Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Well, we made it home on June 9th and we've taken stock of all that we experienced on this our latest adventure. Overall we had a good time and even with the rain we returned home with new and lasting memories. We made new friends in Ken and Linda, and spent four wonderful days with old friends Hansjoerg, Silke and Frank. Cathie made a special connection with Silke's mom, Ilse and they were both in tears when we said our goodbys.

For my final post for this adventure I thought I would share with you some of the facts and figures that were amassed on our journey. So here goes.....

Trip Prep time - I started planning this trip when we returned from Europe in 2006.

Money spent on stuff before we left home - Not as much as last time, but more than necessary.

Total days - 42

Airfare - Free, had enough points on the credit card.

How many points? - 110,000

Car lease - $1500
New Peugeot with full insurance and no deductible. (No dents or scratches)
Miles driven - 7200 km or 4320 miles
Mileage - 50 MPG
Cost per gallon of diesel - Around $5 - but figure the mileage, and it mile than in the states.

Traffic laws broken - Too many to count.
Tickets issued - None. Where's a cop when you need one.

Arguments with Alice - Actually we got along pretty well, but when there was a dispute on which way to turn, she was usually wrong, even though I was glad she came along. We would still be looking for our first B&B without her.

Amount budgeted - $200 a day, excluding car lease.
Amount spent - $153 a day.

Least expensive lodging - $45 B&B in Mauthausen, Austria
Most expensive - $112 - One night in a hotel somewhere in central France.
Although not a bad room, it was probably the worst one of the entire trip.

Best B&B - Can't answer this one as they were all great with just a couple in the just OK

Best Food - It was all good and plentiful with the exception of anchovies in Cathie's salad.
Favorite Food - confit de canard and foie gras.

In 2006, customs took away my foie gras, this time they let me keep it.

Weight Gained - Dana, 7 lbs. Cathie, It's not polite to ask a lady.

Hours spent on airplanes - Too many (27 hours)

Flight delays - One, 2.5 hours delay leaving Geneva causing us to miss our connection in Washington. Still managed to get home just 2 hours behind schedule.

Days of sunshine - About 8

Days till the next trip to Europe - I don't know, but I've already started planning!


Thursday, June 10, 2010



After Baden-Baden we headed through the Black Forest towards the small town of Zell im Wiesental. Why would we go to a little town that no one has ever heard of? That’s where our German friends, Hansjoerg and Silke live, and we saved the best part of our trip for last. To top it off it wasn’t raining!

Hansjorg had sent me an e-mail describing the scenic route from Baden-Baden through the Black Forest, so we programmed Alice and headed south. We’re glad we followed Hansjoerg’s instructions as the route he selected for us was beautiful. Following ridge tops most of the way, we had spectacular views on both sides of the road. After a leisurely drive, we arrived in Zell, as the locals call it, a little after 5 pm.

We were under the impression that we would be staying at Silke’s house, but when we arrived, we were told other arraignments had been made for us as Silke’s place was too small. After a welcoming bottle of champagne over which we caught up on old times, we were taken to a neighboring village of Pfaffenburg, about 4 km away. There Silke and Hansjoerg had arranged for us to stay in a wonderful guesthouse with an unmatched view. From our small suite on the top floor, we had a beautiful Black Forest view with a small church situated far below. Perfect! We were treated to a great dinner at the Berggasthof Schliissel, our home for the next four days. The owner, Monica attended to our every need as we had a long and quiet evening with Hansjoerg, Silke, Hansjorg’s son Frank, and Silke’s mother, Ilse. The food was excellent and the wine plentiful.

The next morning Hansjoerg, Frank, Cathie and I, took a hike in the Black Forest, led by Hansjoerg, who assured us that he knew the way. After a 6 mile trek, we weren’t to sure, but it was well worth the effort with a stop along the way at a guesthouse serving some great German fare. To get back down the mountain, a ride on a summer toboggan was in store. More like a one man rollercoaster at 2.9 km, or 1-3/4 miles long, it is the longest summer toboggan in Germany. What a ride. Check out their website.

We capped off the day with a great meal at Silke’s prepared by her and her mother. Joining us in addition to those already mentioned was Hansjoerg’s daughter Bergit. Both Frank and Bergit in their early 20’s seem well on their way to successful lives and both were a welcome addition to the evening.

Cathie enjoys a German invention called “Radler”’ which is beer and lemon soda. You can buy it bottled, and our friends made sure there was plenty on hand. We had a great evening with Bar-B-Q German style, more than enough food for all with lots left over. On the back patio with the sun setting over the hill, you couldn’t ask for a better evening.

The next day we headed to an old village where there was a craft fair, along with some depictions of how things were done back when. One old house from the 1800’s has been preserved and turned into a museum. Interesting stuff. Having been worn out by Hansjoerg’s trail blazing abilities the day before, he led us on a short walk to a waterfall, before ending the afternoon at another guesthouse for refreshment. Because of some rain (yes rain) and evening thunderstorms in the forecast, we had another great dinner at Berggasthof Schliissel,

The next day, Cathie took the day off and Silke had to go back to work, so Hansjoerg and I spent the day wandering around Basel, Switzerland, which is just a few minutes away for Zell. Another great evening was spent on the patio at Silkes’ with more great German cooking.

We were treated like royalty by our hosts. They showered us with kindness, not to mention gifts, and wouldn’t let us take our wallets out of our pockets. On more than one occasion when I tried to pay, the proprietor wouldn’t allow it, having been told in the native tongue that our money was no good. After 3 days and 4 nights it came time to say good-by. It was difficult leaving after being entertained on a grand scale by Hansjoerg, Silke, and Ilse. We all promised that we would see each other again in the future and I sure we will. Good friends like these are hard to find.
There are Guesthouses all over Germany and they all serve breakfast with the price of a room. Our guesthouse was full over the weekend with a wedding and lots of bikers. (not the outlaw kind) There are also guesthouse in the hills where one stops on a hike or mountian bike ride for a place to stay or a meal.

We couldn't get over how green everthing is. The rain helps, but it stays this was most of the year, only changing when covered with snow.

This is the place we stopped for lunch and drink on our hike. It's very common to find such places on the many hiking trails all over Germany.




Thursday, June 03, 2010


It rained while getting here, but since arriving in Baden-Baden no rain, but plenty of water. If you don't live here, you come to Baden-Baden for just a few reasons. To spend lots of money at the high end shops in the pedestrian zone, or to spend lots of money in the casino or to go to one of the spas. Since one of the goals of this trip is not to break the bank, we came for the latter. Any town with "Bad" in it's name, has a spa. They are all over Germany. Since this towns name is repeated, I guess you could say it's spa is something special.


On a recent trip to Germany, friends Mike and Nancy told us about the spa at Baden-Baden. They gave us a rundown on what it was like and said is was the one of the highlights of their trip. You go through 17 different stations involving water, heat, and cold. Men on one side and women on another. In the middle men and women meet in the thermal therapy pool. On certain days, men and women share all the facilities, on others the sexes are separated. On holidays, it is co-ed. Why must you know this? Because the spa is not a clothing optional zone. Clothing is not allowed. So we made sure were we there on a Thursday, a day the sexes are separated, except in the therapy pool.

Well as the saying goes, "the best laid plans..." It turns out Thursday was a holiday in Germany. Cathie said no, I said yes, so having come all this way, I wasn't going to miss the experience. With Cathie safe in our hotel room, I went local. Nudity here is no big thing. In the summer people in the parks of Munich sunbath topless and no one bats an eye. Going to a spa is just part of life here and it's considered therapeutic.

The following is from the spa's brochure:

On opening in 1877, Friedrichsbad was considered to be one of most beautiful bath houses in Europe. When you enter, you immediately get a sense of the history, culture and atmosphere of over 130 years of bathing tradition. Take a step back in time and enjoy the unique beneficial effect of the Roman bathing culture, combined with Irish hot air baths. The temperature changes are deliberately coordinated to be beneficial; after a sharp increase at the beginning, the temperature gently drops until the cold water immersion bath. Who can resist!

Here's how it went. Pay your fee and decide if you want what is termed a "soap-brush massage". Mike told me, do it as it's part of the experience, but he added, "it hurts". So I passed. You change into your birthday suit, and take from your locker a sheet, which turns out is your towel. At each station, there are instructions on the wall, in English, telling you how long to stay in that particular room. My first mistake was leaving my glasses in the locker. At the first station, the shower, there is an attendant stationed to get you started. So you spend 5 minutes under a shower of copious amounts of water. After a good dousing, you go to the "warm air bath". It's then you discover that the sheet is not for covering you up, but to lay upon on the very hot wood tables in the sauna where the temperature is a balmy 129 degrees. I think the sign said 15 minutes. Next, it's the "hot air bath" and you ask yourself, what did I just have. Then you find out what hot is. 154 degrees for 5 minutes, I think.

Not knowing if I was getting the times right, I figured I'll just follow someone and hope they don't need glasses. This worked for a while, but I think the person I chose to follow was into torture. Next you get to shower again before heading to the steam baths, 113 and 118 degrees, after which you start to cool down in the thermal whirlpool and therapy pools. The latter is under a huge domed room done in the the roman style. Next it's another shower before the cold water immersion bath at 64 degrees, which after what you just experienced feels like 30 degrees.

Next you get a warm towel to dry off before going to the cream service room, where if you choose, you can rub various lotions on you body. Hey, I paid for it, I'm doing it. Lastly the relaxation room for 30 minutes. Here you lay on a table and the attendant wraps you in a warm sheet and blanket and you enjoy the warmth and complete silence. It's then that you really relax.

The whole thing takes about 2.5 hours and you never have felt so relaxed and clean, until you have to put on your dirty socks and underwear. Was it worth it? You bet. Did I feel uncomfortable? Only for the first 5 minutes when I didn't know what to do with the sheet. Would I do it again? Why not?



Baden-Baden has a really nice parking running through the middle of the city. It's a couple of miles long and a great place to stroll after your bathing experience.

Cathie's always making new friends. Could this be Claus?
From here we head to the Black Forest for several days with our friends, Hans and Silke, the German couple we met in Utah last year. At that it's back to Geneva for our flight home next week.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


One of things I've noticed while traveling around Europe, both on this trip and when we went in 2006, is that they do a lot of things better than we do. That's not to say we Americans don't get it right most of the time, we do, but we could learn a few things from the people across the pond. So I thought I would make a list, in no particular order of importance, just put it on paper as it comes to mind.

Cashiers at the grocery stores sit down.

You bag your own groceries in your own bag, or buy one, even the cheap throwaway plastic ones.

You must deposit .50 to get a grocery cart, you get it back when you return it to the covered cart spot. Carts are dry when it rains and not scattered all over the parking lot. They are not in the neighborhoods either.

Many busy intersections have a traffic circle, no signals, traffic seems to flow pretty well with no delay waiting for a green light. Also no one runs a red light, there are none.

In Germany and Austria on the autobahns, there are periodic electronic maximum speed signs that can be changed for traffic and weather conditions.

Also on the autobahns, unless you're passing, you stay in the right lane.

People actually signal when making a lane change.
Most cars run on diesel and get great mileage. Our lease car gets over 50 MPG

When you make a reservation at a B&B, your word is the only guarantee required.

You pay in cash when you leave, not when you arrive.

The same for many hotels, room charges included, with no credit card number.

Breakfast is almost always included in hotels and guesthouses.

In France, when you pay a restaurant bill with a credit, card, they bring the card reader to your table. The card never leaves your sight. In Germany the waiter goes over the bill with you.

You pump, before you pay.

In France, Germany, and Austria, the tip in included in the cost of the meal. You can leave a small amount if the service was especially good, but it's not expected. When you see the price of an item on the menu, that's the total price, tax and tip.

In France it's the law, in other places they do it too, the menu is posted on the outside of the restaurant.

When you get a table, it's yours as long as you want it, no one is rushing you. In fact in France, you may think the waiter is ignoring you. You have to ask for the bill.

Wine and beer are cheap. A six pack in a German market can go for as little as $2. and that's German beer.

California wine in the grocery store is cheaper here than at home with the exception of Two Buck Chuck, which I haven't seen here.

When you order the house wine in a restaurant, you'll usually get a good regional wine.

In France there are speed cameras. First you see a sign telling you of the camera ahead. Next a sign reminding you of the speed, then comes the camera. If you get your photo taken, you're stupid or just not paying attention. If the if either is the case, let someone else drive.

Just about every town of any size, has a tourist office.

In Germany on the autobahn, there are numerous rest stops. The bathrooms suck, unless...

At German autobahn plazas, rest stops with gas, restaurants, and sometimes hotels, the restrooms are very clean, but you pay .50 at a turnstile.

You want a clean restroom? Go to one that you pay a small fee for. The toilet seat gets cleaned and dried automatically with each flush.

The French know how to make bread.
Most people speak some English, just about all young people do.
That's all I can think of but I'm sure there's more. Perhaps one day I'll list what Europeans do poorly.