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Who are these gypsies?

We are a retired couple who enjoy travel.  We love meeting new people, new cultures, and exploring unique experiences.  We will share our discoveries on our blog and photo album as we wander about our wonderful world.

Check out our (almost) daily blog that follows below.

When we’re traveling we blog nearly daily.  When we’re home and not planning a trip, this blog may go quiet for weeks or months.  Check out or DailyBlog for a sense of our day to day life when we’re not travelling

Categories

Use the categories filter on the right side to select the blog entries that interest you. Alternately you can scroll back “in time” through our blog.

International Travel

We love to visit Europe, Italy in particular.  Spring 2015 we took our inaugural “Retirement Celebration”  trip to Europe.  We visited the Galapagos Islands on the National Geographic Islander with Safari Experts & Tim Lapage in the spring of 2016. In 2017 we visited Vietnam with Gate1 Travel and took two months out to travel Italy with six weeks living in Florence. 2018 has been a quiet year with trips to visit friends and family.  We have an extended motor home trip to Yellowstone NP visiting Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and some of BC. Departing in 2018 we will visit Scandinavia for two weeks to see the northern lights and the Ice Hotel. In 2019 we will visit Central Europe. We have a long “wish list”.

Our International Trips:

  1. Seabourn Cruise of the Greek Islands, Rome, Istanbul, Venice, and Florence, 2015
  2. The Galapagos, 2016
  3. Vietnam, February 2017
  4. Italy for two months, spring 2017
  5. Pacific North West, Montana, Yellowstone RV trip Fall 2018
  6. Northern Lights trip to Norway & Sweden spring  2018-2019
  7. Eastern & Central Europe trip spring 2019
  8. Around the World Cruise, 4 months 2020.
  9. Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, and the Amazon, future
  10. Alaska, future
  11. Antarctica, future
  12. Africa: Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, future
  13. Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, future

Road Trips

We purchased a 2015 Winnebago View in February of that year in Connecticut and drove it back to California in some of the coldest weather that winter.  We have since taken a number of trips in “The Beast”, as we call “him”.  We’ve taken to calling him “Li’l Beast”.  As large as our 24′ RV is, it is dwarfed by some of the 44 footer’s.

  1. return trip from Connecticut, 17 days
  2. San Diego, 1 week
  3. Napa Valley, 2 days
  4. Whidbey Island, Washington state, 2 weeks
  5. New England, 9 weeks
  6. Thanksgiving, San Diego, 2 weeks
  7. Springdale, Utah 1 week (Tesla S)
  8. Next: Nevada,Wyoming,Yellowstone NP, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon (8 weeks)

Notes from each of these trips can be found on our blog.  We are now enjoying a week in San Diego during a heat wave summer 2018.  We’ll take our RV to Washington State, Canada, Idaho, and Montana this fall.  Over thanksgiving we’ll visit Joshua Tree.

The photos that rotate through in the top banner capture memorable events in our travels.  They are not necessarily related to the day’s blog.

“Track our Travels” (on the top menu) will show you where we have been today.  You can also access our photo albums or other nooks in this website. If we’re not traveling, TrackOurTravels will not be operable.

Enjoy!

<last updated, 9/8/18>

RV Components are Cheap Cheap Cheap

 

We’ve had issues with our Winnebago kitchen drawers flying open on moderate to sharp turns.  To solve this problem I had added a second 10 lb latch to the offending drawer.  That “fixed” the problem until today.  Taking a turn that particular drawer flew open and wouldn’t close properly.  I forced it closed and later discovered that the left side slider had failed (perhaps when the drawer flew open, more likely when I forced it shut).

Any Google search of RV slider failure will turn up numerous threads about replacing the slides.  “Any big box store should have what you need”.  So I have a repair job ahead.

The nearest home depot to Elwha Dam is in Sequim, 22 miles away: not happening.  There are two home depots near Victoria!  One is  km from downtown.  Aside from working in a cramped space, this should be easy.  I only hope I can find a drawer latch that works.

Last year’s plumbing fix appears to be holding just fine.  There’s no leak under the kitchen sink.  The line to the shower head has broken even though we have never used it.  I have a replacement from Camping World that I’ll install at Home Depot Victoria as well.

Friends ask/mention/suggest that we rent our RV to friends.  I am inclined not to do it.  I make repairs on Li’l Beast when the failure happens. The repairs I’ve made have been relatively easy,  If a repair is delayed, the could be secondary failures or additional problems.  A leak not fixed leads to water damage and rot over time.  If the drawer is not repaired, both the drawer and the enclosure could go out of square. Both are built of weak materials arguably to reduce weight (yeah, right).

I mentioned that the ‘fridge failed to run on propane when we stopped at Hama Hama Seafood.  It turns out that “error” latches, meaning a simple ‘fridge power off & on clears the latched error and all is well.  Who makes a device like that?  RV suppliers do.

With the temperature dropping I doubt I’ll see the ‘fridge fan making a racket again on this trip.

One last gripe.  The upholstery in the cab is wearing.  It is scaling off at the seams.  In Jackson Wy, a woman, a Winnebago View owner, asked how I liked the View.  I said I liked it just fine.  She unloaded on me about the poor quality of the seat material and that it was coming apart.  They had contacted Winnebago and expected the company to replace their seat upholstery.  Mine was in good condition then.  It isn’t now.  I’’ll be contacting Winnebago soon.

Ha, Ellen just dropped a portion of Ice cream on me.  We “discovered” Talenti Gelato Layers  Dark Chocolate Cherry and is it wonderful.  It is by far the best store bought ice cream in a container I’ve ever had.  (I’ll end on a high note)

 

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Gone Baby, Gone

9/14/2019 Elhwa River Port Angeles, Day 4

 

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Mt Shasta, Day 1.

 

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Mango Salad Lunch, Day 2.

 

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Muted Sunset, Day 3.

 

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Barrel Sauna, Toutle River RV Resort, Nice.

 

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Very Hot and Relaxing Last Night, Day 3.

 

Some Early Morning Rambling, Day 4

“Alexa, play NPR”, is our morning mantra when we’re home.  On the road we’ve done without.  This morning I thought, “humm,  Siri?”  and said, “Hey Siri, Play NPR”.  Will this work?  Seconds later on came NPR.  GREAT, our morning ritual survives.

This morning and for the first time this trip, the temperature in Li’l Beast is a cool 64 F. The sky is overcast, the grass is vibrant green.  On longer trips we settle into a rhythm of activity in the morning and evening that makes life in a confined space easy.  We’ve not hit stride yet; we’re close.  We still fumble with what goes where and avoiding clutter.  The noisy ‘fridge fan has been quiet for days.  I’ve ordered a replacement thermistor that Amazon will ship to a rite-aid in Anacortes.  I’ll pick it up there.  Amazon has established “Amazon Lockers” worldwide that are places they will ship to for later pickup.  I love the way forward thinking companies anticipate and fill needs.  I’m freed from Camping World and Walmart for parts on the road.  This is ‘UGE.  I would have shipped to Anacortes, but Amazon’s delivery date was the day we will leave for Victoria.  With a quiet fan we can wait.

This year we’re skipping a Seattle/Whidbey Island visit.  To avoid weather in the Rockies, we cannot spend a few days or a week visiting friends.  Whidbey Island is quaint and well worth an extended visit.  Clamming or crabbing is fun; seafood right out of the ocean?  Scrumptious.  Perhaps we’ll have similar experiences in the San Juan Islands.

Some days we have a long drive, though I prefer to plan numerous short hops.  Today is an intermediate day with about 2:30 drive time.  I look forward to exploring Port Angeles and surrounding.  The last time we came through we awoke early to catch the ferry for Victoria and spent zero time on the Olympic Peninsula.  The allure of the Olympic Discovery Trail was enough for us to schedule a two day stop over before moving on to Victoria and Salish Seaside RV Haven. 

A quick note about Salish Seaside RV Haven and reservations in general.  We happened to find Salish the last time we visited Victoria.  The RV Haven has spectacular views of Victoria over the sea plane landing strip on the ocean there.  When we travel in September and October we seldom make reservations ahead of time.  Typically camping sites have availability in the fall.  Because Salish is so well situated, I made reservations well ahead of time.  As it turns out early September is still popular for RV’ers in Washington and the San Juans.  Mt St Helens KOA, one of our “go to” sites, was booked.  My first choice in Port Angeles had no availability for us; I booked the last site at my 2nd choice!  It is clear that there would be no availability at Salish had I waited. With availability so tight, we may be dry camping in the San Juans.  I may have call Lake Louise and Glacier National Park well ahead of our arrival or it could be a non-issue later in September.  We had not difficulty without reservations in  Yellowstone last year.  I’m not concerned, though it is more comfortable glamping than stopping at some random  roadside pullout (something that’s not possible  in national parks).  

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We’re getting a late start today after lazing about with NPR and “wait wait”, Nespresso, and breakfast.  Clearly we’re not in a rush today.

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Highway 101, Washington State

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Overlooking the Hood Canal

Hood Canal, Washington

We left Toutle River RV Resort at 11:10 AM.  We said bye to the Sauna, the River, and CC (our friendly site manager) and headed north on I-5 toward Tacoma and Seattle.  A few miles south of Tacoma we veered north west on 101.   This brought us to the west side of the hood canal before skirting along the Straits of Juan de Fuca which divides the U.S. and Canada.

At noon we stopped at the Hood Canal Market, Hoodsport Washington to get groceries.  The last loaf of French bread and sliced cold cuts from the deli made a good sandwich: roast beef for me, turkey for Ellen.  We did get assorted peppers and some frozen veggies to use when we get lazy with dinner and some other staples.

 

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Hama Hama Seafood, Established 1922

Maybe fifteen miles later we cruised by Hama Hama Seafood. “Do you want to stop?”, as we whizzed by.  “Oh, I don’t know” “Fresh steamed clams?”  I U-turned and we went right back.  The fridge was not happy running on propane.  I went into the restaurant as Ellen waited for the fridge to purge the propane line and operate normally.

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Beer’s To Ya

I walked into the retail shop first “on” mistake (I hate the way that phrase changed in the past 20 years, but that’s a rant for another time).  They had a good selection of fresh oysters in a water bath and a few Manila clams.  In frustration I walked out and into the outdoor restaurant which was buzzing.  I ordered a pound of steamers and an IPA.  The IPA came immediately along with number 70 on a stick.  Number 70 and I found a seat and watched the race: Ellen vs clams.  Ellen won and a pot of steamed clams arrived shortly after.  They were good and the first steamed clams we’ve had in 2019.  Had we not eaten those sandwiches, we would have ordered oysters and more.  We left comfortably sated.

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Hama Hama was Packed

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Heat on Our Backs was Very Welcome

The drive along the hood canal is a two lane road, one lane in each direction with turnouts for slow traffic.  By law a slow driver must turnout when four or more people have been inconvenienced.  I turned out a few times for one or two cars, but never felt pushed and usually had nobody behind.  The drive is curvaceous, but not uncomfortably so at speeds between 40 and 55 mph.  Driving along the Hood Canal is picturesque.  I wonder what real estate prices are.  It’s not easily accessible from Seattle; the ferry runs to Port Townsend tens of miles to the north. 

As we passed the  turnoff to Port Townsend, traffic picked up for a while then settled down again.  Driving along the north side of the Olympic Peninsula on 101 is not nearly as beautiful as  the Hood Canal.  The road sits back from the water.  We had only seen Port Angeles from the ferry terminal at sunrise.  Port Angeles was a surprise. It is industrially commercial and not a wonderful place to visit IMO.  We drove through “to see” and were happy to come out the other end and off to Elhwa Dam RV Resort.

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Elhwa Dam RV Resort’s Garden

Elhwa Dam RV Resort

The first impression driving into the resort was disappointing.  Spaces seem close together and the “resort” seems small, because it is small.  I had called ahead and could chose between a narrow full hookup and a water and electric only site.  We switched to the water and electric only site and I’m glad we did.  We had to use leveling blocks for side to side comfort. Front to back was perfect.  We have clear sat reception.  A bonus: Elhwa Dam RV Resort has an organic garden that we can pick from.  I ate a few strawberries.  Ellen found a raspberry.  We’ve picked zucchini blossoms, a tomato, and lettuce for dinner.

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Too Bad They’re Not Ripe

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A Gardening Marvel

The garden features a small solar array that power pumps.  Water is pumped from a large fish tank, through 3” PVC Pipes, through a large filter, and back to the fish tank.  The fish poo provides fertilizer for the plans.  The large 3” pipes are full of water flowing past the plant roots.  To fully close the loop the fish would have to live on some part of the plant life.  As it is they’re fed goldfish food.  It’s a very competently designed system that shows evolution over time.

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Picked from Elhwa Dam’s Garden

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What’s for Dinner Tonight?

Ellen just roasted a few zucchini blossoms to finish off our vegetarian meal.  Though they shriveled up (not being breaded), they were yummy.

With our late arrival, we’ll keep the bikes under wraps and see what tomorrow brings weather wise.  The forecast is for rain for the next few days. 

Siren Call

Interestingly, this is a trip to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone.  Yet, here we are headed to Victoria and the San Juan Islands.  We are very fortunate to have both the time and ability to meander as we are.  I love visiting Washington State and British Columbia.  I love the ocean.  The promise of the sea: oysters, clams, crab, and fresh fish.  It beckons to us.  We shall succumb.

9/13/2019 Castle Rock, Day 3

 

Toutle River RV Resort

We’re camped along RR tracks. While watching Suits last night a huge train went by.  It started as a low clicking sound and grew to a crescendo.  Ellen jumped up, “that’s not a train”.  A heavy downpour had started.  We battened down The Beast and swabbed the decks.  In our RV travels over the past two years we very seldom had mist or rain.  This was a deluge!   Good stuff.

Overnight the rain abated and started afresh around 6 AM.  Visibility is poor.  it’s not the best day to be going up Mt St Helens.  Do we push on or stay?

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Cog Moose, On The Road Again

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Toutle River with 60’ of debris filling the valley floor!

We had a leisurely morning the drove SR 504 to the three Mt St Helens visitors centers.  Each center focuses on a different aspect of the eruption with different movies playing on a loop.  The extent of the mud and ash flow in the Toutle Valley is jaw dropping.  The sludge that ran down the Toutle River ran all the way to the Columbia.   The Columbia River’s shipping lane filled with mud, ash, and trees; closed; and had to be dredged.

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Numerous Bridges cross Toutle River’s Tributaries

The sides of the Toutle Valley was replanted in the 80’s.  The Noble Fir on the south facing slopes and the Douglas Firs on the north facing slopes have grown tall.  They stand in startling uniformity of shape and size.

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A Successful Male and some of his Harem.

At one scenic view appropriately named Elk Rock, a couple shared their binoculars to view some elk in the valley.  One, two, three, a baby nursing, a male with a huge rack, Elk kept appearing.  Clearly this was one harem.  Then atop the ridge another group strolled out of cover; another twenty or so.  Then a third harem.  There must have been close to 50 elk, two separate groups, in close proximity.  Even at this distance the male’s trumpet sounded crisp and clear; a warning to other males or a call to his girls to move?

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I’ve Never Seen so many Elk Together (long distance shot, no tripod)

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One Hungry Baby Elk

To the right of the Elk a lone blazing white mountain goat broke cover and ran across the ridge.

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Mt St Helens Crater Obscured by Clouds

Clouds obscured Mt St Helen’s crater as shadows played across the valley.   What we could see of the mountain was desolate, barren, uninviting.   As with Mt Vesuvius, the sheer amount of material blown from the mountain top is staggering.  I’ve visited the Toutle River valley a few times and each time I feel renewed respect for the sheer power of nature and volcanoes in particular.  The extent of the devastation in the 1980’s explosion is hard to grasp without actually looking over the valley and realizing it is filled with between 30 and 60 feet of debris that extends all the way to the Columbia River and that the ash traveled hundreds of miles and blanketed regions in ash. 

The drive back to Castle Rock went quickly.  We skipped the gas/restaurant/gift shop area east of I-5 and drove into the old town to walk the streets and find a bite to eat.  Castle Rock is a small town.  I was told it was lively before the eruption and that it is slowly coming back.  We walked the eight blocks of “downtown”.  Failing to find a restaurant per se, we stopped in “The Vault” a coffee shop housed in what once was a bank.  I mentioned that we had not found a place to eat.  “I’m just here getting a coffee.  You should try Wine Dog Down across the street.  I’m headed back there.  We serve pizza on flatbread, salads, and wine.  It’s good.”

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Great People & Great Food

Across the street group of loud revelers sat in the Crosscut Taproom’s window.  Just next door, Wine Dog Down was welcoming and quiet.   The restaurant was nearly empty; we took the table by the window.  James brought out a menu, then launched into a description of a new pizza he is trying:  naan flatbread with olive oil, some garlic, parmesan  and mozzarella cheese, and blueberries.  I had their take on a Margherita  pizza with balsamic reduction and a glass of chardonnay.  Ellen steers clear of garlic; I thought for sure she’d share the pizza.  Truly Surprising, Ellen opted for James’ new creation.

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My Margherita Pizza Disappeared in a Flash

My pizza and wine was very good.  James gets his naan bread fresh daily from the bakery next door.  It sets the pizza off.  Ellen’s blueberry pizza was spectacular.  “How did you like the pizza?”  We talked for a while with James about pizza, ingredients, dough, Mt St Helens.  He said he was 8 years old when the mountain erupted.  He could see the cloud from his home between Tacoma and Seattle!  Everyone locally knows where they were the day it happened.  Castle Rock is not a culinary wasteland.  The owner of The Oasis, a bar, is planning to expand opening a restaurant next door and there are two bars and Crosscut that serve good food as well.

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Blueberry Pizza, YUM!

Nice that there was less shouting on Bill Maher’s show tonight.  This month’s political trope is will the democrats go centrist or go “far left”.  There is no agreement between the two sides.  The possibility of a stalemate in the democratic convention and the selection of a “safe” candidate like Amy Klobuchar could be victorious.

We took a sauna this evening; sauna in a barrel, truly.  The dry heat is relaxing even refreshing up to a point.  A cold shower to finish off = perfect.

Off to Port Angeles and the Olympic Discovery Trail. ODT is a railroad right of way that’s been converted into a bicycle path.  It is 35 miles long and runs (mostly) along the north rim of the Olympic Peninsula.  We’ll be staying at an RV Park practically on the OTD.  Weather could be an issue.  Rain is in the forecast.

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Best Photo of the Day

 

In retrospect today was all about Elk, Food, Good People, Barrel Sauna, and Nature’s Brute Power.  Off to the Olympic Peninsula for some cycling tomorrow.

9/11/2019 Redding to Ashland, Day 1

 

Day 1, Our First Full Day on the Road

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Allen Elizabeth Theater, Ashland Oregon

On 9/10 we left late, drove to Redding, and stayed at the Marina RV Park in Redding.  We’d stayed there last year.  Nothing has changed it was just as expected.  On the way we passed Shasta Lake, snowcapped Mt. Shasta, Shasta Caverns, and  a bit further on, “The Crags”.  Sometime next year we will visit the Mt Shasta region for a few weeks.

We had hoped to make it to Ashland on 9/10 even with our late start.  It is much more fun to stop early and enjoy sundown once we’ve settled in.

The Yreka WallyWorld had a cheap sleeping bag, we’ll use it and not make the bed daily. It’s a short 50 miles further to Emigrant Lake just south of Ashland.  We took a “full hookup” site overlooking the lake. Last year we drove Li’l Beast into downtown Ashland.  That was a mistake; there is no RV parking to be found in the city.  Uber is available and would pick us up at the Lake!  Cool.

Unusual for Ellen, she wanted to relax and rest for  “a while” before going in town.  “What’s available to do in Ashland today”, she asked. I found that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was staging Macbeth this evening.  Cool.  Each time we’ve driven through Ashland the festival was over.

We lounged.  I read some of a mystery I “borrowed” yesterday.  Time passed lazily.  The first Uber driver messaged to say he was headed to the airport and would be very late.  Our second uber driver took us right to the Starbucks downtown. “Oh yes,, Macbeth and two others are playing tonight.  The ticket office is just up the street there to the left across from the outdoor amphitheater. Macbeth is playing in the outdoor theater, just past the one you see there.” 

Do we see a play tonight?  I had seen ticket prices ranging from $55 to $155.  “Let’s see what’s available”  Once we found our way, the ticket office’s open door was obvious.  Inside stood a small maze to guide people to the three ticket windows on the right.  The maze was empty.  The three people issuing tickets were sitting at their windows with no customers.  However to our left was a long bench with a number of people patiently waiting, but clearly not in line for tickets.  This was very strange; a line that was not a line!  What’s up?  The center ticket guy motioned to us.

“What are these people waiting for?  They are clearly not in line.”  “Oh, they’re waiting for rush to open.  Sometimes if we don’t sell out a performance, we put the remaining tickets on sale at $40.00.  You could wind up with a $155 seat for $40.  They are waiting for rush to open at 7:00.”   “Is this performance outdoors? Will we be sitting on stone?”  “Yes it is outdoors, but you’ll be sitting on regular seats, There are blankets available for a fee, a concession area, and you can bring your drinks to your seats.”  

In the “rush group” a couple beside us were from Marin, another from Walnut Creek, and a woman who had dropped her daughter off for college was from San Mateo.  The Walnut Creek couple hoped for tickets to “The Cambodian Rock Band”.  Though sold out, two tickets became available, but were snapped up.

We walked out at 7:00 with our 2nd row balcony seats, ate a rushed meal at Umami Sushi, and headed back to find the outdoor theater. The “outdoor theater” is more truly an open air theater.  It is a crescent of seating facing a stage that fills in the crescent. It is fully enclosed though open to the sky.  Blankets and cushions in hand we walked up to balcony seating.  An usher with a wide grin said, “Stop!”.  When someone says stop, we stop.  She pointed through a stand of trees to our right, “Look, isn’t it beautiful”.   There was the 3/4 moon rising through the trees.  We grinned back.  “We often marvel at the beauty of sunsets and the moon.” 

Macbeth was well done, though long at 3 hours running.  Our blankets kept us warm.  Most interesting, aside from the play itself, historically the play was first performed in 1606!   A year after the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up parliament and King James I.  Hamlet brought to mind Game Of Thrones.  There is lots of mayhem with few of the principals surviving.

An Uber picked us up at the Starbucks a few minutes after we left the theater and took us right to Li’l Beast.  We were comfortably home for the night.

Home Again

We arrived home a few days ago.  We found Budget at the Frankfurt Airport, drove in, and presented our paperwork to the attendant.  Germans are sticklers for procedure and records.  Apparently, the Czechs view procedure as an inconvenience. 

Life has a way of catching up after a month’s travel with “no responsibility”.

With more time to write, I’ll rejoin our travel retrospective soon ( I hope ).

In the mean while, I leave you with this thought…

My Post

Bavaria Day 6

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One Meter Chocolate Bunny, Perfect for Markus

April 25, 2019

Our second day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  Rothenburg is charming.  It is quite small and can be hurriedly seen in a day.  We chose to devote a day (half day actually) to Markus and a full day to exploring the town.  This gave us a day to unwind before leaving the castle road for the romantic road south.

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A Motor Tour if you Perfer Not to Walk

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Literally Empty Streets

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Rothenburg’s North Gate

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Today looked to be another bright sunny day. Yesterday’s temperature was mid 70’s in the sun.  Would there be no need for our warmer clothing?  This was mid-May weather.

We arose early and ate at our hotel, Glocke Weingut und Hotel.  We had Frühstück of cereal with yoghurt, nuts, and fruit; a poppy seed roll, and cappuccino.  If I remember correctly this cappuccino was “real” and not made from a push-button machine.  With no need to pack for our next leg, we could spend all day looking for parts of Rothenberg we had not yet seen.  First wanted fresh pastry.  Where would we find an excellent bäckerei.  

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Heaven

Café Stübchen Zuckersüß

There are four bakeries on the main street just outside our hotel.  We skipped the one we tried yesterday with their Sneeballen, which were disappointing.  Why?  They are the same consistency all the way through, crispy flakey chunks of fried dough covered with a variety of things: cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla seem most popular.  They would be significantly better if the center were a gooey mass of chocolate, though that would make them much harder to eat.  In any event, we skipped BrotHaus Café, checked the other three out and settled on Café Stübchen Zuckersüß, beside our hotel on the same side of the street.

We each had a “real” cappuccino.  Ellen had a puff pastry filled with whipped cream, which she enjoyed.  I had a slice of a poppy seed pie: thin crust filled with poppy seed with a binder to hold it together.  Not overly sweet with essence of poppy flavor.   I very highly recommend this bakery, their cappuccino is “the real deal” and the pastries are excellent.

 

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You Can See The Tower Cat Walk On High

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Market Square

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Rathaus on Market Square, One Scaffolding Tower

 

Neues Rathaus

Walking back up the main street, we found ourselves at the tourist center.  We mingled looking around and decided it was not going to help us much.  We walked toward the “new” town hall, new by European standards.  It was build in the 1570’s.  Again it was under construction.  There were two large scaffold towers at the front of the building.  We walked behind the scaffolding and found an entrance.  “Is this main town hall entrance?”, we asked ourselves.  We went in and up a set of stairs, and into a large room with a turn style.  A sign said, “wait for green to go ahead”, in German.  The light was green.  There was a sign that said “pay at the top” also in German.  Pay?  Well ok, we’re game. Pushing through the turn style were more stairs. I counted 82 of them in all.  82 steps to get to a wooden stair case that continued up.  I lost count of the stairs sometime after the staircase become narrow and more like a ladder.  It continued up to a very small landing, stairs continued up ahead and to the left sat a woman behind a window.  You pay to go up that last flight of stairs.  We paid and with some trepidation climbed into and through a low narrow doorway onto the top of the church tower.  Atop the tower sits a very narrow 360 degree catwalk with an outstanding view of Rothenburg below. We were stunned.  Perhaps because the entrance is hidden by the scaffolding, perhaps because it is off season, but for whatever reason we were alone with each other and this stellar view.  Thinking back on the waiting room at the turn style and the green/red semaphore to control traffic, we were extremely lucky not to have had to wait hours.  To be alone together is altogether amazing.  I’ll post a number of photos from the tower toward the end of this page.

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Part Way Up, It gets Narrow and Steep from Here

Back to earth, lunch and a beer sounded about right.  We recalled our garden restaurant search with Markus’ search for a peaceful bite, “Let’s find a garden restaurant”, perhaps the Herrnschlösschen is open.  One hotel had a terrace, but did not serve food ‘till later.  The Herrnschlösschen was closing.  It looked like the owner and his wife were shutting down for a while.  The garden was closed, in fact the hotel and restaurant were closed.

The Old Castle Garden

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The West Gate Seen from the Garden

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View Into the Valley from the Castle Garden

 

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Earth, Air, Fire, Water, & Ellen the Five Elements

 

We continued down Herrngasse to an arched gate in the town’s surrounding wall.  We walked through to a large garden, Jardines Antiguo castillo, garden of the ancient castle.  Wow. Thoughts of food, gone.  This was another picturesque gem.  We walked the garden, captivated by the view to the valley below and across to Rothenburg’s south gate.  It was past noon and the lighting for photography was sub-optimal.  “Let’s return an hour before sunset.”  We headed back to our hotel to rest and see if we had web access to plan tomorrow.  On the way back Ellen mentioned that the fellow we had seen dressed in black last night gave tours of the town in the evening.  The English tour started tonight at 8:00.  “Would you like to go?”  “Yes”  That complicated things. Sunset would be at 8:20 that night.  Photography would be best around 7:30 to 8:30.  We’d have to take our photos around 7:15-7:45 then run to Market Square.

Where does the time go.  7:00 arrived and we were off to the garden to catch photography’s golden hour.  I set an alarm for 7:45.  It is so easy to lose track of everything with sensory overload and/or thoughtful focus.  The alarm seemed to go off in a few minutes time.  The opportunity for good photos was there, we had fun, but it was time for our “tour of Rothenburg”.  We boogied off. (Buggered per Monte Python?)

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View Out Our Window, Glocke Weingut und Hotel

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Rothenburg from the Garden

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Approaching Sunset

 

The Night Watchman

A substantial crowd was milling about the square.  Perhaps 50 or 80 people; all for the tour?  At 8:00 sharp, a fellow dressed in black and carrying a long pike strode into the square and began speaking.  A half-circle formed around George as he spoke.  “If you want to take a photo with me, now is the time!  Don’t be shy.”  Many people did,  We all noticed that it was the women who stood by George and had their photo taken.  One fellow stepped forward, through his arms around George and had his photo taken.  We all roared.  It was hilarious.

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Anticipation

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Realization

“The Watchman” walked us around a short loop out into the gardens just before sunset, by the restaurant named HELL, and back to the main square.  He stopped a number of times to talk about Rothenburg’s history.  Not the history of names of politicians and dates of construction.  Not that boring historical stuff that books are made of.  He talked of city life in the old days.

A few examples.  I will not tell all.  You may find yourself having your photo taken with George one day.  No need to spoil the experience.  In the old days near the fountain in Market Square, there stood a circular cage.  If an individual was ill behaved or too drunken and rowdy, that person could find himself placed in that cage.  The cage could be rotated.  People, young people mostly, would have fun spinning the cage with the ruffian inside.  Another tale, the massive doors at the tower entrances would be closed at night to protect the town.  The massive doors had a “man hole”, a door small enough that only one man at a time could fit through.  Before sunset bells would be rung calling people out in the fields inside the town walls.  At sunset the doors were closed.  Anyone outside the walls could enter the town through the man holes.  However, human nature being what is is, everyone would arrive late at the gate and expect entrance into the town.  To solve this problem, a tariff was levied on those arriving late.  There were few late arrivals.

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The Door and the Man Hole are Original

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The Night Watchman Weaving a Tale

George also explained why part of the city wall was destroyed, how the city came to be saved from total destruction because a US general’s mother had visited the town before WWII.

If you walk the town’s ramparts, you will see numerous plaques with the names of families from around the world.  George explains the significance of those plaques. 

In addition to being a captivatingly romantic town, Rothenburg ob der Tauber has a unique history that comes alive as George speaks.  I asked him how long he has been doing this. “Twenty seven years”, was his answer.  I have since seen that two other towns have Night Watchman tours.  Perhaps George started a trend.  I do recommend taking his evening tour, and giving him the 7 euro he asks.  Will you ask yourself how much George makes in a year?  I did.

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The West Gate at Sunset (and Illuminated)

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George Has Mastered Comic Delivery

After the tour, I wanted a beer. I had not had one all day!  We’re in Germany; it’s always Zero.Beer.Thirty.  We sat where we had first eaten with Markus “last week” or so it felt.  It was only yesterday.   Ellen had her usual water with lemon or lime.  My beer was good, though Germans do not drink their beer cold, but rather cool.  Below room temperature to be sure, but not ice cold.  Ice cold was the greeting I got from our waiter when I asked to pay by card.  “Too Little” and I had no cash.  “AutoGeld” up the street.  There was an ATM just up the street, though it would have been impossible to find without help from an EIS Maiden.  A gal at an ice cream shop pointed to a glass door across the street and said, “ATM is there”.  I gave my waiter a hefty tip (for Germany) and we parted “best of friends”.

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HELL, the Restaurant

 

Morgen

Tomorrow (morgen in German) we’re off to  Nordlingen, Donauworth, Augsburg, and Landsburg am Lect, time permitting.

 

Photos from the Church Tower

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Sunset on the Tower

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Market Square

 

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St. Jacob’s Church

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The View Down Klostergasse

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Please Do Not Ring the Bell

 

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Thrilled

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Coming Down!

 

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Schlaf Gut

Fresh Snow in the Alps

Füssen

Back to “today” for a moment.  It rained last night while we at at Laura´s Schiffwirtschaft. We watched the rain on the river Lech.  We had no umbrella nor our rain parkas; it was sunny just an hour ago.  We watched expecting the rain to subside. It didn’t. It was raining pretty hard as I opened the door to leave.  We stepped back into the restaurant to visit the WC and commiserate.  We were about to get soaking wet walking back to our Hotel.  It was only a few blocks away, but the rain had no mercy.

Resigned to a “drowned rat” look, we stepped outside to find the rain had stopped.  The occasional drop fell, but there was no rain.

Getting up this morning the Austrian Alps look magnificent in a fresh coat of white.

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The Austrian Alps from Fussen Hotel this Morning

“Now back to our regular programming, the retrospective”.  Catching up to the present in this blog is a lost cause. 

Bavaria Day 5

April 24, 2019

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Typical Poppy Seed Snail, Yum

The Weather

The weather this past week has been fabulous.  You can see the effect on people on the street.  They are warm and sunny.  We packed temperatures between 45 and 65, but didn’t expect mid 70’s.  Fantastic!  I hope it keeps up.

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Old Meets New

Bamberg

Frühstück, breakfast, was not included, which was find with us. Es ist Zeit für eine Bäckerei!
We passed a few and settled on a bakery that had an Italian espresso machine.  Real Espresso!  Most espresso served in Germany comes from a push-button machine and is just “ok”. This bakery has a superb selection of sweet things.  Ellen wanted something substantial and not sweet.  She ordered what looked to be a vegetable quiche and a cappuccino. I ordered a poppy seed snail and a cappuccino.  Mine was by far the better choice :-).

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Die Bäckerei in Bamberg

While we were enjoying our frühstück, a woman sat beside Ellen.  It wasn’t long before Ellen was in conversation with Barbara about the town of Bamberg, our travels, and Barbara’s travels.  Conversation flowed naturally.  Barbara mentioned that the best part of Bamberg is the palace atop the hill,, “just walk up-hill and you’ll see it”.

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Modern Art?

At some point Ellen wanted a glass of water,  I asked the proprietor for “eine tasse wasser, bitte”. “Hot or cold”, she asked in English.  “Heiß”, then I switched to English. I was not 100% sure I hadn’t asked for Tall Water. We sat with Barbara and chatted for twenty minutes or so.

Our plan was to walk Bamberg in the morning and drive to Rothenberg ob der Tauber.  We were to meet Markus at Glocke Weingut und Hotel, Rothenberg at 2PM.

More steps.  The walk to the palace was refreshing and over various types of cobblestone, from the well laid smooth sidewalk cobblestone, to the large uneven street ones, and everything in between. At the top we found traffic.  Not tourist foot traffic, though there was a bit of that, but road traffic.  With few exceptions, old towns in Germany can be driven at a creep.IMG_3316

Bamberg Cathedral, UNESCO site

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I Marvel at Cathedral’s Grand Arches

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Historical Museum Bamberg

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Cathedral, Museum, & Ellen

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Looking South from the Footbridge, Bamberg

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Looking North from the Footbridge, Bamberg

We first entered Bamberg’s Cathedral, which was impressive, took in the square, skipped the museum and the palace and headed back to our car.  Still we left around 12:15. 

 

German Roads

German autobahns are numbered A- some number.  All A routes have an implicit speed limit of 120 kph!  B- routes are the next step down.  These are typically two lane roads with one lane in each direction.  Better B- roads will have a passing lane at quite regular intervals.  The implicit speed limit on B- roads is 100 kph.  Town Signs are orange rectangles that stand road-side ahead of a town.  The speed limit within all towns is 50 kph maximum and can be lower.  Some towns have a radar speed sensor that shows your speed and a smiley for speeds below 51kph and a frown for those over.  I’ve busted a few frowns from the speed sensor.

So on the autobahn the limit is 120.  I asked Markus if the speed limit is 120, why do people cruise at 160 or more.  He didn’t know, but strongly suggested I keep it below 120.  I’ve broken that rule a number of times as well.  I haven’t exceeded 140 kph, a rather modest 87 miles per hour.

Most roads I’ve driven have been smooth.  The single exception carried a vast number of trucks.  It was a washboard, but it was being repaired.  One crew was jackhammering sections of the road as another crew was removing debris and pouring concrete.

Germany has a great road system, if you like rotaries.

The drive to Rothenberg ob der Tauber was mostly on B- roads with a long stretch on the autobahn.  It was 1:55 as we approached Rothenberg.  The Nav app showed 5 minutes to destination.  Google maps “to the rescue”.  For whatever reason Google maps decided not to use the main gate.  It re-routed us around Rothenberg’s low land through two way streets barely wide enough for a single car.  The route was fascinating to me.  We saw an aspect of Bavaria’s countryside we would never have seen.  Ellen was less impressed.  We would be late to meet Markus.

Once through the opposite side gate, I found myself driving through throngs of people.  Most readily moved out of the say, some not so much.  We crept along.  Here Google Maps lost’s it head and began doing it’s Turn Left, Turn Right, Turn Left dance and driving us crazy.  Ignoring “the voice” and focusing on the map we managed to find Glocke Weingut und Hotel and parked on the street.  A nosy neighbor watched me chose one spot, then back up to access a larger spot.  She gave me the Bavarian version of “stink eye”. 

We checked into the hotel.  “Is is ok to park on the street?”  “No.  You can park for a few minutes, but do not stay there long”.  Stink-eye would be sure about that.  Our friend had been there asking about us and was out walking the town.

This hotel is right across from that most photographed of houses.  It’s location cannot be beat. For people traveling with a car, this hotel is still better.  They charge 6 euro for parking in their private enclosed attached garage.  You can access your car anytime you want from the hotel.   On the down side, though they had web access through Telkom, it was non functional.

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Rothenburg, NOT the classic photo

Markus & Rothenburg ob der Tauber

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Markus at the South Gate

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Outside the West Wall, Rothenburg

Ellen saw Markus from our room’s window and called down to him.  We haven’t seen Markus since his visit with us in Florence a few years ago.  He hasn’t changed much, if anything he’s fitter than before.  Ellen and I had skipped lunch and were hungry.  We sat at a street side restaurant on the main square and caught up.  Alex didn’t come along today; she is packing for her trip to a writer’s convention in Oslo.  “She’s concerned about meeting the Princess of Norway.  Her English is not so good and there’s only one other German going along.  She’ll have to speak English to the Princess.”  Through a series of fortuitous events, serious dedication, and ability Alex is becoming a representative of German and perhaps international writers.  The convention takes place over her birthday. Markus will fly out this Saturday to join her.

For lunch Ellen had a salad,  I had sauerbraten and Markus ordered, käsespätzle. This was the first time sauerbraten was on the menu, but what is käsespätzle?  It’s Germany’s take on mac and cheese served with caramelized or roasted onion.  I think Markus’ lunch was best of all.  “Next Time”.  After lunch?  I remember Markus and Alex scouting gelato shops for “the best” when they were in Florence.  Time for an ice cream, or ice auf Deutsch.

All three of us had never been to Rothenberg ob der Tauber.  Ice creams in hand, we walked the town. We walked the wall ramparts. Markus photography and just as Ellen and I will stop to take in a view then take a photo or two, Markus would too.  At 6 pm we started a search for a garden restaurant.  Many of Germany’s old houses were build with a central garden and many of those houses have been converted to restaurants.  Eating in a garden is so much more peaceful than eating street-side. We must have stopped at four restaurants, each of which had a garden that was closed, but directed us to another garden restaurant.  We were close to giving up when we happened upon Herrnschlösschen a restaurant with a garden.  Yes their garden seating was open.  We went in and out to the garden.

This time I ate light.  I had a salad with a few thin slices of roasted beef.  It was good.  Ellen had käsespätzle, and I’ve forgotten what Markus ate.  The food was good, though we hardly noticed.  Conversation was electric.  Suddenly a strong wind kicked up and drops of rain began to fall.  The awnings threatened to blow away.  Anything that wasn’t tied down toppled over.  The wind was intense.  We fled inside.  Moments later Markus answered a call from Alex who said there was a tremendous wind that blew through and she wondered if he was on the road and ok.  Alex was a full hour away.  Just as quickly as the squall appeared, it dissipated.  We walked Markus to his car in near darkness, passing a fellow on the main square dressed up as some kind of archaic figure dressed in black and carrying a long spear.  A small group of people were gathered around.   Strange, I thought as we walked by.

Markus has a p90, a performance model of Tesla’s Model S.  He’s quite happy with it and has no problem driving to Rothenberg and back. Markus said he was free Friday if we were anywhere close we could meet again.  Unfortunately, we’re headed south toward Füssen. much farther away.

We booked two nights in Rothenberg ob der Tauber to relax for a day before pushing on.  Ob der Tauber: funny thing about the Tauber, it is more a brook than a river.

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Markus on the City Ramparts, Rothenburg

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Scenes from Rothenburg’s Ramparts

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Outside The South Gate, Rothenburg

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Spital Bastion, Rothenburg

 

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Inside Spital Bastion

 

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber

We had not seen Markus since our trip to Florence and seldom see him more than every other year.  It was a special treat for us to be visiting him in his own land.  Big Fun and something we must repeat.  Bye Markus.

Bavaria, Day 4

April 23, 2019

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Bayreuth’s Church Organ

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Since 1464

 

Bayreuth

Breakfast at Hotel Restaurant Lohmühle was good.  The buffet had no bacon, no eggs, and surprisingly no sausage.  No problem, we had muesli, yoghurt, and fruit and a couple of cappuccinos.

We checked out, threw our luggage in the car which we left in the hotel’s lot, and walked Bayreuth.  The center market and side streets were familiar and similar to most old town centers.  We happened on a map of the town, which showed the Neues Schloss and garden courtyard.  With a few GPS based false starts,  The palace entry is under construction.  In fact most of Germany seems to be under construction.   “What’s the national bird of Germany?   The Crane”.  We walked through the rather mundane entry arch to find a huge rectangular tree lined courtyard and reflecting pool that extended hundreds of meters.  The courtyard was accented by a freshly planted formal garden, centered and on either side.  It was magnificent, tranquil, and even with the formality of the garden, it was unimposing.  The huge palace was understated, painted in yellow.  It lent to the air of peaceful calm.

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Simply Amazing that the Gardens are So Empty

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The Lone Cherry

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Freshly Planted

 

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One Side of a Symmetrical Planting

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Neues Schloss

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Left Side of a Symmetrical Front Garden

There were a very few people enjoying the gardens.  One fellow was taking photos.  A family strolled by.  An older gentleman relaxed on a bench.  Some bicyclists happened by.   I could have enjoyed an entire morning sitting, reading, but mostly absorbing the feeling of pleasure this garden evoked.

We were strolling on borrowed time and had to boogie on out to keep to our loosely defined “schedule”.  We set goals, achieve some, skip others, or chose to stop early just because.  This time we were off to Bamberg by way of Thurnau, Kronach, and Bamberg.

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Bamberg Waking Up

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Last Look at the Parking Lot, Hotel Restaurant Lohmühle

 

 

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Typical House, Thurnau

Thurnau

One brochure at the Hotel caught our imagination.  Thurnau looked to be an interesting castle and worth a visit.  It happened to be along the way (if you stretch the meaning of “along”).  GPS took us over hills and into valleys on a narrow winding road with a captivating panorama left and right.  Huge fields of yellow canola lined the road in places.  As we approached Thurnau, we climbed a hill, dropped down a bit and hit a “T” in the road.  GPS was silent.  On a whim I turned right, down hill.  Typically when you’re looking for a castle, turning up-hill would be the smart move.  I commented to Ellen that I just goofed and we’d have to find a place to turn around.  Down we went, then left, then up a bit.  Here was a perfect place to U-Turn, right in front of Castle Thurnau.   The castle sits roadside with a few establishments across the street and very little else.  As it typical in Germany for us, the castle was under renovation.  There were earth movers hauling dirt, workers moving dirt around.  The grounds surrounding the castle were being beautified and probably structurally improved as well.

Thurnau Castle was a surprise.  It is a privately owned hotel and restaurant. Based on the lobby, the rooms would be well appointed with a modern bathroom.  I assume the rooms would have a rustic feel with original walls and floors.  I don’t know because we chose not to look at a room.  We took a card, inquired about room rates (moderate), took our share of photos.

We had “just” eaten a healthy breakfast.  No reason to sample the Castle’s menu. We headed off.

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Castle Entrance, Thuranu

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Walkway between the Fortress and the Church, Thuranu

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Let’s Check-Out the Hotel

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“Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow”

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Construction, Everywhere Construction

 

 

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Entering Kronach

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Easter In Germany, Decorated Eggs are Everywhere

Kronach

Kronach is about 35 minutes north of Thurnau.  We could see a massive hill-top castle complex ahead as we headed north.  The further we went the more massive it appeared.  Then it was just east of us, then dropping behind us.  Humm, I guess that was not Kronach!  In fact it was Plassenburg outside Kulmbach. We hah another 20 kilometers to go.

Where Thurnau was easy to find (even if by accident), Kronach was difficult for us.  We drove around and around looking for a sign of a castle.  There was a cobblestone old town that we drove through more than a few times, there were narrow bridges over the Hasslach river that we visited and re-visited, but there was no sign of a castle: no signs, nothing but a bunch of one way streets.  GPS was not helping things along either.  Ellen and I had some words about navigation or lack there-of.  It was not pretty.

In frustration I simply found public parking stopped, and said we should go forth on foot.  We were still on speaking terms (barely) and we set off uphill, on the assumption that a castle would not be built on low ground, Thurnau not withstanding. 

As we walked up a very few German couples passed us walking down.  We saw practically nobody, but kept going.  We turned a corner to find a work crew repairing a road; out with the old cobblestones and in with the new.  We walked carefully past the workers in a loosely marked off pathway.   I nodded to one fellow who looked up, he smiled and went back to work.  I took that to mean it’s ok to continue. 

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Men at Work

Now we could see the castle walls, and they were impressive.  (most castle walls are impressive or they’re ruins, I suppose).  There was nobody about.  Is the castle closed?  We climbed up and up; up the road and up some stairs, then through the main gate. A workman or two and a couple on the ramparts was all we saw.

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Quite the Entrance

By now we were hungry.  Low blood sugar surely contributed to our earlier meltdown.  There was a sign for a terrace restaurant on the battlements.  Great, Up a stairway and there was the restaurant with red umbrellas accenting outdoor seating.  Let’s sit outdoors and enjoy the view! It was not around 2PM a merrily sunny day.  We had a view over the town of Kronach, wonderful.

“Can we sit outside?”,  “Of course, sit where you would like.”   We chose a table sheltered from the wind, which was blowing.  Our table decoration went airborn a number of times.  The wind cut the sun’s heat.  We sat and chatted, and chatted and sat.  Then sat some more. Then more.  I was about to give up when the waitress came with menus.  “I’d like a lager beer.”  Ellen ordered still water with lime or lemon.  “I’ll give you some time to look over the menu.”  Now that was an understatement.  We chatted and waited, and took in the view and chatted, and waited. And waited some more.  Eventually our water & beer arrived and our waitress (probably the only one working that day) took our order.  “Sorry we are out of sausage!”  “All sausage, you’re actually out of all sausages?”  “Well no, we have the curry sausage.”  Great! “A curry sausage and a salad please.” I nursed my beer and Ellen her water and we chatted, and waited.  And waited and chatted.  Then waited some more.  And more.  I wondered if they were slaughtering the pig as we waited.  Finally our food arrived.  We were hungry and it was good.  After we finished we waited for our waitress to appear and I had had enough.   Inside our waitress was in a serious discussion on the telephone.  I have no idea what she was talking about.  It could have been the color of a pair of shoes she liked or that a family member was in the hospital.  I just could not tell.

I paid cash for our 17.10 euro meal.  She took the 20 and said Danke.  What?  That’s not how this works! I motioned that I expected change back, which she gave me expressionlessly then turned away.  I had considered giving her the benefit of the doubt AND a tip, but no now. 

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Inside the Castle Walls (Before Lunch)

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Expansive Views from the Restaurant’s Terrace

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To reach Bamberg at a reasonable hour, we had to leave.  Our Kronach experience threatened to make today a disaster.   We took a few photos of the Castle, which is very impressive, as we walked to the car.

Here’s a recurring theme.  When I parked at Kronach I tried to use a parking app. and failed, I tried to pay by coin in a parking kiosk, and failed.  We walked off not paying for parking.  For a second time, we did not get a parking ticket.  If we were in Germany, I’d think the Czech license plate saved us.  Not so in the Czech Republic.  Perhaps the Czechs are not so diligent as the Germans?

GPS again: google’s distance from Kronach to Bamberg is 61km or 47 minutes. I have no idea where Google got that idea. Half of the route is on A73, the autobahn.  The other half is on B289, which winds through towns with local speed limits that can be as low as 20, and there are trucks.  It took abut an hour and a half to reach Bamberg.  It is a pleasant drive, or would have been but for Kronach and its waitress.

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Not that much Farther

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Modern Art?

 

Seen on the Streets of Kronach

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Photo of Bamberg’s Rathaus

Bamberg

We had settled down long before we reached Bamberg.  IPhone GPS did its typical thing: navigated us to Bamberg without a hitch, then failed miserably within the town limits.  I can be trained.  Once the GPS started it’s go left, no go right, go straight, make a U-turn, I found a parking garage, parked, and we went on foot.  German parking garages are well marked as are no-parking zones.  That seems the best approach in small towns.   I parked in the garage at the south side of Löwenbrücke

We walked to the old town center of Bamberg, then across the Regnitz river to the island.  Here there were tourists; Russian, Italian, British, American, but mostly German.  Even Bamberg’s island was not crowded and didn’t ooze “it’s touristy”.  It felt “right”.

We stumbled upon the visitor’s center (we “stumble” a lot).  “The classic view of the Rathaus is from the foot bridge.  You get there by walking just behind the building there (pointing).  Here I’ll check accommodations for you.  There is availability at Hotel Central no far from here.  Where did you park.  There’s a parking garage a block from the hotel. You can park there.  Is that OK”. 

We made the reservation, walked the footbridge with a fantastic view of Altes Rathaus, then back to the car.  Surprise, the parking kiosk took cash and coin, but not credit.  Surprise, the total for “just a few minutes” (longer actually) was 3 euro!  Surprise, I had 70 cents.  The nearest ATM was back at the market square, a 30 minute walk back and forth.  The fee to park was still 3 euro. 

With the GPS targeting Hotel Central, we were off.  All would have gone smoothly but for road work.  Later we found that the turn onto the hotel’s road was blocked.  There was no way to drive to the hotel “the easy way”.  The GPS was not having anything but the “easy way”.  On the third go-round, we bailed on the hotel.  Let’s find the parking garage.  Again another three circles around to find the correct parking garage.  By now I want my Garmin GPS and a map of Bavaria. 

The walk from the parking garage to the hotel was two moderate city blocks.  No problem.  The room was small with a still smaller bathroom.  The price?  $78.

Parked and unpacked, we strolled out looking for a bite to eat.  First we considered Tivoli, an Italian place we had passed.  Then thought we’d walk to the island and find something local.  We stopped at a Hoffbrau a block inside the tower.  The mango appetizer was superb.  I had white asparagus with Wienerschnitzel.  Ellen had sauerbraten with sliced boiled potato.  We skipped desert and still had ordered too much food.  “Next time we’ll eat light.”

You can get the feel of Bamberg’s Old Town in an afternoon and evening.  The rathaus’ location and the confluence of the Main and Regnitz rivers makes Bamberg unique.

The Germans love their pork, potato, and spaetzle; but most of all they love their eis and Bäckerei.  Their ice cream is quite good (we’ve had just one thus far).  German bakeries are superb.  Pork & potato, ice cream and pastries what could go wrong?

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Bamberg, busiest thus far

A Self Drive Tour of Bavaria, Day 3 a retrospective

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Karlštejn Castle, Yesterday

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An Inquisitive Guy

April 22, 2019; Day 3

The past few days are puzzle piece memories loosely strung together.  Putting the puzzle back together was a challenge.  So on Day 3 we left the Mlyk Hotel and Veronica, its manager, to find Křivoklát, Loket, and bayreuth.  The drive to all three was mostly on small country roads that were captivating and idyllic.

A word on German road signs.  Ahead of any small town there stands a yellow sign announcing the town.  These signs serve a dual purpose: 1. you know where you are, 2. you are told to reduce your speed from warp 10 to 50 KPH.  After the first few times following a “local” at 100 KPH then suddenly (for me) braking to 50 for no apparent reason, I realized that, “Yes, there actually is a reason”.  The first series of near single lane hair-pin turns in a small town will do that.  I now understand no parking signs, “walking speed” signs which are common in areas that would “normally” be closed to traffic,  and weight and height limits going over and under bridges.  I know the speed limit on the autobahn is 120 and on most major surface roads is 100.   I know that the yellow diamond sign means you are on a priority road which means you have the right of way on that road going through small towns. Most other signs are self explanatory.

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Last Minute Photo Shoot of Mlyk Hotel Grounds

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Fishing the Low Head Dam, Mlyk Hotel

Mlyk Hotel

We slept well that night.  The sound of water rushing over the dam lulled us to sleep.

We found photos of a classic car rally that visited the hotel some time in the past.  The rally featured a number of impressive cars.

We walked the grounds before leaving, but failed to say tschuss to Veronica, the hotel manager.  She was consumed working with the staff getting things “just right”.  Driving out we passed the local zoo, mostly donkeys and a few mangy camels.

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Evidence of a Car Rally at Mlyk Hotel

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First Sighting, Castle Křivoklát

Hrad Křivoklát, Czech Republic

Driving back roads in the Czech Republic is fun.  The roads are very well maintained and well marked.  We passed wide open fields, up and down rolling hills, followed along forested streams, and passed field after field of canola.  On a Blue Danube tour, Christine mentioned that the yellow flowers planted everywhere in the Czech Republic were Canola prized for its oil.

Křivoklát is a very small town.  Without GPS, if you blink you could drive right through it.  The two outdoor restaurants anchor the town.  Aside from the restaurants, he town was practically empty.  We parked and walked up to and into the castle.

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Inside the Castle Walls

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A View of Křivoklát Town from the Castle Ramparts

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The Castle’s Main Gate

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Greek to Me!

Sometime later we walked back to Křivoklát’s restaurants below.  As I mentioned in a prior post: I highly recommend the little outdoor restaurant at Křivoklát. It sits at the base of the road to the hilltop castle.  I ordered the “Veprova pecnika, bramborovy knedlik, brusinkovy terc” and the pork, cabbage, and potato dumplings were fabulous.  Also try the green beer and yes, it is green.  The beer and the cabbage were great.  We had some difficulty ordering as the menu was exclusively in Czech.  Our waitress spoke barely enough English to guide our selection.

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Lunch at a Restaurant, where’s Ellen in fact Where is Our Food?

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Green Beer

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More “Greek”, Order This For Sure (vegetarian? = no).

Sated, we merrily sped off on our next adventure.

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A Bridge, A Town, A Castle, welcome to Loket

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Where to Go Now?

Loket, Czech Republic

Loket is picturesque.  A massive stone arched bridge crosses the (TBD) River opens into the Locket’s main square. On a hilltop just left of the town sits the castle keep.  The bright, colorful city defies the castle’s austerity.  Modern time wins out, we hope.

Germany celebrates Easter for an entire week.  Even so we found a spot just across the bridge.  The pay kiosk would not take my coins; we wandered the town without paying for parking.  Parking was free yesterday, perhaps that is true all week?

We walked the short series of steps to and into the castle.  “Entschuldigung, bitte” followed by a stream of unintelligible and rather irate German.  We purchased our tickets and somewhat contritely re-entered the castle.  The renovation felt “modern” to me.  Most of the armor and limited furniture was from the 19th century, or so it seemed to me.  The original wooden bridges and cat-walks, long since gone, have been replaced with massive beams and planks.  They feel “new”, leaving the castle (and me) in a state of internal conflict.  This might have been sorted out had we opted for a self-guided tour.  We simply did not have the time.  Once around the castle walls, over a high wooden bridge, and out we went.  It was fun.

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Loket is a Small Castle

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The Town from the Castle Ramparts

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The Harquebus, a Shoulder Fired “Cannon”

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Reflection Couldn’t be Avoided

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Looks Nasty

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Why Take a Tour? Here’s an Example, What the heck is This?

We have found relatively few tourists while traveling the Czech countryside.  Most tourists were Czech with a smattering of Germans and Russians.

No parking ticket today!  I have no idea if parking was free, though it was for us!

Rooms in Bayreuth?  Booking.com showed a number of rooms available.  Hotel Restaurant Lohmühle struck a balance between price, accommodation, and proximity to old town.  With no need to book immediately, we headed off.

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Bayreuth has a Lively Old Town

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And Modern Art!

Bayreuth, Germany

Google Maps brought us to Bayreuth without a hitch.  Most of the driving was on small 100 kph roads, with a romp on a autobahn at speeds of 120-140 kph (yes, speeding but you should see the other guys).  We arrived at 4:30 (ish), well behind our plan.

Once into city of Bayreuth, we were surprised not to find old town.  GPS announced “You Have Arrived” and I thought “No We Have Not!”.  We were at an intersection. No entry to the right, traffic ahead, so I went right into a residential area.  What?  I turned around (I’m now an adept U-turner) and headed back.  We parked and walked right into Old Town.  It was just inside that do not enter right turn where GPS had dropped us.

Bayreuth was different.  In the Czech republic, the old towns are quite small.  They do not feel bustling, or alive.  They are quaint shadows of their former selves.  Bayreuth is a vibrant town.  The new city has grown to wrap around the old town, and forced modernity on it.  It feels a bit like Rome done German style and on a diminutive scale.  The ancient structures sit astride cafes, ice shops, and markets.  An timeless open-air vegetable market sits in the center of town.  Here modern and ancient blend in harmony.

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The Bayreuth Marketplace

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A Local Fountain

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A Typical Side Street in the Morning

We walked Maximilianstraße, Bayreuth’s main street, looking for a shop to replenish our supplies with no luck.   By now it was 0: Beer: 30.  Time to relax for a moment, people watch, and sample some German Beer.  Pilsner is light, cold, and wet, but beer it is not.  A mug full of a German Lager, now that’s a beer.  Eisbar Bamberg fit the bill.

A tall young blond waitress cheerfully greeted us first in German, then in English. She has plans to visit Chicago in a few weeks.  One of her friends lives there.  She was concerned that the weather would be cold and was uncertain what to pack.  The mid-west recently had a record breaking cold front with heavy snow.  We assured her the weather should be improving. She was fun.

At the Eisbar, Ellen had a flowery herbal tea which was quite good.  I had my first locally brewed German lager beer, which was much better.

At Hotel Restaurant Lohmühle, Elizabeth, the evening concierge, greeted us and in no time we had keys to a room and a parking token.  “Use the token to exit parking.”  The parking rate was 6 euro, well below any city’s 16 euro rate.

9:10 pm arrived far too quickly. We had the car parked and our luggage in the room, but by now most restaurants were closing.  We found a pizza place that would serve us if we ordered quickly.  Our margherita pizza was acceptable, but oh the beer!

Thus far we have been very pleased with the firmness of the beds.  Each hotel has provided a firm foam mattress with a thin soft topper.  Perfect.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve had soft mattresses that nearly fold double in the US.  Perhaps that’s changing.

Lately our mantra has been, “Let’s have a light lunch”.  Bavarian cuisine consists of pork or veal smothered in a butter, plum, or wine sauce; potato or bread dumplings; and baked potato served sliced or mashed.  So, “Let’s eat a light lunch” is usually followed by a sigh and “Next time”.