Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Trip to Germany: Garmish, Munich, and the Zugspitze

We arrived in Garmish, but really we arrived back in America.  You might say how can this be we are still in a little town in southern Bavaria which is a state in Germany.   We are in America because we are staying at the Armed Force Recreation Center (AFRC) in Garmish.   The Edelweiss Lodge and Resort  complex is on a secure military installation to enter we have to show our passports and I have to present my retired military identification.  

We are back in America for the next 3 days.  During our stay here we will be paying in American dollars, tipping at the hotel restaurants like we were in America, and all the communication will be in english.  It is a good change from the last 3 days, but something we should not get used to.  Staying here does give people the feeling of what it is like for an American and Allied service member in Europe.  It is really the only reason why the AFRC is here.  It is a place where you can get out of Germany for a short time during your 3 year or longer tour.

It is a convenient place to stay we can arrange tours and there are 3 different restaurants on the complex grounds.  So the next day after breakfast we decide to take the train to Munich.   We catch the train at the Garmish train station and in a hour and a half were at the Munich Hauptbahnhof.  The main train station is very close to the downtown and it is a short subway ride to Marienplatz which is in the center of Munich.

We have two objectives in Munich, to see the Glockenspiel, which is a tower that provides a mechanical show like a Cuckoo Clock in the Rathaus (Tax House) and  the Hofbrauhaus the famous Oktoberfest beer makers restaurant.  We accomplish both these objectives and get a little shopping done in between.   The Glockenspiel is right on Marienplatz and the Hofbrauhaus is a short 2 block walk from there.   The Glockenspiel was more animated than I remember it with a mechanical horse mount joustas the centerpiece at the end of the clock movement.   The Hofbrauhaus is a big inside and outside beer garden that serves authentic German cuisine.  We went there to get the T-shirt and we did.

It was then back to Garmish on the train.  It was a long day and we were all tired, our traveling was starting to catch up with us.  The next day we purchased ticket to ride the gondola up to the top of Germany which is called the Zugspitze.  It was a magnificent ride up the Mountain.  The Mountain top views were fantastic. We have a long lunch at the lodge on top of the mountain enjoy the site.  We then take the cog train down through the Mountain.   An engineering marvel the Zugspitzbahn takes us to the base of the mount where we rejoin our van.   We get back to the Hotel early for a long deserved rest.

During the trip to the Zugspitze I received a call from Terri.   Her and Kim are done hiking in the German Alps and she is ready to join us in Garmish.  It is a short 2 hour drive to pick her up. It was good to see her and make the group complete.   After returning we all have dinner in the restaurant and catch up on both our adventures.  Tomorrow we leave Garmish probably for my last time and we make our trip to Hinterstein and our 6 day stay in the German Alps.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Trip to Germany: Drive through Nordlingen and Dachau

This morning we are leaving Rothenburg we start off on autobahn A7.   The Mercedes Van hums along at 160KPH which is 100 MPH, at this speed we are keeping up with traffic.  We then turn on B25 headed for our first stop which is Nordlingen.

Nordlingen is a stop on the Romantic Road which runs from Wurzburg to Fussen.   Nordlingen is another medieval town that is unique in the fact that it sits in a comet impact crater.  From the church tower which we climbed you can see the perfectly round city fortification that was built along the inner ring of the impact crater.

Climbing the church tower provided excellent views of the inner and outer impact crater.   It also provided a view of 2 nesting german Storks. Famous for their house nesting and old wives tale of delivering newborn babies.

Well, we are back on the road again.  We are headed to Dachau the first original German Concentration Camp.  Initially designed for Political Prisoners of the early Nazi Regime.   Dachau was not a death camp like Auschwitz or Treblinka; most of its prisoners would die the old-fashioned way by being worked to death.

 It is a law that all German School Children must visit a concentration camp.  It is something that they never want to happen again, although it already has in other parts of the world. This type of man's inhumanity to fellow man is not strictly a German occurrence,  we are all capable of tremendous horror or good.   It is the circumstances that created this phenomenon is what we must guard against.

Dachau was a sobering tour, we made the final English film which provided a good backdrop on the situation that created the german concentration camp system in Nazi Germany.   We toured the large grounds and cremation ovens where most of the people that went to the camp left though.   After spending a couple of hour here we were off to our final destination in Garmish.

On the way to Garmish we hit Munich exactly at the wrong time, rush hour traffic.  After spend an hour getting through the city but we make it to autobahn A95 and it is smooth sailing to Garnish and the Armed Forces Recreation area there. We arrive around 8 pm and we are all exhausted from a long day of driving and site seeing.  It is good to know that this will be home for the next few days.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Trip to Germany: Rothenburg on the Tauber

It was a short 2-hour drive after landing in Frankfurt. Finding the Prinze Hotel was a bit of a challenge because it was inside the old city wall, but after discovering the wall entrance was open to car traffic we followed the Google GPS map to the front door.

After checking in we rested a bit and head out into town for dinner. Our first real meal in Europe was at a classic German Gasthaus, a combination hotel, and restaurant in the center of Rothenberg. It was a typical German meal, with salad, grilled pork fillets, gravy and German noodles called spatzal.  Of course, there is ice cream afterward.  It was good to be in Germany again. After dinner, it was back to the hotel for a long rest.   

If I was only going to Germany one time in my life and only had a choice of 1 location, Rothenburg would be that choice. Rothenberg is a fantastic example of a well-preserved medieval city. Along with its medieval fortifications, Rothenberg is guarded by a steep ravine and river that provided a natural barrier to the south of the city.  Untouched by war and then growth stunted early in its history Rothenberg remains largely unchanged since the 18th century. With its old city fortification, Architecture, and panoramic views it is one of Germany's most picturesque cities.

The next day we tour the city by walking the old city wall then stopping at the medieval criminal justice museum. In the evening we drove 18Ks to Colmberg Castle for dinner. What a great example of a German medieval castle and the food was great also.  

Well, it was a great day in Rothenburg tomorrow it's a long drive with many interesting stops on the way to Garmisch.







Monday, July 7, 2014

Trip to Germany: Arriving in Berlin

Taking the train from Frankfurt to Berlin was an adventure.   I did not realize how important it has become to reserve seats on a Inter City Express train (ICE).   When I was here almost 10 years ago it was not important.  We ended up standing in the second class passenger car for the first hour of the trip before non reserved seats open up.   It was Sunday and I am assuming that people were returning to Berlin from weekend travel.

Once arriving in Berlin at the Hauptbanhof, the main train station it was a short 2.6 kilometer walk to are hotel.   Crossing the Spree River we walked passed the German Bundestag the new parliament building, and the Brandenburg Gate.

After checking in we had a late dinner at an open air cafe on Gendarmen Markt Platz, where there was a evening concert.   We ate and drank to the classical music and opera just across from the concert barrier.  It was a very special night for us.

So in the short 3 hours we have been here we have seen quite a bit.   So hopefully the next 3 days will be as fulfilling.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Off to Germany: The Start of an Epic European Adventure

We'll it's another trip across the Atlantic Ocean.  From Nashville its a short 10 hour trip to Frankfurt.  Luckily I got rerouted onto a Lufthansa flight this made the trip so much more enjoyable.  It seems to me on American Airlines they act like there doing you a favor to fly with them. On the trip over I sat next to an Egyptian couple who were making there way back to Cairo.   They were pleasant enough but the language barrier prevented any real conversation, but it was interesting to watch there interaction with the air crew who seemed very frustrated with them.

Most of the time when you travel to Europe you leave the USA in the evening and arrive in Europe in the morning.  My flight landed a 8:10 AM.  On the this trip I'm playing tour guide for family members which I thoroughly enjoy.  Terri is already in Switzerland hiking with a friend, we eventually will rejoin them later in the week.  Once at the gate I walk to the sky train which goes to terminal 2.   I stand in line and rent the van we'll be using for the next 12 days.

Our family that is traveling with us flight was delayed which gave me time to rent and familiarize myself with Mercedes Vito 9 passenger van.  So after all the busy work is complete, it is a short two hour wait before they all wander into the Rental Car Center in Terminal 2.

It is a 10 minute walk to the Van. We load the bags and we are off to our first destination; Rothenburg od der Tauber River.   After a hour and a half drive and a good nights rest we will spend a day walking around a well preserved mid evil town.   So far its been the start of an epic adventure.