Friday, December 30, 2011

Publish you Photos in a Coffee Table Book

I just received my copy of my self published vacation Coffee Table book.  Bacharach am Rhein 2009  I did a thing with BookSmart® through Blurb.  I have to tell you that I'm glad I made the effort and did it.  Admittedly my first attempt was pretty much a test to see the quality of book I'd get for my money.  If you want to show off your prized photos you'll make the effort to make them look good.  I took some extra time to make sure there was a 'flow' throughout the book.  You know I made sure that pictures of the exterior and interior of a church were on facing pages not several pages apart.  When I sent the book to be published  I did upgrade the paper in the book because I thought it would help my photos look better.

I think this is a great way to show off your photos to your friends.  This is kind of a way to let people know what you saw and where you saw it. Throughout my book I made notes and comments of the photos.  I did this so I didn't have to explain everything over and over again.  I think that in a few years these notes will help me remember my vacation also.

In a way I think if you have a Coffee Table book of your vacation photos to show to your friends then there is a built in limit to their exposure.  Then notes and comments you provide means they won't be asking you questions.  All of this will keep their attention span better than viewing several hundred photos of your vacation.

Yes you can do the same thing with publishing calendars, but a book is not time sensitive.  The calendar once the year is over the calendar comes off of the wall.  Both are a good way to display your talent.  I haven't gotten around to having calendars printed off. 

I'm glad I did a Coffee Table book.  I know I'll do others in the future.

Travel smart, travel safe.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kathe Wolfhart Christmas Stores

I have been to Kathe Wolfhart stores in Rüdesheim, Oberammergau and Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  I discovered her the first time in Rothenburg and every chance I get I return.  There are now three stores located in Rothenburg.  There is one store that contains the Christmas Museum.  It is the main store in Rothenburg.
You will very seldom find the stores with few customers in them.  In Rothenburg in particular when the tour buses arrive usually the passengers flock to the stores.  Some patience is required if you choose to purchase something.  The staff tends to get you through any lines quickly.  They also have people that speak several languages so there isn’t usually a barrier there. I would advise against taking a backpack into the store.
Photos aren’t permitted and the aisles are typically a bit narrow.

The gifts in the Kathe Wolfhart store are unique to her store.  You may find something similar elsewhere but it won’t be the same.  Some people like the Nutcrackers. I’m partial to Rauchermann and music box pieces.  You can find some limited edition pieces through out the store.   I think the prices are reasonable.

You can find also art work of Rothenburg.  I like the pen and ink type of drawings.
If you buy something at the store have them send it home for you.  This way you know that the contents are insured and they pack it for you.  It also means you don’t have to stop at customs with your receipt and the item so you can collect the tax you paid.  If you have the store ship your purchases home then you don’t pay tax, but the money you would have paid for tax is almost the same as the tax, maybe a bit higher.  But you know you don’t have to worry about carrying it, you don’t have to worry about it being stolen and if something happens to it like getting lost or broken then it is insured and you can get a replacement.
I’d recommend a visit to any Kathe Wolfhart store.  If you happen to be in Rothenburg check out the ‘main’ store.  The experience is worthwhile, just plan on spending a little time inside the store.  You are encouraged to travel in one direction through the store.  While it doesn’t always happen it helps with the flow of people through the store.

Entry to the stores are free, there is a fee for visiting the Christmas Museum.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber a town to Savor slowly

I have been three times to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  I have many fond memories of the town.   I fell in love with the town the first time I was there.  That’s why I keep going back again and again.  Every time I go there I notice something I didn’t see before.  You can visit Rothenburg in a couple hours and see a lot of very interesting things.  I would suggest that Rothenburg is a town to be savored at a slow pace.  Spend a couple days there and be there overnight.

For a small town it offers many worthwhile things to see aside from the old buildings and cobblestone streets.  There are five churches in Rothenburg also it has five great quality museums.  It has a vineyard, a very interesting double bridge and then of course there is the mayor’s house Toppler’s Haus that is maybe a half hour walk through a small forest and across a wonderful covered bridge that crosses the Tauber.

What I like most about the town is that it is close.  You can walk from one of the town to the other in a matter of minutes.  I leisurely stroll of about an hour will take you most of the way around the city.  It is not possible find something not interesting to look at in this town.  Although about half of the town was destroyed during War 2 it was authentically rebuilt to its pre war days.

This town is geared towards tourism.  The people there are accustomed to tourists.  The people in shops speak several languages, usually.  This is a place where shop people will say, “We don’t have that here in this store but if you go down this street to this other store they carry that there.”

The town is on the Romantic Road so during the day the town is in visited by wave after wave of tour buses.  There are several favorite places these tourists flock towards.  Usually they visit Kathe Wolfahrt stores and their famous Christmas Museum, the Criminal Museum and St. Jakob’s Church.

I spent two weeks in Rothenburg during one of the worst winters in decades. While the storms raged we were snug in our apartment.  I believe that there was only one day that we didn’t go out because it was too cold at somewhere around -17C.  Being in the cold was just part of our experience and it just whetted my appetite to spend more time in the town although perhaps not again in the winter.  Although I would not hesitate to stay there in winter if the opportunity arose again.

I rented an apartment along the wall of the city.   The landlord was great and helpful.  We were picked up from the train station and taken back when it was time to leave.  They also provided us with access to some of the local life by taking us to a meeting of a club that sung Franken songs.  Naturally food and drink was part of the package.

We were able to savor the town this way.  Stopping at the local bakery frequently and the green grocer got us familiar with the local people.  Naturally the more we visited the friendlier the locals became.

Monday, December 26, 2011

DB Bahn Train Travel Basics What I learned

If you are use to using trains then rail travel should be pretty simple for you.  In Phoenix we are starting to get the Light rail.  You have to be in the right part of town to ride on that and I don't live where it goes.  Or to get to a pick up station I'm almost half way to downtown so I don't much see the point.

The think I'm saying is that I'm not use to traveling on trains.  Just to compound that fact I had a pretty bad experience when I was younger and I tend to avoid trains when ever possible.

I knew when I went to Germany I'd be riding on the train.  I know some basic German and the train schedules aren't that bad.  You'll need to learn a couple words to get an idea of what it will cost you to ride the train.

The first thing I learned is that when you choose a route you'll see a lot of info for each train that leaves.  There is an arrow on the left side of the list, if you click on that arrow you will see all the particular information for that train.
As you read across you'll see Where you'll be leaving from, the date the train leaves, the time the train leaves, how much time it will take to get to your destination and the track the train departs from.  The German term for changing trains is Umsteigen, shortened to umst.  If you have to change trains the info will tell you where you get off and where you get back on and how much time you have to get to the next gate.

Towards the center of the page you'll see some other buttons if you click on Karte Anzeigen a map of your route will appear.  This is helpful so that you have a better idea of where you need to change trains.

Terms to know:
ICE in English we'd say Ice, in German it is pronounced E Say Ah and these are typically non stop trains.
U-Bahn are underground trains
S-Bahn are commuter trains the 'S' stands for Schnell or fast and they can travel above ground or underground.  Usually they go underground near city centers.
Hin und Rückfahrt is a round trip ticket. If you ask for Rundfahrt / round trip ticket you'll get a funny look because in German that translates to a round ride, meaning you don't intend to get off the train.

You can purchase weekly passes if you are staying that long in a city.  It is cheaper to purchase tickets for as many days as possible.

If you are going to be traveling long distances it is wise to purchase the tickets a couple days in advance and save a lot of money.  I bought two tickets from München to Frankfurt and saved 80 Euro by paying for them two days in advance.

In transfer centers the some ticket people speak English so if you run into difficulty then you can ask.  Small local train stations you may not find someone the speaks another language.

When you are waiting for you train and are looking at the board of arriving trains you will sometimes see the letters A, B, C beside the arrival time.  These are locators that are painted on the ground so you know where the train is going to stop.

If you are staying in one place for a few days check the train route.  There are sometimes two different trains that will go where you want to go but they terminate at different cities.  The train will be called the end city.  If your destination is not past the end destination then you can board either train if you choose.

Tickets are good for four hours in one direction.  You need to stamp the ticket before you get on the train.  If you need to change to a bus to get to your destination then your ticket is good for that also.  The police will board en mass to check to see if you have a ticket.  It is a 45 Euro fine on the spot for not having a stamped ticket or ticket.

Hope this helps.
Be well take care, travel smart travel safe.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two Camera Travel System

I've probably mentioned this before but I think it is worth repeating myself.  When I travel I take two cameras with me.  When I got my first digital camera it was a point and shoot.  It had the ability to take photos and movies.  I liked that ability so when I upgraded to a d-SLR camera I missed being able to have the ability to make movies, sound bites really.  I think it is important while on any adventure or excursion to make some short videos of where you were and what you were doing.

I think sound bites and still photos really help to bring back memories of your time.  It also makes it easier to share with friends by keeping their attention span a bit longer.

The thing is now I have a d-SLR that does both stills and video but I prefer using my point and shoot camera to make my sound bites.  Part of the reason I use the P&S is that it is less conspicuous than the d-SLR and I don't have to be concerned with using the memory card space on the d-SLR.  I know I have about half an hour of video time on the P&S and that is a lot of time for sound bites.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bacharach am Rhein 2009 Blurb book

I've decided that I wanted to make a coffee table book for some of my trip photos.  I decided to go with this town because I have several photos from there.  It was pretty exciting to gather everything together and put it together.  I ended up doing lots of editing as I realized the my exposures were a little off.  Probably camera operator error, or maybe it was the grey cloudy days.  In any event I've been working for a while now to get this put together.
Will be exciting to see it in my hand.

Take care be well.  Travel safe. Travel Smart.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

International UFO Museum and Research Center, Roswell NM

On a recent trip I decided that I would be close to Roswell, New Mexico and I thought it would be interesting to stop in and see the town.  I don't remember ever being there so I had an opportunity and decided to take it and visit the town.  For me this was an planned overnight stop so we arrived late in the evening and located a motel room for the night.

I didn’t know what to expect but I found a rather nice sized town that didn’t use its fame on every street corner.  Yes, there are lots of references to the UFO crash site and aliens but by and large not so much.

In the morning we visited the Museum for a couple hours.  We found it easily as it was on the same street as our hotel.

While not high tech in appearance it is a nice museum with several interesting displays and some dispelling of myths.  You are allowed to take photos inside the museum.  It is mostly open space with a few chairs for sitting.
A little humor at the expense of the Air Force

There is a gift shop and photos aren’t allowed to be taken inside.  This is only natural as most of the stuff on display is Roswell themed and I’m pretty sure that most of the time once certain items are sold out there aren’t any more.  So if you see something you like then make sure you take it with you because it probably won’t be there if you come back in a couple months.

I enjoyed my time visiting this museum.  The staff was friendly and knowledgeable both in the museum and the gift shop.  I would visit this place again if I were in the area.

There is a parking lot for the museum and while we were there it was busy but not crowded.  Access in and out was pretty simple and the highway is only about a block away so it is relatively to get to and from.

Be well take care.  Travel safe travel smart.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

PT-309 Fredericksburg Texas

If you visit the National Museum of the Pacific War then you really should take the time to visit The Pacific Combat Zone.  While you visit this part you will be shown PT-309 which is the only PT Boat still around that actually served in combat during War II.  This is a guided tour that begins on the hour so you need to arrive there before the hour.  I had seen a documentary about the refurbishing of this boat so for me it all came together while I was viewing it. 
I found our tour guide friendly, very helpful and knowledgeable about the equipment and displays even though she was in her twenties.  To me that meant she had taken the time to learn about the time and equipment.

One view will show you what the PT-309 display looks like at the Museum.  While you aren’t allowed on the boat itself you can see pretty much the living conditions of the men who served aboard.  If you check out the tours be sure to click on the ‘+’ sign when you see them as these will give you a bit more info about what you are seeing.
Take care be well.