October 18 - November 2, 2005
(Bill - firstname.lastname@example.org)
Travelers: Bill - email@example.com - and - Erskine - firstname.lastname@example.org
Countries visited: Germany - Austria - Liechtenstein - Switzerland
Day 1 (18 & 19 Oct)
The trip originated when Erskine (HHav) asked me of any interest in a European trip with him. I was surprised but happy by the invitation. Graciously, Carolyn, my understanding wife, agreed - bless her heart - and proceeded to help me with arranging the personal details.
Erskine did all of the planning with occasional input from me. Over a two-week period we arranged for the cheapest airline tickets and a general route, which included Weimar, Germany, the capital of the Weimar Republic of the 1920s, arranged after Germany lost the First World War. It is infamous as the unsuccessful republic, which failed in 1933, because of the severe reparations demanded by the Allies. The failure was caused by the severe inflation of the Reichmark, which, in turn, was caused by the inability of the German nation to pay the reparations. The unfairness caused the German people to be ready for a stable government, and they supported Hitler to achieve this.
So our general route would include flying into Frankfurt, taking the train 175 miles to Weimar, two days with Eckhard and Baerbel, my friends from 35 years ago, then by car to Dresden, on to the area of Munich in Bavaria; then to central Austria, for a few days, and west to a small town near the Swiss border, into the Black Forest of southwestern Germany, and completing the trip at Stuttgart airport. Stuttgart was chosen because it was closer to the southern German border, preventing a drive further north back to Frankfurt.
Erskine chose small towns in this route, and arranged for, inexpensive hotels and pensions. Some of the hotels Erskine had stayed in on previous trips. He obtained reservations for all the sites over the Internet.
The flight from Nashville to Atlanta was fine. Then the troubles began. The Delta 777 had electrical generator troubles and we departed, finally, two hours late. Arrival in Frankfurt was about 1.5 hours late. The train station is in the airport and we bought our two tickets on a group plan for two, which reduced the price by one third, down to Euro 50. Trains in Germany arrive and depart within a few seconds of the scheduled time, and this record was maintained for this trip, leaving at 12:20. We had planned to stop over for two hours in Fulda for two hours, a beautiful city of cathedrals, but after the late airplane arrival, and a later train departure, we canceled the stopover.
We arrived in Weimar on time and were met by Baerbel and Eckhard as planned. It is only a short distance to their home near the center of town. Their spacious apartment is on the second floor of a typical German building. The city is old by American standards and was deteriorated during the occupation by the Soviets from 1945 to 1990. Since East Germany was joined to West Germany in 1990 a general renovation of the houses has been in progress. A few remain, which are old, gray, and dilapidated. But most have new stucco and paint and are like the western German houses. They are painted in many muted colors and were very beautiful.
Baerbel prepared a wonderful supper of fondue with three kinds of beef. There were six kinds of sauce to dip it in of many different flavors. She added pickles and olives for contrast… really a wonderful meal; and the Gemütlichkeit (good discussion and warm feelings) was very interesting. We sat and discussed politics and every other subject imaginable, and retired for the night about 22:30. Needless to say I slept like a log unbroken until 7:00 the next morning.
Day 2 (October 20, Thursday)
The day began with the typical German breakfast with about four kinds of cold cuts, several types of hard rolls (picked up fresh from the bakery that morning), and four kinds of jam, butter, two cheeses, and excellent coffee.
After breakfast a horse-drawn open carriage and driver picked us up as arranged by the Domesles. We proceeded into Old Town Weimar where we picked up our tour guide. She was skilled in German and excellent English. Old Town Weimar is beautiful with many old government buildings and a park running right through the center bordering both sides of the Ilm River. We learned from the guide about the famous people from Weimar’s past including Herr Goethe, poet, novelist, playwright, courtier, and natural philosopher, one of the greatest figures in Western literature.
Especially interesting was the Elephant Hotel, overlooking the open market, and the balcony on which Hitler addressed his adoring fans early in his reign. The guide had a picture of him making a speech from this balcony (which I photographed) and then I photographed the balcony itself.
We also were shown the building where the Gestapo (Nazi
secret police) jailed and tortured thousands of political enemies of the Hitler’s Third Reich. On the last day
of the war in 1945, the SS soldiers took 8,000 prisoners from the their cells in this building out into the countryside
and executed them all. All-told about 65,000 people passed through this building. After the war the Russians, who
occupied East Germany for 45 years, also used it for imprisoning and torturing political enemies of the state and
captured individuals from many foreign countries conquered by the Nazis. One would never suspect the crimes committed
there from the restored beauty of it today.
Baerbel, Erskine, and I walked home after strolling in the mall. Eckhard, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, took a taxi. He can’t walk far without frequent rests. At home we feasted on potato soup that Baerbel prepared from scratch. I’m sure I must have put on at least five pounds in the past three days. Baerbel’s food and their hospitality could not have been better. We expressed our appreciation by giving them each an engraved natural wood pen made for them by my woodworking friend, Jim McCoy.
Day 3 (October 21, Friday)
We rose about 7:00, had another German breakfast and departed about 11:00 with the rental car, a manual shift, 2.0 liter, diesel Ford Focus.
We decided to visit the infamous Nazi concentration camp called Buchenwald, one of several hundred established by Hitler to imprison, starve, gas, and/or work prisoners to death for the war effort. Six million Jews plus thousands of other nationalities suffered in these camps. Buchenwald is located eight miles northwest of the city where 250,000 undesirables, including Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals, were concentrated. About 65,000 of them were starved to death from overwork and lack of food and ended in the crematorium. They were slave labor and supplied parts for the V-1 and V-2 rockets used to bomb England, in the last year of the war. The rockets were assembled by slave labor in tunnels in Nordhausen, a town a few miles northwest of Weimar. We saw the places where the Buchenwald barracks were located, now preserved as black riprap rectangles to show where the long-departed barracks were before their destruction after the war. We went to the crematorium and saw the ovens where the bodies were cremated. The clock at the front gate of the camp is stopped at 3:15 pm representing the exact time that the camp was discovered and liberated by American soldiers on about April 11, 1945 just before the war ended. The camp is located in a dense forest, and the Germans in Weimar claimed not to have been aware of what was going on there. After the liberation the townsfolk were brought in and forced to tour the camp and help dispose of hundreds of dead bodies piled like cordwood destined for the crematorium.
Many other people were touring the grounds, including
many young people, and as they passed through the crematorium they were all very silent and reverent respecting
the hordes of people who had burned there. It was a very moving experience for us all. After the tour we attended
a 30 minute film that described the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930’s, the establishment of the camps of this
type throughout Germany and Poland, and the atrocities committed there by the SS soldiers and the party members,
all with the full knowledge of Hitler and his henchmen who planned and engineered the camps. It is the most heinous
crime of the 20th century, and represents what can happen when a despot captures a nation by whatever means and
enslaves all the people it conquers. We should never forget, and never allow it to happen again.
We departed Buchenwald about two in the afternoon and proceeded east toward Dresden on the autobahn, arriving at our reserved hotel at Rossau about four p.m. We had to cancel the visit to Dresden that was another seventy miles east because of the time consumed by the Buchenwald visit. I think the concentration camp visit was much more worthwhile. Everyone should see it.
We found a small restaurant called Gasthof Oberrossau near the hotel where we ate our supper. We had wiener schnitzel, topped with two fried eggs, and potatoes. It was more than we could eat, but very good, and a typical German meal. The cost was E 8.40 including a half-liter of dark beer, tip and tax, whereas it would have cost almost double that at the Rossau Hotel where we slept.
We returned to the two single rooms at the hotel. The room was clean, well arranged with the typical fluffy quilts, and included a private bath. We turned in about 9 p.m. The cost was E 31.00 or about $38 for each of us.
Day 4 (October 22, Saturday)
The day started about 7 a.m. with a trip to the beautiful dining room. The selection was extensive… you name it, they presented it. And it was included in the room price. That hotel was the best bargain imaginable, but it was located right out in the country with cows and barns across the road, and the sweet scent of cow manure floating through the air. After satisfying our hunger we ‘lifted’ a roll, cheese, and a slice of ham and sneaked it into our plastic bags for lunch.. With that and a pear and a chocolate bar, I had a good, balanced lunch. The total cost for lunch was Euro 0.23 for the pear and about Euro 0.25 for a couple of squares of the chocolate bar. I must give Erskine credit; he really knows how to squeeze a dollar (or Euro in this case).
We departed about 8:30, picked up the autobahn A72, and branched to 93 to Regensburg. We left the autobahn for about three hours and roamed the back roads through some very beautiful forests, hills and farm country, some of prettiest country we have seen. We stopped off for a village walk in Neustadt just off the autobahn.
We arrived in the Regensburg region near the confluence
of the Regen, Naab, and Danube Rivers about 3:30 p.m. Of course, the beautiful blue Danube is the one of which
we are most familiar, and it lived up to its name. Although the weather was hazy, the sun was out on a typical
autumn day with a temperature of about 70 F. We have been extremely fortunate with the weather so far, no rain
at all, but had some partially cloudy days.
Erskine has been here many times before and knew of the Walhalla Memorial overlooking the Danube. This is a replica of the Parthenon almost identical to the one in Athens and in Nashville. It sits high on a hill overlooking the Danube and the city of Regensburg. The scene was breathtaking and I took several pictures of the building outside and interior where there were many busts of many of the famous German historical celebrities. I took shots of Goethe and Beethoven, both famous men of the German 18th and 19th century, but there were many more that I didn’t recognize.
We are staying at an old monastery converted into a hotel and famous restaurant (Prösslbräu Adlersberg). Erskine knows the owner, Henry Prossl. They are also famous for the beer that is brewed right there on the premises. We ate supper here.
They have bench-type tables out in front of the restaurant where all the locals gather on good weather days to talk, eat and drink beer, which is called Gemütlichkeit.
There was a beautiful Catholic church just letting out after Sunday morning mass. We went inside and took a picture of all the gold filigree. Leaving there we strolled up the riverside paralleling the Danube until we came to a railroad bridge that we crossed on an attached footbridge. Now we were on the south side of the river and headed east, again parallel to the Danube but on the other side. After about a mile we realized we had to get back across the river somehow. Observing a map sign we studied it intensely to get our directions straight and to determine how to re-cross without retracing our steps. Much confusion ruled until Erskine observed there was another rail bridge right over our left shoulder, high up above the valley, it too with an attached footbridge. That was the solution, and we crossed it, returning to our original path and back to the car. The walk was outstanding with the trees garbed in all the colors of autumn.
Now it was time for Regensburg, and we drove toward town following a vague map that left something to be desired. As we entered the city center, old town area, many of the streets were for foot traffic only. We had an difficult time finding a way to drive through the old town area to the river’s edge, got lost several times, and finally realized we must park in an underground parking garage near the edge of old town and walk. At last we began a walk of about 10 minutes arriving at the Dom, or huge double-steepled cathedral.
An outdoor restaurant serving bratwurst and beer - much beer - was located in the platz surrounding the church.
While finishing our dinner old Herr Prossl came in, sat down to read the paper.
It was a large room on the second floor, and I lugged
my 50 pound bag upstairs again. In the afternoon I decided to do my laundry consisting of five sets of underwear,
two shirts and socks. They are hung in the shower stall to dry, and, since we would be here two nights, they dry
before we depart. We then walked about two blocks to the
famous Hofbräuhaus with directions from very friendly and helpful Germans on the street. We went inside and
listened to the oompa band while having a bowl of potato soup.
Then we rode a few miles down German road 301 to Freising so that Erskine could research how to catch the commuter train at Freimann next day to travel into Munich. There is a great advantage to using the train because the traffic and parking in Munich is prohibitive. With the inner city ticket and the cheaper price for two people for the day one can travel all over the city on that ticket. The ticket for both will be E 10.50 or E 5.25 each for all day, for the entire inner city. Pretty cheap compared to using the car. Parking at the ‘Park and Drive’ train station is E 1.00 for the day. We took a walk up the hill near the village of Oberappersdorf to work up an appetite… probably about a mile. I took a picture of the village with the church in the center. All villages have their church, regardless of the size, and here in Bavaria, the denomination is Catholic. In the northern part of Germany it is mostly Protestant.
We went to supper in the Gasthaus dining room and had very tender beef and spatze, a noodle, and a half-liter of beer. With the beer the price was E 8.20; without the beer the price would have been E 6.20 including a soup, entrée, and salad.
Day 7 (October 25, Tuesday)
Today began with the usual delicious German breakfast. We skipped storing away a roll, bread, and cheese for lunch, and decided to eat from the ‘street’ in Munich. The ride down from Oberappersdorf was about 25 miles, but using local highway 301 through Freising was very slow. We parked the car in a Park and Ride near the Kieferngarten U6-Bahn station. Erskine bought the E 8.00 Partner (2 to 5 people included) daily ticket, good for anywhere in the inner city ring. My half was E 4.00. The procedure requires that before leaving the station you must validate the ticket in a blue meter in the station. Failure to do this, if checked by the bahn police on the train, can result in a hefty fine. This is the only time the ticket will be punched. There is no conductor on the train for ticket punching.
The train took us to our chosen destination, Munich’s Marienplatz that is near the main train station and the tall tower of the Rathaus (main government building, or courthouse). Tourists gather in the huge square in front of Rathaus daily for the 11:00 a.m. display of the famous Glockenspiel puppets, a 10-minute automatic play with music half way up the tower. We finally found some postcards of which I bought four, but then realized I didn’t the addresses of the children. So I wrote up one to Carolyn, and another to son Steve (I had his address), but had to leave off Linda and Laura until I get their addresses. I could acquire these when calling Carolyn later that day. One can call the US simply by entering 001, the area code, and phone number: very simple and cheap. E 1.00 will get you about 1-½ minutes, just long enough to check in. A meter on the phone counts down to tell you when your time is up, and it clicks off immediately with little concern that you may be in the middle of a sentence. Very rude.
I remembered the day in 1967 when we visited there on our way to St. Johann, Austria to ski with the children. I was also reminded of the railroad station restaurant where I ordered Kalbhirn for lunch only to find it was watery, half-cooked calf brains, which I couldn’t eat.
Erskine suggested we take the U3 Bahn to the Olympic Stadium where the BMW Car assembly plant and museum is located. The old museum was closed as they constructed a new, monstrous one, but there was a small substitute nearby, so we went there. The senior rate was E 1.50. It only displayed, perhaps, 25 cars tracked from the earliest, made after the first world war, to the latest, a 2002 hydrogen powered beauty, of which only one was made.
We then took the U3 Bahn train, which connected to the U6 train back north to the Münchner Freiheit station. There we disembarked, walked about a half mile to the English Garden Park, a beautiful lakeside park with ducks and geese, and a beer garden and restaurant. After a brief rest we returned to the U6 bahn station, took the train on north to Kieferngarten station, disembarked, paid E 1.00 for the car park, and drove back to Oberappersdorf Landgasthof Obermeier via the A9 autobahn, exiting at Schweitenkirchen.
I give all this detail for future use in case I ever return. If one knows how things work in the large German cities one can save lots of money and time. All train (U Bahn, S Bahn, and D Bahn) tickets can be bought from a vending machine at each station rather from a ticket agent. The small outlying stations don’t even have an agent available. There are many choices one can make by punching the right buttons, which are explained beside the buttons if you can read a bit of German.
The inner ring ticket is good for the city center only. If one buys an outer ring ticket (same price), it covers only the outer ring, not the outer and inner ring combined. One can also buy a more expensive ticket that covers all rings. There is a discounted ticket, also, if the ticket covers more than one person (2 to 5). Another choice is a daily ticket, a weekly ticket, or a monthly ticket. The discounts are more the longer the period.
Day 8 (October 26, Wednesday)
The day began with the usual breakfast, good as always. Lisa was our English-speaking waitress and owner, and she was very friendly and helpful. If we ever communicate with the place again we should address to her.
We followed the autobahn through Munich, south (A 9, 99, 8) then to a state road, 318. As we continued south the trees became evergreens and really beautiful. All the hardwoods were in full color. We soon passed into Austria and into the Alps mountains. We passed Innsbruck on the westbound autobahn, and left it to head up into mountain valley where our next place was located in Leutasch near Seefeld, The Liasnhof, a farm bed and breakfast. We rode on up to Mittenwald, a small town deep in the valley overlooked by steep granite-topped mountains. Here I bought two postcards to send to Laura and Linda, who I had missed on my previous mailing the day before to Steve and Carolyn. When I called her yesterday I told her I would call today and get the addresses of Laura and Linda. So, when I called with an E 2.00 coin (2 minutes), she had forgotten to have the street numbers available. I hung up, planning to call in 20 minutes. On this next call the phone booth would not take a coin; the slot wouldn’t accept it. I finally found another booth and tried again with an E 0.20 coin. I was planning to insert an E 2.00 if needed to extend the call, but, again, the slot wouldn’t take the added coin. We were cut off on the first call just in time to get the addresses. I wrote the cards, and finally, mailed them. I never had so much trouble making a phone call or sending two postcards in my life. That little episode cost me $3.50 and we still had no time to talk. We explored buying a phone card, but soon realized they are useable only in the country in which bought. Here in Mittenwald we were in Germany, but one KM back toward the hotel we would be in Austria, and we would be in Austria most of the remaining part of the trip. So I think it is best to stay with coins and avoid the country and left-over-minutes problems.
The farm owner here owned many sheep and some cows and ran an active farm. This time of year he was constantly busy cutting firewood and splitting and stacking it. In the late afternoon when it was time to bring the 30 to 40 sheep from the pasture into the barn for the night it was interesting to watch him attract them with an empty feed can. When the sheep had gathered in a group around him he then opened the pasture gate and they followed him across the road to the barn attached to the house. I presume they were eventually rewarded with their supper.
We then walked about two blocks to the famous Hofbräuhaus with directions from very friendly and helpful Germans on the street. We went inside and listened to the oompa band while having a bowl of potato soup.
This is the slow season after the busy summer season, but before the winter snow season begins. Most of the restaurants are closed, and their crews off on vacation. We were directed to the Monica Italian Restaurant, but when we arrived all the outside lights around the outdoor tables were on but the place was deserted. The sign out front said Betreibsurlaub, meaning gone on vacation. We finally found the only place open in town and ordered a steak and pomme frits (French fries) prepared by the one waitress, cook, bottle-washer in the place. It was delicious. I think by now I must have gained five pounds in weight.
Again, the weather has been beautiful with mid-day temperatures in the 70’s, the night temperatures in the high thirties. We spent the next three nights here before proceeding on into western Austria.
Day 8 (October 27, Thursday)
Today we made a large loop in the mountains and hills of Austria and Germany. We are right on the border such that when we leave the farm in Austria and drive to Mittenwald, about 2.5 miles, we are in Germany.
We first went to Oberammergau where the Passion play is performed every 10 years on the even year. The town is very picturesque with truly German Alps buildings, mostly white stucco with window boxes filled with flowers. Since the temperature is in the sixties to seventies still they remain in full bloom. We wandered around the town and stopped off at the Passion-Play Theater. I took many pictures, including some of the buildings painted with beautiful murals.
Then we headed north to Rottenbuch, a small town, but with a beautiful Catholic church. The interior was gold guilt embroidered everywhere. It was built from 1746 to 1754 and has been used ever since. One can tell by the well-worn stone entrance steps, and the entrances to the pews how many generations of faithful Germans have used the church. The amount of money spent to build these churches must have been immense for those times when money was scarce. Perhaps they were paid for with the church tax charged to all church members regardless of their desired money commitment as it still is today according to Eckhard. This is the state of Bavaria where the Catholics are very devout.
We then headed west and south to the small village in a meadow called Wies.
Here is a very famous church call the Wies Church, and is the one we visited when we lived in Germany in 1968.
Again, I took several outside and interior pictures because the church is one of a kind, with gold gilt everywhere.
More tourists than any one in Germany
visit it. Interestingly, the dominant color of the church is white. The German word for white is weis, not Wies.
English speaking visitors have mistakenly concluded the name was chosen for this color, but the real reason is
that Wies means meadow. It is the church in the meadow, and the village of Wies is also a meadow.
Next we passed through Füssen, then east to Hohenschwangau castle. From there we decided to walk up to hill to Neuschwanstein, the castle built by King Ludwig II in the late 1800s. I had been to both of these before when we visited in 1968 with the family.
I took several pictures, but the best were some from a bridge that spans a gorge just west of the castle.
From here in the mid-afternoon sun the
castle was beautiful and was offset with a brilliant blue sky in the east. After this excursion of about two miles
up and down we were both tired, and headed south through Reutte, east back through Garmisch-Partenkirchen, to Mittenwald,
and to our bed and breakfast in Leutasch, Austria. I called Carolyn and discovered from her that there needed to
more money deposited in the account I’m using for the trip. I asked her to transfer $500. I remain amazed how simple
it is to call the USA; just put 001 in front of the area code and the connection is immediate. The sound quality
is as good as calling across the street. It was a full day, beautiful, but tiring resulting from the long up-hill
walk and return.
For dinner we chose one of the only restaurants open during the current slow season between the summer and winter season. Many of the gasthaus owners have gone on vacation. It is in Weidach a short distance from our Liasnhof farm. We both felt like we had eaten too much and decided on a half liter of beer and goulash soup. It was just enough without feeling stuffed. With the beer and service charge the cost was E 8.00. We both slept well, mainly because of the long walk we took up the steep hill to Neuschwanstein.
Day 9 (October 28, 2005, Friday)
Today we went down the valley through Seefeld to Innsbruck, walked through the old city, and along the Inn River, which runs through the center of the city. I noted that it is one of the few cities I know of that has streetcars powered by overhead power lines.
We wanted to head south toward Italy, only about 30 miles via the Brenner Pass. We took the old roads for their picturesque beauty rather than the autobahn- -which cuts across the mountain peaks- -and along the valley edge toward the pass. It was the most astounding civil engineering job of road building I have ever seen. This autobahn wasn’t here when we passed through here in 1967, and this time we followed the same old route up to the village of Brenner at the pass. There we had our filched lunch (ham and cheese sandwich on a hard roll) that we borrowed from the breakfast table this morning. This is our routine lunch when traveling, and costs us nothing.
We proceeded back down toward Innsbruck via a narrow winding road with many villages along the other side of the valley we had come up in the morning. We could see how marvelous a construction job the autobahn was.
We stopped momentarily in Igl, a village and ski area south of Innsbruck and picked up brochures and other information on skiing in the Innsbruck area. It occurred to me that my family would really enjoy the skiing in this area. It is all so much more charming and interesting than any of the skiing areas in the US. We saw several interesting ski slopes and lifts in Seefeld, just a few miles down the valley from our farm. It looked fascinating. I don’t think the cost would be much more than in the US. If they are interested, information is available all over the Internet, and
addresses are all available there. A package would be the best deal.
After this stop we headed on back to the hotel, read a USAToday we bought (E 2.75 vs $0.50 in the US) to see what is going on in the world. We have been completely cut off now for 8 days since none of the accommodations in which we have stayed had a TV, or if they did, CNN gave local news rather than US news.
Day 10 (October 29, Saturday)
We departed Leutasch and took the autobahn west through one tunnel after another. One was 5 km long, another was 2.5 km and there were numerous short ones. Approaching one 13 km long there was a E 10 toll, so we bypassed it at St. Anton near Arlberg on the old road which was very curvy with many small villages. The pass was at 4500 feet and then we went down, down into Bludenz. This is a fair sized, beautiful city with a very extensive shopping plaza and grocery store of the latest modern design… very beautiful. Bludenz was quite busy with many summer vacation shoppers, although it isn’t summer any more by the calendar. The early morning temperature was 36 F and it was, at 3 p.m., 70 F., and another absolutely beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. So far we haven’t seen but just a few random drops of rain for the whole trip, and, in Austria, no rain or clouds at all.
We grocery shopped in Bludenz for two night’s supper since the gasthaus apartment in Brand, our next stop, had full cooking, refrigerating, and serving facilities. The apartment cost is E 54 ($65) per night, or $32.50 per person per night. It will bed down five people easily, and I believe the cost would be the same for five as for two.
From all I have heard the winter, ski-time
rates are not much, if any higher, breakfast included We also have TV/CNN and a telephone in the apartment. A brochure
states that the phone rates are completely fair, not extravagant like in the more expensive hotels. Perhaps the
bad reputation of high bills from hotels isn’t like it used to be. We tried to call from the village of Brand using
coins, but couldn’t get it to accept them. An earlier try yesterday from a booth wasn’t international. I then called
Carolyn from the room for a three-minute approximate duration. The cost we learned next morning was E 0.15 as the
hotel fee for connection, and E 3.60 for the call. This is just as cheap as in a phone booth, none of which in
Austria have been capable of a USA connection.
We talked to the proprietor, Frau Bitschi (pay no attention to the inference in the name). She was a sweet as could be and spoke good English. She told us that in winter the snow gets to about 5 feet total, each snowfall adding to the previous, with a temperature in January and February in the teens and twenties F. She also said from this gasthaus one can ski directly down to the ski lift just a short distance, and ride to the ski area high above the village in an enclosed cable car carrying many skiers. She said the snow in the valleys begins in early December and continues all through the winter. We noticed in the drive up to Brand from Bludenz (about 7 miles) that there is new snow on the high, granite peaks all around Brand. These are the most rugged mountains I have ever seen, with cliffs everywhere. They are much more rugged than any I’ve seen in the Rockies.
Day 11 (October 30, Sunday)
Today, after an excellent breakfast in
Bed and Breakfast, we visited three countries: Austria,
Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. From Feldkirch, Austria, we headed south into Liechtenstein where we went to Vaduz,
up the hill to the principality’s prince who rules the country. I think he is the son of Furst Frans Joseph. I
know nothing else about him, but his small castle, up on a hill, overlooks the city of Vaduz. The whole country
of Liechtenstein is only about 10 miles long by 3 miles wide.
I tried to withdraw money from the ATM machine in Vaduz, but it wouldn’t respond. We don’t know why, but all that is necessary is to slide in the check card from Amsouth bank at home, enter the four digit pin number I use at home and out comes the cash in local currency. If I withdraw E 300 it deducts $360 from my account because of the $1.20 required to buy 1 Euro. This exchange rate does not remain constant but changes slightly minute by minute. I hope the day will come when one can buy one Euro for one dollar, making things in Europe 20% cheaper than it is now.
Leaving here we crossed the border into Switzerland at Buchs, turned north to Altstatten, Switzerland. Here we looked over the Appenzell Railroad, a narrow gauge, cog line that covers many small villages and towns in the eastern part of Switzerland. From there we proceeded on through Gais to Appenzell where the railroad is headquartered. Erskine used this railroad many times in the past because of the steep grades and beautiful valleys that it passes through. It forms a loop with many spurs off to surrounding villages. It stops at every little village. He was interested in finding the Lydia Gasthaus which he had found on the Internet, and which is within walking distance from Hirschberg Station, a close stop near the Gasthaus. We found it and tried for information brochures but no one answered the door.
Appenzell is a picturesque town with a central square with many old beautifully decorated hotels. On this warm, sunshiny day all the tables in front of the many restaurants were filled with sun-loving Swiss, Germans and Austrians, drinking beer and zitrone (orange juice with fizz).
We then returned to Altstatten and proceeded back across the Austrian border to Rankweil and drove on to a very small village far above the town called Obersaxen to an old Gasthaus, newly renovated by new owners, where Erskine had roomed several years ago. The view of the valley was spectacular.
We then decided to head back to Brand by some very narrow back roads high over the valley through Dunserberg, Schnifis, Thuringen, and Ludesch. The local people heavily used these roads on this beautiful, warm, sunny day. We wound and twisted our way back down to the autobahn by route 190 and returned to Brand for a rest before Erskine prepares our wurst, apple, and tomato for supper. We plan a walk after that to provide some needed exercise.
Day 12 (October 31, Monday)
This was a day of driving west from Brand, Bludenz, Austria to Haslach, Germany, our next stop, but along the way we stopped off along the Bodensee (or lake) north side at Lindau, part of which is located on a protrusion of land out into the lake. The old town there is very picturesque as are most of them throughout Europe. They have a charm that isn’t available anywhere in the United States. The cobblestone streets were very narrow which was appropriate for the 14th century or earlier when many were constructed, a piece at a time. But over the years the old houses, castles, and government buildings have been renovated and well maintained. These towns are so cramped that, as cars have proliferated, there is just no parking space. So, to keep the parked traffic moving they have put Parkschein meters, perhaps one per block, where one must insert a coin, take the ‘schein’ (or ticket) from the machine and leave it on the dashboard of the car.
We walked down to the Bodensee shore and took several pictures. There was a ferry approaching in the distance, crossing the lake from Romanshorn, a 50-minute trip. The lake view was spoiled a bit because of early morning haze that hung over the lake even though it was a bright, sunny day. The leaves in the park were in the final stages of autumn, with brilliant gold and orange colors. The streets were becoming covered with leaves as more continued to fall.
Leaving Lindau we proceeded northwest along the lake from town to town until we came to Meersburg, a very old charming town, again with cobblestone streets in the old town. We found parking place, paid our E 1 for a half hour and strolled through the streets. This city is even more charming than Lindau, and we took many photos. The upper part of the town was located high over the edge of the lake, but there was also a lower town down on the water’s edge. We had a brisk walk down the long, sloped, narrow street to the palisade along the waterfront. The walk back up kept us puffing before reaching the car, but we made it with four minutes to spare before the meter ran out. I was very happy with the photos taken here. They were beautiful.
Now we headed northwest again along the shore through miles and miles of orchards, mainly apple trees. These trees are planted close together in rows about one meter apart and are not allowed to grow more than about six feet tall. I presume they top them out to stunt the growth, but the result is a huge harvest per tree, all low down where there is no ladder required to pick the fruit. They also surround and cover the acres of trees in a field with fine mesh material supported on poles and overhead wire, presumably to prevent insects from marring the fruit. They, thus, avoid the spraying required to protect the fruit as is done in the US, and harvesting costs are reduced by the small size of the trees. These people are excellent farmers, and have developed methods that could be profitably used in the US.
We could not help noticing the pungent smells in the farming parts of Europe. We wondered how they kept the fields so green even though there has been little to no rain for weeks. The secret is cow manure broken down into slurry, and thinly spread on the fields.
Near the northwest end of the Bodensee we came across a huge pink church overlooking the Bodensee, trimmed in white--which is so typical of all churches and cathedrals in Europe--with a very tall and clocked steeple. The name was the Basilika Birnau. Unlike most other churches they didn’t allow photographs inside, so I bought a post card of it. The interior is white, richly decorated with gold trim on all the walls. Beautiful paintings are located behind the altar and bounding both sides.
Now we left the Bodensee and took autobahn A98 and A81, exiting near Villingen-Schwenningen. Soon we were in the hills and mountains of the famous Black Forest, and stopped at the kuku clock town of Triberg. I visited here with my family soon after moving to Germany in 1967, and I recognized the main street where we bought a clock, in fact the same store.
In Triberg is the tallest waterfall in Germany. It is a series of cascades down the mountainside surrounded by tall, dark green fir trees. It was really a very beautiful spot, and was heavily visited by tourists. Now we left Triberg and proceeded through the back roads of the mountains and the dark forests for which the area is so famous.
The evergreen trees are so thick that
it is almost night underneath. The trees are very straight and tall with very few limbs until reaching near the
top. They would make excellent power poles, and I’m sure they are used for that.
As the sun began to retreat behind the mountains, we rejoined the main-road traffic and headed into Haslach, a small town northeast of Freiburg. Our hotel is the Zur Blume, a large, mustard colored hotel that Erskine has visited many times. He knows the proprietor and the ladies who manage the place. The chief hostess speaks good English, so one of our difficulties is relieved. I regret in one respect that I don’t get the chance to practice and refresh my German, but as the days have passed I am beginning to understand most of the German road and direction signs--and there are a host of them, the most prolific of any place I have ever been. Anyone driving would be wise the get a list of the symbols and review their meanings because the writing is mostly replaced by symbols.
I called Carolyn after ensuring that the cost would only be the standard rate as from a phone booth plus an E 0.20 hotel fee. I could have gotten on the Internet with my loaded AOL program, but found through experiment that there is a common one-phone number for hookup in Germany as a whole. Since I didn’t know how much that cost would be for fifteen or twenty minutes, I decided to decline. There is also the choice of using an 800/888 number but it would have been a surcharge by AOL. The call to Carolyn would suffice.
Supper tonight was in the Zur Blume hotel where we are staying. It is a beautiful, typically German dining room decorated in rich, golden wood from this area. It was well lit, and felt very comfortable, with linen tablecloths, wine glasses, and heavy beer mugs. We met Frau Moser, the owner, whom Erskine knows from many trips here. She knows no English, but communicates with a warm smile and ‘Ja, ja, ja…’ and her hands to fill the gaps between attempts for each of us to be understood or to understand. It is remarkable how much can be exchanged even though the language is missing. Sign language helps. I had a chance to help with limited German when Erskine and Frau Moser couldn’t get their messages across. We learned that Frau Moser is now a grandmother of four, three girls and one boy. She was pleased as punch.
We ate Jägerschnitzel and champignons (mushrooms), in a sauce of Rahmschnitzel, and noodles, and served by a professional, elegant waiter. The meal was outstanding and cost E 10.50 plus a half liter of beer.
Day 13 (November 1, Tuesday)
We awoke today with a shower in progress, but by completion of breakfast it stopped, and was only very cloudy. We decided to visit the Black Forest Museum as planned, hoping rain wouldn’t ruin the outdoor event. The Vogtsbauernhof museum is a collection of many farm houses and out-buildings from the Black Forest from about 1600 to the mid-1950s. They were moved to this museum and rebuilt just as they were in the period represented. Nothing was changed. They all show the wear and tear of many generations of farm people who lived in them.
Interesting observations are that the ceilings were all very low, probably no more than six feet, which matched the average height of people of the period. All the buildings, tools, furniture, farm implement --everything-- was hand made with hand tools. Pegs were used to hold the components together. The early houses combined the family living quarters, the barn, pig pens, horse and cattle stalls, and goose pens. The oldest buildings had thatched roofs. Cooking facilities were arranged to allow the smoke to come out into the room and up into the attic to ward off vermin and flying insects. All the rooms except the eating room were very dark with few windows. Of course, candles were to only source of light, so it must have been a very dreary existence. Of course, the plowing, forestry, and other farm work was supplemented with oxen or horses, but all construction was done manually including all spinning, weaving, and making of their clothing. There was no Walmart or Kroger down the road upon which they could depend. The farms were totally self-supporting. They had to store up much grain, fruits, and other food supplies in the good years to avoid starving in the bad years when crops could fail.
Also represented was a completely hand constructed water wheel powered saw mill for cutting 12 inch by 20 foot logs to make timbers for the houses and barns. A water wheel was also used to power the mill for grinding grain, but these conveniences were only available in the early 1900s, not before. It was a very interesting morning.
In the afternoon the sky cleared, and white fluffy clouds appeared. The temperature remained in the high sixties. We decided to examine several other old picturesque towns in the Black Forest area, including Gengenbach, an old walled and gated city. The cobble-stoned village square was wonderful, surrounded by buildings of the old style, beamed houses. We took many pictures here. This was All-Saints holiday, when the people go to church and then visit the graveyards to honor the dead. Many people were in the square of Gengenbach enjoying the beautiful weather, drinking beer, eating ice cream with their children, and simply enjoying their holiday.
We still had some time so we began a loop up into back roads in the forests, passing through Zell, Bad Peterstal, Schapbach, and Wolfach, and back to our hotel Zur Blume in Haslach. Most of these little villages you must look carefully to find on a map, but, even though consisting of only a few buildings in some cases, they all have an individual name and their own, mostly catholic, church, sometimes two or three.
Zur Blume means “To the Flower” in English. This is a relatively large, family owned hotel, rebuilt in 1999 after being burned to the ground. It has been owned by the same family since the early 1800s, and we were given a tour of framed photographs and paintings taken over the years as displayed in a long hall in the basement. Thomas Singler, the son-in-law of Frau Moser, the early owner, is married to Beata the daughter of Frau Moser, took us on the tour. Frau Moser’s son and another daughter now own and run the hotel. Thomas Singler lived in Hendersonville for six months ten years ago, working for Bosch at the plant there and became friends of Erskine and Peggy. He speaks excellent English. They are wonderful people, and I highly recommend the hotel and the excellent food served in the restaurant. The total bill for two nights here was E 129 which Erskine and I split at E 63 each. That calculates at E 31.50 per night per person including an excellent breakfast buffet.
We settled up the bill in the afternoon, paying out the remainder of our Euros (keeping enough for supper) and making up the difference with a Visa check card. We would drive out at 7:30 a.m. next morning for Stuttgart, about 75 miles, to catch an 11:40 flight. We are hoping there will be no traffic problems in the autobahn when approaching Stuttgart.
Day 14 (November 2, Wednesday)
We departed the Zur Blume hotel at 7:20 a.m. and arrived Stuttgart Airport about 9:30, turned in the car, and submitted to two different body and carryon luggage searches, one to enter the general gate area, and a second (just as thorough) when entering the specific departure gate. All metal objects, fanny pack, pocket calculator, jacket, keys, and shoes were placed in a bin. After passing through the metal detector gate a person scanned the entire body, arms, legs, back and front. There is no way a weapon could have been brought on board. Furthermore, my checked luggage was opened and searched presumably because of the laptop computer in it. They left their calling in the bag.
Further, when we passed from the passport area in Atlanta another similar search was performed before entering the general terminal. I was much impressed with the thoroughness of it all and felt safer as a result.
Our ladies were waiting for us as we arrived in Nashville; and all, travelers and recipients, seemed happy we were home.