I owe this trip to my sweet Frau who understands my needs and knows all about the virus that attacks my body each year around September. My medical condition (Wanderlust fever) is well known and shared by many of you frequent travelers. Soon after last year's trip I began explaining to Dee Dee that this year might be my only opportunity to take advantage of our daughter's flight attendant status and fly 'standby' to Germany and back. Considering the money to be saved - I felt it only right that I use this privilege while I could as the daughter is looking to make a possible career change in the near future. I would have loved for Dee Dee to make this trip with me but we had too many logistical obstacles to overcome - not to mention her medical condition (severe anxiety) associated with airplane travel. Traveling 'standby' (as I was to find out) is an adventure in itself and not for anyone easily stressed.
So with solid approval from the spouse I began my planning for the last three weeks of September 2004. Larry (PStuyvsant) normally gets the same virus around September but we weren't sure about his employment status for the rest of the year (possible retirement looming) so we were somewhat tenative in our initial planning of an overlapping trip together. As things came together I ended up with two extra days to be in Germany before Larry arrived. I decided that I would train from Frankfurt airport to Rothenburg o.d.T. and meet up with Larry and his rental car two days later. The rest of the trip was worked out with plans for two days along the Altmühltal - two days around the Bavarian Forest (Bayerischer Wald) - two days in Austria near Berchtesgaden - three days around Mittenwald - two more days in Austria near Bregenz and Bodensee - two days in the Black Forest - and the final two days in the Rhine Gorge area.
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As usual Larry and I split responsibilties
for our itinerary and went about finding accommodations and working out the details. We prefer shopping for lodging
ahead of time and confirming where we will be each day of the trip. What we do while we are in each area is always
flexible and dependent on available time there. This year (as always) - we searched for farms and Zimmer Frei at
each location that met our needs - either two double rooms or a Ferienwohnung (apartment) with two sleep rooms
- private bath/toilet not required - and balconies preferred where possible. Everything was confirmed by email
or fax prior to departure. No stress for us in having to find suitable inexpensive accommodations on the fly.
Down to the wire - everything checked off - Passport - Car Rental - Lodging - Money belt - US/Euro currency - Credit card - ATM cards - Driver's license - IDP (for Austria) - Bags (3 carry-on size and a camera bag) packed - ready to go...
I was planning to leave on Monday - 13 Sep (or at least try to get out on 'standby' D2 status - which is what listed parents of airline employees are eligible for). Seeing that the Monday flight was booked pretty solid with several 'standby' passengers listed for that day - I was prepared for the worst which would have been to be delayed several days before getting airborne. (There is one AA direct flight to Frankfurt daily.) So I had Dee Dee take me out to the airport on Sunday - 12 Sep - to try the system and establish a sign-in time. Standby's are called in order of sign-in time and that same time will carry over to next day (if you don't get out).
I really didn't expect to get out on Sunday but when they called my name for the very last seat left in the plane - I was very happy to be permitted to sit in the center row (center seat of five) with two burly guys taking up a quarter of my leg and arm space on each side. Didn't bother me at all as I was on my way to Germany (for the paltry sum of Fifty-one US dollars). In-flight entertainment on American Airlines 777 - DFW to FRA - is excellent (even in coach). Each passenger has their own video screen with four movies to choose from, ESPN, BBC, several TV series episodes, Cartoons, 12 music channels, and an in-flight progress channel telling you exactly how many more minutes of pain your lower back must continue to endure. Decent food - friendly crew - minimum turbulence - no squalling kids - 9.5 hours of movies later we arrive on time to nice, cool weather. Baggage claim is a breeze (standby luggage goes on last and comes off first) - Customs is not a problem - and I am quickly walking the terminal to the Europcar rental desk. Larry will be picking up the car in three days so I attempt to leave a copy of my driver's license so that I will be added as a driver and there would be no possible insurance problems later. The lady says she can't do much but promises me she has annotated her copy of Larry's invoice and attached the xeroxed license. (We find out 3 days later that she didn't do what she said she did and we end up having to find a Europcar agency later on to have myself added - an adventure all by itself.)
I locate the Airport Fernbahnhof - purchase
a one-way second class ticket to Rothenburg o.d.T. for 37 Euro - and enjoy 3 hours of train rides - to include
train changes in Würzburg and Steinach. I arrive Rothenburg just about midday and immediately purchase a 10
Euro telephone card at the train station souvenir stand. My confirmed lodging is at the Haus Karin for Tuesday
and Wednesday but I have nothing reserved for this day - Monday. A quick call to Frau Weiss tells me I'm in trouble
because she has nothing open tonight and her friends are full as well. Trying to plan ahead to this possibility
- I had written down the names of several inexpensive places that would have been my next choices after the Haus
Karin. But, after several phone calls I was still without a bed for the night.
Rothenburger Hof Hotel
Bahnhofstrasse 11 & 13
91541 Rothenburg o.d.T.
Tel -9861/9730 ~ Fax - 9861/973333
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
55 rooms w/shower/toilet, TV
Just across street from train station and Mini-mall
Instead of lugging my bags up to the Altstadt and trying to find a home for the night I took the easy way out and walked across the street from the Bahnhof to the Rothenburger Hof Hotel. A Double-room with TV, private bath and excellent buffet Frühstück for one person - 40 Euro. A bit higher than accustomed to but totally acceptable, considering the circumstances. The remainder of my accommodations would average 23 Euro per night. I lighten my load, have my first Bier and Bratwurst and stroll the Altstadt for several hours.
91541 Rothenburg o.d.T.
Walked over to the Trinkstube zur Höll for dinner but Hell was full and I wasn't in that big a hurry to get in so had a nice Bier and Schnitzel at one of the outside tables at an old favorite - Hotel Roter Hahn. Sweater weather - cool evening - sun going down - candles lit - last groups of tourists walking by for the night - smooth Bier - good Schnitzel mit Pommes - Life is Good !!!
Next morning I have my first breakfast and it is an excellent buffet - good strong coffee - juices - eggs - various meats and cheeses - nice assortment of breads and rolls. I shop at the little mini-mall across from the train station for an hour, check out of the Rothenburger Hof and walk up past the Altstadt to a nice residental area just about a 5 minute walk from the town wall. I had found Haus Karin's website
(http://www.haus-karin.de/) when first planning this trip and after exchanging several emails with the very friendly hostess, Frau Karin Weiss - I was really looking forward to my two day visit.
Hans and Karin Weiss
91541 Rothenburg o.d.T.
Tel - 9861/3962 ~ Fax - 9861/938949
Email - Karinweissrtbg@aol.com
Five rooms w/wo private bath/toilet, TV, private entrance
On this afternoon I head out along a walking/bicycle trail for the nearby small village of Detwang (oldest part of Rothenburg) to visit the Church of St. Peter and Paul and get a look at it's Crucifixion Altar by Tilman Riemenschneider. Easy walk down into the valley but a killer walk back up to the Altstadt - steep enough and long enough to tighten up the old legs and make you feel your calves again.
Some folks complain that Rothenburg is too touristy - and it is - but that will never keep me from enjoying it as often as possible. The trick to Rothenburg (and some other high visibility tourist destinations as well) is to enjoy the old town or attraction from about 5 pm til just after dark and from daybreak til 9 am. Daytrip to other nearby locations when you can - while the tour buses and their hoards take over the town. When those crowds dissipate in the evenings you have the streets and restaurants all to yourself.
Decided on a light dinner of Fränkisch wurst and Fränkisch Alt Bier in the tree covered Biergarten/Restaurant of the Hotel Reichs-Küchenmeister. This is an excellent location for people watching and with a nice view of St. Jacobs Church.
First breakfast at the Haus Karin where I met two young ladies from Idaho and one very nice Japanese school teacher (Konnichiwa Akiko...) - all on their way this morning to the Füssen area and the Royal castles of Bavaria. For the next two hours I walked and video-taped almost every step of the wall around the Altstadt (that could be walked). Some photos and tight calves later I spent the rest of the day window shopping, relaxing and surfing the internet.
Personally, I prefer to see Schneeball pastries in that window rather than Big Macs and Quarter pounders.