Travel to Baden-Baden

It was checkout time at Im Malerwinkelbut our train didn’t come until 11. We decided to take a break and finally enjoy the outside coutryard of the hotel with a shandy from the honor bar.

Before we left I finally got my answer on how they maintain the steep vineyards. While they do walk up and down looking at the vines they also have this handy contraption.

After our morning shandy we grabbed our bags and walked down to the train station, saying goodbye to Bacharach and the Rhine. Since I waited too long to book our tickets the so the only seats left were first class. Our first long German train ride was going to be in style. We come to find out later that it is only slightly nicer in first class, but very quiet. Not sure if warrants the extra cost. I guess if you have money to burn then all means do so. I think I will continue to book 2nd class in the future – with a seat reservation. Our journey is to be 2.5 hours with a stop in Mainz. For this train trip we weren’t yet familiar with the ins and outs of the train cars (although that wouldn’t matter later).  In Bacharach it was easy since it was a regional train and we simply took and seat in the small first class section on the train (no reserved seat). While waiting for our train in Mainz for the longer leg I was challenged in trying to figure out what edge of the platform to stand on. I searched online but could not figure it out. When the train arrived we discovered the numbers outside the cars and we were pretty far away from ours. Instead of running down the platform and risking missing the train, we chose to hop on where we were and walked through about 10 cars before we got to ours. Warning – this approach will not always work because some trains have engine trains in the middle of the train that you cannot walk through. See example below in the top right corner of the sign.

When we finally arrived in Baden-Baden we look for the bus to take us to the city center area. Again working off vague instructions and bad maps we found the bus and guessed what stop was appropriate to take. By the way, the bus was quite busy the couple times we took it. It didn’t make for easy travel with luggage. The hotel suggested a taxi, maybe?

We dropped off bags at the hotel and freshened up. Of course we were hungry. We didn’t do much research on places to eat and were suckered in by the “lively” looking Bavarian beer garden. We ended up eating there and it ended up being a tourist trap; and we should have known better. The waiters were not really caring if we were there or not and the garden was quiet and boring. And the food was just blah. But if you saw this guy below in a moment of weakness you might eat there on a whim.

tourist trap

my blah meal

After our crappy meal we wandered around town a bit. The tourist office was closed but the hall that housed it, Trinkhalle, had some nice art outside.

There was also some nice sightseeing around town.

At the end of the evening I decided I wanted to get a piece of black forest cake. All the “recommend” bakeries were closed for the day so I settled on an outside cafe where I received another round of bad service. The cake wasn’t terrible though. I am not loving Baden-Baden so far.

The boat ride

After the long hike adventure of the day before, we decided for a lighter activity the next day. The plan was to take a boat cruise to a town or two. After some research we decided to visit the town of St. Goar. There are two main cruising companies. Not really knowing the difference between the two we decided on the cheapest one initially. When we arrived at the dock people were gathered outside the ramp for the one we hadn’t chosen and no one was waiting at the one we had chose. We decided to go with the crowd since they seemed to be mostly German tourists who were probably in the know anyway. We purchased our tickets for the boat and waited for it to arrive. When you purchase your ticket they ask your destination but I am not sure how they tell when you get off the boat so I don’t think it really makes a difference in the trip.  We could have just stayed on since no one checks your ticket after you get on the boat.

When the boat arrived the crowd piled in and found their seats up above in the open air space or down below where they serve meals while you cruise. We were only on for cruising so we sat up above to get the best views. Upstairs there is a small concession where to could buy drinks and snacks for your ride but we saw many Germans bringing on their own “picnic” of sorts – cheese and fruit, and bottles of wine and beer. Carlos and I purchased a beverage for our cruise.

On the way to our destination we watched the towns and cliffs pass us by.

The boat had some commentary but most we couldn’t really understand. One I picked up on was the story of Loreley It is a large protruding structure rumored to be home to a beautiful blonde that would distract sailors and make them crash to their death (Siren).

 Burg Rheinfels

Finally we arrived at St Goar and the location of Burg Rheinfels. With no map handy we decided to follow the crowds through the town assuming they were heading there.

Eventually we arrive at an incline going toward the castle, cross some train tracks and up and more stairs to the castle.

We finally make it to the top and into the ruins. There is a long complicated history in the region and the museum helps you understand it better. it was the largest fortress in the Middle Rhein Valley between Koblenz and Mainz.

We took the boat back to our town and enjoyed the relaxing cruise back. We walked by this historic house turned restaurant the night before. Kurpfälzische Münze seemed lively the night before, of course no one was there when we arrived (early bird problems) but we were tired again and not going to stay out much later. We treated ourselves to a bottle of wine and a meat plate for dinner.

It was a nice last night to our stay in Bacharach. I look forward to coming back to the region someday in the future.

The rhine vineyard hike

The Rhine Vineyard Hike

Or what I like to call it, “when Carlos tricked me into hiking 13 kilometers (8 miles), mostly uphill.”
More on that later.
The Rhine Valley is beautiful and known for its romantic boat cruises.
The Rhine river was an important transportation river for trade and whatnot. Seeing the opportunity, many set up castles and villages along the river to “tax” the boats that would pass by. It all seemed a little robber-baron/extortion like; but with out that happening, none of these cute little villages would have been formed around the castles.
Also prominent in the area is vineyards on steep hills. The grapes are used to make the village wines. We decided to dedicate some time to hiking through the vineyards. The forecast for the day was overcast and rainy. We decided to grab our ponchos and go for it.
Preparing for the hike was kind of hard. The maps we saw at the city center weren’t too helpful.

Map example

Most pick a town and do the circular trails from the town. But we wanted to take a trail from town to town and no maps really mapped that out clearly. We decided to google map it out before we left and determine that the next closest village was 4 km away and determined it was a good distance for me. We also dipped into the tourist office before we left to get some not so helpful maps. Finally we stopped at the grocery store for snacks and water. Due to the expected rain I decided to leave my DSLR back at the hotel.

Not really helpful

We had a hard time finding the start of the trail because there was construction going on around the trail head and an odd donkey path sign. We finally found what we were looking for and started up the stone stairs. We ended up going down the path of the trail that is basically part of the town loop to get to where we wanted to go. We could have started left, the slow glide uphill or right, stairs after stairs after stairs. We started right of course. Not on purpose, at least on my part. At least it gave us a great view of the town from this lookout point.

4 km into the hike, close to the next town, we realized the town we were heading to was not on the train route. If we walked to this town then we would have no idea how we would get back to ours (other than walking back the way we came).

At some point we decided the only way was forward to the next town on the train route – 8 more km away.  All while following the handy red wine trail signs and random chicken signs. I also thought I heard dub-step off in the distance. Skip the hike for mid day dance party? I never did really determine where the music was coming from so we just moved on.

It was lonely since not many others took this trail. And we did have some rain. But the light mist was welcome since it wasn’t enough to make things muddy and kept us cool along the way.

The views were beautiful

Pretty steep vineyards. I later find out they have a machine to help with this.

At some point my bladder wasn’t waiting anymore. There wasn’t much area to go “in the bushes” but no one else is around so I went to some brush. The only time we saw some serious hikers (only 3) it was only minutes after I had my bathroom visit. Whew close call!

So basically the up and down and pure distance of it all was more challenging than I was prepared for. I took many breaks and pushed through but times like in the picture below made me upset that we had to keep going down the mountain just to climb back up. The views were really amazing and I am sure I would have been singing a different tune if I was in better shape.

See that road across the way, we just went down it

Just when I thought I could go no more we reached the road that went down into the town Oberwesel. We walked by a couple where the woman was having a meltdown. Did her husband take her on a 12 km hike and her legs gave out? Who knows, I am just surprised it wasn’t me. I am known to have a meltdown or two when I am exhausted. This time I was good, tired, but good. We almost got tricked to hiking longer when we saw trail signs pointing uphill toward a castle. I send my husband to check it out and indeed it was trickery, the trail took us away from the town we were heading.

When in town we wandered around a bit aimlessly looking for a place to get a meal since we couldn’t handle any more walking around for a little while. After some back and forth we settled on a nice meal at the highly rated Historische Weinwirtschaft. It is located in the oldest half-timbered house of Oberwesel. The decor was very old world romantic. I definitely recommend it for a nicer meal if you are in town.

Fried blood sausage and apple slice on mashed potatoes

Pork loin in chanterelle cream sauce and spaetzle

After our meal (and wine) we stumbled back to the train station and took the short train ride back to our town. One would have thought we would just go back to the room and call it a day but it was still totally daylight out. The long days of Germany (5 am sun rise and 10 pm sunset) definitely threw us off. We decided to have a beer at the local Brauhaus.  Kleines Brauhaus is a beer garden in an old carousel. We had just enough energy to try one or two of their beers then go back to the hotel to pass out.

Creepy mannequins in the lobby of the attached theater. You had to pass by these guys for the bathroom.

Links of Interest

In German all the wine routes:
RheinBurgenWeg Touren

The hike we ended up doing:–bacharach-nord-sued-/2807779/

Overview of the region

Arriving on the Rhine

After the delays at JFK we arrive in Frankfurt the next day but closer to the afternoon. While the first day is usually jet lag day, I did have hopes on getting in some adventure that day. A train is the way to go from the Frankfurt airport to the town we booked for the next couple days, Bacharach. I had done some train schedule research but due to our delay we missed the train I wanted to catch. Europe is pretty easy to get around but it is never simple the first couple times you try to figure out the trains. After maybe missing one more train, we finally figure out the ticket purchase booth (Hint: It needs a chip card with a PIN number – that excludes my regular credit card since I never get pins for my traditional credit cards).

The pension was going to pick us up at the train station but due to our late arrival I decided it was too much trouble to try to coordinate the pickup. Pension “Im Malerwinkel” wasn’t too far uphill from the train. After a tiny bit of map confusion we found our cute German home for the next couple days.

We took some time to decompress and then decided to go out and get trail information for the next day and get some bottle waters (since we are always of need of water). We soon find out that this cute town has closing hours and they are at 5-6 pm. Pretty much every store, tourist office, and miscellaneous place is closed by that time. No waters for us! We force ourselves into the tourist office just as it was closing and we didn’t find very helpful service. We decide to let the lady leave and try again the next morning. Fortunately our hotel had a honor bar where we could purchase waters, sodas, wines and beers. We took advantage of that amenity during our stay!

Fortunately the restaurants are open past 6, but don’t remain open too late. We decide to do the fancy dinner the first night since you never know how busy and tired the following evenings will be. I picked the fish menu. It started with a trout consommé  soup, followed by a almond crusted trout and finished with a dessert. I was pretty pleased with the first night’s dinner at the Rhein hotel’s Stueber’s Restaurant.

We wandered around the town a bit more because even though it was close to 10 pm and the town was almost a ghost town, it was still so damn light out. Ultimately sleep won against the light and I chose to wind down the night with a view outside our window with a bottle of wine from our hotel honor bar. Time to get a good night’s sleep for some hiking and sightseeing the next day.

What happened to my good travel luck?

July 29, 2017

Which each international trip I feel less and less prepared; or do I feel most prepared? I can’t decide. When I started traveling overseas I used to meticulously prepare – hours and hours spent on detailed research on each city, language CDs bought and listened to, and packing would start weeks in advance. Now, it seems like I just open my packing list app and throw everything into a backpack days before. Ok, I am being hard on myself; it is not really like that. The packing list I use has been tried and tested before many trips and doesn’t do me wrong (except make me over pack). I am more experienced now – there is no need to stress over every detail; Europe is not third world – you can buy what you forgot to pack. I guess what what has mostly changed I set up the hotels and number of days I will stay in each place ahead of time but all the details are fuzzy until we get there. This kind of travel used to give me anxiety but it works for me now. I utilize the “research time” as the time to rest and revive my energy store. It works.
Before leaving for Germany, I had house guests. This is also something I would avoid, again the stress and distraction from my main job – preparation; but this time it was ok. Plus I really wanted to see this friend (and meet her travel companion). I fortunately was able to schedule a reunion of sorts with this old friend and others during one of my last “mom’s estate” trips to Florida. But now I have finally closed the estate and my freedom has been restored to use my time as I wish. I will still be back to Florida for work, friends and family but there won’t be the urgent need to be down there all the freakin time to take care of business. So this visit from the friend was  very welcome because we normally don’t get to meet up too often. It was a good distraction because there wasn’t too many last minute gotchas that I needed to take care of pre-trip (ok I decided last minute I didn’t want to bring a million pairs of short shorts and needed more pairs of travel type capri pants. I did a last minute shopping expedition too near to my house – which means I came up completely empty in the pants department but picked up two new sundresses and a scarf – which I really didn’t need but brought anyway because they were new.) I digress; I was able to spend at least one evening with my friend before we disappeared to Germany.

The Journey

I arranged a car service to take us to JFK, timing it so we would get there around 2.5 hours early (to my displeasure). Part of my anxiety is that I am afraid of missing a flight and loathe running through an airport with my luggage to catch one. For this reason I most always show up at the recommended time for flying (2 hours domestic and 3 hours international) but when traveling with others I compromise because not everyone shares my travel anxiety. In this case, we still showed up pretty early but it totally backfired (more of that in a minute). As for the car service, they are pretty good value for the money and mostly show up on time but again the way they assign their drivers gives me anxiety. I book my trip hours or sometimes a day in advance but they don’t assign a driver until about 10 min or less before I am supposed to get picked up (I can see all this through their website and corresponding text message). I would be totally cool with this except ONE time they never assigned a driver for a super early airport ride. I watched the screen minute after minute and the driver never appeared under my reservation. I finally called and they sent a driver. Luckily I planned to leave early since I was travelling alone. Everything was ok but I never forgot this experience. On today it was 15 minutes and no driver was assigned. I made the call. Of course I got attitude from the dispatch “You still don’t leave for another 15 minutes” to which I exclaimed “one time you guys never showed up and I am anxious about missing an international flight”. I was probably a topic of conversation in the office after we hung up but a driver was on the way. We took the “busy” way to the airport which cuts through the middle of Brooklyn instead of the long way around the perimeter of brooklyn. Most drivers choose to take the long way since usually traffic is more stable that way. Today it didn’t matter and we were still early so it didn’t matter to me.
When we arrived at the airport it seemed strangely crowded, even for people leaving for a holiday weekend (forth of July was the next week). Lines stretched down the curb and it looked like no one was moving. It was almost like 40 tour buses dropped everyone off at once. We decided curb side check in was not an option and moved inside. Inside it didn’t get better. Wall to wall people and no one was moving anywhere. And no communication what so ever about what was going on. We inquired to a man next to us who looked like he might know what was going on and he informed us of the airport fire at Panda Express at the terminal. Everyone had been evacuated to where I was standing now. So we waited with still no communication. As time went on crowd got thicker and thicker and still no communication. We would see a little crowd movement and thought the crisis was over but alas it was just a false alarm. We were still stuck there, in the crowd. I didn’t start the countdown watch to when we arrived and when we started making progress but I would say initially we stood in the crowd for at least 1.5 hours before security was opened. People were surprisingly calm given the craziness. I was slightly annoyed but cool until one guy got mad at me for hitting him with my backpack to which I replied “what do you expect me to do, I have no where to go and people are trying to get by”. Everyone was getting pushed aside and hit with suitcases and backpacks as people pushed through the crowd trying to get “somewhere” even if they didn’t know what or where somewhere was. Eventually security opened back up. We still were not worried about missing our flight, even though I am pretty sure it took us at least another hour to get through security. No planes were leaving yet, there is no way we would miss OUR flight. They started cancelling the “missed” flights but we weren’t one of them. This did start delaying everything out of that terminal since they had a big backlog due to the fire. We probably got our first delay notice as we were almost through security but I am not quite sure.

Once we finally made our way to the security scanners, my experience was pretty uneventful except my shoes triggered a future search. So much for not having to take the shoes off anymore It was no big deal, not like Carlos getting flagged for a further search. Carlos had to wait for his bags to get searched further. It was taking a while and I had to pee really bad. We agreed to meet close to the gate or a restaurant or something. I went to the restroom then stepped to the side and waited and waited. Did Carlos go to eat somewhere without me? That is so unlike him, maybe his phone wasn’t working. Finally he appears, he just got done with his search. They flagged his protein powder and ask him a few questions about it then let him go. Why so long? Before his bag was search the guy getting searched in front of him was a work of art. Carlos told the story of him watching the security officer take large bottle after large bottle out of his carry-on bag. They took out full size bottles of shampoo and conditioner, they took out large bottles conspicuously wrapped in duct tape, and finally they took took out at least two large spray bottles of Cutter (Yes the bug spray). It was almost comical. The person would almost had to not flown in this century to know all that stuff was a big no no. Carlos tried to get a picture of it all was only able to capture a little.

We started making it toward our gate, eyeballing all the possible eateries along the way. The goal was to pick a place that met our craving requirements that wouldn’t put us too far from our gate. That proved difficult since the flight delays kept ping ponging us from gate to gate. We finally pick a place near the gate that our flight gets assigned to the most but of course we end up not flying out there. After some food and some slow service at the restaurant we finally make it to our flight for an uneventful trip. See you until we arrive in Frankfurt!