Wagner Germany and England Travelogue

Apr 17th, 2010, 01:58 AM
  #21  
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SandyBrit,

Here is the url for the Ferienwohnung in Bacharach:

http://www.ferienwohnung-rheinhoehe.de/

We paid 48 Euros a night (they only charged us for one child) and a 25 Euro cleaning fee at the end.

Here is the url for the Ferienwohnung in Gengenbach:

http://www.ferienhaus-gissler.de/

I have not yet paid this, but I am thinking it will be around 60 Euros a night with a 15 Euro cleaning fee. I will let you know the final bill.
jgwagner4 is offline  
Apr 21st, 2010, 12:56 AM
  #22  
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I haven't forgotten about you guys but the last week or so has been interesting.

The volcano in Iceland that has been spewing ash into the atmosphere and disrupting flights all over Europe has caught us. On Monday we were suppose to fly to London and spend the last part of our vacation there. However, our flight was cancelled and this has trapped us in Germany. Despite the fact that our London to Phoenix flight scheduled for tomorrow may occur as planned, British Airways told us there was basically no way they could get us to London in time to catch the flight. They have so many trapped people that flying standby with 4 people will be almost impossible. Instead we took the first confirmed flights they could get us on, which are next Monday. This is 4 days after we were originally suppose to return home. It also means we will spend no time in London this trip (other than the short layover to switch flights).

After two nights at the hotel in Frankfurt we headed up to Münster on Tuesday to be near to Deille´s parents. We are staying in a Ferienwohnung right up the street, which is the most expensive and the least nice we have stayed at on this trip. We will head back to Frankfurt Sunday to be ready for our return on Monday.

I will send at least one more update when this is all done to let everyone know how it worked out. Please think positive thoughts that the volcano cooperates.

The other piece of fun news is that my laptop has died, so I am typing this at the inlaws... fun, fun, fun...
jgwagner4 is offline  
Apr 21st, 2010, 04:05 AM
  #23  
 
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kgwager4:

Thanks for giving us an update - I am so sorry for the troubles you encountered due to the volcano eruption.

Get home safely.

Sandy
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Apr 21st, 2010, 04:59 AM
  #24  
 
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Yes, I and others will be looking for a report from home when you arrive. I was so looking forward to reading about your experiences in London--but probably not nearly as much as you were looking forward to having the experiences! Blessings on your family in this odyssey (Yes, you are quite Odysseus-like in your perils!--except your Penelope is with you--yea!)
texasbookworm is online now  
Apr 21st, 2010, 05:04 AM
  #25  
 
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>>>Does anyone know if cruise control is legal in Germany? <<<

Yes, it is and, in fact, I have cruise control in my car. However, if you are in a zone without speed limit, people do not use cruise control and try to drive as fast as possible.

And "crazy drivers" - oh yes, we have them! Police statistics say, just 4% of the drivers are of this type, but this is enough. Just be patient. When you are on the passing lane you are supposed to pass the slower traffic in right lane. But never exceed the speed limit! There are many more speed traps in Germany than in the U.S. Just drive your pace and ignore the crazy driver behind you. He (rarely she) is usually a half-braind loser who is in bad need of psychiatric help.
Echnaton is offline  
Apr 24th, 2010, 08:03 AM
  #26  
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It has been a week since I wrote other than to send an update that we were trapped. When our flight to London was cancelled I called British Airways and was able to get the four of us confirmed onto flights to London and then onto Phoenix on Monday the 26th (two days from now). This meant that the London portion of our trip was cancelled.


Leaving the Black Forest

We spent our last day in the Black Forest walking around Gengenbach and then heading into the city of Offenburg to do some shopping. Gengenbach had a small market the morning we were there but there was not really that much to see. The town itself had many nice half-timbered houses not unlike what we saw in Obernai. Although the two towns were quite similar there were also big differences. I do not know if Gengenbach is more prosperous then Obernai, but the buildings seemed to be in better repair in general. This does not really take away from Obernai in my opinion, it is just an observation. I could not say that one town had more appeal than the other. One interesting thing we saw was the old community ovens of Gengenbach. These were used into the 1970s and anyone could use them to bake (for non-commercial purposes). There were also all kinds of spring flowers all around the town in the gardens and planters. These added greatly to the appeal of the town.

Offenburg is much larger than Gengenbach, and not nearly as picturesque. We initially stopped at what I think was a German attempt at a shopping mall. To me the atmosphere of the place was just uncomfortable, kind of like the feeling I get when I walk into a K-Mart. It was overly bright, unorganized and hectic, but at least it wasn’t full of teenagers trying to impress each other. After leaving there we headed into the center of the city to the pedestrian zone where we were able to do a bit of shopping and had some ice cream.

Sunday morning, after breakfast we loaded the car and headed to Frankfurt. At this point we still had no official news that our Monday flight had been cancelled (although we suspected it would be) so we were still operating as if we would be flying to London. Along the way we stopped in Heidelburg to walk and grab lunch. We had not been to Heidelburg since I had been stationed in Germany in 1992, but during that time it was one of our favorite places. It is a university city with an attractive old town and a beautiful castle overlooking the place. We walked for quite awhile in the old town and had lunch as well as cake and tea before heading onto Frankfurt.


Frankfurt

It was when we arrived in Frankfurt that we finally received the news that our flight was cancelled. I had already ensured that there would not be any problem staying at our hotel for additional nights if needed so we knew we at least had a place to stay. The hotel was already full of people (mostly Americans) that were also trapped due to the volcano. Unfortunately, I was unable to do anything about our flights because it was already late on Sunday and British Airways does not operate a 24X7 call center accessible from Germany. I could have called the U.S. and paid very high hotel long distance fees (even for an 800 number) but since no flights were getting out we waited until Monday morning to figure out our next step.

Monday morning after an extremely long hold I dealt with a very friendly British Airways representative, who helped us determine our options. At the time there were still no flights leaving or entering most of the northern European airports including London, with no indication that flights would begin again anytime soon. We agreed that the chances of flying standby with four people would be very challenging when the airports did reopen, since there were literally hundreds of thousands of stranded travelers. I made the decision that we were better off confirming new flights if possible. At first it looked as if this would also be difficult because we are flying on tickets that had been paid for using frequent flier points as well as cash. Only certain classes of seats can be used for these kinds of tickets, and once they are gone on a flight, they are gone even if there are still available seats on that flight. On her own initiative, the representative put me on hold and when she came back she had gotten the appropriate approvals to get us on the flights on the 26th despite our ticket type. Now that we had a potential return date (Mother Nature willing) we had to determine what to do with ourselves until then.

I extended the van for an extra week and after a few calls Deille secured a vacation rental a few miles away from her parents house starting for Tuesday night. This was the first Ferienwohnung we had stayed at back in 2007 and while we remembered that it was odd, it has the benefit of only being 10 minutes from Deille’s parents place. We would only be sleeping, showering and keeping an eye on the news and our email while there. At 60 Euros per night (plus end cleaning fee) it was the most expensive of the Ferienwohnung this trip, but it was still cheaper than the 110 Euros for the hotel.

After getting all of this organized we still had the rest of the day Monday to kill. We decided to head down to the Ziel, which is the main shopping/pedestrian zone in Frankfurt. As we had already learned that parking is a challenge for us, but with that mindset going in we kept our eyes open for the right type of parking and found a place without too much trouble.

Frankfurt is a city that has a much larger feel then its 600,000 residents. It is the banking capital of Germany and has a very obvious business atmosphere. You see lots of people in suits hustling to get lunch or to whatever meeting they need to attend. Frankfurt is also a very international city with lots of ethnic diversity. Deille heard that it is estimated that less than 50% of people in Frankfurt actually have E.U. (European Union) passports, and on that Monday morning I was helping to keep that statistic valid.

After waliking and shopping for awhile we decided to find a park for the girls to run in. We headed back to the area near our hotel and ended up at a park in the community of Rödelheim. The park was a nice green area with large trees and paths to walk, bike or run on. There was a man sitting in the middle of one of the grassy areas with his dog, which both of the girls were excited to see. He sent his dog with a large stick. We all proceeded to play fetch with the dog for the next several minutes. The girls really enjoyed themselves. After wearing out the dog, we walked over to a playground where Elisabeth and Hannah got to run off some energy. As we headed back to the van I noticed some bricks outlining an area in one of the grassy areas. A plaque nearby explained that this was the outline of Rödelheim palace that had been destroyed during World War 2.


I Fail to Avoid Münster

When we planned this trip, we decided to meet Deille’s parents in Bacharach. This was partly because it would be more of a vacation for everyone. Also, I felt like after our many visits to Münster that I had seen all that there was to see. Well due to the circumstances I found myself making the 3+ hour drive between Frankfurt and Münster on Tuesday morning. It really made the most sense though. Finding ourselves with extra time in Germany it seemed appropriate for the girls to have more time with their grandparents. The Black Forest had given us (Deille and I) a much needed break from them after spending 8 days in close proximity in Bacharach. Finally, Deille’s parents have a washing machine, and with small children, this is a necessity.

The Ferienwohnung was as we remembered it, odd. Having stayed at 4 other Ferienwohnung since we first stayed at this one three years ago I now know what a bad value this one seems to be. At 60 Euros a night it is the most expensive. It is also the smallest (only one bedroom), has the smallest and least stalked kitchen and is just decorated in a really strange manner. I suspect the owner considers herself to be an artist (and perhaps she is, who am I to judge what is art and what is not), but I just do not get her style. The thing that really irritated us though, was that during her call to the owner from Frankfurt Deille has specifically asked her if she had gotten internet connectivity since our last stay, to which she replied that she had (I heard Deille ask her). When we got settled in and asked for the password to the network (which was present), all of the sudden she did not have access (guess it could have been a neighbors). However, Deille felt she had been purposely misled and we probably would have moved on if we hadn’t already paid in cash. As it turned out it was a mute point. I was unable to get my laptop working again well enough to use the internet, even if it had been available.

On Wednesday we spent the day in downtown Muenster. We started by walking around the palace gardens, which were quite beautiful. About the time we wanted to head to lunch the clouds moved in… quickly. We ended up running through rain and snow (well… icy rain at least) to get to the safety of the Galleria Kaufhaus (department store) where we ate lunch. While we were eating I noticed the sun come out and everything was again beautiful. After lunch we visited the old city hall and looked at the room where the Peace of Westphalia was signed ending the 30 years war. It is a pretty neat room with ornately carved wood paneling. During World War II this paneling was pulled out and stored for safety. This was a good move as most of the city center was destroyed during the bombings late in the war. The city hall was rebuilt after the war and the paneling re-installed… so at least the paneling is original. During our walk back to the van we were treated to a second session of rain and snow… what a day.

Thursday was spent at the zoo. It is a nice zoo, but I have seen it several times. The girls enjoyed themselves and then they got to play in a park after we got home.

Friday, we drove out into the countryside. We headed for a country restaurant that Deille and I had visited last trip. We had really enjoyed it and wanted to share it with Deille’s parents. We were happy when we found the place without much difficulty. It is called Schwenken Gasthaus and is on the highway south of the town Senden but north of Vischering (for any of you who are getting ready to run off to Münsterland). It was every bit as good as we remembered it. Deille and I both had fresh asparagus soup that was the best I ever remember having. Everything else was very good as well. After lunch we drove onto a small town call Dresteinfurt where we walked around an old palace garden before heading back to Deille’s parent’s house for tea with one of her aunts.

This morning we plan on visiting the Münster market and walking around a bit more downtown. We will head back to Frankfurt tomorrow and hopefully be on our way home by this time on Monday. Hopefully, I will be sending a final update from home later next week.
jgwagner4 is offline  
Apr 24th, 2010, 08:59 AM
  #27  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Great trip report.

How about the name of the bad fewo so we can avoid it?

If you still have your fever, then you MUST GET TESTED FOR VALLEY FEVER as soon as you get home. It doesn't matter how long you have lived in Phoenix, you can always catch VF unless you actually have had a confirmed case. I had lived there for 21 years before I caught it. One of the nurses treating me had caught it after living the valley for 20 years. When I was a kid, we used to joke around about any illness as being valley fever, but it can be a very serious disease. I was hospitalized for a month, followed by 4 months of IV treatments. A next door neighbor girl died from it.

If you have never visited the German Sausage Company on Indian School, just east of 48th street, then you ought to give it a try. On Saturdays there is probably twice as much business conducted in German as English!
bigtyke is offline  
Apr 24th, 2010, 11:09 AM
  #28  
 
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jgwagner4:

I am very pleased to hear that British Airways worked with you in securing 4 confirmed tickets home on Monday.

How nice for Deille's parents that you were all around a bit longer then planned. As an expat I always found it sad when it came time to leave knowing I would not be back again for another year.

You mentioned the benefit of Deille's parents having a washing machine and much needed. I looked at the links you provided but could not work out if they came with a washing machine.

How have you handled taking extra time off from your employment?

Your writing style is very easy and enjoyable to read. Looking forward to the final update from home and photos.

Thanks again.

Sandy
SandyBrit is offline  
Apr 30th, 2010, 08:06 AM
  #29  
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We made it home safely on Monday and we are now trying to recover and get back to our normal life.


Our Odyssey Finally Comes to an End

We spent Saturday morning at the market in downtown Münster. This was a very nice sized market with lots of fresh produce, baked goods, specialty meats, flowers and a bit of non-agricultural type items (scarves, wicker baskets, etc). I wished we had attended a market of this size earlier in our trip because I would have bought all kinds of interesting items to eat during the rest of our visit. As it was, with less than two days to go I needed to restrain myself, but I still bought more than I was able to deal with in the end. The most interesting purchase I made was of three types of hard sausages made in Austria. One was made from wild boar meat and all were excellent. I still had a couple left when we were ready to leave and decided (against my wife’s advice) to try to take them with me. I properly declared them on my customs form and the customs agent properly seized them and disposed of them for me. My wife was right (that hurt) and probably most of you reading this would not have even tried to bring them home… Oh well… my backpack still smells great!

Sunday morning after a good breakfast with Deille’s parents, we left Münster and headed back to Frankfurt to the Marriott Courtyard. The drive was easy and we arrived in the early afternoon. I took Elisabeth for a swim and we made final preparations for our departure. For dinner we decided to leave the hotel. While the restaurant at the Courtyard is fairly good, the prices are what you would expect from such a place. One off the desk clerks told us or a restaurant / beer garden right down the street. This place was actually located in the middle of an area of gardens. In German these are called Schrebergarten, and they are plots that people can rent to garden on. People often build little buildings and such on them. While some people may grow vegetables, the ones in this area seemed to be backyards for people who do not have them. Most that we saw were full of flowers, lawn furniture and other items for entertaining. When we were walking through on this early Sunday evening, we could smell meat grilling and there were people sitting around just enjoying the nice weather in their plots. The restaurant, called Gasthaus Löwenzahn was quite good and having dinner outside in the beer garden was a nice way to end our vacation in Germany.

We woke early Sunday and got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Unlike our trip to Germany, our trip home went very smoothly. It was still not a fun journey due to the length of time spent on airplanes, but at least there were no added surprises for us. The most amazing part, for those who know of our past journeys, was that we received all of our luggage on the same day we arrived!

The worst part of the trip was when we arrived in Phoenix. The customs part was fine except for the seizure of my beloved sausages. The problem was trying to get everything (luggage) out of the international arrivals area and into the terminal. To put it plainly, we had a lot of luggage, and there are no porters to hire in international arrivals as there are near the regular baggage claim. Also, the carts that you can get are not very large. Deille pushed Hannah in her stroller, wore her backpack, carried both car seats and corralled Elisabeth. I had one of the carts with a pile of bags and a folded stroller on it. I had Deille and the girls stay far enough back that if anything fell off, it would only crush me. Somehow we made it out of there (with a lot of strange and fearful looks from our fellow travelers) and got home safely as well.

Thus ended our adventure.


Observations, What We Learned and Wrapping up Loose Ends

- Traveling with children is truly different than traveling without them. We started to learn this three years ago on our trip to Germany with Elisabeth when she was 22 months old, but it was hammered home on this trip.

- On past trips we have always heard a new song that kind of ends up becoming the theme song for the trip. In the past it has been songs by bands like Faithless or Suggs (lead singer for Madness). This trip the song does not come from something we heard on the radio, but rather from a TV channel called KIKA which is a children’s channel. In the morning they have a rabbit and a man who jump around dancing and singing between the various cartoons.

- Last time we came to Europe I bought two cheap unlocked used cell phones from Ebay and then bought SIM cards in Germany. It worked great, and was cheaper then renting a single phone as we had done on prior trips. This trip I again bought two used unlocked phones (the two I had bought last time were a bit too obsolete now) from Ebay. Both seemed fine when I tested them prior to our departure, but on arrival in Germany one would not recognize the SIMS and the other worked, but had an annoying buzz that made it difficult to use. In the end I bought a cheap 30 Euro phone in Germany and this worked great. I now believe this is the way to go with phones for longer vacations in Europe. Buy a cheap phone and the SIM when you arrive.

- London Heathrow has been added to our personal list of airports to avoid for transfers. It seems to be fine as a starting point or end point, and is a nice airport when everything is going well.

- In general, Autobahn rest stop restaurants are not very good. I am sure that this is not a surprise to anyone who has traveled in Germany, but we reconfirmed it on more than one occasion this trip.

- Another side effect of traveling with small children is the amount of times you eat at restaurants you would normally avoid because it is the easiest option (3 meals at McDonalds, 3 meals at Autobahn rest stops, 4 meals at department store cafeterias).

- The types of pictures we take on vacation has also changed since we had children. In the past we mostly took pictures of landscapes, buildings and various other objects of historical significance. Finding a picture that would actually prove that either of us had been on the trip was difficult. However, as I loaded pictures to my photo share site last night I had a difficult time finding good photos of what we actually saw on this trip… however there are tons of cute kid picks (at least I think they are cute).

- Being passed by a Smart car on the Autobahn feels wrong, but I guess this what I get for driving a 9 passenger diesel van. At least I didn’t get any camera speeding tickets this time… I think.

- White asparagus is better than green asparagus (to be fair, I do not know if I have ever had green asparagus that was as fresh as the white asparagus that inspired this statement).

- In Travelogue 3 I mentioned having a conversation with our friend Helmut about his beekeeping business. In the last year he lost 55 of his 60 hives due to a mite that kills his bees. On the flight home the entertainment system included a documentary called “The Last Beekeeper” about 3 American beekeepers and the challenges they are facing. It was quite sobering and sad. I would encourage anyone with an interest to find a way to watch it.

- Always be wary of anyone who is very insistent that you try their homemade alcohol. The apartment we stayed at in the Black Forest is run by nice couple probably in their 50s or early 60s. The wife’s parents also live with them and everyone just refers to them as Oma and Opa (Grandpa and Grandma). One evening the husband, Opa and another couple staying in a different apartment invited me to join them on the patio. Opa insisted I try his homemade pear schnapps. I tried to avoid it, but eventually gave in and took a shot sized glass. It had to be about the worst thing I ever tasted. I also noticed that he was the only other person drinking it. When he asked me what I thought, I told him that I thought it was probably something that you had to grow up with to properly enjoy. That comment seemed to be pretty popular with everyone.

- Mother Nature is awesome. An airline strike can affect a lot of travelers… but nothing compared to a volcano.

I hope you have enjoyed my travelogue. If you have any questions let me know.

If you are interested in seeing some pictures, I have updated my site at http://jgwagner4.shutterfly.com/
jgwagner4 is offline  
Apr 30th, 2010, 08:20 AM
  #30  
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Posts: 139
bigtyke,

I will get the name of fewo for you from my wife and post it here shortly.

The fever is gone and I was tested for Valley Fever prior to my vacation. My doctor thought I had a viral infection and said it could take several weeks to run its course. In my case it took about 3 1/2 weeks. I will go back to see him shortly.

I have not been to the German Sausage Company. Was that the place that used to be called the German Corner? We went there years ago, but were not impressed with it. Our favorite German place in the Phoneix area is Der Kaffee Kuchen out on 99th Ave and Peoria. Service is very German there, but that is not necessarily bad... you just need to not be in a rush.


SandtBrit,

The apartments in Bacharach and Gengenbach have washing machines. We knew they had one in Bacharach from our last stay (I think they charged us 3 Euros a load) and I think Deille asked via email about the one in Gengenbach (she had told us 2 Euro a load, but then would not take our money). The owners of the Bacharach apartment are very friendly and the apartment is the best of the Ferienwohnung we have stayed in, but the family in Gengenbach was easily the most friendly. They really seemed to take a liking to us, and I know she gave us quite a break on the cost in the end (as well as not charging us for the washer).

My boss is fairly laid back about time off. As long as I get everything done I will be fine. I do have a lot to do though.
jgwagner4 is offline  
Apr 30th, 2010, 12:56 PM
  #31  
 
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Jgwagner4

The German Sausage company is next door to the German Corner restaurant (which has closed - the restaurant there now is the Black Forest Mill I think). They have many varieties of sausage, all except one variety of salami are made there. They have the tastiest wieners I have ever had. They have fresh rolls and pretzels made from dough flown in daily from Germany!!!

Glad you don't have valley fever. It's a funny disease. As I said, I caught it after 20 years. A friend's father caught it after visiting only a few days in the valley.
bigtyke is offline  
May 1st, 2010, 12:46 PM
  #32  
 
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jgWagner4:

Glad you made it home safely.

I enjoyed your photos very much. You have a lovely family.
Thanks for sharing.

Sandy
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May 15th, 2011, 10:28 PM
  #33  
 
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MichelleY is online now  
May 16th, 2011, 10:19 PM
  #34  
 
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wagner - just caught up with the end of your report.

I really enjoyed it, and the way you wrapped up your conclusion.

thanks!

and yes, i agree with you about the white asparagus!
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