by AsbachNate

(Music on/off)

For those of you not in Ben's Bauernhof Stammtisch, just a quick biography about myself and my family. My wife is from the German town of
Kirchheimbolanden, between Mainz & Kaiserslautern in the Rheinland Pfalz. When we travel to Germany we usually try to spend half the time in Kirchheimbolanden (Kibo) and the other half traveling. Since Monja grew up in Kibo she has quite an extensive group of friends and relatives that keep us quite busy during our time there. Quite a few have come to visit us in Washington State where we introduce them to American style camping. They love it!

The reason we chose September for our trip was first the Stammtisch meeting in Urach (“Great Gathering II”). The Stammtisch is a fantastic group of people that belong to Bavaria Ben's web group and all share the same love of travel in Germany and Europe. Quite a few of them got together a few years back and it was time for another gathering. The 2nd reason for the September time period was Monja’s (pronounced Moanya) niece was getting married. She had originally planned on getting married in spring but decided to change the date to September since we would be visiting then.

We got what I think was a great deal on tickets with American Airlines back in February. Four round trip tickets from Seattle to Frankfurt for $1750, including taxes. We then got a good deal on a mid size car through Gemütlichkeit.

The plan was I would leave one week before Monja and the kids and travel with my German friend Jurgen. Then after 3 weeks I would leave with the kids and Monja would stay one more week with her family in Kibo. This way her and I each got 3 weeks in Germany but the kids would miss only 2 weeks of school. Confusing but it worked great.

Sept 7, 2003

My first time flying American and I loved it. I couldn't believe how much more leg room they have than other airlines. I’m not just talking a little difference, it was a very noticeable and well appreciated difference. My only “complaint” was the movie 'Bullet Proof Monk' which partially featured some evil Nazi’s. An odd choice I thought for a flight was that probably 40% German.

Arrived a little early and hopped the train to the downtown Frankfurt train station. From here I took a 7 Euro taxi to the car rental and quickly had a new Ford Mondeo. By renting away from the airport I was able to save the 16% airport tax. On a 30 day rental that was quite a savings. The nice thing is you can still drop the car off at the airport. The tax is only if the rental originates at the airport.

Arrived at Tom & Petra’s home around noon. Monja and Petra have been friends since grade school and we always stay with them when we visit. They have 2 wonderful children also, Mika (6) & Lara (3). Tom spent the last few months slaving away in the cellar converting an old storage room into a brand new bedroom for our stay. New tile floor, new pine ceiling, new bed, etc… It was really great and we really appreciate it.

They live in the tiny village of Bischheim, about ¼ kilometer from Kibo. That night a local video production company put on a FREE fest for the village. Now Bischheim is not much bigger than Urach, so this was really a neat deal. There was a tiny town square with a stage for a live rock concert, a huge video screen on another building showing off their video capabilities. Another brick building was illuminated with red lights and had fake smoke coming out the top, giving it an eerie fire look. All the beer and food were free, including schnitzel sandwiches, wursts, beer, Jagermeister, etc… They even had a kids room in one of the cellars showing cartoons on a big screen projection TV. The whole village turned out, young and old. I kept thinking, this is something you would NEVER find in America. Once the party was nearing an end they had a 15 minute fireworks display over the village.

The next day we drove to Worms on the Rhine river for a large fest. I love the smells of German fests, all the BBQ’s and beer tents just have their own unique smell. Plus the rides there seem much larger and more frightening than our local fairs seem to have. We went on a log ride, haunted house ride and a few more stomach churning rides before taking a stroll along the Rhine River. The river was so low you could actually see the bottom from the lack of rain all summer.

Once back home I drove to Jurgens for a few hours, leaving my treasure of jelly bellies, microwave popcorn, Sponge Bob pajama’s, etc… Later that night Tom BBQ’d some wursts for dinner. 2 days in Germany and already 2 fests and a BBQ. The trip was off to a good start!

Sept 8th, 2003

Today Jurgen and I will head North towards Gießen for 3 nights of sightseeing. When I was stationed in the Army back 89-92, I had 4 duty stations, Gießen, Wildflecken, Darmstadt & Kaiserslautern. I have visited all the other posts except Gießen on previous trips. So I decided to spend a few days up north seeing the old haunts.
I reserved a room at
Hotel Kuebel. The location was right next to the pedestrian zone and the web page looked nice, but this place sucked! We got to our room and half the lights didn’t work, there was a half empty can of pop in the mini fridge, the noise from outside traffic was horrible and the breakfasts featured 2 day old bread and sour milk. All this for $112 per night. Ouch!

Anyway, got here around noon after a 1.5 hour drive from Kibo. Spent the afternoon driving by the old army depot, saw the old PX, Burger King, Barracks, NCO club, etc… This really brought back a lot of memories.
Later we walked the pedestrian zone, eating a curry wurst along the way. Thankfully, not much has changed and it didn’t take long to get a feel for the area again. Gießen is not a place I would suggest going out of your way to visit, but if you spent a lot of time there like I did it’s a place you come to like and enjoy.

Late that night we had a wonderful dinner at the Alt Gießen brewery. Look at the web link, it is really a great place with tasty beer and fantastic food. After walking the town and doing a mini pub-crawl we returned to the Alt Gießen brewery again for a late night beer. While there they were draping the walls and light fixtures with long strands of hops. In fact if you look at the web page you will see the hops in the photo’s. They said the hops last up to two years before needing to be changed. Back to our dive of a hotel to listen to traffic all night.

Sept 9th, 2003

Lousy night of sleep due to street noise. We were up and out of Gießen by 8am. First stop was the village of Wetzlar, which amazingly I never actually visited during my stay in Gießen. If memory serves me right Elvis was stationed either in Wetzlar or very near.

The morning was cool and there was a light fog or mist hanging over the river as we arrived. There was a Roman style stone bridge crossing the river, combined with the light fog it was quite a dramatic sight. The town is full of half timbered building and easily walkable in a short time. We toured the church, market square and back alley’s before heading off towards Braunfels on der Lahn.

Again, another nice village with lots of half timber building and a stunning castle overlooking the village. As we walked up a narrow street towards the castle we passed the local flower and vegetable market. It was a crisp, sunny day and the colors and smells were really vivid. The castle was huge and I couldn’t wait to tour it, but they only do tours and the last one had just left and the next one wasn’t for another hour. So instead we toured the castle museum before heading back to stroll around town again.

Since we got off to such an early start we decided to head north rather than head back to Giessen as planned, and visit Biedenkopf and Marburg. We drove the windy yet scenic back roads north to
Biedenkopf. The reason for visiting Biedenkopf is one of my clients grew up here as a young girl. She is now in her 60’s and hasn’t been back for quite some time. Since the town was close to Marburg and looked nice enough I thought it would be fun to stop by and take a few photo’s for her. I’m glad I did.

We first drove up to the castle. When paying the entry fee I told the lady why I was here and she showed me a few books on the area. I bought one for Frau Wasmer along with a few postcards before touring the castle. The inside was very interesting, featuring lots of the towns logging history. The view of the village and surround hills from the top of the castle was great, and I couldn’t wait to get down to the village and get a little lunch. On the way out of the castle the cashier came out of her booth and gave me another book on the castle and Biedenkopf, FREE. She said she was so pleased to have someone show an interest in the castle and the area and she wanted us to have the book. What a nice gesture! We then strolled the old town, eating lunch at a small imbiss in the town square. I had a wonderful Gyro’s and Jurgen had a curry wurst. After taking a few more photo’s we head a little East to one of my favorite towns in Germany - Marburg.

Marburg is a university town much like Heidelberg and has a wonderful old town that seems to spiral up towards the castle above. We spent an hour or two touring the old town before sitting at a small café, the Club 1900 to have a beer and people watch. Jurgen had never been here before and kept saying how much he liked Marburg and how he wanted to surprise his wife and bring her here for a weekend. When the trip was over he said Marburg was his favorite sight we visited. When I was in the Army they took you to Marburg by train after your 1 week language course. You had to buy your own train ticket and order lunch in German. The only bad part was they made you wear your dress green army suit. Everyone looked at us like we had 3 arms or something, real embarrassing. (Lol)
By the time we left Marburg it was a little after 3pm. I had wanted to visit the Licher brewery the next day, but figured why not cap off the day with a visit since we still had a little time. So we took advantage of the no speed limit on the Autobahn and flew to the village of Lich, just a little East of Gießen.

At the Licher Brewery our first stop was the gift shop to pick up a few gifts. I bought a few Stammtisch items and a menu board. The gentleman behind the counter asked it I used to be stationed in Giessen and I told him I had and that I had drank way more than my fair share of Licher Bier back then. He then gave me a packet of free pens and some other items and then asked if we would like a beer. “Does a fat dog fart?” I asked. Apparently that didn’t translate well. So he took us to an elevator and took us up 8 stories to their beer garden. A tour had just finished and the place was packed with a group of retirees that had come on a bus tour. One of the men on the tour had toured the brewery 8 times. So the man sat Jurgen and I down at a bench and quickly brought us two baskets of breads and wurst. He then said we could stay for 2 hours and drink all the beer we wanted, FREE. After hugging him and getting my picture taken with him he brought us a couple Licher Pils and wished us well. How we got home that night is still a little sketchy but what a great way to end the day.

Part 2

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