Monday, February 28, 2011
Altötting has an old town that is just delightful. There are outdoor cafés to enjoy the sights of the town. Napoleon apparently spent a week in one of the houses as the plaque on the wall states. There are painted scenes on the church.
It is possible to take a salt boat ride down or up the Salzach River in the summer months. This is a one way trip and you come back by bus.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
I’ve been several times to Bodie starting in 1982. That just whetted my appetite to return. I had only planned to be there for a couple hours and realized that I needed days to actually see the town.
Bodie is a historic park since ‘64 so it is ‘protected’ by rangers. There is a fee to get in. I think the price is little compared to the ability to get up close to history. Bodie is in a state of ‘arrested decay’ which means that repairs aren’t done to upgrade the buildings, but are made to keep them as they are. Because Bodie is a National Part they are open from sunrise to sunset so just be aware of the time.
There are some amenities like a picnic area and some public restrooms. Traveling in the summer make sure you bring water. Remember Bodie is located 8500 feet on the mountain so pace yourself as the air is rare.
If you can only spend a few hours in this town it is well worth the trip. The town was abandoned after the last great fire. Many of the residents possessions were left behind as it was cheaper to leave it and get new stuff where ever they went. Everything had to be hauled into Bodie including the lumber needed to build the buildings. There was a small rail line into Bodie and the cost of shipping was high.
I would recommend that you check with hotels in the area to see if there are any rooms available. This region is filled with many sightseeing or places of interest. Lee Vining is the back door to Yosemite National Park and the town usually has more tourists than residence. There is camping in the area.
Yosemite National Park
Mammoth Lakes and Devil’s Post Pile are an hour south
Lake Tahoe is about an hour north
Mono Lake the sister lake to the Great Salt Lake is just minutes away from the town of Lee Vining. It is said that sixty percent of California’s Sea Gull population broods here in the summer, May to September. You can rent canoe’s to go onto the lake. Several species of birds nest here during the summer.
I check out the Mono Lake community site to get info about things going on in the area. http://www.monolake.org/
For additional info about staying in Lee Vining check out their web site http://leevining.com/
Being a bit of an amateur photographer I sometimes bring people here to take photos. I love this place for its textures and it is possible to take pictures here at almost any time of day because there are a few trees and some natural shadowed areas.
The buildings are mostly oriented west to east, meaning that the front of the buildings face west. It isn’t much of a deal but knowing which way the buildings face helps in planning a photo shoot. I like doing them early in the morning shooting for the golden hour. In the summer time that can be really early so I try to avoid those 5 am shoots.
There are a few areas that are always exposed to the sun so you will have to make plans to take photos in those areas.
It is possible to bring just your camera and one lens and get some great photos. I’d bring a fill light or reflector just in case.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
If you've gotten to a point where you can see this part of St. Jakob church then you should know that just to the right of this position is the music school and the entrance doors are pretty interesting. At the end of St. Jakob church there is the Architectural building and if you walk just a few steps past on the same street you'll find a very nice bakery. If you follow the cross street at the end of St. Jakob church heading back south you'll find an interesting Bavarian Costume store.
I have been to Rothenburg ob der Tauber several times and each time I discover something interesting.
Many people spend one or two hours in Rothenburg, many tour buses stop here as part of the Romantic Road tour from Fussen to Wützburg. I did this once spending only a few hours the first time I was there. I vowed to myself that I’d return and I have kept that vow.
The town of Rothenburg has much to offer and I know that given the opportunity I will again return and visit more of the town.
There are five churches in Rothenburg and St. Jakobs is the largest. It is a relic church which means that it has something of Christ in it. In this case there is some blood in an altar called The Holy Blood Altar or in German Heiligblutaltar. Take in mind that this alter is not the main altar of the church just the Pilgrimage altar. Also the carvings were started in 1498 and completed in 1501. The two wood altars in this church were made by Tilman Riemenschneider. The main altar is Zwölfbotenalter the twelve apostles’ altar. The other wood carvings were made by his apprentices about the same time. All are very intricate and worth the admission price to see them. I see now there is a self guided audio tour which should make it simpler to see more of the church at your own pace.
Be sure to walk behind the main alter of the church and check out the paintings. Looking at the altar from the back on the top left panel there is a painting of how the Rothenburg city hall looked before it burned down. There is a story from the bible where the apostle John was smuggled into a town after his death but the artist didn’t know what the town looked like so he painted Rothenburg instead. The city hall building burned down a couple years after this panel was completed.
The church is unique in that it has a street running through it. The pilgrimage alter was built on after the church was completed and the road already existed so the church was built over it.
Reutte Austria is a nice little town located about five minutes south of the German border by car. We stayed in this town for several days and used it as a base to visit several sites in Germany.
We stayed at the Hotel Goldener Hirsch which was a very pleasant experience. http://www.goldener-hirsch.at/hotel-in-reutte-near-neuschwanstein-castle.html
Stepping into the lobby of the hotel is a bit like taking a trip backwards in time. The dining room is on the left and the check in desk is a little way further in. As you check in you can see the breakfast room off to the right.
You can take the stairs up or you can use the elevator.
Here is something we learned about this hotel and that is when you walk into the breakfast room you will find your table by your name on a placard. We ate several meals here and they were all very good.
There is one thing to be aware of when driving to Hotel Goldener Hirsch and that it is on a traffic circle so when you are coming from the north the circle curve takes you view of it away. We drove by it the first time and coming back we wondered how we missed it.
The staff is friendly and helpful. Apparently this is a place that Rick Steves stayed as we were asked if we found out about them by reading his book. I found the hotel by using Map 24 and starting a correspondence with them about my travel plans.
We used this as our base of operation so to speak to visit Ludwig’s castles. We naturally went to Neuschwanstein from here. I would suggest that you visit also Hohenschwangau while you are there. For some local flavor or a change of pace take the horse drawn cart up the hill. I’ve been to Neuschwanstein a couple of times and I take the bus up as it is a pretty good climb. I walk back down so I can check out the tourist shops along the way.
We also visited from here Linderhof castle. This is my favorite castle to visit. You should take the time to walk the grounds and visit the grotto.
When you are in this area you should take the time to visit Die Weis one of the best examples of a Rococo church in Germany. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wies_Church You can there on a tour or by car. On your way out or back you should also stop to visit Oberamergau. The half timbered houses and views are spectacular. Oberamergau is noted for its wonderful woodcarvings along with the Passion Play. This is a wonderful day trip for a family or friends.
Garmish-Partenkirchen is also not far from Reutte. If you have a car then anywhere you drive has beautiful vistas and the Alps are ever present.
If you are driving you should also take the time to drive south a couple of miles to Plansee a glacier lake that you can drive along. We found this lake coming back from Oberamergau and it was a very nice find.
Friday, February 25, 2011
|This is the Breakfast layout|
|this is the main dining room from the rear to front|
We plan our vacations to visit places we are interested in. As a photographer I know that there are some places I visit that the photos I get aren’t going to be post card quality. As tourists we get what we get. It really isn’t a bad thing. It is part of my trip. I use that thought to extend into all parts of my vacation. I don’t let small disappointments set the tone for my vacation.
I went off on a tangent yesterday about someone letting the fact that they went on a tour and were angry because there wasn’t an English tour and they felt that they missed out. I know for a fact that this place that he was complaining about had a gift shop and it was possible to get small pamphlets in English or even books about this particular castle. This person had options and if he wanted to learn more about that castle he could have gotten a book from the gift shop. Or he could have just enjoyed the sights and sounds of the tour. I mean really he may never see that castle again and yet didn’t want to enjoy what he was seeing. My thing is that we’ve planned a trip in advance and yet we don’t take the time to learn a couple of words. Don’t make the assumption that people can or will understand you. I mean we expect people here in America to speak to us in English don’t we? Why then do we presume that everyone will be able to communicate in English? It is the Ugly American Syndrome all over again. If you are going to be traveling in a foreign country for a couple of weeks and probably won’t return there soon again then you don’t need to be fluent but then again learning a couple words or simple phrases can be very helpful. I won’t say that they’ll always be helpful but more often than not people will sympathize with you and help. I’ve learned that the phrase “How you say that?” is very useful. Also the phrase “Where is the bathroom?” is another handy thing to know.
When you get home from your vacation you’ll be surprised at the eclectic group of words that you remember from your trip. I remember getting a pebble in my shoe and my friend looked at me while I took off my shoe and he said “Kieselstein? Ow!” Two words and I understood them both. I never forgot Kieselstein either. I don’t get much opportunity to use it but I remember it. I also encountered my first people mover at the airport in Frankfurt and it was called Rollbahn and it took me years to get to be able to say people mover instead of Rollbahn. I didn’t know the English word for it but then again I don’t think people mover is right either.
Here’s the deal about having a conversation in a foreign country particularly if you don’t know the language. You are a stranger approaching a stranger and that is usually pretty uncomfortable for the both of you. When you add in the fact that neither of you can speak the same language you’ve now put more pressure on that stranger. Maybe they do really want to help you but can’t because they don’t understand you and they get frustrated and you were already frustrated to begin with so there is a lot of stress in those situations. I’m sure smart phones can help or maybe even a phrase book. I tend to carry a pocket dictionary with me when I walk around.
I’ve had many conversations with a lot of pointing and picture showing and most of the time I was successful in getting my point across and even better managed to find what I was looking for. If you are in a bakery for example you just have to point at something you want and show how many fingers for the quantity. Just remember that Germans us their thumb for one and their index finger to mean two. You don’t have to understand the total amount just look at the cash register for the amount. Another tip is pay with hard currency as often as you can because if you don’t you’ll find that you have a lot of extra weight in your pocket. Americans usually carry their money in their pocket and Germans carry it in a pouch.
Many fast food establishments have made it easy for all tourists by having pictures close at hand so all you have to do is point to what you want. If you like McD’s then you can order a Gross Mac mit Kase und Pommes for a Big Mac with cheese and fries. If you put ketchup on your fries then everyone will know you are an American. Germans usually eat fries with Mayo and sometimes mustard.
I’ve learned that you need to become more aware of your surroundings. You’ll find lots of familiar things around you as you walk down the street. The power of observation will help you with learning new words in many cases. If you go into a café or the dining room of your hotel you’ll see all the food and coffee with cups and silverware laid out. You don’t need to know the names of that stuff to ask for it. Myself I take this opportunity to try new things. I mean it won’t hurt if I don’t eat my same breakfast every day. Although I won’t give up my morning coffee. Germans have really good coffee.
You planned this trip to have fun so have fun. Smile at people, say hi to everyone in the dining area. I’ve learned this little trick. If it is in the morning then greet everyone by saying Morgen and a smile. This is an ice breaker and people will respond to it. You won’t be perceived as standoffish and this goes a long way in the end.
So my advice about language skills is this. If you immerse yourself in a culture then you’ll learn quickly. If you resist then you won’t learn anything at all except maybe to be very frustrated. Language skills take a long time to learn properly. That doesn’t mean that we can’t understand. It just means that it may take a little longer to get our point across and understand the answer given to us. It is part of the fabric of your trip and the memories you make while you are there. Slow down and enjoy where you are. Stop and smell the roses as it were.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
I've seen people complain, for example that after taking a tour of someplace they've never been before, the thing that bothered them most was that the tour guide didn't speak their language. Okay in this case English. I fail to understand this at all. When you sign up for a tour you know BEFORE you start that it will not be in English. If you sign up for it then you have no right to complain. I think this will change as more smart phones or other internet capable devices get into everyone's hands. Until that time I've always figured that I've never been there before and I'm glad to see the sights. I've also found that there was someone within the tour group that could help with some translations.
There is a dichotomy in this method of tourism. We've planned, we've saved and we've paid to 'see' certain sights. Then when we get there we decide to be frugal. I'm sure that if you are taking a tour then there has to be a tourist souvenir shop where you are. Postcards are usually now in several languages and if you are visiting a castle there is always a book or pamphlet in the tourist office. In almost all of the churches in Germany I've visited there has been a pamphlet that was available in English for a small donation.
I'd say that if you let the fact that there were no English tours available where you visited then you should just let that fact go. Yes it can be frustrating but then again if you just let yourself see where you are and try to imagine what it would have been like when it was new then you really don't need an English tour.
Turn situations like this into a positive experience. Struggle with the language. I've found that if I try to speak in their language the people there are much more receptive than if you walk up to them and ask them if they speak English. In fact I'm one of those that will play dumb if you walk up to me and ask me if I speak English. I learned as a kid; "When in Rome do as the Romans do." We've seemed to have forgotten that. Don't expect that everywhere you go in Europe that people will speak English I'm sorry to say if you do you'll be greatly disappointed.
Today it functions a restaurant. Located near the center of the market square it is easily reached. Bacharach is not a large town everything so everything is easily reached from the train station. The main street features a wider variety of shops. You can chose from antiques, wine or local art. When walking around in Bacharach you should take the time to look into the small alley ways. In the Posthof for example which houses the tourist office there are some very interesting things to see. Inside the courtyard is a wonderful spiral staircase. The buildings in the square are also some nice examples of Half timber houses (Fachwerk).
The photo on the left shows the main north south road through Bacharach. This is looking towards the town of Oberwesel. I took this photo standing in front of St. Peter's church. The train station would be in the opposite direction from this view. In this market square you'll find the post office which is to the right in this photo. There is also a grocery and pharmacy, several restaurants and hotels. To the left you'll find a bank, a hardware store along with several tourist shops. St. Peter's church is worth the trip inside and a few paces farther will take you to Werner Kapella.
Walking up this street you will find the Rhinetheater you will find some nice puppets in the window at the rear of the theater. In an open area by the Theater you will find some children's rides and an Flohemark where you pay by the honor system.
If you need to find a wireless internet Cafe then heading towards the train station from the market square you'll find Cafe Haus Steihl. You'll find local wine, schnapps, coffee and a nice selection of torts and sweets along with a selection of meals. You use your own computer and purchase internet time by the hour. The people are friendly and helpful here.
The towns people are friendly also. I would say if you wanted to spend a couple of days enjoying the local atmosphere then this is a nice place to stay.
You can begin your Rhine River tour from here in the summer.
My advice is to become a tourist. Slow down and enjoy what is around you.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The flowing water is one of the things I liked about Bacharach. As we walked back to our apartment it seemed that we could hear it quite a bit of the way.
Our land lady Ingrid pointed out this little spot to us. Otherwise I think we would have missed it all together.
One of the advantages of walking around while on vacation.
Be well, travel smart, travel safe.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Okay this is about driving and I’ve always paid head to it. I have family like friends that live in Germany and on my first trip I didn’t get the international driver’s license. When I told them I didn’t get it they told me that if I used their car and was in a wreck without the international driver’s license their insurance wouldn’t pay. So ever since I’ve gotten one from AAA. Fill out a form, bring a pass port photo and pay a small fee. I figure it is money well spent just in case. It usually doesn’t take much time to get it.
I like driving on the Autobahn don’t get me wrong it is just that I knew I would be spending a lot of time in München and seriously you really don’t want to drive in the old part of town if you don’t have too. Parking is hard to find, it is expensive to park and if you really don’t know where you are going it is safer to walk. The train will get you close enough to almost any important tourist venue in Europe.
I did take day bus tours to different cities to visit Christmas Markets. The bus company sent a small van to pick us up and deliver us to the tour bus. In the evening the tour bus driver took us back to within a block of our hotel. You can see quite a bit while on one of these trips and you can learn a lot about the route you are on except you’ll just be able to see it out of the window of the bus. It is exciting and scary sometimes to be in a new place. I sometimes worried about being able to find again the bus. My Bushnell Backtracker took that issue away. I’d mark the location of the bus before venturing off to visit the Christmas Market. These tours will be pretty hectic and crowded especially at Christmas. The tour bus I was on took us to the venue and we were on our own once we arrived and then we had to make our way back to the bus at an appointed time.
As I mentioned earlier I did the un-American thing I walked. I didn’t ride on the bus or tram. It was an economic choice for me. You have to pay to rent the car and like most hotels or rental places you pay extra to park. Not only that but we were there in one of the worst winters in decades so there was sometimes six to eight inches of new snow overnight. Even if there hadn’t been snow paying the additional € 10 per day can get expensive.
I tend to plan my trips a long time in advance. I studied European Diplomatic History in University so I tend to seek out places that have some significance to my studies. So using Map 24 I check out the towns that I’m thinking of visiting. Usually you’ll find a tourist office with all the contact info you need. I use email to request info about the town. Sometimes I get a small map in the info packet. I make sure that I take this map with me when I travel. In Rothenburg we were given local maps of the town after we bought some souvenirs. Also our land lord had local maps in our room both in Rothenburg and Bacharach. Then again both of these towns were so small that it was possible to walk across them in ten or fifteen minutes. So it was possible to explore the entire town is several hours. Walking through the town again took us to other little places to visit and shops to explore. I mean we spent weeks in both places so we became very familiar with both places. Our land lords were also helpful enough to pick us up from the train station and take us to our rooms.
If the place I needed to go to was only about a ten or twenty or so minutes walk away then a nice walk took me to parts of town I wouldn’t normally have seen. In some cases it took me past stores that reminded me that I had to get something so I was able to also shop. Also when I walked I sometimes found some very interesting shops or sights along the way and was pleased to have had the opportunity to visit and make some good memories by taking photographs.
Walking also meant that even though the weather was not so good we didn’t have to worry about getting around as we were walking and the snow wasn’t that much of a hindrance. In the older parts of town the narrow streets and the town gates prove to be more of an adventure when you meet cars driving through.
Walking provided a slower pace. This meant that I was able to sometimes notice things that I normally wouldn’t have. It was sort of like I wonder where that alley goes and walk down there to find out. Going to the local market was fun because after a couple of visits the proprietor started talking a bit more. By observing where the locals ate lunch we were able to find some nice meals to eat at a reasonable price and with the added benefit of tasting the local flavor.
It is a slower pace and I found it to my liking. Yes there were a couple of snow storms I got caught in that made us look like walking snowmen but looking back it is more of a funny story than a bad time. We also had the choice of going outside if we wanted to or not. There was that one -17 C day that we decided we’d catch up on post cards and email.
You should try walking next time you go take a vacation. It is a good thing to stroll down a street and commune with the people that are with you along the streets. You’ll be surprised who you meet.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
I’ve said it before. I am an amateur photographer and take lots of photos. I believe in buying post cards when I travel.
Here are the reasons I buy post cards.
Let’s just say you are on a tour. You’re listening to your guide tell you about what is going past you outside the window. You are snapping photos of everything and people are talking and you are excited. At the end of the day you realize that you know the places you visited and all those interesting little things you saw along the way are saved on your camera. Do you remember them all? Did you write any of that stuff down? I typically don’t either. In a nutshell this is why I buy postcards.
When you travel you get what photos you get. Your photo may be a very good composition of some historic monument during a driving storm or maybe at night. Let’s say you took a photo of the Eifel Tower during the day but your tour didn’t allow you to be there at night. Post card.
Post cards are made under ideal conditions by someone who had the opportunity to be there at the right time. People that take post card photos are also allowed to go into places that tourists aren’t usually allowed.
I was once in Fulda and didn’t have a clue where anything was. I found a kiosk that had a map of Fulda for € 12 and a post card that had the important places by route for € 2. I bought the post card not the map. Now not only was I able to visit the major places in Fulda but I have a nice little story to go along with it too.
Yes, I do have a large collection of post cards. Good memories in those cards go along with the good memories of my photos of the same places. My photos aren’t usually as good as the post cards sometimes they are pretty close, but both are my memories.
The post cards also help me to assemble my photos and put the correct name to my photos. When you are traveling you don’t usually take the time to write down those interesting things you hear. You certainly can’t remember everything the tour guide told you about the places you visited. After a couple of days all those tours start getting jumbled in a tired mind.
You can write stuff on your post cards to help you remember details. You know, I was here on this date with these people, we found this great little place to eat or shop.
That’s why I buy post cards. Then there is the fact that a really good friend advised me to buy post cards on my first trip to Germany as an adult. Every time I buy a post card no matter where in the world I am I think about his advice. It always makes me smile and just a little home sick.