David and Ginna Zoellner love to travel. We live in Nice, France, half the year; the other half we live near Chicago, Illinois. We do 'home-exchanges' to explore other areas as well as taking normal trips. We'd like to share some of our experiences with you.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Germany, June 1997

We arrived in Frankfurt at 8 AM, and we were out of the airport and in our car by 9:15! A great start. Roads were marked so well, we immediately found ourselves on the A3 to Aschaffenburg as planned. The town was very crowded, with difficult one-way streets (einbahnstrasse) seeming to lead us only out of town. We visited the Stiftkirche (stift means charitable organization - these churches were founded by a monastic group). The nave is 12th cnetury, the tower 15th. You notice immediately in Germany the half-timbered houses, with the timbers often outlined to emphasize them with straight lines or curlicues. Most attractive. We then visited the Schloss (palace - 17th c.) which is set on a crest overlooking the Main River Valley.
We couldn't believe we found the automuseum, Rosso Bianco, which had a large collection of antique sportscars, even an MG TD, although not as nice as ours.

Then it was on to Rohrbrunn where we found the Forsthaus Echterspfahl, an old forester's house converted to a restaurant, a charming place. I had spargel (white asparagus) soup and salad while David had some fatty pork thing with liver dumplings. This was far from our last view of spargel - May and June are the season and it's as big as Oktoberfest! Restaurants had their regular menus and their separate spargel menus, some including appetizers to desserts of spargel! It's very expensive, about $14.00 for a plateful.

All of these towns are in the Spessart Forest, not as large as the Black Forest, but beautiful evergreens and hills. Lovely driving. And the weather is perfect, with a warm sun and a cool breeze.

On to Miltenberg where we had expected to stay. But it was very crowded, few rooms available. We wandered around the pretty town a bit - there's a nice pedestrian area of shopping restaurants, and hotels. Then we went back to Klingenberg/Clingenberg (we saw both spellings) which we had passed through and found the Hotel Frankischer Hof (128 DM including breakfast). Our room was very nice and quite large, with big windows on the very quiet main street. The beds were typical, we were to learn: instead of top sheets and a blanket, each had a comforter folded in thirds - our own cocoons! And so comfortable. After a beer in the beer garden, a short walk around the tiny but attractive town, we were in bed by 7 PM and slept for 12 hours.

Breakfast, called fruhstuck, in Germany is quite an event we were to learn. Almost all hotel room charges included a large buffet breakfast with basically the same ingredients, although of course some were better than others. There was cereal - often 3-4 choices and usually with dried fruit and nuts in it - and some fresh fruit; then rolls and breads with liverwurst (I ate it almost daily although I've never been a huge fan of liverwurst - it just seemed to fit), salami, ham (especially later the Black Forest ham), Swiss cheese, brie, a couple of times Bavaria bleu or some other blue cheese - even Stilton a couple of times, and jellies and jams and the biggest pats of butter ever! And usually soft boiled eggs. And huge pots of very strong coffee.

The second day was a nearly perfect day. The weather was wonderful and we stopped in three interesting but very different towns. After feasting, we drove to Amorbach, which lies in the Odenwald, another great forest. This is where we should have stayed at the Hotel Post with its pretty painted fresco across the front! A charming town and very old. A monastery was founded here in AD 734. One cafe was dated 1448. Each town has a tall pole that is decorated with figurines (usually) and has a pine tree fixed at the top, probably 50 feet in the air. We weren't sure what these were but we referred to them as May poles.

Then it was on to Wertheim with its ruined castle (The Burg). This lovely town at the confluence of 2 rivers has no autos in the old town. It is larger than Amorbach with more shopping. We ate lunch at the Hotel Kette (which would be another great place to stay) on the patio overlooking the river. David had smoked fish and salad, I had a vegetarian plate that had a layered potato pie, mushrooms, and spargel mit cheese. It was wonderful. We finished with hazelknut creme with fruits. And we had a lovely bottle of Wertheim wine trochen (dry). Talked with a couple from Essen.

Then through sandstone villages and lovely forests to Wurzburg (pop. 120,000) where we would stay the night, although again it was difficult to find a room. We found the last room in town! in a hotel across from the River Main, but our room was on the wrong side. We walked all over town and up to the Residenz, a Baroque palace (18th c.), the home of bishops, with beautiful gardens. The Marktplatz had dozens of beer/wine stalls and food - tacos, sausages, anything!; definitely the place to be on Saturday night. But we went to the Rathaus (13th c. beautiful building) where EVERY table in the restaurant was reserved. We found a place in the stube and had our cream of spargel soup and a beer. A wonderful place with waitresses in local dress, stained glass windows, beautiful ceilings. Then we walked to the river where American high school students - sons and daughters of service men and women - were having their prom on the riverboat with the huge Marienberg citadel on the hilltop opposite. A beautiful scene and a beautiful city.

Sunday we started down the Romantische Strasse (Romantic Road). We made a quick stop in Weikersheim, where a local band was playing, to visit the castle (16-17th c.) on the banks of the Tauber, and another in Creglingen to see the pilgrimage church with its wooden altarpiece carved by sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider (Wurzburg's mayor in 1520-1521), an amazingly intricate piece of work. Then on to Rothenburg to the Gasthof Rappen, right outside the city walls. (There were so many places within the city walls - we should have looked further and stayed inside). We walked in to the city for a grand lunch on the terrace of a very nice hotel. David had pork with mushroom gravy and spaetzle, I had the local version of sauerbraten; we shared a small salad, local wine, and, for dessert, warmer apfelstrudel mit Sahne (cream). Wonderful and such a nice waiter.

After lunch we took a long walk on the ramparts, almost all the way around the city. It's a combination, we decided, of Carcassone and Sarlat, two ancient cities we visited in the southwest of France last year, although less comercial than Carcassone; really very nice. Just outside the gates there is a large garden area with a great view back to the city. In the evening we went back to the same hotel as for lunch. All we wanted was a glass of wine. Our same waiter, who was so glad to see us again (obviously we tipped too much!) suggested their bar which was perfect, decorated with branches with cherries hanging from them and rows of German hats. We had a great time watching a family have their spargel feast - almost as much fun as they had.

We left Rothenberg the next morning, headed toward Dinkelsbuhl. But with so much time, we decided to head over to Schwabisch Hall and then back. On the way we stopped in the tiny town of Kirchberg an der Jagst, which clings to a cliff. Then on to Schwabisch Hall, a lovely town on the Kocher River, a tributary of the Neckar. Its marktplatz is known as one of the most attractive in all of Germany. They seemed to be rehearsing for a play on the steps of St. Michael's Cathedral. We walked all over the town which tumbles down the hillside to the river.

Then on to Dinkelsbuhl, which is similar to Rothenberg but less commercial, more 'lived in'. It would be difficult to choose between them - each is very appealing. We had a great lunch at the Deutches Haus, a beautiful Renaissance building. The ceilings are painted with crests/shields, perhaps of each German state. David had rabbit, although no hasenpfeffer; it was loin of rabbit and a bit chewy. I had my spargel soup, salad, and wienersnitzel mit 3-colored noodles. We shared ice cream with warm cherries and berries. Then we took a long walk on the ramparts: outside the walls people were gardening and there were rivers and ponds with ducks and swans. The turrets of the ramparts are people's houses!

We stayed in Hotel Weisses Ross (White Horse) in a nice room with pretty flowered curtains at the windows on the 3rd floor overlooking a quiet park. All day it had been overcast but there was no rain. It was warm enough for drinks outside at 7:30 PM. The hotel was very friendly - met a lovely 97 year old English widow who had married a German right after the war. She was charming and told us that she was born in the same month as the Queen Mother. The place was quiet except for the 6 AM bells. Breakfast was wonderful in a pretty downstairs room.

Tuesday was rainy. We drove to Nordlingen where we visited the Ries Museum. The Ries Basin is a 12 mile wide depression in the earth caused by a meteorite about 15 million years ago. There were many German high school students there, running around getting the answers to pre-printed questions. We shopped for brot (bread), Erdbeer (strawberries), and kase (cheese). Then off to Schloss Harburg. Because of the rain, we had a picnic in the car with our new giant plastic, but very fancy, wine glasses. We had the left over hasen and schnitzel, gorgonzola with a baguette, and for dessert the strawberries with a decadent walnut/cream cheese. And a linzer tort!

We then explored the Schloss which was begun in 1093! It is still owned by the descendants of the Counts of Oettingen. And then on to Augsburg where we found a room in the rather modern Hotel Fishertor. We walked to the Fuggerei, the first social settlement for people in need, founded in 1519 by Fugger the Rich. The district has its own church and administration and the four gateways are locked each night. It's very neat and clean and appealing. The inhabitants have a moral obligation to pray for the souls of the founders.

The main cathedral in Augsburg, The Dom, has the oldest stained glass in the world, depicting five prophets. Its twin spires date from the 11th c. In the churchyard they are digging up some Roman ruins. And the Mozart family home is here in Augsburg.

We went back to an Irish Pub we had seen, Murphy's Law, for beer and dinner. We were to find Irish Pubs all over Germany - it's the hottest craze, most especially in the college towns. It was fun to be able to stop in and speak English with the Irish, the American service men and women, and the Germans who frequent the places. After dinner we went to a charming Weinstube for drinks, Weinstube Sedlmeir; this is the real Bavaria. It was a tiny place, very friendly owner, Herta Lammle, and no tourists at all. There were several tables of locals, one all women, having a grand time. It was quite dark, lots of wood, copper pots, baskets, beams, dried flowers - very gemutlich. Then home to bed.

The next morning we were off early to Munich. We found it difficult to find the city, since we didn't understand all the different exits. But we finally got there and found one of the hotels we had on our list, the Dollman, http://www.hotel-splendid-dollmann.de/ a nice old building in a lovely residential neighborhood. The room was tiny but attractive although modern, with windows towards the front. We were within easy walking distance of the center of the city and immediately set out toward the Marienplatz, the main square. The Neues Rathaus is very elaborate and beautiful. We will return at 5 PM to see and hear the glockenspiel. But we were hungry, so it was on to the Hundskugel, the oldest tavern in town (1440) for lunch. David had the roast pig with potato dumplings and coleslaw, I had rump steak, home fries, and green beans. The restaurant was very comfortable with much wood, pewter plates, stained glass windows, and very modern bathrooms.

After lunch we continued on the 1 1/2 hour Frommer walking tour of the city. We loved the Viktualienmarkt, a daily market with everything you could possible need in the way of foods - cheeses, meats, vegetables, fruits, wine, pastries and bread - and beautiful flowers. A fun place to be.

The Residenz (palace) was started in 1385 but has been added to extensively and now comprises several buildings and gardens. Then it was back to the Marienplatz for a beer and the 5 PM bells. The glockenspiel is charming and always greatly amuses the large crowd that gathers for it. Afterwards we set out for the English Gardens, a vast Central Park-like park. There is a canal which runs through it which backs up, forming a wave where enterprising young people actually surf! We watched them for quite a while. Many German cities on rivers divert the rivers through the center of town with delightful results. We walked through part of the park and then back towards our hotel along the river, lined by beautiful apartment buildings. We stopped along the way to eat outside on this lovely evening - David having tomato soup and I had a cheese plate. Home to bed by 9:00, just dead! We must have walked 10 miles today.

The breakfast at the Dollman was the best so far, served in light and airy rooms in the basement. We picked up wonderful picnic provisions at the Viktualienmarkt and set off for Nymphenburg Palace. We walked several miles around the gardens there, viewing the Amalienburg, which is described as a charming little hunting lodge but is far more formal than we had pictured; the Badenburg with its heated swimming pool; and the Pagodenburg which didn't look anything like a pagoda to us.

En route to Landsberg, we stopped for our most wonderful picnic: bread and cheese, a local blue; sausage, tomatoes stuffed with cheese, strawberries with walnut cream cheese, florentines, cherries and wine. Many people passed by and admired our feast as we sat on a bench overlooking a large lake.

In Landsberg we found a room in a Gasthaus on the main street - will we never learn? We took a walking tour of the city which sits right on the Lech River which drops about 20 feet at the town. There is a beach at the bottom of the drop.

We drove down to Schongau for dinner at the Hotel Holl, which was recommended for fish, and walked around this charming little town. Then back to Landsberg to bed. But we slept very little, with traffic running all night right outside our windows. It rained most of the night and we woke to a wet, gray day. Still tired, we set off for Neuschwanstein, the most famous of the castles built by Ludwig II, supposedly the model for the Disneyland castle. As we approached the village, the day cleared beautifully. It was a long arduous climb to the castle, but worth it. We took the tour (in English, although still difficult to understand). It is a beautiful place with wonderful mosaics, beautiful moldings, lovely wood, and much artwork, many with swans (schwann) and many Wagnerian themes. The kitchens were quite modern. The tour guide kept reminding us that everything was original, not redone, although that didn't seem all that amazing to us as the buildings are only 130 years old. They are kind of a fake - Ludwig wanted them to seem like ancient castles but the are fairly new compared to many we have seen.

En route to Lindau we drove thorugh beautiful countryside with lakes, woods, and the Alps always in the background. We stopped for lunch along the way in a lovely town in the foothills of the Alps, a tiny town which swells winter and summer with tourists. Our hostess, Elaine, at the restaurant in a hotel is also the owner along with her husband Peter, the chef. Elaine is from England and was very helpful. David enjoyed his fresh fish, salad, and wonderful potatoes while I loved the potato-mushroom soup and baked camenbert with cranberry cream sauce and salad.

In Lindau, which is situated on an island in Lake Constance (the Bodensee) we found a wonderful hotel with a last minute canceled reservation. We got an expensive but lovely room with windows looking out to the Bodensee, which is the largest lake in Germany and is bordered by Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. We walked all around the town which we loved. The harbor is beautiful with the 12th century Mangturm (tower) which used to be a lighthouse, and the lion which guards the entrance to the quay. There is a nice looking restaurant at one end of the island with some of the largest sycamore trees we have ever seen. There was a huge regatta going on, about 250 sailboats leaving Lindau and sailing down to the other end of the lake and back. We watched them set off from our table on the terrace of a restaurant where we split a chef's salad. Then home to bed. There was music - nice jazz and some old dance music quietly playing in the background. A very 50's feel. I woke in the middle of the night and looked out the window - the waterfront was lit up with lights outlining the roofs of buildings and the Mangturm. A heavenly sight.

Fruhstuck the next Morgen (everyone says "Morgen!" when they come in to fruhstuck) was the best buffet yet with a fresh fruitbowl of strawberries, kiwi, bananas, apples, and more; many cereals and all the usual meats, cheeses, jams, and breads. We walked a little more around this lovely town before leaving, admiring their Rathaus (town hall) in the Old Swabian style.

We drove along the north shore of Lake Constance, stopping at Wasserburg (which means 'water castle') which juts out into the lake. It's a fortress built on the site of a Roman watchtower. The castle is now a hotel. We went on to Meersburg where we found a pension, Hotel Landhaus am Weinberg for 2 nights. Our room had a balcony looking out toward the 'see', pine ceiling and furniture, and yellow print curtains. Very quiet and peaceful, a short walk out of town. This was our rest time - we sat and read on the balcony, watching the boats on the lake. No more car for 2 days!

For dinner we walked in to town, explored this lovely old town perched above the lake shore, and found the Winzerstube zum Becher, a pretty, ivy-covered restaurant. It was a little too sunny outside so we sat inside - old wood and stained glass. David had the saddle of hare with an apple/juniper berry sauce, kohlrabi, mushrooms, and potatoes. Ginna had the spargel (again!), potatoes, and salmon trout in a white wine sauce. A really wonderful dinner although outrageously expensive (180 DM). And we both thought it was just the perfect amount - not too heavy or too much as so often happens to us - until they came and took away our first plates and brought us identical second plates! When they came to take those away, we asked the server if there would be a third plate and she laughed. We tried a local Meersburg rose wine for 'afters' and then home to bed. It rained all night with loud thunder.

Sunday morning the clouds were still threatening but we were up and off to Konstanz on the ferry from the docks in Meersburg. We hadn't been down to the lower town before and it is very attractive also. We had a nice ferry ride and set out to explore Konstanz, a German enclave on the Swiss shore of the lake. With rain threatening, we explored the Munster, 11-17th century, with its beautiful carved wooden panel doors (15th c.). The rain had cleared up so we set off for our real destination - lunch at the Seehotel Siber which was recommended as the highlight of southern Germany cuisine. The Hotel is gorgeous, a large white Victorian building. We sat on the large semi-circular balcony with an awning protecting us, overlooking the lake. There were pretty white wooden chairs, white table cloths with a lavendar flower print. The wine list was terribly expensive so we picked out one of the seemingly reasonably priced wines and were disappointed to find that it was a half bottle! There was a complimentary starter that was outstanding - a thin strip of zucchiuni filled with tomato aspic, strips of yellow and green pepper and cheese, drizzled with olive oil. David had a wonderful large salad, followed by perch-pike and potatoes while I had beef consomme flavored with port with Maultaschen ravioli (stuffed with veal) followed by a plate of cold cured salmon, a potato pancake and greens. And of course we had to have a second (half) bottle, which made the meal very expensive - 250 DM for lunch! So THIS is how the other .1% lives. Quite an experience.

We loved this whole area of the Bodensee and finally realized it was because if reminded us of the Mediterranean. A lovely atmosphere here.

The next day we headed to the Black Forest, which reminded me a lot of the Adirondacks where I spent my childhood summers. It was a very pretty drive. Freiburg was a little difficult to get into at first, but we finally figured out where we wanted to go and found a hotel on the Munsterplatz, Hotel Rappen. The clerk gave us a room in the front and when I asked if it was quiet he assured me I would want the view of the square. Well, I'm sure there isn't a quiet room within six blocks of the Munster, whose bells rang every 15 minutes all night long. Our room was nice with Black Forest painted furniture. We explored the city, seeing the beautiful buildings on the Munsterplatz, the Rathausplatz with its Neues Rathaus, and resting in Columbipark. All though this old area there are tiny canals, maybe a foot wide, along the pedestrian area, creating a pretty sound. We walked down by the river Dreisam and then headed back to our hotel. We just happened on the most charming area, sort of a left-bank, artsy-type area. There was a larger canal running through it with bridges crossing it and restaurants and shops tucked into corners. We found a restaurant with a garden and shared a Greek salad along the canal. We just loved this area.

After another sleepless night, we woke to a great fruhstuck with cereal, Black Forest ham, lots of cheeses, fresh melon, etc. in a lovely room with a barrel-like ceiling. It was market day, so we loaded up on strawberries, bread, sausage, cheese, and Florentines and set off for Triberg. We got as lost getting out of town as getting into town, but a nice German tried to help us. But he thought we were saying Freiberg instead of Triberg (which we pronounced Try-berg instead of Tree-bourg) and he lead us back to where we came from! We finally figured it out and drove through beautiful forests and hills to the waterfalls in Triberg, Germany's highest falls which fall 500' over seven steps. We took the long hike to the bottom, following the path along the many levels of the falls. At the bottom, rather as a reward, there is a restaurant serving Black Forest Cake which we tried. Then the long hike back up to the top.

It was a pretty drive over the mountains in the Black Forest to Rottweil where we were interested in seeing the Donimicamuseum which has an extensive display of Roman artifacts collected locally. The area was a huge settlement under Vespasian. A local lady who studies English in night school explained the exhibits for us. After about an hour we explored a bit of the old town and headed north. We stopped for the night, exhausted, in Balingen where we found a modern, business-oriented hotel. The manager told us the room was 190 DM but she gave it to us for 160 DM because we were tourists. It was nice and quiet - Ginna was in bed by 8:00 PM, David by 9:00, after a 'picnic' in the room.

The next morning we were up and on the road to Haigerloch. We were unimpressed with the schloss. On to Hechingen and Schloss Hohenzollern which was magnificent, perched on top of a mountain peak. En route we discovered the tiny town of Stein which has a reconstruction of a Roman farmhouse. There were many original artifacts - this whole area was Roman - and the dig is continuing. I rather liked the reconstruction - it gave a very good idea of what the house was really like instead of just seeing the original foundations.

We continued north to Tubingen to lunch at Restaurant Waldhorn. This restaurant reminded us both of Cormons (Italy) and the 400 year-old farmhouse we ate in there; it was just lovely. The Waldhorn too is an old farmhouse decorated with lots of pewter, flowers (fresh roses!), and very nice watercolors. The hostess was very friendly and helped us with our menu choices. There was a free starter again, minced meats in aspic with well-oiled lettuce, which was outstanding. Then David had soup with 3 huge Maultaschen ravioli and I had the corn-toast with goose-liver pate. For the main course David had the oxtail ragout which was like boeuf bourguignon and I had cream pea soup with lobster. We split a dessert of fresh fruit and two sherbets. Then cappucino and terrific hand-dipped chocolates. A fabulous meal, but 285 DM! We had a long conversation with a lovely German woman who was eating alone; she was a college teacher of English and French. We talked about education, unemployment, the economy, and so on. She went to Tubingen for undergraduate school and prefers it to Heidelberg, explaining that it is less commercial. She remembers the Waldhorn from her student days when it was a very simple brauhaus.

We went in to Tubingen and found Hotel am Schloss with one of the few rooms left in town. There was a conference going on. The room was on the 4th floor, naturally a walk-up, with no toilet (shared) and no shower at all! 90 DM. We decided we could handle it for one night.

We walked all over the town which is truly charming. It again had a canal running through it and lies on the river. In the river they have created an island with a double line of plane trees running down the center, lining a lovely walkway. We watched two Frenchmen playing boules and really got into their game. And we watched the many people boating on the river. We stopped along the canal for a beer and then walked through the Botanical Garden, really just a small city park, and stopped at a very nice weinstube. It had grapevines painted on the ceiling, a tile stove, and was nicely decorated. Afterwards we went up to the Irish pub for a nightcap - the wine was so bad I couldn't drink it! We spoke with three young German fellows who work for the civil service. Then a huge crowd of Irish and a small group of American servicemen came in and we talked with them a while. Then home to bed.

After fruhstuck in one of the loveliest breakfast rooms so far - all windows with a great view of the town, we explored the schloss and went on to the town of Calw, one of the Balck Forest's prettiest towns. The half-timbered houses in Calw are some of the prettiest we have seen. We picked up some picnic provisions and drove to Nagold along the Nagold river. There had been lightening the night before but today was just beautiful, warm sun with a cool freshness to the breeze. There were wildflowers everywhere - pink, yellows, purples, and whites.

Past Nagold, we headed west, further into the Black Forest, driving along the crest of Schwarzwaldhochstrasse, then down to tiny Allenheiligen toward Mosbach where David's paternal grandmother (Buerck) came from. We got somewhat lost but finally found Mosbach. This whole area seems very properous and the Mosbach sign says "Kirschendorf" (Cherrytown). Mosbach was bigger than we expected. After having our picnic along a small stream and speaking with the farmer who owned the land but didn't seem to mind that we were eating there, we went to the cemetery. All the names - Burck, Doll Baundistelk, Klumpp - were names from SE Missouri, where David grew up. We spoke with a lady - who was a composite of ALL David's aunts - who was tending the cemetery and she got in our car and took us to another lady's house, a lady who spoke some English. She had a neighbor who had lived in South Africa for 19 years and she came over to interpret. They told us that there were still Buercks in the town.

Then it was on to Baden-Baden. This is a beautiful town with its 17th, 18th, and 19th century buildings, all curvy with balconies, intricate stonework. Very wealthy. We found a great hotel, Deutscher Kaiser, and got a huge room with a sitting area and a balcony. Very modern bathroom. We walked around the town and had a beer in the Lowenbrau Garden. We had a picnic supper on our own balcony and did the crossword puzzle. Fruhstuck the next morning was wonderful with fresh fruits and all the other expected treats. It was raining but we braved the rain to walk over to the Roman baths, the main thing we had come to see, only to find, after a 20 minute wait, that they were closed. We were so disappointed.

We headed off to Heidelberg in the rain, but it had cleared by the time we got there. There were NO rooms. Another conference! We finally found one - a big room with a great bathroom with a big tub at the Hotel Schnookeloch. We immediately set off for lunch in the Hotel zum Ritter (knight) St. Georg - it had started raining again. Ginna had salmon and salad, David had pasta.

The weather cleared again and we walked over to the Philosopher's Way, crossing the River Neckar and climbing up the steep hill on the other side. There were wonderful views of the town. On the way back we stopped at O'Reilly's, another nice Irish pub. After a light supper, we headed home to bed and the noisiest night imaginable. Worse than the bells in Freiberg! Worse than the trucks in Landsberg! There were people calling and yelling until 5 AM when the street-sweeper came through. At fruhstuck another guest was complaining about it and trying to get another room but of course there were none. And these were not terribly cheap rooms either, about 190 DM. Luckily we were leaving. (The bar of this hotel is where various fraternities, deuling societies and the like, have held their meetings for the past nearly 600 years. This must have been meeting night!)

It was another rainy day so we decided to skip the castles - we were castled out - and to drive up the Rhine. We crossed over on a little ferry in Nierstein and found a lovely hotel overlooking the river. Our room had a huge bay window with a view of the river. We had a great lunch at the hotel on the terrace under an awning to protect us from the rain. Ginna had the fixed-price meal, starting with two terrines - fish and meat - that were delicious, then tomato soup, stuffed chicken in a great sauce with potatoes and broccoli timbale, and vanilla ice-cream with strawberry sauce for dessert. David had only the herring with potatoes and beans but helped with mine. It rained in the middle of the meal but the waiters and waitresses rushed about, opening the awning further, bringing in the tableware from the tables in the rain. Then they set everything up again as it cleared. It was so pleasant to sit there watching the traffic on the river; the air was warm and the rain nicely cool. The whole afternoon was like that, sometimes pouring! Ginna wrote postcards, repacked, napped, and read; David braved a walk. In the evening, the weather cleared and we took a long walk. Nierstein is a charming town, built on the wine industry. After our walk we had a couple of glasses of wine - the owner treated us to a local "champagne" - and watched a very extravagant meal being served to two couples. They had the chateaubriand (75 DM each!) and all the trimmings (which were extra), including several bottles of wine and a whole Baked Alaska for dessert. Some of the wines on the winelist were 4,000 DM! We just enjoyed the scene. Before dark, a fleet of hot-air balloons crossed the Rhine over our heads.

In the morning we left very early in order to leave the car off by 9:00. It was an easy shot to the airport about a halfhour away. Our flight was at 2:00, a smooth flight home. We were through the first stage of customs by 4:00 and ready to be on our way, but they couldn't get the luggage compartment door open! An extra 1/2 hour, but, oh well. Glad to be home.


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