by BavariaBen


This year's trip (that always sounds sooo good and I am so lucky to be able to say it) was to be one of my least expensive ventures ever. Airfare was to be minimal courtesy of a friend who offered me a D3 standby pass. Ground transportation was to be free - courtesy of the free buses and trains available if overnighting in the Black Forest (in KONUS participating villages) - for the two weeks I was to enjoy the Schwarzwald. I did not reserve any accommodations ahead of time (except for two days of Stammtisch meetings in Urach). I hesitated to reserve anything since I would be flying standby and unsure of departure date and return dates. I was however armed with folders full of possible inexpensive accommodations in several KONUS villages along the train lines. KONUS participating towns pay a tax to the public transportation authorities and that allows anyone staying in their towns to use public transportation free (within the KONUS zone) by showing their lodging Guestcard (furnished by hosts).

At least that was my original plan...

My plan was to fly out of DFW on a Tues, Wed or Thurs in September (it's always best to try to fly in the middle of the week when flying standby). As those days approached I was kept abreast of the load list status of those particular flights (only one flight a day) and to make a long story short - I overreacted at finding all those flights potentially full. A few days before liftoff the numbers looked terrible and I didn't think I had a chance of making any of the standby flights. I went online and finally found a bargain I couldn't pass up - a direct flight via Lufthansa - DFW to FRA for $616.86 total. Considering that before logging on to
economytravel.com I couldn't find anything for less than a $1,000 - I felt very good about my find. This also relieved a lot of stress from my shoulders as now I would have a confirmed seat - going and coming.

Departure day finally arrives and my amigo Larry (PStuyvsant) takes the day off from doing nothing (he's retired) and drives me to the airport. What a nice guy. Flight is on time and I have an aisle seat (and the seat next to me is empty) and all is right with the world. Lufthansa is a wonderful airline and I always feel like I'm halfway there already when stepping aboard and listening to the German speaking attendants. Uneventful, stress free flight arrives on time.

Baggage, Immigration and Customs controls are smooth and I am quickly at the airport train station purchasing a ticket to my first destination in the Black Forest - Zell am Harmersbach. Zell a.H. is a small historic village in the Central Schwarzwald near Gengenbach and Biberach.

During the middle ages Zell was at one time the smallest Free Imperial city in the Holy Roman empire. Easily accessible from the B33 roadway and by train. Two hours and two train changes (Mannheim and Offenburg) later I arrive at Zell and walk the short distance from the Bahnhof to the Tourist Info Office. I have addresses and phone numbers of several Zimmer Frei in town that would fit my budget. The lady at the TI office calls the first Haus for me and I am in luck - a large doubleroom with full bath (ensuite) and cable TV for the singleroom price of 17 Euro per night. The Haus Daheim (hosted by the Zimmermann family) is but a short walk from the TI office so shortly after noon on my first day in-country I am already unpacked and set to enjoy my first three days of exploring the Forest. Zell is a nice little town with beautiful churches, a very nice museum located in an historic old tower (circa 1330), and several nice restaurants and bars for your eating and drinking pleasure.

Haus Daheim - Zell am Harmersbach

Private entrance to Zimmer

Haus Daheim
Familie Zimmermann
Oberentersbacher Str. 5
77736
Zell am Harmersbach
Tel - 7835/1389 ~ Fax - 7835/3789
Large double with private bath/toilet, cable TV
Southeast of Offenburg / Gengenbach

Full private bath, shower, toilet

Large DZ can sleep 3

Reading table - Cable TV

Spacious double closet

According to my hosts (Zimmermann family) I was the first American to stay here. As nice as it is I'm sure I won't be the last...

Terrace and private entrance just outside room

Cozy breakfast room

Zimmermann family - very friendly hosts

Storchenturm

The Storchenturm (Stork Tower)(circa 1330) containing an interesting city museum and remnants of the prison once housed there is probably the most photographed sight in Zell.

Two very nice restaurants in Zell and within easy walking distance from the Haus Daheim -

Gasthof Adler

Gasthof Adler
Hauptstrasse 13
77736
Zell am Harmersbach
Tel - 7835/286

Excellent service - nice atmosphere - good food - historic Fachwerk building located central Altstadt

 

Gasthof Berger - just next door to Haus Daheim

Gasthof Berger
Oberentersbacherstr. 9
77736
Zell am Harmersbach
Email -
info@berger-zell.de
Varied menu - very reasonable prices - Biergarten under large shade tree - friendly wait staff - located next door to Haus Daheim


For the next three days I took advantage of the free transportation by visiting several villages - Gengenbach, Oberhamersbach, Biberach and Hornberg - to name a few. One morning I rode to Hornberg (located in a valley) and spent a few hours hiking down to the town from the Bahnhof and then up the other side of the Reichenbachtal to visit the ruins of Hornberg castle. For so many years I have driven or ridden thru this village and wondered about the castle ruins on the hill above town. A good little hump but just what my legs needed - a little workout to stretch the old calves.

Hornberg ruin

The Hornberger Eisenbahnviadukt was constructed in 1924/1925, is over 80 feet tall and stretches 150 meters along the Reichenbach valley. Best viewed from the castle ruins...


My second night in Zell I was invited (by my hosts) to go with them to a concert at the Schwarzwaldhalle in Unterharmersbach. The concert included the local Musikverein and a procession of towns people wearing their traditional Schwarzwald Trachten (local costumes). It looked like I was the only American there as I was introduced to everyone my hosts knew and had my picture taken with even more. A fun night with lots of free refreshments sent my way.


My last day in Zell was highlighted by a trip to Gengenbach (another former Free Imperial city). Gengenbach is a beautiful old town with lots of Fachwerk (timber-framed buildings), historic landmarks, and a pretty little pedestrian zone.

This day there was a Fest happening with many wine tents and lots of locals involved in running events which finished at the town square. Between three and four o'clock I met up with eight of our Stammtisch and friends for an early dinner (Maryann, Bill, Don, Sally, Carolyn, Jim, Sam and Gary) - a precursor of fun things to come later in the trip. Did I say that the weather for those first three days was wonderful (50s & 60s) - wonderfully cool compared to the still summer heat in Dallas.

Originally I had planned to spend the next two days exploring the Wald at another KONUS town - however I found out that two of our Stammtischers were heading from Gengenbach to Urach (our gathering place this year) the next day so I called ahead to reserve a room and caught a ride - thanks to Gary and Sam. They were staying at the
Haus Pfaff and I was now reserved for the next four nights at the Kirnerhof.

The Kirnerhof is a wonderful old farm run by Frau Wehrle and her daughter Frau Schuler (both very nice hosts). This Bauernhof has several doublerooms and an apartment that could sleep four. I had the apartment which had it's own shower, toilet, large bedroom, full kitchen and satellite TV. Over the next few days - Jim (Tooooobah) and Len (Lenox) would occupy two of the other rooms at the Kirnerhof. Len was traveling solo also and had the use of a rental car so I always had a ride.

Kirnerhof farm in Urach

Kirnerhof
Gerlinde Schuler/Hedwig Wehrle
Alte Straße 8
78147
Urach
Tel - 7657/1850 or 7657/224
Doublerooms with bath/shower/toilet
Apartment - sleeps 2-4

Apartment will sleep 4 - cable TV

Hallway to apartment

Apartment has complete kitchen

Another doubleroom at the Kirnerhof

Another large Kirnerhof doubleroom

Outer hallway leading to rooms

Just beside the Gemeindehaus (Community Center)(across from Haus Pfaff which had an American flag displayed most of the time we were in town) sits a new bench and table group (courtesy of Stammtisch contributions from our visit in 2003). Very nice...

Gary and Sam

Starting the next day (17 Sep) - other Stammtischers started arriving in town - Len (staying at Kirnerhof) - Carolyn (CGRAM) & Jim (staying in Neukirch) - Paul (SPINMILLER) & Lorraine (also in Neukirch) - Greg (CooperGunner) and Erika (also at the Haus Pfaff) sporting her brand new red Mercedes just recently picked up at the factory. The Gasthaus zum Sternen was closed this day (Ruhetag) but surprisingly opened in the afternoon for our little group to have dinner.

Tina and Rudi Marina

The following day (18th) was set for our first official gathering and these Stammtischers and friends showed throughout the day - Maryann (Drsmom), Bill, Don and Sally (Okies all - staying at the Haus Pfaff) - Jim (Tooooobah) at the Kirnerhof - Nate (AsbachNate) staying in Neukirch - and the real surprise was when Beverly and Chuck (Ckronenbur) showed up out of nowhere (staying at Haus Frank). We all gathered at the Sternen around 1900 and enjoyed dinner together along with lots of good conversation.


Next day (19th) - Jim led Gary - Nate - and myself on a hike that took up much of the day while most everyone else toured the area. Len went with some local friends to a school and entertained the Kinder. Dinner again was at Rudi's place.


Most everyone took off Thurs or Fri for various destinations. I was set to leave on the 20th for a stay in the Schluchsee area however Jim and Len talked me into staying a few more days and then heading for Bavaria. Len - Jim - Gary - Sam and myself stayed until Saturday then Jim headed to Munich - Gary/Sam to Garmisch - Len and myself to Wallgau (just north of Mittenwald). So much for my plans to do two weeks in the Schwarzwald. Len and Jim cooked up a plan for us to meet Larry (PStuyvsant) at the Oktoberfest so how could I refuse the offer.

After deciding to head for Bavaria with Len - I spent several hours online trying to find a place for us to stay in or around Munich. After much research and many, many phone calls I was unable to find anything along the S-bahn lines running into Munich. Jim finally came to the rescue and secured us reservations at one of his favorite places to stay - the Haus Felsenfest in Wallgau.

We had a nice drive to the Mittenwald area in Bavaria with a short stop in Meersburg. Just enough time to show Len the upper and lower sections of town and do some quick shopping. I think it convinced him to spend some additional time here in the future.

We also had a nice experience at a little town just off the highway where Len had some fond memories from 1969. I'll let Len tell that story in his trip report. Afterwards we cruised into the Füssen area driving by the Royal Castles, left a note for our Okie buddies staying at the Gästehaus Weiher in Hohenschwangau, and made a short drive by the Wieskirche.

Wallgau is a perfect little Bavarian village nestled in a valley surrounded by the Ester, Soiern, Wetterstein and Karwendel mountains. This is Jim's home away from home and where he spends much of his German vacations. The Haus Felsenfest is a charming (typical Bavarian) Haus situated just off the B11 (south of the Walchensee) owned and operated by the very nice Walter family (Fritz and Senta).

Haus Felsenfest
Sonnleiten 4
82499
Wallgau
Tel & Fax - 8825/694
Single and Double rooms
Great views from balcony of the Karwendel mountain range

Len had a single room for 14.50 Euro per night and I had a nice little doubleroom for the same price.

The next day (Sunday) was a day of thanksgiving for Wallgau and we were lucky enough to witness the villages' annual Erntedankfest. The ceremony took place behind the parish church St. Jakob's (in the cemetery) and lasted about an hour. Present were local clubs and organizations, a band and local dignitaries - all dressed in their finest traditional outfits.

After the service there was a procession across dew covered fields with the beautiful Karwendal mountain range in the background.

Following that it seemed that most of the town folk gathered at and around the Hotel Post for libations and lots of prosting. Jim trained down from Munich (in his Lederhosen and finest hat) and joined us for the remainder of the day. It seemed that everyone in town knew Jim and gave him a hearty greeting when they saw him. He looked as much like a Bavarian as anyone in attendance (or even more so since he has the best beard in the area). He carries himself as a true Bavarian to include the vocal pipes and language skills to leave no doubt.

Before we took Jim back to the train station we hiked up to the Berggaststätte Maxhütte which is located on a local hillside accessible (by patrons) only via a good uphill hump. Once there the view overlooking the village is incredible. Too early for a Bier for myself but never to early for our 'rent a Bavarian'.


Berggaststätte Maxhütte
Am Barmereck 12
82499
Wallgau
Tel - 8825/1582
Email -
info@maxhuette-wallgau.de

The next day Len and myself trained to Munich (almost two hours) and Jim met us at the Hauptbahnhof. From there we were off to "d'Wies'n" for the Oktoberfest. Jim has been meeting Larry at the Oktoberfest for several years now. This year their plans were to meet in front of the Augustiner-Festhalle at high noon. Our new plan was to surprise Larry (he had no idea that Len and myself would be there) so we approached from the side (knowing Larry would be there early and positioned somewhere within eyeshot of the entrance).

Figuring that he would be wearing his customary Boeing baseball cap, a loud Dallas Cowboys T-shirt and sporting his cameras - I spotted him easily without him seeing us. We let Jim approach and engage him while we walked up and buckled his knees. Nice surprise...

We then entered the massive tent and found a good spot near the bandstand. Most of the tables in that area are reserved but all you have to do is check the "Reserved Time" listed on the tables and we found one that would not be occupied by the 'reservers' until 1700 hrs. That gave us several hours to enjoy the festivities before having to give up the table. Soon Sam and Gary showed up and we had almost a full table.

I had a couple of 'ein maß', Larry made it thru three, and Jim finished off 5 (five - count em), another regular Helles during dinner and then another Maß when we stopped by the Hofbräuhaus later.

Len might have been the only sober one in the place (does not partake of Bier) but you would never know it as he fits right in - especially in this outfit -

A funny story... When Jim puts on his Bavarian garb he is constantly photographed by tourists and Germans alike. He didn't even have on his Lederhosen the day we met for the Oktoberfest and he still had paparazzi snapping away. Jim was interviewed by a German TV station at the Fest two days before we met him. It wasn't until the end of the interview when they asked him his name and where he was from that he burst their bubble. "Jim from Vermont"... Funny... Later at the Hofbräuhaus several groups of Asians and other foreigners had to come over to get their picture taken with the old Bavarian.

Len and I got back to Wallgau after 11 pm (just before the police arrived to file a report). The Haus Frau thought we were only staying two days. When we took off and didn't come back she thought the worst and had to call the police. Jim was supposed to call and reserve us rooms for three days. She swears he only said for two nights. But after a bit of drama - hand waving - laughing - and 'tut mir leid's - everything worked out just fine. I think Len even broke out his German/English dictionary at one point. :)

Next morning Len and I were headed to Bacharach on the Rhine but the car blew some fuses (no wiper blades/no turn signals) and caused a bit of stress as it was supposed to be a rainy day. The only open auto workshop in Wallgau couldn't help us (or wouldn't) so we headed to Mittenwald where Len had spotted a Mercedes dealer earlier. The Mercedes office manager was a young man who went totally out of his way to take care of the problem and we only lost a little over an hour.

Several hours later we finally made it to the Rhine where we stayed at the Pension Winzerhaus. Last two rooms available - a DZ for Len (30 Euro) and a MBZ (3 beds) for myself at the same price (as long as I didn't disturb the other two beds).

We spent our last evening shopping in Bacharach -

and later had dinner at the Hotel am Markt in St. Goar. An excellent restaurant with good food and service staff - definitely worthy of a future visit.

My final morning in Germany - up early - down to the Bacharach Bahnhof (courtesy of my chauffeur Len) at 0528am for an early train (9.50 Euro) to the Flughafen. Len had a later flight and drove to the airport. Lufthansa was excellent all the way.

Accommodations for this thirteen night trip averaged 16.5 Euro a day - same as last year - however with the weaker dollar this year it came to about $24 a night - still very much affordable even on my budget. Except for a train ride from Frankfurt Flughafen to Zell a.H., half a Bayern pass for one day and a train from Bacharach back to the Flughafen my ground transportation costs were virtually free (courtesy of the KONUS program in the Schwarzwald and my chauffeur friend Len in Bavaria). Free breakfasts, imbiss/snack/picnic type lunches, and low-priced restaurant dinners also worked well for a tight budget. Total cost of trip - approx $1,500 (give or take a few chocolate bars for the Frau)...

Another fun trip... It's over for this year but lots of good memories. And there is always next year...


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