by Sue and Jerry

The big day had finally arrived April 30, 2011! After spending the last 7 months planning our trip to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary (which was actually in November of 2010, but we were not able to make the trip until May) we departed Houston on a Lufthansa flight non-stop to Frankfurt. I had saved our AMEX points, for at least 10 or more years, and was able to get 2 RT first class seats for the flight. My sister, Wylynn, drove us to IAH while I spouted out all of her instructions about joining us a week and a half later in Garmisch. I had written everything down for her but wanted to make sure she knew all of the ins and outs of traveling to meet us on the train. Little good that did as you will see later in this post. The flight was uneventful and a real delight after years of flying economy on other trips we’ve made – did you know they now have a seat AND a bed in FC on their planes? I had been to Germany several times in the past, but this was Jerry’s first trip so I wanted to make it as comfortable as possible because he was not too keen on making the trip to start with. The last time I was in Germany was in 2002, when I went with my son and his very much pregnant wife.

We landed on time in Frankfurt and proceeded to the AutoEurope rental counter. I had rented a mid-size car and the agent convinced me that (of the three cars he had on the lot) the best for our needs for 3 people and luggage was a small (to us big people Texans) Renault. I should have known – a cheap French car in Germany?

Well, I guess after having it for almost a month it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but until Jerry got used to driving a stick shift and a smaller car and figuring out the parking brake (which was to give us heck several times on the trip), the lights, etc. it was stressful. I opted for us to drive straight to Bacharach where we had the first 3 nights reserved at the Malerwinkel.

So, I plugged in the GPS and Gertrude (which was one of many names I called the lady on the GPS – some not so nice) led us pretty much to the hotel except for one small problem. Until we got used to the GPS, we weren’t always sure when she said to turn exactly where she meant for us to turn especially at the round-a-bouts. Therefore, many times we missed the turn and she went into her “recalculating mode.” In the case of getting to the hotel we turned too early and ended up on a bicycle path leading down to the hotel. When I realized this was not right and told him to back up the stress level started. So, I hopped out and ran into the hotel and told Mr. Vollmer (the owner of the hotel) our dilemma and he laughed and asked if we minded if he backed it out for us and down to their “car park.” Man that was a relief – one down and many more to go!

We arrived about noon, unloaded and climbed to the 2nd floor or 1st as they call it over there to our room, which was very nice and rested some before taking a walk down to the town center.

Most of the stores were closed as it was Sunday, May 1 (their May Day holiday) but we found the Café Rusticana for our first meal in Germany. Jerry had meatloaf and I had Jägerschnitzel. The total bill w/his sprite and my water was around 20 E. Even though we’re both pretty good size Texans, I always had way too much food and vowed to get some salads and/or soup and share an entrée w/him so we didn’t leave a bunch of food on the plate for the rest of the trip. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. We walked around a bit and bought an Eis (ice cream) and sat and ate it and then went back to the hotel to organize things so I could put a couple of bags back in the car and only have to take out what we needed for each stay – worked pretty good except after we picked up my sister and she had this huge, old suitcase of ours and it took up way too much room in the trunk and we ended up having to put a suitcase and tote bags in the back seat with her.

Monday, we were up at 7 and went down for our (very good) Frühstück (breakfast) and then drove down to the wharf and took the KD boat on a ride down the Rhine to Boppard and back.

We shopped a little in Boppard. My heating pad blew the first night as soon as I plugged it into the transformer and it wasn’t even turned on – guess it was psychic and knew when I would have turned it on that it wouldn’t take the wattage – glad I didn’t try my $150 roller hair thing. I knew I would need it for the rest of the trip so Jerry found a German one at an Elektrik store in Boppard so I made the purchase. When we got back from the boat trip we ate lunch at the little Wagner Imbiss in the parking lot that Ben had mentioned - and it was very good. I had a brot and Jerry a beef sausage and we split the french fries.

We then drove to Rüdesheim and walked the Drosselgasse and did some shopping there.

I found a few things for some of the grandkids after which we came back to hotel and rested a little (we tried to rest a little each afternoon of the trip) then walked to town to eat supper at the Rhine Hotel. It was a very nice restaurant but a little on the expensive side. I had asparagus soup (May is the month of the year for white asparagus “Spargel” and there were signs everywhere and all the restaurants had a big menu of Spargel dishes) and a salad and we shared his entrée of beef. Back to the hotel at 9 and to bed.

The next morning we were up at 7 and down to breakfast and I finally was able to get some emails to come across on my IPad. I had trouble the entire trip receiving and sending my emails from my I-Pad especially my Comcast account even when I had Wi-Fi and after about 2 weeks the Comcast emails quit coming across altogether. I had better luck sending text messages to the kids so just about gave up on the emails. We walked to the Elektrik store, bank atm, and the super market and purchased a few things. I found the liquid soap Dusche Das - I hadn’t seen any of that since my first trips to Germany back in the 80’s to visit my friend, Vicki, who was teaching school in Heilbronn, Germany on an army base. I talked her into sending me care packages of Dusche Das while she was living there those 12 or so years because at that time we didn’t have much liquid body soap in the states.

We spent most of that day driving beside the Mosel River.

It was a beautiful drive but we couldn’t seem to get used to the GPS - one time she says turn way early and the next time we're right on it. We ended up driving through some tiny streets because we got lost a few times and also up in the hills. Oh well, live and learn. We ate pizza at Zell and then turned around and cut back across to Bacharach arriving around 5.

Wednesday, May 4, we left after breakfast to drive to Gutach in the Black Forest. We stopped by Baden-Baden to check out the casino and Jerry actually won about 150 Euro on a slot machine after only spending about 30 minutes there. But I was nervous about finding our way down to our next destination where we would spend 3 nights in Gutach so I made him cut his playing short. And thank goodness we left when we did. When we left the casino we had probably our worst experience with the car on the trip. There was a road closure near the casino and after going around in circles for about 30 minutes ended up in a neighborhood on a tight street which ended in a bicycle or walking path. The problem was in trying to back out of that tight spot (it was on a steep slope and the car kept rolling forward into the pylon separating the bike path and the parking brake kept locking up each time he took his foot off the brake to back up.) Not a pretty scene. He finally got out of that situation but I think he was about ready to call it quits and fly back home at that point.

We did not arrive in Gutach and the Joklisbauernhof until about 7 and due to a glitch in our reservation, we had to spend the first night on the 2nd floor (to them their 1st) and when you have two shot knees and walk with a cane it’s difficult to climb stairs.

But, Frau Moser assured me that the “handicapped” apartment would be vacant the next morning and she would help us move down there and we would be much more comfortable. We ate at the Krone restaurant in Gutach and again spent too much money for one meal and vowed to do better.

Thursday, May 5, we got up at 7:30 and went over to breakfast at the main house about 8:30 - not quite as good as the past 3 days but Frau Moser is spread rather thin with all of her work on the farm and has been so nice - does not speak any English but we've managed to figure things out. She offered to do our laundry when I asked her about a Laundromat in Gutach and there was none. After breakfast we moved downstairs (we would miss the beautiful view from the balcony in the upstairs kitchen area, but not having to climb those stairs was so much easier on both of us.

We then drove to the Vogtsbauernhof Museum of old farm houses and how families lived back “in the old days.” It was very interesting.

We then drove to Gengenbach and walked around the old town and got some more money at an atm in a bank there and then had an Eis. On the way back we stopped and shopped at a super market and got a frozen lasagna along with salad stuff, salad dressing, bread, chips, and turkey and cheese for sandwiches and some water and fanta, and all of that came to 8 Euro. We had an oven in the kitchen of the apt. so I heated up the lasagna and fixed a salad and it was much cheaper than eating out every meal.

Friday, May 6, we got up and walked over to the main house for breakfast and when we walked into the breakfast room and sat down, I looked around the room and thought something was rather strange – there were all of these clothes hanging around the room on furniture, etc. as if someone was drying their laundry. Then I did a double take – all of those clothes were ours that our hostess had offered to launder for us. Even our underwear! I ran around snatching everything down and putting them in a laundry bag and probably turned several shades of red. Luckily there was only one other young couple and their 18-month-old baby in the room at the time and they just laughed. Guess our hostess did not have a clothes dryer! We were grateful for the young couple, they were so agreeable to talk to - he spoke very good English and interpreted for us. We organized the car and luggage because we were leaving on Saturday and needed to pare down to spend the following 3 nights in Switzerland - 1 night outside Appenzell in a little village called Wasserauen, and then 2 nights in Zermatt. I then walked back up to the main house to watch the Mosers getting their 100 plus loaves of bread ready to bake in the wood-fired brick oven located in a baking hut outside the main house. A lot of the towns’ people come all day long to buy their bread. I told Mr. Moser he had a very hard working Frau and he should hang on to her! He laughed and agreed. We then left and drove to the town of Triberg where we saw the waterfalls and then drove on to Villingen-Schwenningen and stopped on the way back at the House of 1000 Clocks and bought a nice cuckoo clock and a few other souvenirs for the kids and grandkids. I had the very nice young lady working there ship them home for us. I also bought a zip-up sweatshirt for me to use on the cooler days and nights, especially in the mountains in Switzerland. We stopped at an electric store in Gutach and bought a German extension cord for my heating pad and then returned to our apt. for a restful afternoon and dinner and enjoyed sitting on the patio in the cool “Colorado” type weather. The train runs right by the Moser farm but never bothered us at all.

Saturday we left Gutach and headed south toward Switzerland. I wanted to go across the top of the Bodensee and stop at Meersburg and a couple of other little towns but as we got close to that 2-lane highway across the top of the Bodenee, we ran into one horrible stau after another. It seemed like maybe this was the first weekend of beautiful weather the Germans had to “head to the beach” and they were out in full force.

It was stop and go all the way to Meersburg.

We did manage to stop there and walk the Altstadt (which was crowded with people) but soon decided to drive on to Appenzell and our hotel which was just outside of town in Wasserauen.

The Alpenrose is a lovely gasthaus with spectacular views of the mountains.

The hotel was always a favorite of my friend, Vicki, and a bunch of the other teachers and they came here on holiday many times during the 1980’s and early 90’s, and, yes, the owners remembered Vicki. We ate dinner in the hotel and had a great meal – soup and salad for me and Jerry had meatloaf which turned out to be a thick ham slice which he said was very good. We watched the hang gliders from our balcony and then went to bed. We did not sleep well because were both worried about getting down to Chur to catch the Glacier Express train to Zermatt the next morning.

Sunday, and we were up early and had a quick breakfast & started out. I first programmed in the wrong address in the GPS so that threw us off and Gertrude routed us back to Appenzell through some small winding roads to pick up the autobahn to Chur. We still made it to Chur with about an hour to spare. We left the car in the Hotel Ibis garage for the 2 nights we would be gone and paid them 20 Euro and took a cab to the train station. This was a good move because then I didn’t have to worry about the car sitting out in a lot somewhere with all of our luggage inside for two days. We boarded the Glazier Express and had a beautiful train ride to Zermatt for about 6 hours.

The Alps and all the sights along the route are spectacular. I had gotten an email from the hotel I had originally booked in Zermatt saying that it was closed for a few weeks for updating and they were moving us to the Best Western Butterfly hotel which had the same owner.

It was a gorgeous hotel and a real treat for us after “roughing it” at the Bauernhof! And, it had an elevator for the first time on our trip. It was Mother’s day and so we went out for a nice dinner at a great Italian restaurant and shared an entrée of spaghetti bolognese and we both had a little salad.

Monday, we had a very good breakfast in the hotel and then walked to the train station to take the train up to see the Matterhorn.

You actually take the train from a small station across the street for a short way, and then have to transfer to a bus to take you up to catch a cog-train to the top. It was a breath taking view. When we arrived back in Zermatt, we walked back to the hotel for a short rest and then left to explore the town center and do a little shopping. We ate a late lunch at McDonalds and then later Jerry went back there to get us a chicken sandwich for supper. I normally do not like McDonalds except for breakfast but their chicken sandwiches were actually pretty good over there and they always have ice for your drinks!

Tuesday, we got up and had breakfast and took the train back to Chur to spend the night. We almost had a major catastrophe when we got off the train in Chur and in the rush of getting our bags and luggage together I didn’t realize I had left my purse on the train. Suddenly a Frenchman sitting across from us with his wife and another couple jumped off the train and said “Madame your purse” I nearly had a heart attack. I had been so careful up to that point with my purse and couldn’t believe I had done such a stupid stunt! It had our passports, money and credit cards inside. Took a taxi back to the hotel and crashed for a little while. Later we went to another McDonalds next door for dinner. We had lunch on the train both days and it was the same thing – some kind of pork with Spätzle and vegetables - it was good but not twice in a row! BTW, the Hotel Ibis Chur was ok but nothing to write home about. We went to bed early and watched CNN.

Wednesday, we had breakfast in the hotel then drove to Garmisch where we were to meet my sister at the Bahnhof. She flew to Frankfurt and then on to Munich and then was to take the train down to Garmisch. We went through a lot of tunnels along the way and drove by the pretty little lake of Fernsteinsee where there is a castle on the lake. My niece and her family came across the lake and the castle in 2009 on their way down to Switzerland and decided to stay there rather than at the Alpenrose where I had booked them.

We got into Garmisch around noon to wait for my sister to arrive on the train from Munich.

She finally called me and was having a hard time getting anyone to help her in the train station in Passau as to which train to catch to Garmisch. Geez, she’s 74 and a retired teacher but I had no idea she would become a basket case because she couldn’t find the right train! I told her she had to be forceful and go find someone to ask who could help her in English. In the meantime I got the info from the Bahnhof office there in Garmisch and called her back. I was afraid we were going to have to get on a train and go to Passau to get her! She did not get in until 4 and was tired from her ordeal.

We left immediately to drive to our next destination which was the Gintherhof in Ehenbichl, Austria, which Ben had highly recommended.

It was a lovely farmhouse just outside of Reutte and we thoroughly enjoyed our 4 nights there. Annalies and her mom and dad are a wonderful family who bent over backwards to assist us with all of our needs. That evening we went down into Reutte to eat at the Hotel Moserhof recommended by Annalies and had an excellent dinner.

Thursday we ate breakfast and Annalies always encouraged us to take enough for sandwiches during the day which I thought was very nice. We drove to Füssen to go to the two King Ludwig castles nearby - Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau.

Both castles took a toll on me because of all the climbing of stairs and hills to get there even though we took the horse carriage up to both. At Neuschwanstein they did take me up in an elevator to meet the group so that helped. It started pouring rain as we went up to the Hohenschwangau and we got soaking wet which made us a little chilly. We got back to Reutte about 4 and ate a chicken sandwich, once again, at McDonalds. Guess we’re wimps when it comes to so much German food. We then organized a box to send back home and took a shower and went to bed. The Gintherhof has TVs in their rooms but no English speaking stations – we do like to keep up with the news in the states occasionally but rarely do the smaller farms and gasthofs have access to these.

Friday morning we ate breakfast and went to the post office to mail our box and walked next door to a nice pharmacy type store where we purchased a few items and then we drove to the Linderhof castle.

It was beautiful and much easier for me to get to than the previous two castles the day before. From there we drove on to the Ettal Monastery

and toured through it and just drove through Oberammergau and then back through Füssen and on to the Gintherhof.

That early evening we walked down the hill and and ate at the Hotel Maximilian. It was very good. Jerry had small beef sausages with sauerkraut and German potatoes. I had a salad and split his entrée.

Saturday, we ate breakfast and drove back to Garmisch and took the train up to the top of the Zugspitz mountain. It started snowing and sleeting on us but the view was so gorgeous.

We had a cup of hot chocolate and retraced our ride down the mountain and then back to the farm to pack and get ready to leave the next day to drive to the Berchtesgaden area where we were to spend the next 4 nights.

Sunday morning we left after breakfast. We hated to leave as they were such a nice family and place to stay. We drove through Innsbruck and briefly considered driving down to the border of Italy but decided to continue on to Berchtesgaden to find our little hotel, the Lärchenhof, on the way to the Königssee. It is a nice little hotel and they do have one room on the ground floor. The owner speaks good English and offers a good breakfast and even fixed scrambled eggs for us one morning. His wife was in the hospital so he was stretched thin and I felt like I was imposing on him when I had to ask him anything. But even though we were to be there for 4 nights I just left matters as they were. There was a small refrigerator in the room but it didn’t work and also several other small things but I didn’t have the heart to bother him about them.

We drove downtown and parked and went looking for the hotel Vier Jahreszeiten where I had stayed in 2002 while traveling on the train with my son and his wife and had dinner there. It was delicious. Jerry and I shared a plate of Wiener Schnitzel and German fries and Wylynn had a chicken w/mushroom sauce plate and we finished with a dessert of ice cream w/raspberry sauce – yummy, one of my favorites.

Monday after breakfast we drove to the Obersalzberg. I wanted to see all of it that first day because I’m a big WWII history buff and wanted Jerry and Wylynn to experience it all. But the Eagle's Nest was closed due to the snow and rain the previous night so we went through the documentation center - it was great and even had a much better tour of the bunkers than I had experienced the 3 previous times I was there.

It was so much easier for me to walk this time- nothing like years ago when we first visited the bunkers under the General Walker Hotel (which has been torn down) nor under the Zum Turken Hotel where we had to climb ladders, etc. Then we drove up to the old parking area as I recalled where you used to take the buses up to the Eagle’s Nest, but it has all changed due to the razing of the General Walker, the SS garages left from the war and now the building of the new Intercontinental Hotel on top of Goering’s (one of Hitler’s top men) hill where he had built his house. I had climbed that hill in 1983 and was determined to see what they had done to it since it was fenced off and under construction in 2002 when we were there. I couldn’t believe how that whole area has been completely transformed. We drove up to the new Intercontinental and the view is still unbelievable.

We walked to the back of the area where the Goering’s house was originally located and there is now a little lake where the swimming pool was. Of course not a trace left now. It started pouring rain so we raced for the lobby and had a coke while waiting for our reservation time to have lunch in the dining room there. Don’t know why they wanted us to make a reservation because there were only about 6-8 other people in the huge restaurant but guess it makes them feel important.

Tuesday we drove to the Information center across from the train station in Berchtesgaden to see if we could get a Sound of Music tour to Salzburg that day but the people behind the information desk couldn’t give us any information as to when the lady would arrive at the booking desk for the Eagle’s Nest Tours so I left my name and cell number and we drove to the Königssee to take the boat ride.

It was just as beautiful as it was the last time I was there - at least that hasn’t changed over the years. We exited the boat at the St. Bartholomew church and had a coke and came back and then drove to the little town of Maria Gern to see the pretty little church there. We missed going to see the church in Ramsau and I do regret that but decided to go back to the old part of town do a little shopping. We ate at a little hamburger place we had found when we were shopping there the first day, then had an Eis and went back to the hotel. I did get a call from the tour people and booked us on the tour to Salzburg at 8:30 the next morning.

Wednesday, we got up early so we could be at the tourist information office by 8:15 to leave to take the tour. The tour guide was originally from Montana and she and her husband moved to the area 22 years ago. She did a wonderful job on this tour. We would highly recommend them. She takes you in a van around to most of the places where the movie was filmed. The only place we did not visit was the church located in another village where the wedding (in the movie) took place. In real life, they were actually married in a chapel at the Abbey. We arrived back to the parking lot in Berchtesgaden about 1:00 pm and immediately left to drive up the mountain to take the bus up to the Eagle's Nest as it had finally opened. The weather had cleared and it was a beautiful day, in fact a little hot. We could see for miles up at the Nest.

It was supposed to start raining and snowing again that night so I’m glad we were able to get up the mountain to see it as we were leaving the next morning to drive to Hallstatt and then on to Salzburg to spend the night in the Von Trapp Villa which was the family’s actual home. I was surfing the web a month or so before we left home and read that the home had been sold to a religious group right after the war and recently they had sold (or leased) the house to someone who had opened it as a bed and breakfast. The religious group had bought the house from the Von Trapps after WWII when they decided not to return to Austria and their home there and opted to stay in the US. Supposedly the reason they did not want to move back in the house was that Heinrich Himmler, another of Hitler’s top men, commandeered the house when the Trapp family fled and made it into his home and also a communications building for the Nazis. The story goes that Himmler was so paranoid that the townspeople would find out about him being there that he had a 6 ft. stone wall built around the property and when it was finished lined up all the workmen and murdered them on the spot.

Thursday morning we packed and loaded up for the drive to Hallstatt and then on to Salzburg. First we drove to downtown Berchtesgaden to the Hotel Wittlesbach where there is a Laundromat on the first floor to wash clothes which took about 2 hrs. I was glad when that task was over. We left and drove to that beautiful little town of Hallstatt on a lake in Austria.

You have to park outside the town and walk in so by the time I made that trek in the heat I was too tired to do much else. We went into a couple of shops and then started back and had a hot dog at a little Imbiss in the parking lot area and then drove to Salzburg to spend our one night at the Trapp Villa.

Since we were only going to be there that one night, I was determined to arrive early to check out the house and the gardens and just relax. It was a lovely home and grounds. About 6, we went out to eat at a good restaurant nearby that the hostess at the villa told us about. I had 2 small tasty baked potatoes, Jerry chicken wings, and my sister had soup. A storm came up and it rained hard when we got back to the villa but cooled things off considerably.

Friday morning we had breakfast at the Villa in the original family dining room. The ambience was wonderful as some of the furniture was original to the home but the breakfast was not the greatest. Because of the history of the Von Trapp family, I loved staying there but it was a little expensive. Our room was a corner room on 2nd level in the front of the house which had belonged to one of the older sons, Werner. The hotel does have an elevator. The train station was just about 2 blocks away and that is actually how the family left that day when they fled Austria with essentially the clothes on their backs and nothing more.

We left after breakfast and drove to Meiling outside Munich to stay two nights in the Landgasthof zum Sepperl which was always one of Bill and Suzie Hickok’s favorites.

It was a lovely gasthaus but again we were back to climbing steep stairs to get to our room. We got settled in about noon and drove to the nearby small town of Steinebach to take the SBahn into Munich where we took a one-hour city tour and caught the bus across from the Hauptbahnhof. Of all the times I went to Munich, I never did a city tour and figured that was the best way to show Jerry and Wylynn a quick overall view of the city. It was quite a rude awakening for Jerry and Wylynn because of all of the people in Munich that day. And, it’s always a real melting pot at the train station and I do remember that. We had been spoiled staying in the smaller towns up until this time. We then took the SBahn back to Meiling. The train stopped one town away (was kaputt) and we all had to get off and they sent another one to pick us up. We ate dinner at the Zum Sepperl which was delicious, but I can’t remember what we ate! We tried to eat outside in the Biergarten area but a big storm came up and drove us all inside.

The next morning was Saturday and we once again took the SBahn into Munich and then took a taxi to the Marienplatz. I had a set schedule for that area because I had originally planned to spend 2 full days in Munich but had to cut it short because of the added night in Salzburg. There were some wonderful groups performing in the square and we enjoyed watching them.

From there we walked to the Kaufhof Department Store. I wanted to see if I could find another small, soft, stuffed cow in the infants department similar to the one I had purchased in 2002 before our granddaughter was born and which had gotten lost in the shuffle during my son’s many family moves. My daughter-in-law was 8½ months pregnant when we were there and she and I went to the Kaufhof on our way down to the French Riviera to meet up with my son who was working over there that summer – but that’s another whole long story! The three of us searched but could not find another cow so I had to settle for a Steiff bear.

We then walked to one of my very favorite places, the Viktualien Market, and had a coke (I guess by now you get the picture that we do not drink beer or alcohol at all – just never acquired a taste) and enjoyed people watching.

We then walked to the Hofbrauhaus and had another coke and enjoyed watching and listening to the band. After leaving there, we stopped at a T-Shirt shop and I bought shirts for everyone hoping to get them to ship them home for me but after I bought them the sales clerk told me he made a mistake and they couldn’t ship them. Once again I saw stars! We then took a taxi back to the Hauptbanhof to take the SBahn back to the gasthof. We were tired so rested and again ate a wonderful supper there. I do believe the Zum Sepperl was one of the nicest places we stayed and definitely had the most comfortable bed.

Sunday, we were up early and packed the car and took off for Dachau. This was my third visit to the concentration camp memorial but I especially wanted Jerry (since his father was Jewish) and my sister to see it. They have completely changed the entrance area since we were there in 2002. A new building and parking lot has been built outside the grounds on the opposite side of the camp from where I had entered the two previous times I was there and now bring everyone in through the gates where they marched the inmates back in the 1930’s and 40’s.

As always, the visit is very sobering but a must for anyone to see if you are in the area. It’s so sad that the people who have worked so hard to make Dachau a memorial to the people who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazi’s, hoping it would serve as a reminder to not let it happen again, must now watch the same atrocities go on in other parts of the world. The weather was very warm and there were several hours of long hard walking to see it all (mainly because it is a long walk back to the crematorium area) but I made it and felt guilty later for complaining about how hard it was for me to walk in the heat (if we only knew how they suffered.) We left Dachau and drove up the romantic road going by Dinklesbühl but did not stop there (and that I also regret – guess I thought maybe we could go back the next day – but our driver had other ideas) and went on to the Hotel Sonneck in Schwäbisch Hall the drive took us about 3 hours and once again we had a major detour so were pretty tired when we arrived about 4:30 and immediately ate a lunch/dinner and sat on the upper terrace outside our room for a little while. I had to spend a little time getting into the hotel’s wifi but with help from the owner and her son, I finally accomplished that task. However my Comcast account was still not working – so had to send through the hotmail account. We took a shower and went to bed early. The hotel was very nice and had an elevator!

Monday, May 23 we left the hotel and drove toward the town of Heilbronn where Vicki had taught school those many years ago. Actually, I wanted to stop in Ellhofen and eat lunch at the Linde Gasthof but, alas, the road to Ellhofen was closed for construction and I guess by this time since we were nearing the end of our trip our driver was tired of seeing those road closures and detours and I made the decision to give it up and head up to our next to last stop of the trip outside of Rothenburg. We were originally to spend 2 nights in the Burg Colmberg Castle Hotel but after one night there in the horrible room and even worse bathroom they gave us I got ticked and told Jerry we were leaving and driving on to Würzburg the next morning. I had booked the room 6 months prior and told them it was for our 50th annv. and that I wanted something nice – never did I tell them I wanted the cheapest room they had! Then I added a single room for my sister in February. The room they put us in was the smallest room (which I could have lived with) but the bathroom was so small, you had to sit sideways on the toilet! My sister’s room and bath was next door and twice the size as ours. Plus the shower head fell out of the wall in our postage stamp size shower so there was no way to wash your hair – we did good to wash the bottom half of our bodies! Also, we didn’t get to sleep until well after midnight because the townspeople were partying below our window - drinking and smoking and laughing and carrying on and the smoke kept drifting into our room. To top it off the next morning when I told the proprietor we were leaving he was so nasty and kept saying “well you must have wanted the cheapest room” I wanted to say “read my lips – I told you 6 months ago I wanted a nice room because it was our annv. – there was no arguing with him. He was like a broken record and then he charged us 70% of the cost of the room for the second night because we were leaving early. I was furious. The castle itself is beautiful but their service leaves a lot to be desired.

We packed up and left and drove to Rothenburg. I mainly wanted to shop the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas shop so we parked outside one of the gates (and of course it was the one completely opposite of where we needed to park near the shop) and walked in and bought a few things to have shipped home.

We left Rothenburg and drove on to Würzburg to find a place to stay and go see the Residenz castle which I had last seen in 1980 on my first trip over to see Vicki. I had taken the train that day from Heilbronn while she was in school. I checked on my IPhone and found a Best Western Rebstock not far from the Residenz and they happened to have 1 double room w/air conditioning and 1 single without. It was a beautiful hotel and also had an elevator and a parking garage with elevators. The Rebstock was as old as the castle but had been rebuilt after the bombing of the town by the British at the end of WWII in 1945. The next morning was Wednesday and our last full day in Germany. We had a great American breakfast at the hotel (finally bacon that was cooked!) and packed up to leave and go to do the 11:00 am English tour at the castle. When I visited the castle in 1980, the only thing that had been restored was the beautiful staircase and rococo ceiling in the main domed area, so it was a real treat to see all of the other rooms which had been restored since that time.

We left Würzburg and drove to the Frankfurt airport area and spent about an hour trying to find the Park Hotel where we were due to spend our final night before our departure the following morning. The hotel is so new the GPS didn’t seem to have it in their data base and after driving to the other side of the airport and stopping at another hotel that was in the GPS, we got help there from one of the people working their front desk. We managed to get close to the hotel but not without circling around that “round-a-bout” a few times – let’s just say when we finally found the hotel “by accident” our driver was NOT in a good mood. I think he was already worried about the possibility that the latest volcanic ash problem could possibly cause our flight to be cancelled the next day and HE WAS READY TO GO HOME! Once we found the hotel and took our luggage in to re-pack everything, he spent quite a bit of time cleaning out the car and getting it all ready to turn in at the Lufthansa first class terminal the next day. We had a great hamburger at the hotel that evening (can you tell we were ready to get back to the US?) and then went up to finish packing our suitcases. We got that task done and went to bed and watched some American TV to see what was happening back home and slept pretty well considering the excitement of hopefully getting to depart the next day. We did not eat breakfast at the hotel because I knew the first class terminal would have breakfast for us. But finding the terminal was to be yet another major problem. In retrospect, we should have turned in the car at the car rental the day before and taken a shuttle from the hotel because after circling and circling and missing our turns for about an hour we finally got up top in all of that early morning mess of people trying to depart. Well, my husband is definitely NOT an aggressive driver and he wouldn’t just “whip” into a spot that opened up and finally the Polizei pulled up beside us and told us to move on and I blew a gasket and told him to just drive over this *%*% sidewalk – why not, the Germans do it all the time. Then I jumped out and commandeered a guy who had on an orange vest that said Taxi coordinator in English at that, and who spoke enough English to try and direct us to the first class terminal. He offered to go with us but we didn’t have room for him in the car for him with all of our luggage! He could tell that I was very perplexed about the situation and suddenly said “why don’t you just pay one of these taxi drivers to guide you there and you follow” – brilliant idea and if I wasn’t such a wreck by then maybe I would have thought of it. So, I hollered at Jerry to follow us and jumped in the front seat with the cabbie and told him to not lose my husband because he was definitely not an aggressive driver. So, he was patient and even waited when we got separated from him and we finally arrived at the wonderful first class terminal. It was pretty much smooth sailing from there. Several people came out and immediately took over getting our luggage out of the car and handling it from that point and then a valet takes your car back to the car rental and a lady came out and became our “mother superior” and she just eased us through customs and security and escorted us to have breakfast and RELAX before the flight! Just one more little glitch – she came back and told us that there seemed to be a problem with one of our bags and I was pretty sure what it was as I had done most of the packing so went with her and after they opened it and realized that it contained my German fan I had bought over there the previous trip and two of our empty thermoses and I breathed a sigh of relief. What a wonderful treat – having first class tickets for such a long haul – I’m afraid to ask how much those tickets would have cost us if we had not had the AMEX points. The trip home was uneventful until we stepped off the plane in Houston and saw all the airport and Houston police lined up at the door of the plane! According to my sister it seems a Turkish guy on drugs had been back in economy causing all kinds of problems on the flight back. Oy veh – just what we needed – more stress! And, they grabbed him just as we were exiting and he was raising all kinds of Cain as they walked him behind us up the ramp and shoved him against the wall screaming at him to quit resisting. Luckily, two young terminal employees were waiting for us and escorted us quickly through customs and we went to retrieve our luggage and meet our driver to take us home. That was to be yet another story – are you getting the gist here? He was an excellent driver but he drove like “a bat out of you know what!” I hopped in the front seat because it’s easier for me to get in and out of and was texting all the kids to let them know we had arrived back in Houston and were on our way home so I didn’t have to watch him weaving in and out of traffic. But when I finished that and we were approaching home I told him he could slow down that we weren’t in that big of a hurry (although it was obvious he was) and he apologized and said he had to go pick up a stretch limo and he was late! Geez – after all this our little home sure looked inviting even though the lawn people had quit mowing because of the drought (we have a sprinkler system so ours didn’t quit growing and there were little trees sprouted in the back yard) and, I had turned the air off while we were gone so it was a wee bit hot in the house. But, it’s always good to get home.

Well, we saw some beautiful places that we would have never been able to see without the car but I doubt we will be going back to Europe anytime soon. Guess we’re just getting too old for all of the stress of driving over there and not knowing where you are going along with all of the walking and climbing stairs. I was ill the next few weeks – thought I might have a touch of the E-Coli scare that happened right after we landed and it was a week to the day when I got sick. But, all in all, we had a great time. Maybe we’ll just try England (where they speak our language!) next time and the French Normandy coast.

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