Looking back on the year 2013 I would have to list three highlights for myself and our family. First being the birth of another grandgoober (our first grandson - Connor). Secondly - my retirement from the ranks of the working class. Hopefully I have put on a uniform for the last time. After twenty plus years of becoming a young man in the military and twenty plus years of becoming an old man with the US Postal Service I finally said enough. Thirdly - another awesome vacation in the land of Schnitzels and Lederhosen.
For whatever I might be remembered for at the Post Office where my Frau and I worked for 26 years - I know most of our fellow workers will remember me for my annual jaunts to Germany and Austria. After two years of quiet and solitude (2011 being a solo adventure and 2012 a second honeymoon for Dee Dee and I) - I decided to liven up the experience by inviting some of our fellow letter carriers along for the ride. Initially - we had half a dozen interested but after a planned summer trip fell apart due to lack of enough vacation spots available - we settled for an autumn trip with three of our favorite mail toters - Ricky, Frances and Rolando. With all vacation spots confirmed - I got into the enjoyable task of planning a trip that hopefully they would remember for a lifetime.
Itinerary: Visiting southern Germany with a group of firsttime overseas travelers requires a plan that must include highlights of the Rhine Gorge, the Schwarzwald and of course Bavaria. With only two weeks to play with - I ended up with three days in the Black Forest - three days in the Royal Castles area near Füssen - three days in the alpine region of Berchtesgaden - two days exploring Rothenburg ob der Tauber - and finishing up with a few days on the Rhine in and around Bacharach.
Ground Trans: With five adults and accompanying
luggage to worry about - car rental options are limited at best. It comes down to renting two small cars or one
multi-passenger van. Wanting to keep our group together and able to benefit from the musings of the tour guide
- I opted for a 7 passenger van (cost $1009). Split five ways - the price was tolerable. The biggest question became
- would we have enough room for the passengers and their baggage. Some folks on the internet travel forums thought
we would be OK - others considered that it would be a stretch for us to be comfortable. That would play out in
our favor at the AVIS counter at Frankfurt airport.
Air Trans: Airfares to Europe are becoming tougher to deal with (especially on tight budgets). Flying out of DFW you have basically two main choices - American Airlines or Lufthansa. Until I change my mind my choice will be Lufthansa. The prices are within a few dollars so it becomes personal preference. This year Lufthansa was on time and provided great in-flight service.
Accommodations: It was important to me to
give our new tourists a taste of rural Germany and Austria. And that translates to farms and B&B type lodging.
No big cities - no hotels. I went with tried and true places where I knew the owners (or knew well of the owner
based on our Stammtisch's recommendations).
Smooth flight - awesome service to Frankfurt. Buses from airplane to terminal - no fun (especially for a wife with motion sickness problems). Customs and baggage claim - piece of cake. Good hump through the bowels of the terminal to car rentals. The AVIS desk attendant was having a problem entering our info in her computer and was taking an especially long time. I spent the time asking questions about upgrading to a 9 passenger van and we ended up with a 9 pax Mercedes for an additonal 125 Euro (including the amount for an additional driver, GPS and automatic trans). Our lucky day - lots of additional space for crew and luggage at minimal cost and a diesel to boot.
Headed south on A-5 to Offenburg then southeast on B-33 to Gutach. A lot of driving on a day of arrival but between two drivers - not so bad.
and an afternoon at the Zum Sternen in Urach. Tina was the only family member in residence that day but she introduced us to Chico and her new dog Mikey. Tina spoke of retirement in the near future for herself and Rudi and turning over the Sternen to Marina. It seems like only yesterday that Marina was just a cute kid...
There are several nice restaurants in the Gutach area. Here are three where we ate this trip -
The drive south to Reutte, Austria was fairly uneventful except for one Umleitung that had us frustrated and going in a big circle for a while. We stopped for lunch in Meersburg on the Bodensee and enjoyed walking the Altstadt for a few hours.
Tel - 5672/67697
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
While staying here - there is an excellent restaurant located just a short stroll from the farm. Gabi and her staff are awesome and once again allowed us to sit at the owner's family table since the restaurant was full that evening. The first time we were here a few years ago the same thing happened. Excellent service - excellent food... Thanks Gabi and Alex...
Tel - 5672/62585
Email - email@example.com
From the Gintherhof we visited -
Annelies also hooked us up with free tickets on the Hahnenkamm cable lift in Höfen.
From the Tyrol we drove southeast to Berchtesgaden area for three days (home base Ramsau at the farm Waxenlehen).
Herbert and Katharina Sieger
Tel - 8657/1502
Email - Sieger-Waxen@freenet.de
Cafe Gasthof Baltram
Tel - 8657/572 ~ Fax - 8657/705
Email - BALTRAM.RAMSAU@t-online.de
On the evening that the Baltram was closed (Monday) we enjoyed the Hofbrauhaus in Berchtesgaden.
If you visit the Hofbrauhaus on a Friday evening you might be lucky enough to witness excellent entertainment in the form of an Heimatabend with Schuhplattler, Musik and Tanz. We saw it a few years ago and it's one of the best shows of it's kind that I have seen.
The night we ate there this trip - our entertainment was watching one of our fellow travelers consume a Schwienshaxe in very little time. He was starting to sweat near the end.
Spent first day (Sunday) looking around Berchtesgaden and Ramsau in the rain.
Second day was fogged in so we took a day trip to Salzburg where the weather was much better.
Third day (morning) - Salt Mine
Third day (afternoon) - Eagle's Nest (looked a bit cloudy from the bottom but we took a chance). The top was covered in three inches of snow for several hundred meters down the mountain but were able to get some clear photos for first ten minutes. Then came an odd snow flurry on the top with near zero visability. Most folks who came up with us never left the restaurant. We made it up to the cross before the bottom fell out. When we got back to the Documentation Center it was sunny and clear down below.
The rest of afternoon was nice enough for a boat ride on the Königssee.
Hans and Karin Weiss
91541 Rothenburg o.d.T.
Tel - 9861/3962 ~ Fax - 9861/938949
Email - Karinweissrtbg@aol.com
The first afternoon was spent in the Altstadt and I then hooked up the group with the Nightwatchman and left them to enjoy Georg's spiel on the history of the city.
Up and out early our last morning and said goodbye to Larry as he began his three week vacation. Easy drive to Bacharach on the Rhine for last two days in-country.
Put our campers on a K-D boat to St. Goar -
- ferried across the Rhine and stopped at Marksburg for photos -
spent rest of afternoon in Rüdesheim for more shopping. I rode up to the Nederwald Denkmal alone while they continued to shop.
Just barely made a late ferry to Bingen and spent the last evening in Bacharach.
While in Bacharach we ate at two of my favorite restaurants there -
Easy early morning drive to Frankfurt Airport. Filled tank in Bingen and topped off at airport. Not taking any chances with potential problems for car return. And there were none. Easy check-in and flight back to DFW.
The temps for the two weeks were normally 40's and 50's. Last day was low 60's.
Great trip with a good group who seemed to appreciate everything German. I couldn't have asked for better fellow travelers.
Auf Wiedersehen! Bis zum nächsten Jahr...