(May 12 - June 4, 1998)

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We are back home and I wanted to send out a last Germany travelogue last week, but it was a long, tough week with many 'discussions' going on at various levels across a 6-hour time difference.  So there was no time to take to write anything.  So here goes and better late than never and all that stuff...

First, as an update to the first Germany travelouge, I forgot to mention that I was chatting with the secretary in the Salzgitter location I worked at for two weeks.  She was one of two temps that week and she spoke great English, so I asked her how she learned such good English.  Turns out she studied at the U. of Nebraska in Omaha.  She told me that Braunschweig, which is where the Courtyard by Marriott was located, is a sister city of Omaha and she was part of the exchange program.  It was interesting to chat with her.

We all finished our testing on Friday, May 29.  Peggy, who lives in Tampa, left on Thursday because she was on vacation last week.  Two of my colleagues, who were working in Hamburg the last week of testing, left on Friday afternoon to head down to Bavaria before getting back to the Stuttgart area on Sunday evening.  Diane and I had been there in 1995 so we had other plans for the trip back to Stuttgart. 

As an aside here, the IBM locations aren't actually in Stuttgart.  The vets known the names Sindelfingen and Boeblingen.  I knew those names as IBM sites almost all my career, but never got to the area until after 29 years into my career.  They are pretty close together and we were actually at one of the two European megacenters in Ehiningen, which wasn't too far from Sindelfingen.  The other megacenter is in the UK.  They make Mercedes and Porsches in the area and our hotel the first week in Sindelfingen overlooked a large Mercedes plant.  Not to break your heart or anything, but we were told that one of those $100K Mercedes convertibles sells for about half that price in Germany.  No, I didn't buy one to ship back for myself.  ;-)  Actually, it would be for Diane since that is her dream car.

We decided to stay in Braunschweig one more night and leave on Saturday morning.  Our plans were to see a couple of places on the Fairy Tale Road while heading toward Rothenberg-au-der-Tauber, a very old walled city not too far from Frankfurt.  Our first stop was Munden because it had a good write-up in Fodor's.  It said this town shouldn't be missed if you're visiting the region.  Back in the 18th century, the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt included Munden in his short list of the world's most beautiful towns.  He was right.  Fodor's goes on to say that you'd have to travel a long way through Germany to find a grouping of half-timbered houses as harmonious as those in this beautiful old town, surrounded by the Fulda and Wesser rivers.  We got there a round 10am and found a place to park, which was already getting difficult as the locals and tourist were out and about in the town.  The houses were magnificent to look at.  We never tired of looking at half-timbered houses, they are truly beautiful.  After walking around for a while, we decided it was time to get something to eat and, you guessed it, apfelstruedel mit vanille eiscreme and cappuccino for me and tea for Dee.  I should let you all know that after all this great food for four weeks, plus a couple of mugs of beer every night (lost my taste for wine over there) and struedel and cookies and only put on two pounds and only expanded my girth by 1/4".  Now that I'll be back in the states for a while, I'll have to work at trimming that off.  ;-)

Our next stop was Kassel about a half hour to the south to see the Hercules monument built in the early 18th century and overlooks the city and the Wilhelmshohe Palace.  Kassel was also home to the Brothers Grimm (that's why this are is called the Fairy Tale Road).  It was a royal residence from 1807-13 when Jerome, Napoleon's brother, was king of Westphalia.  It then became the summer residence of the German emperor Wilhelm II.  It was foggy when we got there and the monument was up in the clouds (along with the first golf course I saw in Germany (only saw two)).  It was clear enough to see down the hill to the palace (bearly) and, on a sunny day, as evidenced by the postcards, the view is magnificent.  We couldn't see it, but there is a 3-mile long avenue that runs from the front of the palace and is straight as an arrow through the city.  We didn't get to see this up at the monument, but twice a week water gushes from a fountain beneath the Hercules statue , rushes down a series of cascades (which we elected NOT to walk down (because what goes down must the climb up)), and ends up with a 175 foot high jet of water.  They said it's a natural phenomenon with no pumps.  It's only done twice a week because it takes so long to collect enough water to make it happen.

Originally, our plan was to do more of this area and we thought about seeking out the castle that our two colleagues stayed at on Friday nite.  One of them sent a note saying where they were (yes, we do log on every day to stay in touch, even from castles).  But our main goal was Rothenberg, so we made a snap decision to head down there (about 3 hrs drive) and settle in for the night.  Little did we know what was in store for us.  We got on the A7, one of the autobahns, and headed south, doing lots of stretches at 100-105mph.  It still amazes me how many cars pass me like I'm doing 40.  They must be doing 130-140mph on open stretches.

We arrived in Rothenberg at 6:30pm.  Silly me.  I thought we'd get there about then, get checked into a hotel by 7pm, eat, then walk around the town.  NOT TO BE!  There wasn't a hotel room to be found inside the walled city, and we checked out about 10 hotels.  Then we found a board with some 60 hotels listed with a map and a red and green light for each hotel.  You press the hotel number and it lights up red or green depending on whether there are rooms available.  And this included hotels outside the walls.  You guessed it, all lights were RED, no rooms at the inns.  :-(  So now the adventure begins.  True, we did have a Ford Mondeo station wagon, but it has been a long time since I slept in a station wagon.  ;-)  We checked some other hotels outside the city, including a Best Western.  The lady at the desk said they only had a single and it was really too small for two.  We went across the street to another hotel and the guy said he also had a single and said we could look at it.  People spending life in prison have more room in their cell than what was available in that room.  Diane and I like each other, but one of us wasn't going to stay in that bed all nite.  He also said there was a double available in the city he knew about for 250DM, which was over my room limit.  Turns out we should have taken it.....or maybe not.  Keep reading.  ;-) 

I asked in which direction we should drive to find a room and he said any direction.  The first one was the wrong one and we turned back after about 15 minutes.  We went back to the hotel that offered the double and they checked for us and it was taken.  So off we go in another direction, this time on a 'red' road (the last attempt was on a 'yellow' road (red is a bigger road)).  We headed towards Colmberg, about 20km (about 12 miles) away.  Up on the hill we saw a big old structure and then a sign indicating it was a hotel (an old 'castle', but looked more like an old mansion).  It was Burg Colmberg.  There was a wedding going on and they were pretty full with that plus overflow from Rothenberg.  There was ONE room left, the Prince's Room, for 290DM.  We took it.  Diane was ecstatic.  She loved the room, which was WAY up on the top floor, four flights of stairs (NO LIFT).  A creaky old place with very old furniture (antiques I would imagine) and each floor and room decorated differently.  It was GREAT.  The view from our bedroom was magificent and overlooked the village on one side and the second golf course I saw on the other side.  The view went on forever.  We had a great, albeit late, dinner in the hotel.  Breakfast was community style with lots of the folks from the wedding there.  We ate and headed into Rothenberg for the day, arriving there just before 10am.  Not many people yet in the lots, a few buses and cars.  That would change as the day wore on.

From Fodor's - "Rothenberg-ob-der-Tauber (literally, 'the red castle on the Tauber') is the kind of gemlike medieval town that even Walt Disney might have thought too good to be true, with gingerbread architecture galore and a wealth of fountains and flowers against a backdrop of towers and turrets......And here it is, milking its'best-preserved-medieval-town-in-Europe' image to the full,
undoubtedly something of a tourist trap, but genuine enough for all that.  There really is no place else quite like it."

We parked and went in one of the several gates to the city and immediately saw activity.  You see, we were very fortunate to be there on a weekend when there was a festival going on all weekend.  For some reason, Diane and I seemed to hit festivals in several countries that we found ourselves visiting.  In 1995, we managed to be in two cities where festivals were going on.  In Stockholm, we arrived for a five week stay just as their Water Festival was starting.  In Madrid, it was the weekend long celebration of their queen's birthday. 

As we walked around Rothenberg up on the wall, we saw some guys dressed in period garb doing some singing and joking around while riding
on horses.  Turns out there were many of these groups throughout the city all day long strolling around doing their thing.  The longer the day went on, the funnier they became, and some of the guys were a bit 'under the weather' from all the beer drinking and heat.  By the time the 3pm parade started, some of them were really wasted.  ;-)  Diane and I started by climbing the steps to the wall and doing probably 3/4 of the city to see it from up top.  Such magificent views and some of the yards, small as they were,  were very nicely landscaped with flowers.  We descended the steps and spent the rest of the day taking in the sites and sounds of Rothenberg.  Minstrels, musicians (a group of 3 bagpipes and a drummer were especially good) and one skit that must have been hilarious if one understood German because all the German speaking people were having a good old time.  It had some mime to it so we got the gist of it and it was funny enough just from the antics of the players. 

When we got hungry, we looked for a place to eat and decided we didn't want a sit down lunch, so we spotted a line outside a take out place that was selling bratwurst and stuff.  The big seller of the day was the 1/2 meter (about 19 inches) long frankische on a roll that was about 1/2 the size of the frank.  We grabbed a couple of those, found a wall to sit on and 7 ate lunch.  Some more walking around and, of course, souvenir shopping for Diane (too much to carry so it will arrive in 6-8 weeks by surface mail.  It was really cheap to ship back a bunch of stuff, about $20, and well worth it.  We did that from Stockholm in 1995 and had good luck with shipping).  We hung around for the beginning of the parade (we parked ourselves at the staging area, which was near the gate we came in), watched it go, took lots of video of all the players, minstrels, lots of horses, etc, and then we left about 4pm for the drive back to the Stuttgart area.  We were so lucky to have visited Rothenberg when the festival was going on.  It was a great day.

We hardly ever drove the autobahn on the way home, preferring the red and yellow roads.  A bit longer but a much nicer drive.  My goal was to be back at the hotel, this time in a town called Herrenberg (the Hotel Hasen) by 7pm.  That worked out fine and we got there just as a torrential storm opened up similar to the storms we saw when we lived in South Florida.  But the weather was perfect the entire weekend up to that point.  So we ate in the hotel (last chance for spargel (white asparagus) for's a big thing in Germany and the season ends in about three weeks).

Our last week was spent working in Ehningen and we stayed in Herrenberg, which we also did in 1995.  Nice quiet town with an old section across from the hotel.  We ate three of the five nights at the Schwanen, twice outside in the town square surrounded by beautiful half-timbered houses and under a large church up on the hill with a Russian type cupola on top of it.  I couldn't resist the venison goulash on two of those nights.  And, of course, on the last nite, it was a stop at the hotel restaurant for one final apfelstruedel mit vanille eiscreme and cappuccino (and tea, of course).  On one evening we finished dinner and got back to the hotel at 8pm and the four of us looked at each other and said 'why are we going in'?'s too nice to go in, so we went back out, walked around another 1 1/4 hrs, had ice cream and then back to the hotel.  It is light there until 10pm.  On the final evening, Tom, one of my colleagues, said he wanted to show us something.  Tom is a runner and runs every morning at 6am for a half hour, and HE IS OLDER THAN ME.  :-(  He's an adventurous runner and takes different routes wherever he stays.  He found something way up top of the hill behind the church.  So after dinner we went up there to scout it out.  He said we could drive, but us crazies agreed to walk.  What a climb.  But the view was spectacular.

One evening during the week, we were invited to dinner at our German friends' home, Manfred and Brigitte Boffo.  I met Manfred in 1995 at the final review meeting that I went to with the team leader for that audit.  I found out he was coming to Atlanta for the Olympics in 1996 after having been bitten by the bug at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.  We offered our house as a place to stay, but they ended up getting a package with some friends and ended up at a hotel on Windy Hill Road (behind the Target).  We used to pick them up when our schedules matched to go to the bus stop for the ride into the Olympic venues, we ate at Scalini's one night and had them over to our house one night.  That started the relationship.  They have a great third floor apartment overlooking their village, Shonaich, and surrounding countryside.  Beautiful.

That wrapped up our trip to Germany.  Diane got her fill of spaetzle, which all of us, especially Tom and Diane made sure they asked for at every meal.  The Germans are so accommodating and are willing to swap out something for the spaetzle.  One story about sausage....when we stayed in Braunschweig, we ate a few times at Schadts and Tom ordered white Munich sausage, which comes with a
pretzel and great sweet mustard.  Of course, he swapped out the pretzel for the spaetzle.  I wanted to go back there to get that meal (Tom had since gone to Hamburg to work) and one of the auditee guys was staying at our hotel and he, Diane and I went to eat one evening.  I ordered the sausage and the spaetzle and Peter told me two things:  1) someone from Munich would never eat the white Munich sausage with anything but a pretzel and 2) one should take the skin off the sausage.  The skin was very thin and edible (I know, I saw Tom eat it that way twice and live) so I asked why and Peter said because it makes it 'smoother'.  Well, the skin came off very easily and it did make it nicer to eat.  The downside to Braunschweig was that there was a Movenpick there and it was very hard to resist the ice cream.  I had far more ice cream than I would ever dream of eating, but....what the hec....this is the last time around with this kind of travel.  :-)

Germany is a VERY affordable place to visit.  We stayed at hotels in the $55 - $95 ranges, REALLY.  Nice places, too.  Two of my colleagues found a B&B, along the Mosel River, on the way to Oberhausen for 80DM FOR THE TWO OF THEM.  That was like $50, WITH breakfast.  Meals at nice restaurants were in the $12-15 range.  My average meals (dinners) were just under $30 per day (because of beer, etc) and Diane's were around $20 per day.  The Ford Mondeo cost me $995 for 25 days with unlimited mileage.  Of course, one pays for a liter (about a quart) of gas in Germany what we pay for a gallon in the USA.  Gas is over $4 per gallon, but you can't have everything.  This is a country that one could tour for a reasonable cost.

That's it.  Until next time (in the fall?).......

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