Monthly Archives: November 2014

Where to begin? PART III

DAY 11:  Sunday, October 26

From sublime to horrific, that was our journey as we left the idyllic lakeside village of Meersburg and traveled towards Dachau, one of Germany’s first concentration camps sited NW of Munich. Hitler opened this camp to house political prisoners in 1933. Dachau soon evolved into a death camp for anyone who opposed the new chancellor or didn’t meet his and his cronies’ vision of the perfect Aryan.

Throughout our travels here both Max and I were impressed with Germany’s refusal to hide the Nazis atrocities. Instead, Germany has used these camps and other sites not only as memorials to those who lost their lives during Hitler’s rise and fall from power, but also as teaching institutions. Everywhere we went there were German students, on school trips or individual tours, learning about this despicable past. It would be as if someone turned a plantation into a physical course of U.S.’s treatment of African Americans or a reservation becoming a history lesson on how we systematically destroyed the indigenous American Indians’ lifestyle.  Germany’s past became a stark reminder of what one should never forget:  man’s inhumanity.

Walking from the visitor’s center towards the camp, we saw the SS Training Camp on our left, chilling in realizing it was a school for cruelty. Turning to our right an iron gate, with the same, sinister and duplicitous words displayed at Auschwitz-“work will set you free”, greets you.


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A plaque at this entrance acknowledges the long, awaited liberation in 1945.

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You want to dwell on these thankful words for, once inside, your mind is overtaken by the story of Dachau excellently captured and taught by the 13-room exhibit.

Once you’ve entered the compound you’re faced with rows of ghost barracks off to your left with the crematorium at the end, the special prison to your immediate right, and at 2pm, the building housing the fact-filled panels and documents about this concentration camp. Below, Max is standing on the former roll call grounds.

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For over two hours we slowly walked through the rooms covering the torturous histories of those imprisoned here. As with almost every museum here, we were overwhelmed with details and facts. Several caused me to think ‘if only’…

…Georg Elser succeeded.


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… or the outside world acted on Hans Beimer’s words.

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However, similar to the infamous Red Cross report on Theresienstadt in Czech Republic, many people and organizations were fooled and/or closed their eyes:

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Room after room, these panels described the horrors and ugliness experienced in this camp. No less chilling was walking into some of the cells for special prisoners and trying to imagine the fear and desperation when one heard keys turning in the lock. I couldn’t. My mind just can’t comprehend how anyone survived this experience.

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A 1968 sculpture by a Holocaust survivor serves as another brutal reminder of where you are and what was done to too many innocent people.


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After the morning’s somber atmosphere and travel through a dark era, the afternoon was going to be the exact opposite, beginning with a visit to Munich’s large and famous Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall.

We were staying right downtown, about a 20-minute walk from the center. Our route once we left the hotel was a straight shot, taking us to Marienplatz, the main square. Since it was close to 5:00 pm, we looked up at the New Town Hall (constructed starting 1867) along with everyone else.

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The building hosted a glockenspiel dating from 1908, which performs at 11:00 am, noon and, in May-October, 5:00 pm.

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On the last chime we began the hunt for the Hofbrauhaus. Fortunately, it didn’t take us long to locate this beer hall known for its oompah music, buxom waitresses and tourists. In spite of knowing we were at a place locals probably never set foot in, we enjoyed the spirit and enthusiasm everyone exhibited as they (and, we with them) sampled some of Munich’s beer. Alas, no buxom waitress served us, but the beer tasted just as grand. And, I couldn’t resist one of their pretzels that obviously don’t come in a dainty size.

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On the walk home we noticed a line of folk crowded alongside a building. It was only when we looked at the signage did we realize we could have been in any large city around the world and seen the same image-people taking advantage of free wifi outside an Apple store.

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DAY 12: Monday, October 27

Knowing we had some walking ahead of us, we hopped the subway, called U-Bahns and S-Bahns, the latter being commuter railways.

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We felt our first nips of cold air when touring Munich giving us the first true feel of fall since we left England early October. The sun, too, was hiding but we still managed to walk around Munich checking out some of its lovely green space, such as the manicured park, the Hofgarten,

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and the largest city park on the Continent, the English Garden (designed by an American in 1789). If it had been a different time of year, we might have joined any  skinny-dipping locals who do enjoy a summer swim and sun-bath along the river’s banks.

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In addition to German’s investment in green energy via solar panels and wind, they also put their money where their legs are. I can’t tell you how many bikes we dodged, or they dodged us, as we strolled around Munich and later, Berlin. They and their riders came in all shapes and sizes, and I must admit I would have loved to jump on one myself to tour this city.

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Let me say, too, the bicyclists weren’t shy about ensuring their side of the sidewalk designated for bikes were just that, just for bikes. In addition to looking out for car traffic, we now had bike wheels to avoid as well. Made for some interesting walks on crowded routes.

One of the main sites in central Munich is the Residenz, the royal family’s residence from the 14th to 19th century. Munich came about in the 12th century thanks to Henry the Lion and the town’s siting (there it is again-location, location, location) at the crossroads of the salt trade, between Augsburg and Salzburg. Henry built his own bridge over the River Isar after destroying a rival’s. The bridge happened to be by a monastery full of monks, hence the name Munchen. Another 100 years go by and an ambitious merchant family, the Wittelsbachs, take over the town.

Another 100 years and this same family indulge their architectural fantasies by slowly constructing a 90-room home. Building began in the 1300s and continued into the 1800s only to be bombed and later rebuilt after Word War II.

And, boy, did they like fancy stuff. I haven’t seen a lot of palaces but the amount of frou-frou, rococo trimmings made my head spin.

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After awhile the rooms all started to blend into one kaleidoscope of richness, and we fast-forwarded the audio guide, especially when the voice began explaining the glories of a table leg.

However, some displays were definitely worth gawking at:

The Antiquarium (mid-1500s):  the banquet hall with busts of Roman rulers (nothing like displaying a statue of Caesar to legitimize one’s own rule…) and paintings, including 120 of Bavarian villages used by historians today for landscape authenticity.

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The Red Room (1740):  contains miniature copies of most famous paintings of the day, created with one-hair brushes (FYI, coral red was the most royal of colors in Germany).

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Ancestral Gallery of the Wittelsbach Family (1740s):  a hall of faces beginning with portraits of Charlemagne and Ludwig IV, both HREs (Holy Roman Emperors) culminating in a huge family tree.

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Once through these rooms, we came to a fork where we could take the longer tour, i.e., even MORE rooms. Both Max and I quickly joined those making a beeline for the exit. The ‘short’ tour was quite enough, thank you very much.

And, as if we didn’t get our fill, we still stopped by the adjacent rooms showcasing the Treasury. Whoo-whee, talk about jewels.

For me, the best Treasury I’ve ever toured was one where it was chronologically displayed, starting with Charlemagne’s crown, globe, and scepter and ending with Napoleon I’s son’s crib. Not only was it easy to follow a linear timeline but also more compelling when items were attached to an individual. Imagining the person who owned or wore the treasure makes the piece more vibrant.

Here, they didn’t do that, so it was a bit confusing. Yet, I can’t say it wasn’t still fascinating. I still like to look at sparkles and exquisite designs… just ask Max :)

Kings and queens love those Saints’ bones, and they have the reliquaries to prove it. Munich, evidently, has more relics than any other city outside of Rome. With Bavaria being the Catholic bastion against the rebellious Protestants, the Munchens (locals) managed to attract tons of these religious icons; and, one of the most beautiful reliquaries I’ve ever seen, not that I go fossil hunting for bits and pieces of dead religious folk, is the jeweled case of St. George slaying that darn dragon (below). It supposedly contained fragments of this said saint.

Fashioned with over 2,000 precious gems, the helmet even lifts up to show, guess who? the ivory face of a Wittelsbach duke. The best tidbit is Pope John Paul II declared dear, dead George a legend, so whose bones dost lie in said jeweled box?…

I think if I were living back then I’d build a house next to a cemetery and start a reliquary business.

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Some other noteworthy treasures (to me) were…

the crown Napoleon gave to the Wittelsbachs in appreciation for surrendering in the early 1800s (the little guy then ‘thanked’ the HRE by demoting him to King and giving him this flashy crown; it was never worn because soon after Bavaria went anti-Napoleon with the rest of Europe. So much for thank-yous).

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Madame Pompadour’s ink set, which is fascinating due to its historical trail of famous owners.

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Enough already, out we go to fresh air and the common plebes such as ourselves. Time to eat.

But, before we did, we managed to poke our noses into St. Peter’s, Munich’s oldest church. We’re glad we did as the church ceiling was filled with floating white doves. Stomachs grumbled, so that was the extent of our touring this site.

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A few blocks away is the open-air market, Viktualienmarkt. Although I can’t read German, some of the names are recognizable once you start assigning meanings to part of the words, and this one, similar to the English word for ‘victual’, made sense. Better yet, it lived up to its reputation for there were tons of eating options.

Because there were so many tasty lunch treats, we ended up going for a simple hotdog and stood munching with locals, all of us bundled up against the cold.

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After chomping down and an unfortunate pigeon visit, we began our walk home.

DAY 13: Tuesday, October 28

The hills were alive with the sound of music, or so we hummed to ourselves as we drove south towards the Austrian-German border. We didn’t expect to see too many alps considering the day became foggier and foggier the closer we came to the border, but it was nice to escape the city and buildings. (I don’t know about you, but we get museumed-out; so, a respite from feeling an obligation to see famous art and architecture is always an R&R day for us.)

Within an hour or so we arrived at Tegernsea, a village hugging the shoreline of a small lake only to snap photos of ‘Alps in Fog’.

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However, undeterred we continued a circular route (remember, this is a Max and Lynnie drive) now gearing up for some other Bavarian sites.

And, we’re glad we did for the sun started peeking out,

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enabling us to stop for more photo ops along a river.

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Then, in spite of a GSP, we crossed into  Austria (where you aren’t suppose to drive without a special permit, one we didn’t have).

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Quickly exiting, we got back to the ‘right’ side and drove west towards Disneyland’s castle, Neuschwanstein, stopping for a coffee in a small village that looked charming but where locals glanced at us suspiciously.  The coffees took for-EVER to get in spite of being one of the two small tables occupied. As we finally raised ours to sip, Max noticed a poor cyclist sitting at an outside table who probably is still waiting for his beverage…

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Back in the car we followed the GPS and paper map to Mad King Ludwig II’s castles. This king got a bad rap. Yes, he was a weak king, opting to indulge in pleasures versus politics-both his northern neighbor (Prussia) and southern (Austria) were domineering; but, he wasn’t necessary mad as in loco-mad. If it wasn’t for him, Disneyland’s iconic castle could have been less spectacular. What Ludwig II (1845-86) did was build romantic castles, using the latest technology:  Neuschwanstein, in which he only lived 177 days after 17 years of construction; and, Hohenschwangau, his boyhood home and family hunting lodge. In 1886 he was declared mentally unfit (primarily due to his lack of interest in politics and his ability to spend lavishly on art and architecture), and two days later was found floating in a lake. A bit odd…

[Something I read later concerning Ludwig’s sexuality was extremely interesting:  For a brief period in Bavaria (1813 until the unification of Germany 1871) homosexuality wasn’t punishable. Compared to other industrialized countries, this was remarkable. Way to go, Bavaria!]

One would think it’d be easy to find these two, rather large landmarks, but no. No signs specifically said “Neuschwanstein”. We asked twice where it was only to find out we had driven by the sign, twice. That’s because the signs say “Konigsschlasser” for king’s castles.

We did find them as well as the first indication ‘we were there’ once we drove into a parking lot

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but only hiked a bit to take a photo or two of Hohenschwangau (we had read other castle tours, like in Eltz and Meersburg, presented better ideas of castle-living).

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On the way back to the main road we did spot an unusual site:  a para-glider out for an afternoon float.

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Sun was shining, alps seen, castles viewed… time to head home for our last night in Munich.

DAY 14:  Wednesday, October 29

Continuing north along The Romantic Road from Munich, there was another site to see-Hitler’s Nurnberg. (Seems a bit odd to be on a route evoking love and happiness when one of the places is synonymous with Hitler.)

An excellent museum, the Nazi Documentation Center, was our destination. Sitting a bit on the outskirts, this center was located in part of Hitler’s unfinished Congress Hall and next to the Rally Grounds and Zeppelin Field.


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(Just to remind us of how things change, right outside the center they were either putting up or taking down carnival tents.)

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The Center attempts to explain how Nazism came to be through people’s fascination with and terror of this evil doctrine. The exhibit is set up as a walk through history beginning with World War I and ending with the allied victory of World War II. We saw footage of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1934 classic Triumph of the Will and listened to Germans describing life under Hitler, some as young girls enthralled with the Nazism pageantry and others as survivors of concentration camps.

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Photographs, newspaper clippings and propaganda materials filled the brick walls encasing us in the rise and fall of Nazism. Some we recognized, such as Sophie Scholl, who was guillotined for her involvement in the non-violent resistance group, the White Rose. You can’t escape the feeling of terror so many felt at the hands of this regime.

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Once outside we ended up at Zeppelin Field, the site of mass rallies and raised-arm salutes. It was a cool, dreary day, one well-suited for viewing some of Hitler’s monstrosities.

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The Americans blew up the oversized Nazi rooster (eagle) sitting atop the columned backdrop after the 1945, April 21st ceremony celebrating the US victory.

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Just this year engineers have been analyzing the construction. Potentially, there’s a ten-year plan to preserve the Zeppelin Grandstand and Field, symbols of Hitler’s rule. As Max stated, compared to the Coliseum built over 2,000 years earlier, Nurnberg’s buildings designed by Albert Speer to glorify Hitler’s National Socialism certainly didn’t last long. Thank god.

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A sigh of relief escaped our lips when we were back in the car. We were leaving this ugly reminder behind, replacing it with another step back in history, actually quite a few steps. Better yet, our next stop was like frolicking in a festive snow globe filled with sparkles.

Stay tuned!








Where to begin? PART II

DAY 5: Monday, October 20
It had been difficult to find a room in the Black Forest area, so we had ended up in an impersonal building used by out-of-town politicians who need a bed, a working area, and a kitchenette. However, it was fine for doing our day trips, including our one foray into France’s Alsace region. And, most importantly, the receptionist who helped check us in and the one who checked us out couldn’t have been friendlier, so the folk there get A+.

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Our ‘Apart Hotel’ was located in Kehl, basically a German suburb, connected to its lovely French neighbor, Strasbourg. Taking a fifteen-minute bus ride to cross the river then hopping on tram once on the French side, we rode into downtown, enjoyed a bagel for breakfast (not as good as ones at home) and walked to the cathedral, which was sited where a Roman temple once stood.

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Construction began in 10th century and continued in various stages through the 14th century including impressive stained glass windows.

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Unique at that time for only having one tower, it was considered the highest building in Europe (466 feet).


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Strasbourg also features  Grand Ile, located between two arms of River Ill.  Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Center, this small area features streets and buildings from medieval and post-medieval times. It also was woven into the modern city fairly seamlessly,

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including a swing bridge connecting the island to the mainland,

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making our day’s tour an easy and time-travel walk with a time-out to enjoy the local beverages.

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Reversing our morning commute by tram, then bus, then walking to our hotel, we planned the next day’s event. We even prepped for tomorrow’s Baden-Baden experience by walking around naked in our room. Better to try it in private before we doff all in public…
DAY 6: Tuesday, October 21
Today was THE DAY. In other words, it was the day Max and Lynnie would prance around in their birthday suits in front of complete strangers (hopefully strangers) and pretend nothing was extraordinary about baring all.

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We arrived and the kind receptionist said ‘you don’t need anything except this electronic wristband’, which recorded us as having paid for the full treatment including two mini-massages: a soap & brush and a cream.

Jitterly we nonchalantly strolled up the stairs to the mixed bathing side (certain days the genders have separate bathing areas). Reaching the locker room, we used our wristband to push through the turnstile. A male attendant in hospital whites greeted us. His being clad in clinical attire helpfully provided a medical sensitivity to knowing soon we’d be standing front and center nude. He gave us a towel (for sitting on the hot benches in the fist two saunas, not for draping) and said proceed to the showers once we’re ready. We looked at one another, gulped, said ‘what the hell’, and off everything went without another thought. Well, there were a few thoughts such as my silent screaming mantra “I can do this. I CAN do this. I can DO this. I can do THIS! Yes! I CAN DO THIS!.” as the movie theme for ROCKY played in my head.

Since there are excellent descriptions of this, I’ll link one here.

But, just know, it wasn’t crowded, it was progressively easier with each of the 17 steps of steam, dunk, massage as the time wore on, and we’d do it again, which some of you may recall we did when the opportunity presented itself.

And, for anyone contemplating this invigorating and relaxing experience, one of the many benefits is you’ll never have a wedgie from a bathing suit.
DAY 7: Wednesday, October 22
In spite of waking to an overcast and cool day, we decided to go with our original plan of touring the Black Forest. We had two destinations: the German Clock Museum in Furtwangen and then, are you ready?… Schwarzwalder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof in Gutach. The first provided a chronological history of the timepiece including, of course, cuckoo clocks. The latter, an open museum of how life was way back when in the Black Forest.

The landscape was hilly with switchbacks on narrow lanes that would then flow into an open field populated with neatly outlined farms composed of some cows, hay bales, and scrupulously, orderly homes. The architecture, nor disciplined landscape, rarely varied. Even in the rather dour and now rainy weather it was intriguing. I felt like I was in a German Lego-land.

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One of the loveliest towns we strolled around was Staufen. Considered a non-tourist town in spite of its shops and manicured streets, this gem featured a picturesque market square with stalls selling honey, herbs, and wine,

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little canals (originally created as fire protection),

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and plenty of Germans from nearby who come here to shop the local stores.

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This town is also known as the home of Johann Georg Faust. He was brought to Staufen to produce gold for the town and managed to die from an explosion when conducting one of his chemical experiments. This true-life character was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s inspiration for his story about a man who makes a pact with the devil, who, in turn, breaks Faust’s neck.

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While climbing to a bit higher altitude on our way to Furtwangen, the rain turned to snow.

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Unfortunately, there was an accident ahead of us for soon we were stopped in a line by a waving policeman with ambulances rushing by us.

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Informing each car as he strode down the line it would be awhile, we decided to cancel our cuckoo plans and head back down the hill. We still had the open-air museum we could see.
Back down the hill and onto another route, we located the museum outside Gutach. It wasn’t quite raining but it wasn’t not raining either. But, we were here and determined to tour the buildings.

Vogtsbauernof means ‘farmhouse of the district governor’. The original farmhouse sitting on the property was constructed in 1612.

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Surrounding the main home were the laborer’s cottage,

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grain-grinding mill,

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saw mill (this pic is for Rod and Joanne who built one on Sleeth Island in Canada),

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and the bakery and distillery serving as a communal kitchen.
By now it was definitely raining, in fact, pouring. Not the best time to tour an outdoor exhibit. Yet, we dashed through to the various buildings, sheltering in and under the eaves, seeing just enough to understand,

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no, I really wouldn’t want to have to live back then. With a final walk jog to the exit, we said we were glad we went but, basically, for the time we spent, we had just made a nice donation to the museum’s coffers.

Back to Kehl we went fortified with our gummy bears, a nutritional food always reminding me of our friend Shawn :)

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DAY 8: Thursday, October 23
Excitedly we packed up and exited our Apart Hotel room. Our destination was one Becky and Gary had recommended:  Meersburg, a small historical town on one of Germany’s biggest lakes.
Not wanting to leave the Black Forest without seeing the cuckoo clocks, we decided to go by way of Furtwangen and its museum.
Having researched the various kinds of cuckoo clocks, we were lavishly rewarded with an overwhelming history not only of the cuckoo but any and all timepieces created by man. But, my focus was on the birdie, and I had discovered the Black Forest was the origin of the cuckoo clock in spite of any Swiss saying otherwise (as per my readings anyway).


The idea of using a house as the main component arose from an 1850 contest. A railway architect, Friedrich Eisenlohr, modeled his on a railway house changing the look of these clocks. Thanks to the Grand Tour era of wealthy tourists toodling around the romantic roads of Germany, the cuckoo clocks became extremely popular. Now you can purchase not just mechanical ones (requiring winding) but also quartz models, which are easier to ensure the bird doesn’t stop tooting.

After an hour of listening to the tick-tock, cuckoos, and generally inner workings of hundreds of clocks, it was time to leave.

Arriving in Meersburg we found ourselves in a lovely little town beside Lake Constance, one of Germany’s largest lakes, one also bordered by Austria and Switzerland.

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Once in Meersburg we dropped our bags at our inn, which was on one of the main squares in this historic town, and realized just how happy we were to be out of our cold, corporate room and in a warm, homey inn.

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DAY 9: Friday, October 24
Waking up to a beautiful day, we found a few sites to explore, mainly the castle peering over the lake atop a rocky outcrop.

This castle was the most impressive one we toured, primarily due to the number of rooms available for viewing (36) and furnishings. Meersburg Castle was founded by a Merovingian King, Dagobert the First, in the 7th century.

You really got a feel for how castle living must have been. One stone room opened to another,

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with living quarters furnished with authentic, period pieces.

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In the staff kitchen, we could still smell the soot from over a thousand years’ use.

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Large tiled stoves were the heaters (which we had seen in other castles.

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The well (reaching over 91 feet down to the lake) was protected inside the castle, no surprise given the possibility of a seige.

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A 16th century addition served as a room for fencing and other military exercises. It now houses weapons and suits of armor, with the black one below used during the dreaded Thirty Years War 1618-1648.

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[This war occurred thanks once again to religion as well as politics. Due to the spreading of Lutheranism from the early 1500s, Protestantism was a way out from the Pope’s and Holy Roman Emperor’s dominating rule. With the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 each local noble could choose his realm’s religion. This option divided the land loosely into several different regions, with the north and east (later Prussia) picking Protestantism and the south (Bavaria and Austria) and west remaining Catholic. Let events steep for a bit, and, boom, religious and political differences exploded drawing in all of Europe. When the Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648 over one-third of Germany’s population had died. Today this war is number 17 of the top 100 list of the bloodiest manmade events. Wouldn’t you think after all this time someone would get it right and realize respect and toleration is what fuels personal well-being and growth? How stupid can we be?  Rhetorical question.]

In the guards’ mess hall, they displayed one of the drinking cups. No thanks.

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This fortified castle was complete with its own blacksmith or armorer

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and, dungeon where they found writings on the wall from unfortunate prisoners.

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As per the castle brochure, some of this reads:

“Good fellow, do not grumble – would you want it differently, your life!”

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I found the 13th-16th century helmets worn for as a presentation prior to a medieval tournament mesmerizing, maybe I was envisioning Max on a white steed? He’d look great, wouldn’t he ? :)

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The castle also featured  tournament practice boards from the 12th century.

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Surrounded by a moat (now dry) with a water mill sitting right next to it, the castle was also home to one of Germany’s greatest poets, Annette von Droste-Hulshoff. On your wanderings through the castle, you step inside the rooms she occupied when visiting Lake Constance and where she died on May 24, 1848.

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Completing our castle exploration we decided to once again do, as the locals coin it, textile-free bathing. There was a spa on the outskirts of town, easy walking distance from our hotel. This time, however, one had a choice of using the thermal, indoor-outdoor pool with suits…


or the saunas and dunking pool (and lake) without. We did both. And, let me just say, it was packed! At one point, we backed out of one of the many saunas (total of five altogether) when faced with over twenty bodies’ parts facing us as we went in. There wasn’t any room to sit. Fortunately, there were at least two others close by, which were only occupied by two or three sauna-ites.
After two hours of dry toasting, cold showering, warm pooling (with one exception when we went down to the lake to test the temp… only went up to knees), we felt totally relaxed and refreshed and very German.

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Slowly making our way back to the main part of town we passed some vineyards

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and a tractor-load of tourists enjoying the sun (tempting but no),

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and then up the hill, we wrote a card to Max’s mom,

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and then stopped for him to try on a hat that seemed odd to find here but appropriate due to his alma mater.

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Deciding to continue enjoying the outdoors, we got a bottle of wine , some cheese and crackers and found a park bench looking over the lower street and lakeside. And, a blimp for company. Life is good.


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DAY 10: Saturday, October 25

With Switzerland tantalizing close we opted for a road trip across the border. First taking the  short ferry ride (which Max thought was extremely efficient and of excellent value – 12 Euros includes the car)

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You can take a man off a boat but the boy never leaves…

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we exited into the town of Konstranz then drove towards the border.

Since drivers have to purchase a special pass (vignette) in order to use the Swiss highways we decided to do back roads. The problem was we sometimes ended up on an entrance ramp requiring one of these road tax certificates. The fine is hefty, which meant, yes, we did reverse and do some quick ueys to get back to our meandering lanes.

I can’t say Switzerland was much different from Germany. The landscape mirrored a Villeroy and Boch (a joint, French & German manufacturer from 1748) china pattern, one depicting rural scenes of quilted farms and gingerbread towns.


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One notable site listed to see was Europe’s largest waterfall, the Rhein Falls in Neuhausen. Although not as high or broad as Niagara Falls, this waterfall’s spectacular vista is due to the force of the water pushing itself through a narrow opening. Over 15,000 years ago the Rhine River was forced into a new riverbed, and the falls are the transition point between hard chalk and soft gravel.

We met some traveling Londoners when walking from the parking lot who warned us of theft.

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So, the five of us banded together to take the pathway to the main parking lot where we joined the throng of visitors. Then, picture taking, including the first time (but not the last) we’d seen this apparatus (talk about ensuring you get yourself in a pic).

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After a few sprays, pics, and good-byes, the two of us headed back to our car and home to Germany.

Along the way we stopped at Stein am Rhein, a well-preserved medieval town where the Rhine meets Lake Constance. It’s enchanting although it felt surprisingly (to us) deserted for a Saturday; but, we enjoyed strolling through the market square and looping back to our car via the river.

What really catches one’s eye are the murals.  We didn’t see the ones in the abbey that Abrosius, the son of Hans Holbein the Elder and the older brother of Hans Holbein the Younger, painted along with Thomas Schmid, but the exterior of the half-timbered houses presented a glorious display of colorful figures.

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St. Georg, the dragon slayer, was the patron, and his motif was everywhere, including the town’s trash bins

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and manhole covers (Ellen, this is for you).

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There was some other interesting wall art, much more recent than the other murals.

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One of my favorite photos of my husband was snapped here.

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And, then, there was one that exemplifies a sad commentary on today’s life:

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Crossing back into Germany we headed for Meersburg.

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We decided on a take-away pizza as our self-service room service as well as, after much thought and consideration, a Black Forest cuckoo clock  (No fears, it won’t be chirping on Juanona).

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Tomorrow we start our first city stop, Munich.

Where to begin? PART I

Well, let’s start at the very beginning… at least from when we took off early morning to walk to the bus station in Ipswich to catch the flight from Heathrow so we could fly to Frankfurt airport where we would land and pick up our rental car to start another adventure.

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Loosely following a Rick Steves recommended road trip, we toured this country counter-clockwise. And, what would a road trip with Max and Lynnie be without getting lost? Which we happily managed to accomplish within the first forty-five minutes of leaving the parking garage. But, hey, counter-clockwise does mean one travels in a circle, which we did countless times it seems.

Germany, to me, is steeped in a confusing hodgepodge of historical events. One reason for my feeling this way is how this country’s physical and political divisions seemed to morph into so many different configurations, beginning with the various tribes who settled in the area and ending with a unified country in the late 1800s. Two Word Wars later and the extinguishing of one of the most hateful regimes, Hitler’s Nazism, this country is now a strong player in the European Union as well as a leader in transitioning to environmental energy sources. We felt like we strolled through all of these episodes as we traveled through the hills, plains, mountains, and cities of this land.

In spite of trying to spend at least two to three nights in one location, we still got jumbled up in our heads when trying to recall each of our stops. So, with that in mind, I’ll list the days and associated activities. Warning: even with hitting the highlights, you may get blurry-eyed…
DAY 1:   Wednesday, October 16
Finally, after taking a circular route due to my thinking we were heading to one town starting with a “B” (Beilstein) when actually it was Bacharach, we managed to arrive at a wonderful inn just up the hill from this quintessential Rhine River town (the Rhine, we discovered, is called “The Father River” whereas all other German rivers are classified as female).

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We were also surrounded  by vineyards, most owned by individual families with harvesting occurring while we were driving around. Not being big white wine drinkers, I must say I acquired a taste for some of their excellent, local vintage. Just don’t ask me which one or how to pronounce it.

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Becky Robertson and Gary Crosby’s Pension-Restaurant Bei der Post earns rave reviews on travel sites, and they definitely earn them. These two Brits opened their inn a year ago and have worked hard to ensure all of their guests feel welcomed.

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Because they were closing down for several months starting that weekend (we were some of their last guests for the season), Gary steered us to an excellent restaurant just down the street. So, off we went to enjoy one of our first German meals (and, yes, it was good although I avoided the sauerkraut).
DAY 2:   Thursday, October 17
Off we go to Eltz Castle in Burg Eltz, a castle that has remained in the same family for 850 years and was never destroyed, even surviving a five-year siege. Not only did it avoid ruin by wars and politicizing but also the shared ownership by three families, each having a third of the castle.
It was a fairy-tale walk through the woods up to its entrance.

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And, in spite of the late season, it was crowded. Something we found out in a lot of the tourist draws thanks to the wonderful Indian Summer Germany was experiencing. If we had made more time, we could have done day hikes up to this magical world, but, we took the easy route and just did the fifteen-minute walk from the car park. The view upon arrival was spectacular. Talk about ‘home sweet home’…

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Amazingly the castle’s foundation is built right into the natural stone.

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Peering just over the wall while waiting for the group tour to begin, we saw heavy stone balls. We found out later they’d been used during the Eltz Feud 1331-36 with the Archbishop of Trier, Balduin,  who built a siege castle and shot them from catapults eventually causing the Eltz lords to surrender.

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It was the last battle action this castle saw thanks to always managing to be on the ‘right side’.

What we discovered during our travels, beginning with this castle, was the adage location, location, location could make a lot of folk wealthy, for the families situated their home on one of Germany’s most important medieval trading routes.

Along with fifteen or so others, we were led by an English-speaking guide through rooms still decorated as if they were inhabited back in the Middle Ages. One of my favorites due to its symbolism was the conference room where the families met to discuss affairs and sort out any issues. On one wall is the face of a jester (representing freedom of speech since jesters could say anything to a king or queen) and a rose (symbolizing secrets, or what’s said in this room, stays in this room). This landscape and landmark were a wonderful introduction to our German adventure. I just wish we had thought to make it a day’s hike in and out, it was that beautiful (and great to be outside).
Day 3:   Friday, October 18
With one historical site checked off (and many more to come) we decided to tour the Rhine and Mosel Valleys, stopping in some featured towns along the way. Just driving along the river was a pleasure with its fortified castles (basically toll stations, which at one time numbered 79 along the Rhine; as is true today, being along a trade route generally provides an economic boost to one’s coffers), commercial barges, winding bike paths, and sun-warmed towns. By the time we landed back at the Pension, we were ready for some of that German wine and beer as well as dinner.

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Germany has definitely embraced alternative energy for it was rare not to see wind farms on the horizon or solar panels gracing rooftops.

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When stopping in one village we noticed there was a two-hour limit on parking but no noticeable ticket dispenser. When poking around the other cars to see how they got a ticket, Max noticed a cardboard clock. Sure enough, we had one in the pocket next to the driver’s seat:  an honor system for parking.

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Before we had left to being our day’s touring, we had asked Becky and Gary for a restaurant recommendation. Becky and Gary surprised us by offering to cook one of her specialties, homemade pizza. So, instead of traipsing downtown, we enjoyed pizza a la Becky, which was spectacular, and I must say I’m an aficionado of pizza and this was one of the best I’ve tasted.


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And, we decided we had better book all of our rooms ahead since our France strategy of just going free-flow with no reservations wasn’t going to work this time. Thankfully, with Becky’s German and her and Gary’s knowledge of the country, we ended up in some wonderful towns we wouldn’t have considered, such as Meersburg on Lake Constance bordering Switzerland.

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DAY 3:   Saturday, October 18
Before we left our first German, home-away-from-home, we met a German couple here for a musical celebration. The wife played bagpipes (!), which seemed so incongruous to me but quite enchanting, too. Plus, I really like the German name for them, “doodle bags”. Unfortunately, she didn’t play for us but it was fun imaging the sound echoing in some German castle.

With fond good-byes and promises to keep in touch, we started the engine and headed out.

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Our next destination was Trier, Germany’s oldest city thanks to Augustus founding it in 16 B.C.E. To this day one of the gates, Porta Nigra, survives,

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where you can see where the gate used to drop down on either entrance, trapping enemies so boiling oil could be poured on them. Lovely.

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Of course, what’s a Roman town without a gladiator, and, no, it’s not Max.

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and, it was from this point where we took an hour-long city walk with a knowledgeable guide to other historical landmarks.

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Several sites truly reflected the politics of the day:

The home of Karl Marx, which explained why so many Chinese tour groups were snapping photos of this rather, non-descript building.

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The Assembly Hall’s knight statues:

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The one on the left  has his mask up watching over the people

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while the one on the right has his mask down and hand on his sword as he faces the cathedral across the market square. His pose represents the town’s unhappiness with the Archbishop owning the rights to trade (the Emperor would designate towns as either a free imperial city with full trading rights and beholden only to the Holy Roman Emperor or under the thumb of an archbishop or local prince).

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The 14th century Jewish ghetto with the rusted stone on the wall indicating where the chain was hooked to isolate the 60 or so families living here.

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The pink Electoral Palace that was dressed in rococo.  [Charles IV’s Golden Bull of 1356 formalized the practice of having chosen electors confirm the “King of the Romans”.  The law established seven electors:  three Archbishops (Trier’s being one of them) and four princes of the state, i.e., dukes. Theses electors kept popping up during our travels with the first being in Eltz.]

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The town was lovely but after the tour we realized we really didn’t need two days here, which is what we had booked. But, our reservations were non-cancellable except with a penalty, so we trudged off to the inn, which were basically rooms above an Italian restaurant.

Our  prayers were answered! The manager of the restaurant said we didn’t have a reservation in spite of our showing him the confirmation number via Because of our confirmation, now was responsible for finding us a room. So, not only did we only have to stay one night in Trier we got a much, much nicer room at the rate we would have paid to stay in the room above the restaurant. And, better yet, the meal served right next door to the Altstadt Hotel was one of the top six we had in Germany (we kept score).

DAY 4:   Sunday, October 19
Full with a wonderful night’s sleep and breakfast, we headed for the parking garage with its efficient monitoring of parking spaces (green for vacant, red for taken along with a headcount so you know before you go down a lane how many spaces might be free).

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Now, off to Germany’s famous spa town, Baden-Baden. It was an absolutely gorgeous fall day. We strolled along pedestrian-only streets filled with other Sunday strollers soaking up the warm October sun.

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We decided to check out the baths you read about and discovered there are actually two: Friedrichsbad, sitting atop a Roman soldiers’ bath ruins, features the traditional, textile-free bathing (oriented towards one’s health)

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while Caracalla Spa is more contemporary with a large pool for those with suits and a sauna-steam bath area for those without.

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We decided to return the next day and go for the all-out “healthy” German experience at Friedrichsbad.

It was during our wanderings in scouting out this spa that we encountered our one and only rude German. We were walking towards through the garden to reach the spa, snapping some photos of the landscape,

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when a distinguished, expensively attired German walked by us and uttered one word. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch it for later translation. We were stunned as before and since then any Germans we met were pleasant if not downright friendly. Anyhow, it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the upcoming bath escapade.

On our way back to our car we stopped at the Trinkhalle whose portico is decorated with nymph and knight murals along with some religious themes. This building was Baden-Baden’s Pump Room, now housing the Tourist Information Office.

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It was at the end of the day that we discovered my laptop stolen out of the trunk of the car. Later, realizing there were video cameras in the parking garage, we returned and filed a police report. Unfortunately, nothing has turned up, which isn’t surprising. But, worse things could happen, and none did, so back to our adventure in a coming soon to you PART II…