilets for one Euro now - who wants to
pay a buck and a half to take a whiz?) go to the Burger King on the second floor and ignore the idiot trying to
get change from you (he's not official - just trying to squeeze tourists I'm sure).
Arrived back in Kappelrodeck early the next morning - secured my luggage - and headed out for the Simonswald valley. Three train changes and a short bus ride later I arrived at my home for the next three nights and ready for a nap (long night and morning of train rides).
This beautiful farm sits well back from
the main road and is about three hundred meters from the bus stop. The Wehrle family were excellent hosts
and couldn't have been nicer. The Frau speaks a little English - her farmer husband even less (but he was a former Briefträger so I had to tell him about my postal service). Their grown daughter Daniela speaks perfect English and came by to talk to me on several occasions.
They have at least one single room (mine was) - several doublerooms and several apartments to rent. All clean and modern, most with balcony access, all with shower and toilet en suite. My room had a huge flat panel satellite TV with excellent reception (BBC and CNN).
Monster breakfast buffet with everything you could ask for of an awesome farm Frühstück.
Musik - Dancing - Comedy - Kinder - Bells - Whips - Log cutting - Simonswald Trachten - great Fest...
This is a celebration of the village cows coming down from the mountain pastures where they have been most of the summer. These 'escorting of the cows" celebrations occur all over Germany. It's always fun to watch as some of the cows almost always get sidetracked into private gardens and alleyways as they are herded through town.
Afterwards it's traditional to enjoy Sauerbraten mit Rotkohl for good luck. Pretty good stuff...
Two nice restaurants in Simonswald...
This comfortable farmhouse is located near the final stop on the Harmersbach valley rail line. Clean, spacious double rooms with shower and toilet en suite. Two nice apartments for up to four persons located in an adjacent holiday house.
All rooms and apartments have balconies overlooking Riersbach and the lush green valley across the way.
The host family Kempf is very friendly and accommodating. Excellent typical German breakfast served in the Frühstückzimmer. My final morning I had to leave early to make my train connections so the Frau brought me the breakfast fixings and made me a nice sandwich to go. For that early morning coffee and pastry - a nice Bäckerei is located just down the hill from the farm.
One day I took a train to Hausach with the
intention of walking from there to the Vogtsbauernhof however I followed behind a group of American tourists on
a Living Tree genealogy tour. Their private bus was waiting for them outside the train station so I walked on and
asked if I could catch a ride with them to the outdoor museum. Their tour guide said if I could talk the bus driver
into letting me go with them it was OK with him so off I went with the tour group and enjoyed the morning revisiting
all the old farmsteads at the Schwarzwälder Freilichtmuseum. From there I caught a bus to Triberg - then a
train to St. Georgen - and then back to Gengenbach and Biberach. Love those free trains and buses...
Another day I visited Freiburg - mostly to find an Apotheke (Magenschmerzen) and an English bookstore (or a large bookstore with an English text section). Found both plus an internet cafe in the large Hauptbahnhof. Walked some of the Altstadt and back on the trains. Fun, easy day...
Two good places for a Bier and a meal - both within thirty meters of the train stop...
I sat in the Biergarten several afternoons - enjoying goulash soup and an Ulmer Bier - reading a book. Sehr nett...
If the Posthörnle is closed for the day - try the
Imbiss at the Mini Golf park just across the street. Nice outside eating area... Mini Golf Park
Mini Golf Park
After three days in the Harmersbach region I took free trains as far as Baden-Baden and from there paid for the trip to Bacharach am Rhein. Took most of the morning but that's basically the same amount of time it takes to drive that distance. In Bacharach it is an easy walk to Haus Irmgard Orth from the train station (about a hundred meters).
Haus Irmgard Orth
This little B&B was one of my favorite experiences of 2009. Irmgard Orth (not to be confused with her sister-in-law Ursula who runs a similiar B&B across the alleyway at Spurgasse 3) is a wonderful little lady. She is all smiles and good cheer and although she speaks very little English she has no problem communicating with her guests no matter what language they speak. A friendlier, sweeter hostess I cannot remember in all my travels in Germany. Several double rooms with shower and toilet located just in the hallway within a few steps of your door. A real bargain considering the location and ambiance of Bacharach. She also serves a very nice breakfast (in two Frühstückzimmer) that includes her homemade jams and jellies and honey from her husband's bee's...
Our old buddy Nate (AsbachNate) had his sweet, beautiful personal assistant Fräulein Elena make reservations for me since Frau Orth has no internet website or email (other than that provided at Ben's Bauernhof). Took a train up to St. Goar for a few hours and spent the rest of the day shopping, watching the river traffic and sitting at outdoor cafes drinking wine and reading.
I can't afford to overnight at this hotel but they have a great outside location for people watching and some reasonable prices on the menu. Right at the main intersection and across from the woodburn shop is the -
Good wine and great Jägerschnitzel...
Later that evening I was window shopping and heading back in the direction of my room when four American tourists approached me and asked if I was BavariaBen. Wow - what a surprise!
Turned out to be Gary and Debby Jones and Gary's sister Julie and her husband Mike from Katy, Texas. Gary had written a trip report for Ben's Bauernhof back in 2007. They said they had recognized me from my old traveling cap and my facial hair. I've had that old cap for several decades so I guess it pays not to change too much. We walked and talked about our trips for about an hour before we said good night as they were heading home the next morning. Good fun... Hope to see another trip report from Gary this year. It was an unexpected pleasure meeting y'all...
Final day in Bacharach I visited with our old friend Frances. Her woodburn shop now sports a 'Recommended by Ben's Bauernhof" sign in her window. Looking good Frances...
Holzbrandkunst Geuß Woodburn
I then purchased a round-trip ticket on the K-D boat to Rüdesheim and rode it as far as Assmannshausen.
I decided mid-ride to finally take the Sesselbahn chairlift from Assmannshausen up to the Hotel Jagdschloss and walk to the Niederwald monument then cable car down the other side to Rüdesheim.
Nice quiet ride through the woods up to the top and then I was thinking it would be a nice short little walk over to the Denkmal. When I got off I got another surprise when I saw the sign that said - Niederwald 3.5 km. Oh well - I'm a mailman and a few more miles shouldn't matter and it was flat walking so no matter.
Thirty minutes later I arrive at the beautiful Niederwald monument currently completely covered top to bottom for renovation and cleaning. We never make the trip up to just see the Denkmal so no worries.
I had bought the combo ticket so I headed for the Seilbahn cable car down to the wine village of Rüdesheim. Then another bit of excitement - a few minutes after clearing the station - the cable ride comes to a complete stop and the cars are bouncing around because of the sudden stop. A few minutes later it starts up and again stops suddenly. Then it starts going in reverse and stops - bouncing wildly. I started having visions of the Tegelberg cable fiasco last year wondering if we would have to have some sort of rescue mission take place. I'm looking down (about 50 feet up or more) and I'm trying to figure out if I can clear the gondola and keep from impaling myself on one of those vineyard poles in case it falls. I try to remember all the major points of a good PLF (parachute landing fall). Bend at the knees, chin tucked in, elbows tucked tight against the body - points of contact - balls of the feet - side of the calf (rolling to the side) - side of the thigh - side of the hip - side of the back (buttocks). I would be dreaming to think I wouldn't just slam into the dirt and leave a bloody crater at that height. At least I was above the vineyards and not the hard top road that runs along that area. I started taking videos for the investigators to include in their evidence.
But eventually we got going again and when I passed the operator at the bottom I told him it was a damn exciting ride and that they should charge extra when that happens... :)
Rest of the day uneventful and closed out the day with a great meal (and inexpensive) at my favorite restaurant in Bacharach - the
I love Bacharach and the surrounding area. I can't imagine a trip to Germany without a visit there...
The Pension Plappert is located in a residential area about ten minutes from the Bahnhof. The house is immaculate, new and modern. Single rooms - Doubles - and a multi-bed apartment - some with a shower in the room. All rooms with cable TV (CNN and BBC). The bath that some rooms share is on the same floor, big and spacious, very clean, with a large tub and separate shower. The owner Frau Iris Plappert is super nice and speaks some English. Her teenage daughter Lea was a recent exchange student in America for a year and speaks perfect English.
I had a single room with the toilet and bath just across the hall.
Just around the corner from the pension I found a great little Imbiss owned and operated by a nice young lady - Heike Birkenstock - who makes what I would consider to be the best burger (not that I eat many burgers) I've ever had in Germany (Hausgemachter Burger, mit Rindfleisch patty, Salat and Käse, dazu Kartoffelecken). Heike bought and renovated the Worschtebud earlier in the year and runs it entirely on her own putting in 16 hour days. Best of luck with the business Heike... Yummy Jägerschnitzel mit Pommes for 4.90 Euro...
Budenheim is centrally located and day trips to Mainz, Wiesbaden, Frankfurt and the Rhine Gorge would be easy to make via train or auto.
Early morning train to the airport (30 minutes) with a
quick change in Mainz. Security checks extensive but easy if you don't wait until the last minute to show up. Everything
out of your pockets, belt, glasses, shoes, liquids bag in the tray - walk thru portal. If the alert bell goes off
you get wanded and frisked and I noticed even some of the 'no-alert bell' folks got wanded. I made the mistake
of wearing jeans home with the metal fly buttons so I was a definite wand and frisk. But even with the multiple
security check points it was fairly painless. Just be sure to take that final toilet tinkle before entering the
final gate security. Our flight home (AA) was delayed over an hour due to switching aircraft and I noticed a lot
of folks having to exit and re-enter gate security. My biggest issue this year was arriving back at DFW and having
to go thru the Inspection Form station. The line for EU residents was long but the US residents line was unbelievable.
Worse than any ride queue at any entertainment park you've ever been to. S-line maze filled the building and almost
out the back door. Took over an hour. Perhaps just too many incoming flights arriving at around the same time but
totally unacceptable just for Inspection Form check.
Overall - a great trip - stuck to my shoestring budget (except for splurging on a train ticket to the Oktoberfest) and buying too much chocolate for the Frau and friends. Found Ritter Sports for the Sonderpreise of 65 cents at my last location so I couldn't resist. I can get them in Texas but the price is more than double what I paid. Back in Texas and the 100 degree days are history for this year but it's still in the high 80's. I miss Germany already...
And finally - again I beg the question - Ice cream or Bier?
In this case - Eis...
Found this awesome Eisbecher at the Eis Café Engel along the Drosselgasse in Rüdesheim. Great spot for people watching...