by BavariaBen Tenth Anniversay

As I remember it - around ten years ago I was spending much of my free time (before and after work) visiting the various travel forums online attempting to assist fellow independent travelers to Germany and Austria. The AOL Travel Forums were very popular during that time frame and that was where I and my lifelong friend Larry spent most of our efforts. Some time before that I had taken on the screenname of BavariaBen (but still maintained my old screenname). Looking back on it I think I must have thought too much of myself to assume such a moniker. It seemed a stretch that I might consider myself somewhat of an expert on the area of Bavaria. But I took it nevertheless and made efforts to give the personage a degree of dignity by providing well researched information to those who asked questions on the forums.

My underlying motivation at that time was to entrap my buddy Larry (PStuyvsant) into thinking that someone with a name such as BavariaBen would know more about Germany than his old friend Mike the Mailman. Larry had been making trips to Europe much more often than myself however he tended to stick to the same routes and accommodations more frequently than I thought he should. My efforts to have him seek new adventures in Germany usually met with stubbornness and an attitude that taking Mike's advice might be beneath his dignity. After all - he had been an officer in the military and I was only an old NCO. Truth be known - it didn't take him long to seek out the advice of this BavariaBen fellow (Mike - unbeknownst to him at the time). PatBee (the matriarch of what would later be our Stammtisch) enjoys telling the story of how she thought of BavariaBen (at that time) as being a gray haired old gentleman living in a log hut in the backwoods of Bavaria, wearing his Lederhosen and spouting personal knowledge of his Vaterland for the American tourists.

My plan had worked and I had talked Larry into letting me help him organize his next trip - to include new places to visit. When I finally confessed my secret to him I'm sure he was disappointed to find out that his old ex-brother-in-law had duped him. But he still talks to me so I guess it didn't affect our friendship too much.

But I maintained the BavariaBen name and soon thereafter had one of my best brain farts ever. Why not take Larry's wealth of experience and my love for all things German and start a website for the purpose of helping our fellow travelers who enjoy traveling as we do. In early 1999 I began putting it all together. There was much for me to learn about being a webmaster and I'm still learning to this day. Much trial and effort went into my earlier efforts. I still keep it very simple and basic - nothing fancy - no advertising.

I've always felt that my best achievement in developing Ben's Bauernhof was the addition of our Stammtisch. I recruited from the Germany Travel board on AOL for experienced travelers to Germany who also enjoyed sharing their trips, places to visit, places to stay, etc. Our small initial core grew when others saw what we were all about and asked to join the table. We now total 30 members (along with spouses and two honorary members who have passed away in the past decade) and quite a diverse group they are - some traveling almost every year to Germany for vacation - the rest wishing they could. For the record - I could not have put my website together without their assistance and support. So - thanks Stammtisch - for a very enjoyable decade of friendship.

So - what better way to celebrate ten years than to try and have another gathering at our favorite little Black Forest Gasthaus (zum Sternen) in the sleepy little village of Urach (near Furtwangen). The Bärmann family who own and operate the Sternen have been special friends of the Stammtisch since we first gathered there in the year 2000. Would we have a good turn-out this year? I looked forward to finding out and knowing that our
meetings would be the highlight of this trip.

This year I planned to spend just ten days (my Frau misses me too much - so she says) with most of that time in the Schwarzwald. It's the easiest place I know of in Germany to keep on a tight budget. Free public transportation while you are staying there is just hard to pass up. So I determined to fly DFW to Frankfurt and stick with trains and busses this trip. My initial thoughts were to train from the Frankfurt Flughafen to somewhere in the heart of the Black Forest. After asking my group and the Fodorites on the Fodor's Germany forum - I decided to take Fodorite Russ's suggestion that I give the small town of Löffingen (on a train line) a try. Fodorites are a good group with a wealth of information to share. Unless you get in their knickers by admitting to your favorite German musik being Schlager. :) One responded that they would rather drive a railroad spike through their brain than to have to listen to Schlager. I confessed it to only being the good looking young female Schlager singers that I favored - but the damage was done.

I confirmed my first three days in country at a Privatzimmer in a residential area of Löffingen. Urach and the Stammtisch gatherings were my next destination - so I locked in two days at one of my favorite little places - the Kirnerhof (an old farm). The next three days I kept open until I could find out what the rest of the Stammtischers would be doing after the meetings. I researched several villages I might overnight in and would carry that info with me. My last stop was determined last year when I talked to a small B&B owner in a little alleyway in the town of Bacharach on the Rhine.

As I was determining my itinerary I was also attempting to find a reasonable airfare. In January the fares bottomed out at about $1000. For many months thereafter the lowest fare I could find was in the $850 range. All of a sudden (in April) the fares on every website (consolidators, discount airfares, airline homepages) dropped almost $250. I committed for a ticket - direct flight - DFW to FRA - via AA and found the lowest fare on the AA website. Nothing left to do but wait out the heat of Texas until September.

Days 1-3

My flight was on time leaving DFW and arriving on time in Frankfurt. I had an aisle seat and (like the two previous years) the only seat next to me was vacant and that's always good. The air time passed quickly and I arrived fresh and ready for a long day of riding the train down into the bowels of the Black Forest. Smooth customs and baggage claim process - easy walk to the trains. Arriving in the long distance train area there are at least two offices where you can purchase your train ticket. I always bypass the first office (usually overflowing with lines) and continue on closer to the Track area. The line there was very short this year and I had my ticket and train connection information in plenty of time to take the next train to my destination.

Finally - mid afternoon - Löffingen. So I pulled out my handy little map (courtesy of Goggle) and proceeded (with large backpack and carry-on) to hump the short distance through a quiet little neighborhood to Haus Liebermann. I confess to cussing Russ a bit when I encountered the hill up from town but the walk was refreshing and finding Frau Liebermann's great little Privatzimmer made it worthwhile.

Haus Liebermann
Frau Traudel Liebermann
Hochfirststraße 4
Löffingen im Schwarzwald
Tel ~ Fax - 7654/8337
Email -

Haus Liebermann - Löffingen

Löffingen is a pretty little village (located between Titisee and Donaueschingen) easily accessed via B-31 and by bus or train. Just to the south is a beautiful nature reserve (Wutach Gorge) frequented by nature lovers and hikers. Lots of bus stops on the fringe which allow hikes of varying lengths and difficulty. Löffingen has been in the record books for almost 1200 years. How old is your town?

During my stay Frau Liebermann was very kind and seemed pleased to have another American in one of her Zimmer. I had a large double room with it's own good sized bath (tub, shower and toilet) with a very nice lounge (Aufenthaltsraum) with cable TV - which also served as the breakfast room (Frühstückzimmer). Breakfast was excellent with no lack of breads, meats, jams and good German coffee. All for a 'very reasonable price'. Anything between 12 and 24 Euro I consider reasonable for an Einzelzimmer, especially if the room is normally rented as a Doppelzimmer. Frau Liebermann speaks very little English but you should have no difficulty in communicating. If a problem does arise - her daughter Marion (who works for the Tourist Information Office in Titisee) speaks perfect English.

Remember that public transportation is free while staying in the Black Forest (courtesy of the KONUS-Gästekarte program). Just flash your Gästekarte (provided by the host of your accommodations) to the bus driver or train conductor. Just know that the Gästekarte is NOT valid for free use of the ICE trains. For those you must purchase a ticket.


From Löffingen I took full advantage of it by traveling to the Schluchsee, Seebrugg, Titisee and as far northwest as Gengenbach and Offenburg.


Days 4-5

On the day I was to travel to Urach - a Stammtischer (DOWELT-Don and Jan) picked me up at the Löffingen train station and chauffeured me to my home for the next two days -

Kirnerhof - Urach

Gerlinde Schuler/Hedwig Wehrle
Alte Straße 8
Urach (Schwarzwald)
Tel & Fax - 7657/224
Email -

Frau Wehrle and her daughter Frau Schuler are wonderful hosts and make a stay at the Kirnerhof a pleasurable experience. I stayed here for six days one year and two days this year and enjoyed every minute of it. Outstanding Frühstück with eggs every morning in addition to her always excellent breakfast spread. I had a nice big double room with large TV with the toilet and shower just in the hallway for the same price as last visit - 15 Euro per night. Tough to beat...

I spent the afternoon unpacking and waiting around for Jim (Tooooobah) to claim his room - also at the Kirnerhof. We then trekked on down to the Gasthaus zum Sternen and waited for the merriment to begin. We were greeted by Tina, Rudi, Marina and most of the Bärmann family. The Stammtisch trickled in and before the night was out we had a body count of 28. Rudi had his grill fired up and was barbecuing every manner of meat available in the Forest. With several tables full of side dishes and desserts - the Sternen's 'all you can eat' buffet for 10 Euro was a real bargain.

Stammtisch Photos

A very fun night of socializing and drinking and joke telling. Jim and I ended up closing it down sometime after midnight. No matter how many times I remind myself - I forgot to take a flashlight for the walk home. Total darkness (no moon) - trying to navigate on a country road littered with land mines courtesy of the local bovine - not fun.

The Hikers...

After breakfast the next morning - six of us (BB-Len-Gary-Reinhard-John-FloridaLarry) met up with our 1st class hiking expert Jim and began what was to turn into a full day's jaunt. Up the mountain - over the top along a ridge line - down the valley to the Kalte Herberge - up the hill on the opposite side - and along that ridge line - then back down to Urach (close to 20km).

Last leg...

Lunch break at a small Gasthaus in the woods (full of a wedding party) - two Schnaps breaks along the way (Reinhard our resident German packed two Fifths of Schnaps and enough shot glasses for all)

Where did the Schnaps come from?

Larry (PStuyvsant) arrived from Rothenburg that afternoon (also staying at the Kirnerhof) and after cleaning up we headed down to the Sternen for another night of get togethers. Everyone showed up again but many left early due to next day travels. Another gathering in the books - most of us called it a night before 11pm. Enjoyed it folks...

Days 6-8

I made some phone calls from the Kirnerhof and locked-in one of my preselected Privatzimmer in Schiltach. It just so happened that several Stammtisch folks were heading north that morning so I ended up traveling with Gunner and Erika, following a van loaded with Len, Shari and his Florida neighbors, who were following Nate, his son and Chaplain Tom (who were heading back to Nate's home - between Kaiserslautern and Mainz). After a few wayward attempts I was escorted to my new Zimmer and we all went into town for lunch and a walkabout.

Pension Zellershof - Schiltach

Pension Zellershof
Zellershof 1
Tel - 7836/601
Email -

Frau Müller

Roomy zimmer in a little Pension located about 12 minutes from the Altstadt "Städtle" and a train stop. Frau Müller is the perfect host, eager to please and runs a very clean Haus. She speaks a bit of English and is very engaging. I enjoyed an immaculate double room with shower, toilet, love seat and cable TV. Excellent breakfast (soft boiled egg, fresh rolls, more wurst and cheese than I could eat, homemade jams and jellies) served in a large Frühstückzimmer. Hair dryers and a small refrigerator are available for guests.

It's surprising that this town is not written about in more travel guide books. In the heart of the Black Forest (approx. 20 km SW of Freudenstadt), it is situated at a point where the Kinzig and Schiltach valleys join. The Marktplatz has beautiful half-timbered buildings on all sides (unchanged since 1791). A road was developed through the Kinzigtal as far back as Roman times, tying the Strasbourg area in the west to that of Rottweil on the eastern fringes of the Schwarzwald. With it's many Fachwerk (half-timbered) houses it is one of the most picturesque villages along the Deutsche Fachwerkstraße. There are no less than four museums around town highlighting such crafts that supported this region in earlier times, rafting, forestry and tanning.

The Stadtbrunnen (town fountain) dates from the 15th century (restored in 1750).

The Rathaus (built in 1590) has a well equipped Tourist Information Office.

One of the oldest and prettiest Fachwerk buildings in Schiltach is the hotel and restaurant "Gasthof zum Adler" - whose owner happens to the be the brother of Frau Müller (host of the Pension Zellershof). The pretty Oriel (bay) windows add even more quaintness to the Adler. Excellent food at decent prices. If the weather is good enjoy your meal at an outside table. We made ourselves a table for ten and enjoyed the day.

Hotel 'Gasthof zum Adler'
Familie Gaiser
Hauptstraße 20
Tel - 7836/1414
Email -

Another nice little restaurant and Kneipe (pub) I ate at in Schiltach is the
Bier & Weinstube 'Zum Alten Fritz' at Hauptstraße 26. Friendly wait staff and excellent Bier and Pizza.

I spent the next three days on the trains visiting Freudenstadt, Alpirsbach, Gengenbach and Offenburg. Great weather and really nice scenery along the way.

For some nice panorama shots of Schiltach click on Virtual Tour and the town web cam at their

Days 9-10

Another great breakfast courtesy of Frau Müller - clear my room - leave some small Texas related gifts and make the hump to the train stop. As I passed a bus stop I noticed that a bus was due soon with a downtown destination. I had the time so I walked to the next bus stop in line and waited. The bus came but the driver just looked my way and kept going (that next stop I had walked to turned out not to be on that bus route). I threw up my hands, smiled at the driver and started the walk into town. A few minutes later that same bus goes by in the other direction. The bus driver caught my eye and motioned for me to wait for him after he turned around. What a nice guy he was to take me to the train station.

In short order I am on the train to Offenburg where I switch to one going to Baden-Baden. This is about as far north as you can travel in the Black Forest on that free Gastekarte - so I bought my ticket for the rest of the trip to the Rhine at Baden-Baden. Nice day - arriving in Bacharach in the early afternoon.

My home for the last two days was a neat little Privatzimmer that I ran across last year while walking around Bacharach. The lady that I talked to at that time was one of the Orth sisters (sisters-in-law). The only way to reserve a room in Ursula Orth's at Spurgasse 3 or Irmgard Orth's at Spurgasse 2 is to telephone or write a letter. No websites and no email addresses (that I know of). I first wrote to Ursula Orth in February 2009 asking about the availability of an Einzelzimmer for these two days. After several months of no response - I wrote to Irmgard asking the same thing. A few weeks later I received a nice note from Irmgard saying that she would be glad to hold a room for me at her place - Spurgasse 2. I sent off another letter to confirm the booking and told her I looked forward to seeing her in September.

Haus Irmgard Orth - Bacharach

Haus Irmgard Orth
Spurgasse 2
Bacharach am Rhein
Tel - 6743/1553

Frau Irmgard Orth - Spurgasse 2

This little B&B was one of my favorite stops of 2009. Irmgard Orth is a wonderful little lady who runs an immaculate Haus. She is all smiles and good cheer and although she speaks very little English she has no problem communicating with her guests no matter what language they speak. A friendlier, sweeter hostess I cannot remember in all my travels in Germany. From my experience this is the least expensive place to stay in Bacharach at 18.50 Euro per person for a double room. I paid 20 Euro for use of one of the double rooms as a single room. She has several double rooms with shower and toilet located just in the hallway within a few steps of your door. A real bargain considering the location and ambiance of Bacharach.

Frau Orth also serves a very nice breakfast (in two Frühstückzimmer) that includes her homemade jams and jellies and honey from her husband's small bee farm. One afternoon she invited me into her kitchen for a large slice of fresh baked Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake) - Es hat sehr gut geschmeckt...

Hey Rich...

Funny little incident. While staying there I ran into Frau Ursula Orth in the alleyway one day and she asked me if I was the gentleman who wrote her in February and when I told her yes - she got a little disturbed. I explained to her that she never replied to my letter so I had no way of knowing if she received it, threw it away or was holding a room for me. If she had sent me even a postcard to acknowledge my request I would have of course honored the booking. I'm not sure that my explanation appeased Ursula but her sister-in-law Irmgard thought it pretty funny. Perhaps a bit of animosity? - maybe not.

The first afternoon there I met up with Len and Shari and their neighbors Larry and Brenda (all staying at Pension Lettie's and all departing Germany the next morning) and we had a nice meal at -

Gaststätte Jägerstube
Marktstraße 3
Tel - 6743/1492
Good meals at great prices
Highly recommend the Käseschnitzel
Salads are excellent...

Gaststätte Jägerstube - Bacharach

For my final day in Germany I saw Len and his group off to the airport and took the train from Bacharach up to St. Goar for some last minute shopping and to use the Internet Cafe there. Ran into Don (DOWELT) and Jan shopping at one of the little shops. Heading back to Bacharach I decided to pay a short visit to Oberwesel but traveling to that little village by train turned out not to be such a good idea. The main part of town is too far of a walk just to look around. Back to Bacharach for final chocolate run and last stop for souvenirs requested by family and friends.

A special shop in Bacharach that I always recommend is Frances Geuss's Woodburn Haus just across from the Hotel-Restaurant "Altkölnischer Hof" and the 'Altes Haus'. Frances is familiar with several of our Stammtisch members who stop by when in town.

Holzbrandkunst Geuß Woodburn - Bacharach

Holzbrandkunst Geuß Woodburn
Oberstraße 60
Tel & Fax - 6743/1655
Email -


And for my final meal of the trip I again stopped at a favorite little café just up the street from Frau Orth's place. Great food - great prices - very friendly owners (Astrid & Jean Krzywicki) speak several languages - eat outside if the weather is nice. I sat there talking to the owner and reading a book until too dark to read.

Cafe Restaurant Rusticana - Bacharach

Café Restaurant Rusticana
Oberstraße 40
Tel - 6743/1741
Email -
Hacksteak (meat loaf) and chicken excellent...
Apfelstrudel - Wunderbar...


Bacharach is an excellent location to spend your last night (or any night) in Germany. By car you can be at the Airport in about an hour and if traveling by train the time is 1¼ hrs. In previous years there was always a direct train to the Frankfurt Flughafen - however now you must change trains in Mainz and that has added 15 minutes to the time. If you need to catch an early flight just skip breakfast and catch the 0527 train (Track 1) at the Bacharach train station (10 Euro from the vending machine). From Frau Orth's place it is less than five minutes to the station. Arrived at FRA before 0700 and was near the front of the AA check-in line. Smooth flight home with Frau waiting to pick me up.


All in all another good vacation to try to remember. I can only try because some of them tend to run together in my mind. That's why I write trip reports - so I can remember. :) This year I spent quite a bit of time riding the trains, resting, relaxing and reading. Total cost of trip - right at $1,400... Free breakfasts, free transportation in the Schwarzwald, imbiss/snack/picnic type lunches, and low-priced restaurant dinners helped to keep my budget in check. My own lovely Frau is determined to make the trip next year so I know I've got at least one more to look forward to. After that - who knows how strong the dollar will be and whether or not I can plan future trips. I'm betting I'll find a way... :)

Auf Wiedersehen! Bis zum nächsten Mal...


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