Author Archives: up4air

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”.

Bayreuth

 

We arrived here (Bayreuth) at 5:45 late yesterday.  Our plans were to stop by 2PM each day.  Clearly that didn’t happen.  We are attempting to scratch back the extra day in Prague which is a day less on the road.  We visited Křivoklát, Loket, and Bayreuth.   All were great fun.  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.

Locket is picturesque and well worth a stop.  The castle is smaller, though a fun romp with some interesting weaponry from more modern times.  I especially liked a “shoulder cannon”.  I’ll provide a photo and description from Bamberg.

Bayreuth is a surprise.  The GPS took us to the modern part of the city; very disappointing.  We thought we’d chosen a poor spot to visit, then we found the Old Town.  Amazing.

Later, we’ll push off early today.  The castle road (what little we’ve seen of it) is not to be missed.  The country side we drove through is reminiscent of parts of Maine, Western Massachusetts, the Ohio River Valley, and Oregon.  The area we are driving is small, but with far too much to see in “just” ten days.  We could easily take a month’s time driving and not be satisfied.

Sorry, no time = no photos today.  It takes hours to compose a simple few pages of text and pictures.

Later!

Karlštejn, Karlštejn Castle, & Romantic Hotel Mlyk

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The Rotating Head Sculpture near Michelangelo Hotel

 

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A Czech Tram

Easter Sunday in the Czech Republic

After breakfast at the Michelangelo Hotel, we left our bags and our car at the hotel and headed out.  With time limited, we took a tram to the Prague Castle.  More typically, we would walk, but we’d have to be back around 2 PM to free up our parking spot for the next guest.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum!  As we approached the castle stop, I got off just as the doors were closing.  Turned back to see Ellen behind a closed door and nobody else had moved to get off.  I waved at Ellen who waved back.  We were both laughing. We knew/hoped the next stop was not far.  I walked.  Reunited, we laughed, but considered what could have happened had the stop been miles away and not a few hundred meters.

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One of the Castle Gardens

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Another Castle Garden

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Fortress Walls

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The castle complex is amazing.  We walked the grounds and considered taking an inside tour, but the lines were already extremely long.  There is no way we could take a tour and get back to our hotel before 2 PM.  “Next Time” seems a common mantra for us.  The next time we are in central Europe, we will include a stop in Prague.  It is a fabulous city.

From time to time we encounter a  national or religious holiday in our travels.  Invariably “things” take twice as long that day.  Our planned day in Bagnoregio Italy which happened to fall on a national holiday was a disaster.  We didn’t even try to approach the city bridge.  It was wall to wall people.  We skipped Bagnoregio.  The Czech Castle was not nearly so crowded this Easter, though it was still early in the day when we left.

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How Can Guards Keep So Still?

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Prague’s Castle Cathedral

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Cathedral Details

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I’ll post a gallery of photos from the Castle a bit later when we have time to review our photos in more detail.

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NOT your typical pilsner glass of beer!

The Dutch Pub

There are ticket kiosks at the castle tram stop, Great.   A Japanese couple helped queue up a ticket, and the kiosk took change only; no bills.  Crap, we had no change.  Saved by the Japanese gal who offered us a 50 czk coin.  We promised to “pay it forward”.  At the hotel Ellen ask the concierge where we could eat locally.  “It is Easter and many restaurants may be closed.  You should try The Dutch Pub just down the street.  They may be closed though.” The Dutch Pub was open and very much like The Dutch Goose in Menlo Park Ca!  I ordered an IPA and a mini-burger sampler.  Ellen had water with lime and stuffed potato skins.  It was like eating at home, something we typically do not do.   The waitresses wore a bright orange T-shirt that read “ My Name is Not Susan and I am NOT 35.” 

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For a great lunch that is not your typical Prague eatery I highly recommend The Dutch Pub. 

GPS in the Czech Republic

We loaded our luggage into our NOT VW Golf and backed out over the freshly painted yellow stripes.  I expected to have yellow tires, but the stripes had dried even though the painter was working on the next set of stripes.

Cool we were off, but NOoooo.  The City Navigation Europe map for our Garmin GPS would not load.  I fell back to Google Maps on my iPhone.  The map is accurate in the Czech region we drove.  The GPS navigation was infuriating.  Getting out of Prague it was bouncing between “turn right in 20 meters” and when we went straight “turn left in 20 meters” even though we were headed the correct direction as shown on the map.  This happened every minute or so.  We did find our way south and eventually found signs for Karlstejn.  Resetting and restarting navigation helped with the left/right turn snafu.  Funny though, when the signs and GPS deviated, I chose to follow the GPS.  That took us on a winding country road.  We passed small groups of cyclists, over 40 of them in all.  We went through small towns with a speed limit of 30 kph and sometimes 20 kph and around a few startling blind turns, “S” bends in the road were well marked, most of the tight 180 degree turns were not.  The  speed limit would go from 70 to 30 abruptly as you approach a tiny town. 

The GPS took us to the small town of Karlstejn at the base of the castle mount.  I think the signs for the castle would have taken us to the top.  A win for the GPS, though Ellen may disagree with me here.  She was not a big fan of the tiny roads we drove.  There is a huge parking lot in Karlstejn with easy parking.  Take a ticket and pay at the kiosk before you leave. I imagine the lot would be full in peak season.

Two horse drawn carriages and two small vans sat waiting to take visitors to the castle.  The fee was 100 czk per person for a van, but the driver would not take two!  We’d have to wait for another couple.  Obviously he could have taken the two of us as it was mid to late afternoon and fewer people would be headed to the castle.  As obviously, he expected us to pay 400 czk and not wait for another couple.   I thought if we walked away the driver might just accept 200 czk and take us up.  We walked to the castle.   Along the way we passed a hotel sign.  I called.  Of course they were fully booked.

The road to the castle runs through the small town of Karlstejn (pronounced Carl-Stein with a trill on the “r”).  The town is a single row of houses/businesses on either side of the road that peter out the higher you go.  The castle itself is imposing perched right at the edge of the escarpment.

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Karlstejn as seen from the Castle Walls

 

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Karlstejn Castle

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Frenchie Convention on the Castle walk

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They Kept Coming Too!

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The well tower

Karlstejn Castle

The castle was founded by King Charles IV Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia.  Prague’s Charles Bridge is named for him.   (The Well Tower shown above was dug 230 feet and did not hit water.  A channel to tap into a nearby stream was dug that made the castle’s water supply vulnerable.)

From Wikipedia: 

Karlštejn Castle (Czech: hrad Karlštejn; German: Burg Karlstein) is a large Gothic castle founded 1348 CE by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor-elect and King of Bohemia. The castle served as a place for safekeeping the Imperial Regalia as well as the Bohemian/Czech crown jewels, holy relics, and other royal treasures. Located about 30 kilometres (19 mi) southwest of Prague above the village of the same name, it is one of the most famous and most frequently visited castles in the Czech Republic.

More Information here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl%C5%A1tejn

We wanted to take “Tour II” a 100 minute tour of the interior of the castle featuring the interior of the main tower.  We had arrived late (4:15 pm); that tour was booked.  We opted for “Tour I” in English (of course) that started at 4:50.   Our tour guide flooded us with information about the walls, construction, re-construction, and a veritable who’s who of Czech history.  Her English was fair to good; she did a good job.  Interestingly a black eagle is the symbol of “Good King Wenceslas”, who is a historical figure.  Consider the eagle impressed on German coins.  In black, that is the symbol of King Wenceslas.

As you would expect virtually nothing is original within the castle and much of the castle walls have been rebuilt.  The castle was attacked twice, though the castle keep, the main tower, has never been captured.  The castle was renovated in the 17th century and again in the 19th century.  There is a portion of a ceiling and part of a wall with the original tile and woodwork.

All in all the castle is impressive and well worth visiting.  I would go off season and avoid the crush of folks walking the street to the castle.

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Mostly Reconstructed but with some Original Panels Too!

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Our Tour Guide

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On the Way Back

Romantic Hotel Mlyn Karlstejn

We had a thirty minute wait for our English tour to start.  I checked booking.com for a nearby hotel and found a listing for “Romantic Hotel Mlyn Karlstejn” that showed a room available today.  Really?  I booked the room and had confirmation in hand fast.  Unbelievable. We would not have to drive these un-lit winding roads at night to find a room. 

Back at the parking lot, I paid for parking and dialed the hotel into Google Maps.  There was the hotel on the map, and there we were.  No Problem, right? Wrong.  First I drove past the left turn & had to turn around.  I’m getting quite adept at turning around.  Next we found the (now right) turn.  A sign said “No Heavy vehicles, or trucks”  (don’t ask how I knew what it said in Czech).  Off we went down a single lane road that became dirt and led to a closed gate to farmland.  Terrific.

Looking at the map, which is accurate and makes me wonder how the navigation could be so messed up, I saw a road running parallel to the miniscule trail we had just drive that looked to go right to the hotel.  Another eight point turn later, we found the correct road complete with signs for the Romantic Hotel.  And it is a Romantic Hotel that has won Trip Advisor’s best poll in 2013.  I know, “Trip Advisor” is not a glowing recommendation and 2013 is ancient times, but this hotel was fun.  The food is good to excellent.  It has outdoor seating on a veranda overlooking the low head dam and river.  Veronica, the manager, knows how to treat her guests well.  I would highly recommend this hotel. 

As for pricing.  Our dinner which consisted of two beers, a vodka, a mango juice drink, an appetizer, soup, a grilled side of veggies, a heaping plate of small golden potatoes, and pork sirloin in plumb sause was 921 czk or $36!  The room was just over $100.

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A View from the Veranda

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Another View

 

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Empty Before Dinner, Full for Dinner

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Mango Juice with Mint

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Our Room

 

Today we push on toward Bayreuth, though we certainly will not make it that far.

Central Europe

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This photo is of a brief performance at Budapest’s Opera House.

The woman’s voice was remarkable.

Our Avalon Danube cruise ended yesterday.   Most of friends (old and new-found) were off to the airport and headed home.  Ron & Chris planned to stay another day in Prague.  Ellen mentioned that we should extend our stay in Prague for another day or two which we have done.  We found a modern hotel room at a luxurious price, juggled our car rental, and here we are headed to breakfast at the Michelangelo Grand Hotel.  Easter weekend is not the best time to find accommodations.  We’ve had two experiences with travel and national holidays.  They are best avoided when possible.

We have taken a number of photos on our trip.  Our Avalon cruise took us from Budapest through Slovakia, Austria, Germany, and into the Czech Republic, Prague.  We visited a number of small and mid sized towns, an Abby or two, castles, we climbed atop the castle ruins where Sir Richard the Lion Heart was imprisoned, a of course drank our share of pilsner.  We’ve had a very fun time on the cruise with few complaints.  Some thought the food on the Imagery II was sub par.  For us the breakfast was great, lunches were good, and dinner was hit and miss.  I’d recommend avoiding the fish on this boat.

Our last Avalon tour was to the present day town of Terezin, which was a Nazi concentration camp during WWII.  The Nazi’s used it as a show-piece for a propaganda film and a Red Cross visit (which never happened).

Organized tours like this Avalon cruise do all the logistics and planning for you.  You pick from a list of tours available en-route and off you go.  The tours are informative, but run on a timetable. Your time is not your own. This is the downside of all the tours we have taken on any vacation.  Invariably we find that gem of a local we love, but have to move on with little or no time for exploration.  We hope to go back one day and revisit them, but seldom do.

Today (assuming the hotel allows us to store our car a bit longer) we will explore more of Prague, perhaps driving to the castle atop the hill.  Then it’s off to find The Castle Road.  Wikipedia has a concise list of the major attractions along the road.  We hope to have time for a stop at: Karlštejn, Křivoklát, and Teplá while skipping Hořovice and Švihov.  We do not expect we will get as far as Loket or Cheb today.  Booking.com shows very few properties available before Teplá.

I/We will post photos and commentary as we have time.

Happy Easter!