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Germany, The Passion Play, Tuscany, and Switzerland-Ongoing

Germany, The Passion Play, Tuscany, and Switzerland-Ongoing

Aug 22nd, 2010, 04:48 AM
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Germany, The Passion Play, Tuscany, and Switzerland-Ongoing

In the past I haven't done much with trip reports so this time around i am going to write a more or less "ongoing" one as we travel.

We left Washington Dulles on Thursday, 19 August on Lufthansa for Munich. Arrived at Dulles around 5:30 PM and since a lot of eastbound european flights leave before 6 PM the place seemed practically deserted. Went through the new security area in less than 5 minutes and used the recently-opened Aerotrain to get to the departure concourse. Things have definitely improved IMO.

Lufthansa Business Lounge was quiet and offered a variety of cold snacks and drinks. Very quiet and easy to find a seat to wait. Boarding rhe aircraft happens DIRECTLY from an exit in the lounge to the jetway itself and that was a nice feature.

Scheduled departure was for 8:15 PM but the doors were closed around 8 PM and the pushback was underway ahead of schedule. Seats with the less-than-180 degree recline were comfortable enough and the food and service seemed pretty good. One Melatonin before the meal and I was out like a light after eating and I am one of those people who absolutely cannot sleep sitting up so this whole situation was about as ideal as it can get.

Arrived in Munich on time. We had each checked one expandable rollaboard and although it seemed to take longer than expected for the luggage to come off the whole Immigration and get-through-the-necessaries and then nobody even bothering at Customs procedure was a piece of cake.

I've used the Munich airport many times in the past and prefer it to Frankfurt.

Picked up the rental car at the Europecar counter (arranged through AutoEurope); all the auto rental desks are grouped into one easy-to-find area. The cars themselves are parked throughout 4-5 levels of an adjacent parking garage which is huge. We found our rental without too much difficulty and were all set to drive off when I realized I had forgotten to bring the power cord for my own Magellan Roadmate GPS so had to troop from the garage back to the Europecar counter and rent a GPS from them. We have good roadmaps with us but having a GPS along has already been helpful.

Europecar supplied a Garmin Nuvi and after a few minutes figuring out how to use it and also getting used to a considerably smaller screen and display than I am used to we finally rolled out of MUC and onto the Autobahn bound for Nurnberg,

I LOVE fast cars which is probably one reason that my "toy" back home is a Vette convertible (fear not..the "go-to-work" car is a somewhat slower Honda roadster) and every time I am in Germany I WISH I had the Vette here LOL.

The speed limit on the Autobahn unless you have some sort of special sticker is SUPPOSED to max out at 130 KM...sure it is...I was doing that and sometime more and there were cars WHIZZING by in the left lane. I am sure for some this can be unnerving; in my own experience you have to use your rearview mirror and the turn signals. The roads are in great shape; three lanes in many cases, and IMO a joy to drive on since nobody is hogging the left lane and when they do a simple flash of the headlights is usually all that is required to bring them back into focus,

Absolutely perfect weather for the drive and we are currently staying in the Hotel Victoria in Nurnberg which is well (for us) located just inside the old city walls and the place also has indoor garage parking a couple minutes' walk away.

We've been in Franconia before, in the summer, and we had very specifically requested a room in the hotel with A/C. When we arrived we were told we had been upgraded to the one junior suite which is the largest room in the place and has a private terrace overlooking a large piazza-like area situated next to the city wall and is between the hotel and a modern art museum. Lots of windows which open fully but no A/C; only a ceiling fan.

Upgrades usually happen for a reason and that reason is often for the hotel's convenience; no problems with that. When we asked about this we were finally told the room we had originally been assigned had had new carpeting laid down earlier in the day and had not yet been cleaned. So we went with what was offered and that has been overall very positive. The room has stayed cool and there has been very little humidity these past couple days despite temperatures approaching 30 degrees C during the day.

We spent the remainder of Friday afternoon and evening getting settled and then went out to explore the old town area and renew a few experiences.

A word about attire. TRUST ME..when someone HERE swears "they don't wear shorts in Europe" I suggest you pause a bit. The majority of adults here are NOT wearing shorts but there are plenty of younger folks who are (and yes, a few "older men" are also); same with Levis, denim in general...those of you who have actually traveled know what I mean. LOTS of folks roaming the streets, shopping, eating at the MANY and various types of restaurants and of course, the GELATO!!!!! Oh is it ever good and we aren't even IN Italy yet!!!

Yesterday (Saturday 21 August) we got up and had breakfast in the hotel at 7:00 AM and immediately thereafter hit te road for Beyreuth where a friend of ours is one of the directors for the annual Wagner Festival. Unfortunately she was unable to get us any tickets (considering the Wagnerian die-hards wait sometimes for YEARS to get tickets this wasn't a big surprise. After exploring the charming downtown area on our own we met her near the city opera house (the one the infamous Wagner felt was not adequate for the staging of his grandiose works so he built his own (with someone else's money, as usual) on a hill outside the center. We had a delightful lunch and got filled in with all the "backstage intrigues, goings-on, cat fights, backstabbing, and gossip" that seems to be part and parcel of some theatrical productions, ESPECIALLY opera! Forget Lohengrin...show us what's going on BEHIND the scenes if you want REAL drama for sure!

Back to Nurnberg in the late afternoon and then out to a nearby Italian place (run by two Italian gentlemen from Florence) for some delicious food as we watched the passing show. Lots of visitors andd i suspect locals; kids rolling down the streets on occasion in cars with sound systems rivaling the one at Radio City...Lady Gaga blasting her way toward yet another million seller; plenty of friendly dogs on leashes; groups of young folks dressed as goths, playboy bunnies, policewomen, etc., cavorting around. All this against the wonderful architecture which is Nurnberg despite a LOT of it having been destroyed during WW II. Places like the St. Lawrence church as well as the Frauenkirke looking great and the insides remain breathtaking if only because they continue to ENDURE despite the horrific events this city in particular has been witness to.

Sunday, 22 August.

After breakfast we drove over to Bamberg. At least one guidebook describes the place as "a byword for magnificent" and the old part of the town is certainly in many ways "baroque central." Add the river flowing rapidly through the town; the really fabulous dom up on the hill with its "mystery rider" and not to mention...BEER!!!

We are not in any way, shape, or form beer lovers but Bamberg was in the midst of some sort of beerfest..oh yes there was the usual food, wurst, etc., for sale but before noon the tables scattered throughout the old part of the town were jammed with beer drinkers and there were lots of musical groups set up in various places,,,we heard eve4rything from 1960's and 1970's "folk" music to the quintessential "ooom-pah" stuff...this last played by what looked to be a bunch of college-age kids mixed with a few adults and the lederhosen-draped "director" with a beer in one hand and a baton in the other...and the kids were imbibing between (and sometimes DURING) the musical selections, too. Great fun and I kept thinking about those sometimes staid Wagnerians some miles to the east..hey, whatever turns you on.

Bamberg as a place is truly picturesque and impressive. The architecture is not to be missed and it reminded me somewhat of places like Prague. Take away the cars and a few other things and it os almost like being back in the Middle Ages.

Practicalities: I was somewhat amused by the recent thread about "surviving" a trip to Europe with only a carry-on. When I had the temerity to ask about laundry I got the rather breezy, "Oh it's not a problem to find a place to wash clothes."

Well, mine is now hung OUT on that private terrace I mentioned earlier (yes, it IS discreetly out of sight so don't worry we won't be having any wars with the Germans anytime soon) but seriously, I don't like spending even a few minutes wondering where a laundry is...but everybody travels differently and ALL of us travel well, for sure. Thank God for hotel rooms with bathtubs.

More later and have a wonderful day everyone
Dukey is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2010, 05:25 AM
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Interesting stuff and hope to read more... you are obviously a car guy but you didn't mention what the rental was. I always want to know what make/model rental a person ends up with. ;^)


Rob
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2010, 05:56 AM
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Dukey, I am enjoying your trip in real time. Sorry you could not make into the Beyreuth Festival. As you said, some folks wait years for a ticket. When you return, you might enjoy reading THE WAGNER CLAN, The Saga of Germany’s Most Illustrious and Infamous Family by Jonathan Carr describing how Wagner’s genius/legacy has been kept alive by his contentious offspring even down to this decade. From what I have read recently, the family is still “duking’ it out!

I would be interested to know how successful the season has been at Oberammergau this year. I was in Germany in the summer of 2008 and talked to the owner of one of the largest religious stores. He expressed concern about the 2010 cycle. In addition to the slowing world wide economy, he said that business owners were divided over the decision to change the hours of the Passion Play. Previously the play started in the morning and finished in the late afternoon (with a break for lunch, of course). That left folks in town for dinner and for shopping for religious items after having seen the performance. This year, I believe, the show starts in the afternoon with a break for dinner and finishes in the evening. Is that correct?

Looking forward to the rest of your report….
latedaytraveler is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2010, 06:37 AM
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Oh Dukey.. You could have taken your laundry to Bamberg to have it done. There's actually two locations on Untere Konigstrassse; one is a do-it-yourself place, and the other, the Bamberger Waschsalon does it for you (although I doubt they would have been open on Sunday).

I'm enjoying your report so far, and look forward to your continued travels.

Robyn
artstuff is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 03:33 AM
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More from Franconia:

First, the CAR...as I said earlier we rented an automatic through Europecar and the vehicle is some sort of Mercedes B Class (whatever that actually means) but it is basically a gasoline(vs. diesel) powered 4-door with a hatchback, air conditioned, and I'm honestly not sure how many cylinders but it will roll fast enough. As to the costs...we filled it up yesterday to the tune of more than 50 Euro so as always one pays plenty for the flexibility but I think it is worth it.

One periodically annoying aspect is the fact that there is no owner's manual of any sort (not really surprising). I DID check to see if the mandatory warning triangle and first aid kit are in the car and they are. But how many times have you tried to figure out just exactly how SOME of the controls work???? Easily found the lights, the radio, sorted out all the controls for the wipers both front and rear, etc., but periodically this thing beeps loudly and after reassuring ourselves that the front seat isn't about to eject and that everybody has their seat belts on the nearest we have come to an explanation is the possibility of an included "radar" system which alerts you when you are getting too close to another car or object. By the time we turn this thing in on Friday we may have the answer! I'm honestly wondering if I do a search on Google..although right now I keep getting the GERMAN language version and my German isn't all that great but onward and upward...

As to the laundry LOL..in Bamberg...I was too busy taking in the baroque overload not to mention the atmosphere of the town..what a great setting. And it is just as well we did all that in good weather because today it has been raining..mostly light rain

Re the Passion Play and attendance. We have a friend back home who arranges to take his own group to the PP every time it is presented. He deals directly with the PP office as a more or less tour operator of sorts. We spoke with him many months ago about all this and he said the PP office was VERY worried about attendance this year due to the economy, etc., and had said at that time there was concern about the possibility of not as many tickets being sold as in the past.

When we attended ten years ago the "old" timetable was in effect (first part in the morning followed by a lunch break and then the conclusion in the afternoon). I'll be interested to see when we get down there later this week just what is what. I do know that the original date we wanted we did NOT get but when we made that request we were also asking for the most expensive tickets/seats/hotel accommodations. We ended up with seats in the so-called "best" section but we did not get the so-called "top tier" of hotels but rather the one just below.

Yesterday afternoon we decided to simply get in the car and drive around some of the surrounding countryside. We took a so-called "scenic" route from Nurnberg along Rte 9 as far as Ansbach, then headed northwest on Rte 13 and then on even more "back" roads toward Rothenburg (we've been before so didn't stop) and then as far as Uffenheim, over to Neustadt, and then on more back roads into the Nurnberg suburbs.

The whole purpose was to simply experience the countryside which is a wonderful combination of gently rolling hills and lots of farming country. Wonderful small hamlets and villages with the usual absolutely immaculate streets and lanes; lots of flowers spilling out of the window boxes, etc. Stopped at one place for some "Venetian" gelato and I think half the town was also there lined up for the stuff.

All in all simply a lazy afternoon, totally aimless but that sort of thing is always memorable.

Today, Monday August 23rd. We decided we wanted to view the Reichsparteitagsgelande (Nazi Party rally grounds) which are situated a couple of clicks southeast of the center in the Luitpoldhain. The whole complex was purposely outsized (designed by Speer) and, as usual, there was this desire to link up the whole notion of Nurnberg as the legislative seat of the Holy Roman Empire with the growing myth of Hitler as some sort of messianic leader.

A lot of the complex was destroyed during the Allied bombing raids in 1945 but there is enough left so you get the sense of dimension. The half-built Kongresshalle (an attempt to outdo the Rome Colosseum) remains as does the Zeppelinfield with it's well-known grandstand.

One wing of the Kongresshalle contains the Documentation Center with it's "walkway of glass." The interior exhibit with its many pictures is entitled "Fascination and Terror" which thoroughly and absolutely impartially examines the Hitler "cult" and Nurnberg's key role, the propaganda, the atrocities, etc., etc.

No, it is not for everybody but if one is interested in getting what I think is a really good and impartial look at the entire rise of the Nazi party and Hitler and the many psychological and religious-related methodologies used, this is certainly a good place to do so.

If the weather isn't too bad this afternoon we will probably do one more walk around the old town so we can fill in some of the missing pieces we haven't touched on during previous visits. I'll try to continue this report later on this evening.
Dukey is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 06:42 AM
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Nurnberg-a few highlights from a walking "tour" of the altstadt.

The sun has kept trying to come out all afternoon and rather than wasting time and hoping for "perfect" weather we took a slow stroll around parts of the old town, umbrellas at the ready.

Besides the wealth of historic buildings, remnants of the city walls, various churches, lots of cobblestones, etc., this area also has plenty of the usual mix of small and large department stores, specialty shops, jewelers, wurst stands, gelato stands, coffee places including Starbucks, Burger Kings, etc. This being a working day there were alos many local folks and visitors out and about; lots of delightful dogs (I cannot stay away from almost ANY animal) some with less-than-delighted-at-being-waylaid-by-some-dopey-tourist-wanting-a-doggie-kiss owners..you know the deal.

As mentioned above, we have visited before and skipped places like the Kaiserburg and that incredibly deep well which we have seen before.

There are several highlights (for me) that I'll mention here. A couple of fountains if you are into that sort of thing: the so-called "Beautiful Fountain" which depicts in gold some 40 electors, prophets, various allegorical figures..the thing more or less rises up from the base like a gothic spire. Unfortunately it is only a replica of the original which dated from the late 1300's but still worth a look.

My favorite is near the Weisser Turm (one of the city wall towers) and is the Ehekarussell Brunnen..the so-called "Marriage Merry Go-Round" fountain which consists of six different interpretations of the venerable institution. Great fun, especially figures such as what appears to be a demon strangling a hapless female and the anatomically correct woman riding a giant water-spouting toad astride.

Like glockenspiels? In the hauptmarkt (site of the well-known Christmas market) is the very ornate gothic Frauenkirche. The wonderful clock has seven electoral princes which move three times around a statue of Charles IV with chimes every noon.

If you want some sort of further "culture fix" then the German National Museum might be of interest. Unfortunately, and like many others, it is closed today (Monday) but if you want a good overview of German painting and sculpture as well as the obligatory suits of armor, musical instruments, and, of course (in this city) TOYS then you'll definitely enjoy this.

last time we visited I finally took the time to really study the Durer stuff including "Hercules Slaying the Stymphalian Birds" (well, OK, I still prefer Rembrandt but we must expand our horizons I guess)...anyway, Durer really seemed to "get" anatomy and the detail in this piece is quite something.

A (very brief) word about food. Today I broke down and had one of those ridiculous heart and artery destroying wursts in the obligatory bun-that-is-definitely-too-small and slathered on the mustard. Ummmmm..what a way to die. My husbear keeps scarfing up the gelato and I have managed somehow to limit myself but am not sure how much determination I'll have once we get to Chianti.

Actually, we've had more Italian food here than anything else and it has been good. I love all the snitzel and potatoes and even the kraut aqnnd how long i can hold out on my current diet is anyone's guess. I really wish I LIKED beer but you cannot have everything i guess.

Tomorrow morning we'll leave here immediately after breakfast and on the road to Prien am Chiemsee where we plan to spend one night so we can once again tour Ludwig's palace at/on Herrenchiemsee and I'll continue to post as we go along.
Dukey is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 11:04 AM
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Love the report...keep it comin"!
klondike is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 11:18 AM
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Hello Dukey

Love following you thru these beautiful cities! We were just there a couple months ago, so you bring back lots of wonderful memories. Did you happen to eat at Beerfusser in Nurnberg? Best red cabbage that we've had anywhere!

Ahhh, Prien am Cheimsee and Herrenchiemsee...two of my favorite new places! Back in May, the fields and grasses were packed with wildflowers. Stunning
swisshiker is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 11:22 AM
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in for the count....
bardo1 is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 12:07 PM
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Barfüßer (barefooter)
logos999 is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 12:37 PM
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"No, it is not for everybody but if one is interested in getting what I think is a really good and impartial look at the entire rise of the Nazi party and Hitler and the many psychological and religious-related methodologies used, this is certainly a good place to do so."

Dukey, I agree and also found the rally grounds site fascinating. In the end Germany paid an awful price for the madness. Will continue to follow your trek…
latedaytraveler is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 01:44 PM
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ooops...sorry, logos999. I knew something didn't look right about my spelling, but I was too quick to post and didn't check. We sure ate good there (went twice!).
swisshiker is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 06:58 AM
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Herrenchiemsee:

Woke up this morning around 6 AM to another day of overcast sky and some periodic spits of rain. Departed Nurnberg immediately after having breakfast at 7.

Autobahn south with the usual fast-moving traffic and fortunately no rain after getting about 10 clicks or so south of the city. Approaching Munich the traffic slowed considerably but no real delays and once through the various junctions the traffic toward Salzburg sped right back up.

Stopped south of Munich for gas (around 70 Euro to fill the tank which had a little less than a quarter left) as well as a paid pit stop...the WC's have all been clean but they are also managed by some private company near as I can tell. I've seen this in various larger rail stations both here in Germany as well as in Switzerland and Italy.

Arrived in Prien am Chiemsee and easily found our hotel, the Yachthotel Chiemsee, which is on the shores of the lake and a brief distance from the ferry dock in nearby Stock where the boats leave for various points around the lake.

Our room was ready and we deposited the luggage, etc., and explored the room which has three levels connected by a polished wood circular staircase. The top level is actually in a tower of sorts which overlooks the hotel and the lake itself and is surrounded by a walkway (kinda like a "widow's walk") affording spectacular views of the lake and the mountains nearby.

Drove over to Stock and parked the car; bought ferry tickets and waited for the next boat (about 20 minutes). LOTS of visitors both on tour buses as well as in single vehicles; plenty of families as well as folks with dogs (even though the doggie children are not allowed inside the palace itself).

A word or two about the place for those who may not be familiar.

This is really the largest of the four Ludwig "builds" as I had mentioned earlier and I suspect many are familiar with the fact that Ludwig "died" under mysterious circumstances near the Starnberger See which is closer to Munich and for various "reasons"...some of which have usually been enumerated as his "madness" (not to mention his very likely sexual orientation/confusion) along with the fact that some felt he was bankrupting the kingdom with his extravagant architectural exploits.

Ironically, the remains including this place along with Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, and Hohenschwangau are, in fact, bringing in what must be HUGE amounts of money from visitors to this day so who the "mad" guy or guys was/were is anybody's guess!

The Royal Palace which is certainly more a stereotypical "palace" than a "castle" was started around 1878 on the site of an Augustinian monastery and it was meant to be a copy of Versailles and Ludwig's lasting tribute to all things Louis XIV. The place cost more to build and decorate than Neuschwanstein and Linderhof combined.

It sits on the Herreninsel, an island in the middle of the lake and hence the necessity of taking a boat to and from. That trip takes 15-20 minutes or so one way. The building is not completely finished inside and has about 70 rooms. When money for construction ran out in 1885 about 50 rooms remained unfinished. Ludwig spent a total of about ten days in it altogether prior to his death in 1886. The palace was intended to be a monument to "absolute kingship" and had no real practical function.

The last time we visited some ten years ago the ticket office was in the palace itself...no more. These days once you get off the ferry there is a large "kasse" building which has been erected near the boat dock. The palace itself is a pleasant 15-20 minute walk further on through the woods or you can pay 3 Euro and take a horse-drawn carriage ride to the entrance (a similar approach situation as found at Neuschwanstein WITHOUT that monster uphill walk!!!

We bought tickets for an English-language tour (twice hourly this time of year) and walked. There are large fountains..VERY large...in front of the building which has the usual "park." This park was originally intended to cover a large part of the island but at the time of Ludwig's demise only a central axis and the fountains had been completed and only the core of the palace itself was finished.

We had about 1/2 hour to kill before our English-language tour began so we spent that time having some lunch in the palace's cafe. I finally HAD some schnitzel as well as apple strudel and vanilla ice cream for desert..what the hell (I checked myself in the mirror and I still look thin).

There are many ways to describe the absolutely exquisite interior of the place and the one I have always preferred (and which also describes the kinds of HOTELS I love to stay in too) is: "an avalanche of gilt and drapes." If you are at ALL into gold, marble walls, painted ceilings, huge and elaborate crown moulding, cherubs holding up 1/2 ton crystal chandeliers, and did I say GOLD????? adornment then this is the place for you.

The main rooms have repeatedly been held up as some of the very best examples of 19th-century interior design (surely they must mean "palace design", right?) in existence and they are, on the whole, MUCH more elaborately and richly furnished than those spectacular rooms in Versailles if that is possible.

The porcelain collection (Meissen mostly including two chandeliers) is said to be the most comprehensive anywhere. The Hall of Mirrors, as I mentioned in an earlier post above, is 98 meters in length (10 longer than the namesake at Versailles) and it contains 44 candelabra and 33 chandeliers with 7000 candles. It is said it took 70 men half an hour to light them.

Ludwig's bedroom, the "Kleines Blaues Schlafzimmer" (blue was apparently Ludwig's favorite color) has this large blue glass bubble at the top of an elaborate golden pedestal and it looks like an eclipsed moon.

There is also a dining room of sorts with a table in the middle which could be raised and lowered by an elevator assembly based in the room below and similar to the design of the one at Schloss Linderhof. It has been said this elaborate mechanism was designed so that Ludwig could have a table set with food and dine without ever seeing the servants; others have remarked that it also afforded Ludwig the opportunity to dine with whomever he chose and the servants couldn't see who that was!

Overall, this was a good visit for us and it was nice seeing the place looking as great as ever. Can you imagine how long it takes to CLEAN these places????
Dukey is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 07:48 AM
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Enjoying your report.

Did you get a ticket at the WC that you could use toward a purchase at the adjoining restaurant or store?
wanderfrau is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 09:25 AM
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Yes, I got a ticket but I honestly didn't pay a lot of attention to it (you KNOW what it's like when you just HAVE to "go") until NOW!!! We had already pumped and paid for the gas so when I was finished we hopped back into the car and drove on. I'll have to be much more careful about this stuff in the future for sure and thanks for pointing that out, Wanderfrau!
Dukey is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 02:38 PM
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reading your report....
Luhimari is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 03:25 PM
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I'm enjoying your report so much! I love staying in Stock and travelling to the islands. Did you go to Fraueninsel also? We were there last year on 9/9/09 and there were many weddings taking place. Great peoplewatching! I imagine 10/10/10 this year will be the same.

Looking forward to the rest of your trip.I am happy about the tip re the Barfusser rest. in Bamberg. Will give it a try. CJ
CarolJean is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 03:40 PM
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>Barfüsser
No shoes, (no shirt), no service, despite of the name.
logos999 is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 05:47 PM
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Sorry Logos, no way I can do the umlaut. (I'm lucky to be able to post here.)
CarolJean is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 06:19 PM
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CarolJean - Barfüsser is in Nürnberg.

http://www.barfuesser-nuernberg.de/
swisshiker is offline  

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