Tag Archives: Rammersweier Hoff Hotel

A Postcard From The Black Forest

Black Forest Postcard

When I was a boy my parents had an LP record by Bert Kaempfert. He was a German band leader who was quite popular in the 1960s. They liked it! One particular tune that I can remember distinctly was a jaunty little melody called ‘A walk in the Black Forest’ and inspired by the tune that is exactly what we have done several times..

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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: 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.

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Germany, Gengenbach and Six Nations Rugby

Gengenbach Germany

After a short journey we arrived in Gengenbach which is a small town and a popular tourist destination on the western edge of the Black Forest.

After parking the car we walked into the Altsadt which was gaily decorated with bunting and flags for the festival.  In the main square Gengenbach has a traditional town hall which is claimed to be the World’s biggest advent calendar because the twenty-four windows of the eighteenth century town hall represent the twenty-four windows of the calendar.  It reminded me rather of a massive gingerbread cake!

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Germany, The Fasnacht Festival

Hausach Fasnacht Black Forest Germany

The fasnacht carnival was in the town of Hausach and it took about forty minutes to drive there passing through Waldkirch again where there were preparations in place for a carnival there later that evening which caused a bit of congestion but nothing too serious and we arrived on schedule in Hausach and finding the place curiously quiet we parked the car in a town centre car park.

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Germany, The Black Forest

Gengenbach Germany

We had selected the Rammersweier Hoff hotel again mostly because it was inexpensive but also on account of its location about half way between the main cities of Baden-Baden and Freiburg and on the western edge of the forest in the Rhine Valley.

We had enjoyed staying there the previous year because it is a homely place, very traditional with Teutonic décor and an interesting collection of Black Forest ornaments, friendly staff and a great restaurant.  In the morning we had breakfast in the brightly coloured conservatory and there was a good selection of hot and cold food so we filled ourselves up on the basis that this would last us through until evening meal.

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Germany, Winter Tyres

Sixt Car Rental Germany

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 Hertz desk to pick up our hire car.

Following our snow experience last year and the protracted and painful debate about winter tyres, this year I had ordered them in advance so without a discussion with the clerk on duty about whether these were really necessary, on this occasion I just paid the exorbitant additional charge of €55 and very quickly we had taken possession of a royal blue Ford Fiesta and the car hire company winter tyres sting was complete.

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Black Forest, Schiltach and a Blizzard

Shiltach Black Forest

At breakfast on the final morning the sun was shining and there was a blue sky so we weighed up the options and decided to drive through the northern half of the Black Forest and spend the afternoon in Baden-Baden before catching the late flight home.  Unfortunately by the time we had packed our bags and checked out of the Rammersweir Hoff the sunshine had disappeared and had been replaced by the familiar grey sky.  (There was no additional charge for the repair of the cuckoo clock by the way).

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