Bill and Suzie Hickox

(Music on/off)

Trip to Germany on 19-05-2004 ~ IAH (Houston) – CDG (Paris) – MUC (Munich)
Return home on 06-06-2004 ~ FRA (Frankfurt) – Amsterdam (AMR) – IAH (Houston)
Avis car rental - pickup MUC (Freising) – return car to FRA (Frankfurt)

Our big Continental 777 flight out of Houston was great. Our crew was marvelous, the service First Class all the way to Paris! We took this rare opportunity to leave an evening early, fly direct from IAH to CDG, and there change to an Air France flight to Munich.

Arriving in Munich (the little town where the airport is actually located is Freising) late in the afternoon on May 20, we took a room in the Freising Marriott. Two reasons for this: the Avis’ Freising “off airport” office was closed on this holiday (we were saving $100 by NOT picking up car at the airport) and it was late in our arrival day and we were better off getting a good night’s sleep there, picking up the car early the following morning and heading for Lermoos, Austria, which we did. One diesel on the lot and we got it.

Our little Mercedes A190 TDI (Diesel) cruised well on the drive through Munich, filled with its centuries old red tiled roofs and its new high-tech Ferraris. On we drove, down past Garmisch-Partenkirchen, then meandering west on back road #23 (our map erred, calling it #24) and across the German border with Austria, past the Zugspitze into little Lermoos. High rain clouds allowed us to see snow high on the Alpine mountains, but obscured the peaks.

As the road wound around into the little town, we saw our home for the next two days.

Hotel/Pension Tirolerhof

Frau Leopoldseder-Schonger welcomed us with happy hospitality, our favorite 1st floor room (i.e. “2nd floor in U.S.) with a stunning view of the Zugspitze mountain, and a cold beverage of our choice, and we sat under the big umbrella just below the large doors to our room and patio area.

Frau Leopoldseder-Schonger

The next morning at breakfast, I ate with the appetite of a west Texas field hand! And with such a beautiful day we hit the backroads. Yes, I know I keep talking about “backroads” and some of you have really wondered how far “back” we go….

Here’s an idea of the easy “far back” roads

Chief navigator and curiosity seeker Suzie, with our little Mercedes A-190

And finally we start seeing views such as this beautiful overlook of the wooden fence guarding a huge field of Springtime yellow dandelions and fresh spring grasses, the red clay tile roofs of little Lermoos Austria, and then the Alps rising high up into the rain clouds and above.

Are you’re getting some idea why we like driving vs. rail, back roads vs. autobahns, outlying areas vs. cities?

By 1000 hours (10:00 AM) rain clouds formed and then grew into a daylong drizzling rain and grey day.

For lunch we found Sam’s Café in Lermoos and had probably the best Gulaschsuppe and Spaghetti Bolognaise we’ve had in Europe in our 14 plus visits since ’95.

After lunch, we drove to other nearby bergs such as Ehrwald, on to Reutte, Füssen, and the famous castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. Both castles were lost in the fog and rain clouds. Although you could see the Ehrenberg castle ruins outside of Reutte, it was cold, wet, rainy, and muddy. Not conducive to mountain climbing, we thought, so we returned to Lermoos.

That evening the neighboring town of Lähn was opening is travel season with a Tirolean musik folk festival. We joined two other couples in our Pension, grabbed the free taxi and headed for the party. 15€ each at the door and we were inside to enjoy a great Tirolean Musik group

Along with Suzie and me, our group consisted of a Netherlands couple (no English), a Belgian couple, Georgine and Joe (great French and “non English” communications skills)

As the party wore on, the band opened up and we all had a blast.

The next day, with snow flakes hitting our car windows, we filled up with diesel at € 0.88.4/L (vs Germany’s € 0.98.9/L) and bid Lermoos farewell. We took one last look over our right shoulder and down the center of little Lermoos

then turned left and headed back into Germany, through Garmisch-P and northward towards Munich. Halfway there, the skies turn clear blue, and the signs of springtime brightly and cheerfully wave to us from all directions.

We rarely plan in advance where we’ll be, let alone stay at any given time, but this trip we planned to stay in Seefeld-Meiling, a tiny village near the end of the S5 S-Bahn line on the Munich metro. Our favorite Zimmer in Bavaria, namely the
Gasthof zum Sepperl, was ready and waiting for us, and the family Kowolik were as happy to see us as we were them. We arrived Sunday, the final day of the religious holiday, and the Gasthof restaurant was packed, and would stay packed throughout the day until the close of this day of celebration. Our advanced reservation also gave us a restaurant reservation in early afternoon. And the food was absolutely wonderful!

The next few days were spent revisiting sites we enjoyed from prior trips. First, we went into Munich and started at the Marienplatz. We visited the Doms off the platz, took pix at “known sites”

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and then went for a drink in the Hofbräuhaus. Walking in, we noticed the oompah band was playing slow, flat and “boring!” They even looked boring. The sparse crowd inside and in the Biergarten were apparently locals, and they all looked bored too. The whole place was “flat,” so we left and walked on down the street. So much for the famous tourist haunt.

After a quick drink we hopped on a tram to head for some sights. Well, we realized we were on the tram with the right number but going the wrong direction. So we changed and cruised back through Munich Zentrum, past the Hauptbahnhof, and two blocks from there the tram came to a halt. Everyone got off, and looking in front of us, we saw nothing but “kaput trams” as far as we could see. Turns out, these trams are electric, and some construction worker cut a power line ahead, shutting down all the trams in the area.

Well, that’s OK. The afternoon is passing so we decided to find a cyber cafe and check our messages. Turns out all the cyber cafes in the area are now closed. So Suzie went shopping in the big Herties store across from the Hauptbahnhof. Then we hopped our S-Bahn and headed for our Steinebach exit and “home.”

The next day Suzie and I pointed our car toward Ulm. We drove the backroads through Landsberg, Memmingen and other towns in our “tour of the day.”

In Landsberg, we saw a beautiful man-made cascading waterfall as the river ran through the middle of town.

Below our vantage point we saw the Old Bavarian fly fisherman catch and land a few nice sized trout

In Memmingen, nice market center with beautiful old tri-domed Rathaus in the old town area, fountains and painted buildings and cute “baby trailers” on their bicycles, and finally the Mimmengen old wall gate and its tower.

Then on to Ulm, with it’s major old-town area street construction. Old painted buildings, the fountain next to the Dom (also under repair), and finally the huge famous Dom of Ulm.

The Dom is absolutely magnificent, with one of the tallest spires in Germany as well as all of Europe. Construction within and outside is ongoing at this time, minimizing the beautiful photos of its uninterrupted beauty. However, we did drive to and park on a small “back street” next to the Danube River (Donau). There we walked along the Danube, stuck in our hands, and relaxed for a time.

Returning to our Seefeld-Meiling, we visited an old friend living across the street from our zimmer. Kurt and I met on our first trip to the area because he’s a ham radio operator as am I, and our interests kindled a wonderful friendship. Kurt’s birthday was one week hence and mine was two days hence, so we celebrated them both.

The following day was May 26th, and marked the end of our first week of our trip. We were again packed and on the road… into Austria and on to Vienna, via Salzburg and area, Linz, Melk and finally Vienna (Wien). We had no time schedule, and were once again traveling without plans, reservations, or promises. Just a map and a smile. In Salzburg, first walked the old town and enjoyed the streets full of interesting shops, building fronts, tourists, and Rick Steves’ book sticking out of pockets or clutched in sweaty hands (mine was hidden in my Rick Steves’ day bag).

Note to those looking for Cybercafes: This Salzburg oldtown area has two very good ones. Easy to find, just ask around.

After a quick meal we decided to visit the castle high on the hill that overlooks Salzburg. One little note here: Rick Steves’ book is in error…the 8.50 € (each) funicular ticket up the hill to the castle does NOT include entrance into the castle, only onto the castle grounds. Castle entry is another € 3.50 (each). Anyway, the view of Salzburg was beautiful.

And back down on the ground, Suzie flirts with the pretzel vendor, who can’t help falling for her ploys.

Back in the car, we head for the nearest petrol station, which finds us at the edge of town pumping our diesel. The shadows are starting to get a little long, so we decide to drive on, bypassing Hallstatt, and heading toward Linz on the E550-60 autobahn. We exit at a little village named Attersee after the adjoining lake. How Suzie does it I don’t know, but she spotted the small road sign for the small
Pension Knoll, owned by Frau Avak. The room was wonderful, with full WC, and was 27 € each (54 € both) including Frühstück. The web page will share this pension with you.

The next day was overcast and rainy, so we just drove on past Linz and Enns to
Mauthausen, location of one of the German concentration camps during WWII. The website is in Deutsch, so you may want to have your translator site handy. We were really disturbed that the entire camp had been so “sterilized” and, in our opinion, it was a slap in the face to those who paid such a terrible price in that huge facility. Austria also collects tourists' monies to enter and visit it… I’m not sure I like that either.

One good part of the side trip was another of our humorous photos at the edge of the small town of Windpassing, Austria.

Back on the road, we head toward Melk. We love the back roads, and as we come into little communities, we are always drawn toward the town square. This one, near Enns, Austria, is typical with the square, a typical street and a street that first narrows, then ends into a long winding stairway to the homes.

As we traveled the Wachau Valley along Highway 1, we follow the “yellow diamond” signs and parallel the Donau River. In one small community next to the touristy, mostly “pedestrian only” Dürnstein, we stop at the tourist information office and find a great little Zimmer in a very small little community nearby. Gästezimmer Elfriede Schmelz. € 20,00 pro Person (€ 40,00 for both of us) This place was so large, wonderful, relaxing we ended up staying an extra day and just “chilling out” in the area. On one side was a small local church, and across the road was a vineyard of our host.

The rooms were large and very clean and nice.

And just city block from our Zimmer was a small Weinstube, where we sat with the locals and enjoyed their home grown wines, along with some local cheese and ham. As we quietly sat and watched from aside, a group of what I deemed “local widows” in their late years entered, were greeted by all, and went to sit at their own table (an apparent daily ritual). I asked our waitress to bring to them all whatever drink they wished and give Suzie and I the tab, which she did. Our simple gesture was obviously a nice surprise to all, and they are probably still talking about it.

While at Gästezimmer Elfriede Schmelz, we met three other couples (One from Switzerland, one from Salzburg Austria the other from Germany) also staying with Frau Schmelz in her Zimmer. Our breakfast the following morning was wonderful and casual. We all visited for a couple of hours, each rusty with the other’s language, but obviously all communicating with each other. The Swiss couple was there to compete in a Motocross race in Melk. This Frühstück was but another wonderful “backroads experience.”

When we left, Frau Schmelz presented Suzie with a bottle of her own wine,

which Suzie emptied later in Rothenburg ob der Tauber (more on that later).

As we followed the Donau and our road neared Wien, we came across the beautiful Klosterneuburg where, for almost 900 years the Augustinian Canons of Klosterneuburg Monastery have been fulfilling pastoral, economic, social and cultural responsibilities.

Wien was extremely crowded with locals taking a religious holiday, as well as the “normal tourists,” all competing for the same road lanes, same parking places, and same sidewalk space. Sightseeing is very limited when you can’t take your eyes off the road! In Vienna, we were in luck, finding a parking lot so near St Stephen's. We parked near the Hoher Market,

famous for its Anchor-clock (Ankeruhr) at Hoher Market, Peterskirche, ( around the corner from Hoher Market was beautiful, but had large painting tarps hanging inside around and in front of all the beautiful altars. Therefore, most of the picturesque items were hidden from view. However, we heard a few instruments “warming up” in the choir loft above, and in a few minutes they were joined by a few voices, then the huge pipe organ, and finally the mid week rehearsal began. We sat and enjoyed the wonderful recital for over 30 minutes.

We walked about 4 blocks over to St. Stephen's,

and found it was also filled with large painting tarps hanging inside, around and in front of all the beautiful altars. As some of the big Doms now do, St. Stephen's charged for entry into the main sanctuary … they wanted about 4 € each to go inside. With only hanging tarps and no altars to see, we declined.

And all around the Dom, many local young talents dressed in various attire to attract tourist pictures, then haggle (hassle??) these picture takers for donations.

We had a charmer, not a hassler, so we donated a € or two.

The Zentrum was very crowded and getting hot. Our parking was limited, so we decided to drive some more and find a Zimmer. As luck would have it, we turned a corner and there was the breathtaking Schönbrunn Palace, with its 1,441 rooms. (Click on the pictures to enlarge)

After touring the Schönbrunn Palace, we again set out to find a Zimmer in Wien to settle in for the evening. By this time the crowds and resulting attitudes had taken their toll. Suzie mentioned that in spite of planning to stay in Wien for a few days or more, she was already tired of the Wien crowding, pushing, and traffic we contend with on a daily basis at home. I agreed quickly and we headed out, back up the Donau.

Traveling back up the Highway 3 “Austrian Romantic Road” to Enns, we find a small Zimmer in the nearby village of Ybbs and collapse.
While we spurned the Autobahn and preferred the Back Road (now Hwy 103) following the Donau, some of our most picturesque finds were off-shoot roads. South of Enns and near Linz, down Hwy 309 is a great example of one of those little towns. It’s name?? Steyr, Austria. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Our trip then led us over more back roads, then back up on the Autobahn, cruising at about 150 kM/Hr. through Passau, on up to Nürnberg and finally over to Rothenburg o.d.T. To most of us frequent Germany travelers, this town is always a “cuddly spot” on the trip. Great for relaxing and for buying gifts for family and friends. This was their Festival Weekend and the place was packed!

However, the Bill and Suzie method of finding Zimmers has not failed us yet… It was after 1800 hours when we walked down the Spitalgasse toward the gate, and what do you believe we saw? A Zimmer owner placing a Zimmer FREI sign out front. We stopped, asked to see it and took it! Someone’s cancellation was our night’s lodging. Gasthaus “Am Siebersturm” and we highly recommend it.

We stayed a couple of days in R’Burg, and had a blast. Have you ever seen a Chimney Sweep calling on customers?

Remember how much fun it is to walk the wall at Rothenburg, often the only way you can see cute houses or old buildings up close.

or even how those clay tiles stay on the roof?

One evening Suzie just happened to learn a beautiful pipe organ concert was about to start in the St. Jakobskirche. The concert was by a noted Professor of Organ Music in Munich.

Chill-out days over, we left Rothenburg, traveled past Frankfurt over to and up the southern Rhine River road, one of our favorite scenic areas of Germany. Castles. Vineyards. Storybook places.

Somewhere between Rothenburg and Koblenz, and on a back road, Suzie wanted to stop in the “next town” to find some crème rinse (yes, our Southern Gals do use make-up in Germany!). I’ve lost the notes on the name of the town, but the pictures show a cute little village, with old half-timbered buildings, and pictures too fun to discard… so enjoy!

And if you recognize this little place, please send me an e-mail with it's name.

We stayed in Bacharach again, and enjoyed the evening coolness over wine and some light food. For any of you curious ones, Bacharach now has one main “cyber café” and it is a single computer in the small corner of a small Tabak Shop in the middle of town. Very reasonable and fast connection.
The next day we drove to Koblenz where we stopped at the Deutsches Eck (German Corner) where the Rhine and the Mosel rivers meet.

Then up the Mosel River in search of a Stammtisch 2005 possible meeting site. We looked high

and we looked low.

We even looked where a fella shouldn’t go.

We had great fun staying a day or so along quiet roads near the Mosel River, away from the trains and loud traffic.

But, our 16 days were over and it was finally it was time for us to leave. We dropped the Avis car in Frankfurt and flew from Frankfurt to Amsterdam where we spent the night in the Sheraton on site of the Schiphol Airport. A wonderful leisurely evening meal, then great breakfast the next morning and we were ready to travel. Our big, beautiful Continental Airlines Boeing 777 welcomed us for the trip home.

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