Tag Archives: Offenburg

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: Unfocused

Badische Schwarzwaldbahn, Black Forest, Germany

The Badische Schwarzwaldbahn or  The Black Forest Railway (as we know it) was built between 1863 and 1873 and today is a twin-track, electrified railway line running in a north-west to south-east direction and links Offenburg on the Rhine Valley Railway with Singen on the Upper Rhine Railway. It passes directly across the Black Forest, through spectacular scenery on a route that is one hundred and fifty kilometres long, ascends six hundred and fifty metres from lowest to highest elevation, and passes through thirty-nine tunnels and over two viaducts. It is the only true mountain railway in Germany to be built with two tracks, and is the most important railway line in the Black Forest.

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Germany, A Walk in the Black Forest

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Germany, Autobahn to Heidelberg

Heidelberg Germany

Despite the gloomy weather prediction of the restaurant manager the previous evening we opened the metal shutters on our last day to see some promising patches of blue sky and whilst we had our final breakfast the sun began to shine and it looked as though we might finally get some better weather.

As we packed our bags before checking out and leaving we had to decide on an itinerary that would pick up as many towns and villages as possible for the blue sky pictures that we wanted and we eventually agreed on Gengenbach and Freiburg and once we had paid up and said goodbye we headed out of Offenburg on the familiar route south.

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Germany, Across the Rhine to Strasbourg

Strasbourg Cathedral Alsace France

“Rising above the high-pitched roofs with multi-storied dormer windows, several churches stand out on the skyline. The cathedral, whose single spire dominates the Alsatian plain, and the four old churches …  fit coherently into an old quarter that exemplifies medieval cities.”                                                          UNESCO

We parked the car in an underground car park close to a part called Petite France which is a popular corner of the city where the full flowing river splits up into a number of canals, and cascades through bridges in a small area of attractive half-timbered houses and cobbled streets and we walked through crooked lanes and alleys that followed the southern loop of the river that surrounds the old city.

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Germany, Across the Rhine to Alsace

Strasbourg France

“What is it that gives a frontier its magic? Not the fact that that it is a territorial or political boundary, for these are artificial, dictated by history.  Perhaps it is language that gives to the crossing of a frontier its definitive flavour of voyage.  Whatever the answer the magic is there.  The traveller’s heart will beat to a new rhythm, he will examine the strange new coinage.  Everything will seem to be changed, including the air he breathes”                                                           Lawrence Durrell

It was another disappointing morning and there was a slight drizzle in the air but the weather looked brighter to the west so we decided to drive in that direction and visit the French city of Strasbourg on the other side of the Rhine.

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Germany, Schiltach, a Perfect Black Forest Village

Schiltach Black Forest Germany

Triberg didn’t excite us today in the way it had twelve months previously and so we didn’t stay for all of the hour and a half that the parking ticket allowed and we left the town and headed for nearby Shiltach.

Leaving the town we turned off the main road at Sankt Georgan and began to climb towards the town of Schramberg and then I had another disagreement with the lady navigator in the satnav.  For some inexplicable reason she directed us off the obvious way and took along an alternative route along some very minor roads.  There was no explanation for this so I strenuously questioned her competence, shouted at her and then turned her off and plotted my own route back to Schramberg and then to Shiltach where we arrived soon after.

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