Tag Archives: Germany

On This Day – Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 30th May 2008 I was at Lake Constance in Germany with my daughter…

Friedrichshafen 07

Germany? You’re going on holiday to Germany? But why?”  I am willing to bet that this question/response never arises if you tell people you are travelling to Italy or France.  No, there’s something about travelling to Germany that requires an explanation. Or should that be, there’s something about British people that requires an explanation if you are travelling to Germany and although I encountered this reaction before going to Friedrichshafen I didn’t really feel that I really needed to explain myself.

As Sally had recently broken the news about having a baby which I have to say came as a massive shock, I wasn’t ready at only fifty-two to be ready for that sort of commitment, I thought it would be a good idea to have a last bonding holiday together as father and daughter before the big event as it might to be a long time before we get this opportunity again.  I was straight to the Ryanair website and I quickly located cheap flights to Germany.

I really had no idea where Friedrichshafen was and I really didn’t care, I was determined to have the flights so I booked them without giving the transaction a second thought.  After it had been confirmed I set out to discover where it was exactly and to learn something about our destination.

I was delighted to find that it is in the far southwest of Germany sitting alongside Lake Constance and within easy reach of its neighbours Switzerland and Austria and I quickly realised that here was a trip where I could pull in some extra countries in my quest to visit as much of Europe as possible using the low cost airlines to get me there.  After consulting the guidebooks and planning a suitable itinerary the final plan was to fly to Friedrichshafen then drive to Switzerland and visit Liechtenstein as well.

Lake Constance

We arrived in Germany at three o’clock in the afternoon and picked up the hire car with a minimum of fuss and drove directly to the city to find the hotel Schöllhorn, which wasn’t as straightforward as it should have been but eventually we found it at the third attempt and checked in.

The hotel was a grand building in a good position with front rooms overlooking the lake but as I had booked a budget room ours had an alternative view over the car park at the back but this didn’t matter because as it was mid afternoon already we quickly organised ourselves and made our way out of the hotel and down to the lake to see what the city had to offer.

We walked for a while along the friendly waterfront and before very long selected a table at a bar with an expansive view of the water stretching across to Switzerland.  Not that we could see Switzerland however because there was a strange mist that hung over the curiously dead calm water that rather spoilt the view of the Alps in the distance.  A glance at the menu confirmed my excellent judgement in earlier purchasing a German phrase book at the airport because the menu interpretation looked especially tricky with very few words that meant anything to me.

“My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years.” – Mark Twain, ‘A Tramp Abroad –That Awful German Language’

Friedrichshafen 01

My first attempt at the German language proved a total failure.  I ordered two beers and got three from a slightly confused looking waitress who couldn’t distinguish between my zweis and my dreis – anyway we didn’t complain and drank them all anyway so perhaps it wasn’t such a linguistic catastrophe after all, but mindful of the possible dangers in being too adventurous with food choices from an unfamiliar menu we restricted ourselves to a simple salad for lunch.

This was a perfect spot for an afternoon sojourn and we sat and watched the lake that was busy with ferry boats crossing over to Switzerland or simply stopping off at all the little towns that border the lake and we sat and practised German from the phrasebook and Sally impressed me with her natural grasp of the language.  Later we walked along the promenade to check the schedules for our planned trip to the other side of the water the next day.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

If you were wondering, the grand looking chap who has his statue it is Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin because this is where his airship was pioneered and developed.

Zeppelin was born in Konstanz, on the other side of the lake and in 1898 he founded the ‘Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Luftschiffahrt’ or the company for the promotion of airship flight, and construction of the first Zeppelin began in Friedrichshafen in 1899 which enjoyed a perfect location for launching the airships presumably because the lake provided a slightly softer landing in the event of mishaps.  The first Zeppelin flight occurred on 2nd July 1900 over Lake Constance and lasted for eighteen minutes.

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Not sure why I was so worried about having a grandchild – now I have four, Molly, Patsy, William and Heidi…

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On This Day – An Overnight Stay in Liechtenstein

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 27th April 2007 I was in the sixth smallest country in the World – Liechtenstein.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

 

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Wrocklaw – Food, Street Entertainment and Beer

We were travelling with our friends Mike and Margaret and Christine and Sue and it was late afternoon when we left the hotel and made our way to the Old Town.

The sun was still shining so after a swift circuit of the Market Square and as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast we found a restaurant with outside seating arrangements with the intention of ordering a small snack to tide us over until evening meal time.

It seems however that the Polish people have a different interpretation to the English of what constitutes a small snack and what we thought would be a modest sharing platter turned out to be a mountainous plate of sandwiches, pastry, chips, bacon and sausage and something called Zapiekanka (a sort of baguette, about twice the size of a double Big Mac,  with nothing left out and then smothered in tomato sauce) which provided in one setting our entire calorie allowance for the day and completely eliminated the need to make any more plans for evening meal.

After all of that food and drink the only sensible thing to do now was to try to walk some of it off so we left the Market Square and headed out-of-town along one of the long boulevards which brought us eventually to the City’s main railway station and being a train enthusiast was to be the highlight of Mike’s day.  It was refurbished in 2011 in preparation for the Euro Football Championship and although it is an impressive structure it looks rather out-of-place, designed as it seems to be in the style of a North African Palace that would be more at home in Marrakech or Tangiers..

Image by Tim Richards – Lonely Planet

By the time Mike had tired of train spotting it was dark and becoming quite cool so we made our way back to the Market Square where various entertainments were in full swing.

This is one of the great pleasures of travelling to the Continent because the evening time is so very different to being in England where the town centres close up and empty of people very early and everyone rushes off home, close their gates and retreat behind their front doors.  Generally we are suspicious of people who hang around town centres at night – when Polish people living in England walk out at night people get upset and start writing letters to the local newspaper complaining about anti-social behaviour.

Once in Krakow I asked a tour guide why Polish people walk out at night even in bad weather and his explanation was that many people live in small overcrowded units in apartment blocks and rather than spend the evening getting in each other’s way they go out instead for some recreation and to be neighbourly….

… and sometimes to get drunk!

Here in Wroclaw the Market Square was buzzing and vibrant and families and friends were flowing like lava into the Old Town from every side street and alleyway and filling the bars and cafés around the perimeter.  I don’t know what they call it in Poland but this was the equivalent of the La Passeggiata in Italy or La Paseo in Spain and it was wonderful to be a part of it.

We walked around the square, several times I think, stopping frequently to watch the street entertainers and to throw some small coins in the collection boxes as we passed and when we had seen enough we looked for somewhere to stop for a drink.

We knew a place from our previous visit, a little place close to our hotel which is rather simply called ‘Drinks Bar’ which may seem unimaginative but avoids any confusion about what you are going to do in there or any other possible catastrophe such as inadvertently walking into a shop by mistake.

The really good thing about the ‘Drinks Bar’ is that it serves a variety of good beers and it is cheap so we stayed longer than we planned and drank more than we should have before moving on.

The Poles are statistically the fourth highest beer drinkers in Europe with per capita consumption of around one hundred litres a year just slightly behind the Germans and the Austrians at one hundred and five but some considerable way behind the Czechs who are way out in front with one hundred and forty-five litres per head.  So we thought we might make a contribution to a Polish challenge upon the Czech Republic beer consumption statistic and on the way back to the hotel stopped off several times at anywhere that looked bright and cheerful and would dispense foaming glasses of ale!

The Official Travel Guide in Wrocław – visitWroclaw.eu

Travelling – Car Hire Advice – Be Prepared to Complain

Black Forest Winter Tyres

“Car hire firms abroad have more catches than a corset” – Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert.com

It took only fifty-five minutes to fly the short distance and land at Kahlrsrue-Baden Airpark at nine-thirty in the evening and after quickly clearing immigration and customs we were soon at the Sixt Car Hire desk to pick up our hire car.

There was a pleasant young man on duty called Herr Schmidberger and he examined my hire details and then sighed and furrowed his brow and adopted a concerned demeanour, “You have a booking for a vehicle without the winter tyres” he said, “are you sure you want a car without the winter tyres?”  I had no idea what he was talking about (we don’t have Winter tyres in UK, except for Northern Scotland)  and must have given him my best ever blank expression because with that he rolled his eyes so far back into their sockets that if he had laser vision he would have surely fried his brains.

The winter tyres were an extra €55 and I was beginning to detect a well rehearsed scam so we took a while to consult with each other on the proposal of paying the extra and with a queue starting to form behind us this started to seriously test his patience.

I enquired why I might consider going to the unnecessary additional expense and although this was his opportunity to inform me that since May 2006 German motorists have been required by law to use the most appropriate tyres for the weather conditions and that driving on snow covered roads is permitted only if a car is equipped with winter tyres, he just became even more theatrical and began shouting “Look at the snow, you can see the snow, in just two minutes you can see the snow!”  

Black Forest, Badische Schwarzwaldbahn

Obviously I could see the snow but I still failed to understand why he was so insistent (unless it was a scam and I was becoming more and more sure of that).  He could have told me that in Germany motorists are obliged to make sure they have correct tyres to suit the winter weather conditions and if a vehicle becomes stuck because the tyres are unsuitable drivers are liable to an on the spot police fine, and furthermore if the vehicle causes an obstruction or aggravation to other traffic, the fine may be doubled.

Instead he went into his impression of a man in an electric chair and gave a look that suggested that I was the craziest customer that he had ever dealt with and that driving without winter tyres in snow was madder than wrestling with alligators, swimming in shark infested waters or sky-diving without a parachute.

Triburg Germany Black Forest

I enquired about the weather forecast and whether he thought it might be snowing in the Black Forest (which at over a thousand metres was an absolute certainty and a really dumb question) and then his eyes started to swivel from side to side like the symbols on a gaming machine and he was clearly losing his patience with me now.

He might have explained that winter tyres use a tread rubber compound that is softer and a tread block pattern with more sipes (small slits which are specifically designed to retain flexibility in low temperatures and give good braking and traction performance on snow and ice covered roads) but instead he just keep shrieking “Look at the snow, you can see the snow, in just two minutes you can see the snow!”  

Snow Driving Black Forest Germany

By now I was beginning to understand that he thought snow tyres were a very good idea so finally agreed to the additional charge and he immediately calmed down and set about allocating us an appropriate vehicle for the conditions.

After that he went through the booking and paying procedures, explained where we would find the car in the car park and then clearly lacking any sort of confidence in my snow driving abilities and not expecting to see the car again in one piece bade us farewell with the words “please be sure to drive carefully in the snow, it is very dangerous…”

We quickly found the bright blue Nissan Micra hidden under a blanket of snow, cleaned it down, examined the tyres which, at this time not understanding about the special rubber compound, looked quite normal to me and fairly soon after setting off I was certain we had been scammed.

And we had been of course because at €13.45 a day I calculate that if they are on the car for a third of the year that is an extra €1,600 or €400 a tyre and I could not believe that they can be that much more expensive than a regular tyre.  And of course they are not because I have checked and they can be bought for as little as €40 each.

Black Forest Winter Tyres

Double scammed as it happened because I am certain that we had already been allocated this car anyway – complete with winter tyres.  If I had refused to pay they were hardly likely to jack it up and take them off!

Upon return home I raised the issue of what I considered to be an excessive winter tyre charge in this journal and the reaction has left me speechless with admiration for Sixt Car Hire.

I have experienced the best customer service that I have ever had with a response from Gary Coughlan,  the Customer Services Manager in the United Kingdom who provided me with a clear explanation of the law relating to winter tyres and the company policy in respect to additional charges.  He also promised to raise the matter with the Company’s Commercial Director but I doubt that he ever did.  Gary has a job for life just fobbing off customer complaints!

Two days later I received a refund and a promise that the Board of Sixt would consider the policy at their next scheduled meeting.  I doubt that they ever did of course but I was glad of the refund.

Triberg Germany

Weekly Photo Challenge: Time – Trouble With a Cuckoo Clock

Black Forest Cuckoo Clock

On a visit to the Black Forest in Germany we stayed at a nice hotel in the town of Offenberg.  One evening when going to the restaurant we were disturbed to find a bus tour from the Netherlands had pitched up and they were all in the dining room right now.

Because they were so busy the service was slow which meant that we drank more wine than is advisable and to pass the time I started to poke around the bric-a-brac and the ornaments and then foolishly started to fiddle with an impressive large cuckoo clock hanging on the wall behind the table.

Immediately I wished I hadn’t touched those cone things that drive the mechanism because it unexpectedly whirred into life and out popped the cuckoo, which had been dormant for a thousand years which unfortunately turned out to be a rather loud cuckoo.

And then as the chain headed non stop towards the floor it popped out several more times, each time announcing itself with its little song that just seemed to get louder and louder each time – the doors were banging, the chains were rattling, the bird was going berserk and I wondered if I might eventually have to throttle it to shut it up.

This impromptu and unscheduled entertainment seemed to amuse the people on the bus tour who were giggling and laughing and I just wanted the thing to get back in its box .  There was no such luck (some people thought it was a fire alarm and made for the exit) and the clock went through twenty-four movements in under two minutes and believe me that is an awful lot of cuckoos.

Then just as I was giving up all hope the thing  thankfully finally exhausted itself and it stopped and with me red faced with embarrassment we slipped out of the restaurant and went back to our room before I could get up to any more mischief.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grid

Schiltach Black Forest Germany

There was simply nothing here to spoil the picture book mood and character and in the pretty triangular market place at the heart of the town the fasnacht festival bunting hung high above the cobbled street and old town well, the merchant’s houses and the town hall with its striking Teutonic wall paintings.  After walking around the town we found a little place at the side of the river Schiltach and stopped for refreshment in the immaculate café that was serving fresh cakes and treats.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

Germany Black Forest Schiltach Fastnacht

The Fasnacht Parade in Schiltach, Germany

The sun was shining now and outside the café a crowd was beginning to congregate because at two o’clock there was an afternoon children’s fasnacht and more and more people in costumes were beginning to gather.  There was half an hour to go so we had a second drink and then walked out into the pleasant sunshine and took up a position to watch.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Community

Germany Black Forest Fasnacht

Germany and the Black Forest – The Fasnacht Festival

The festival of Fasnacht is a carnival in Alemannic folklore that takes place in the few days before Lent in Southern Germany, Switzerland and Alsace.  The Alemanni were German tribes who lived in this part of Europe nearly two thousand years ago and this area remains characterised by a form of German with a distinct dialogue called Alemannic.  The celebration literally means ‘Fasting Eve’ as it originally referred to the day before the fasting season of Lent.  The schools are all closed for this festival and all over the Black Forest there are six days of parties and making merry.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

Germany Black Forest Fasnacht

Black Forest, Germany – The Fasnacht

The festival of Fasnacht is a carnival in Alemannic folklore that takes place in the few days before Lent in Southern Germany, Switzerland and Alsace.  The Alemanni were German tribes who lived in this part of Europe nearly two thousand years ago and this area remains characterised by a form of German with a distinct dialogue called Alemannic.  The celebration literally means ‘Fasting Eve’ as it originally referred to the day before the fasting season of Lent.  The schools are all closed for this festival and all over the Black Forest there are six days of parties and making merry.

Read the full story…

Germany, A Walk in the Black Forest

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