We are caught on the train! But later Beer.

As I mentioned before I was happy to leave Baden-Baden a day earlier. Besides the bad service it wasn’t a terrible place but there are so many better places to visit. Vacation time is short.
I booked the train tickets late but this time we didn’t have to pay for 1st class. However somehow I was only able to pay for a seat reservation and not the full ticket online. I have no idea how I did that and kept trying to figure out how to buy my ticket online when we already had a reservation. Never figured it out and ended up buying the train tickets at the station the next morning. Our train stops in Mannheim where we switch to another train to Munich. Besides having a hard time finding our car (even after thinking we mastered the system) the trip was pretty uneventful until the end.
After a while I noticed we started making Munich stops so it was time to gather our things. We slow down to the station and Carlos starts to leave with his backpack down the aisle when somehow the belt to his backup that was hanging down got trapped in a seat. He paused to pull it out but it was just stuck. I tried to pull on it a bit and it would not budge. The doors opened for the station and we started to panic. A few others attempted and it was not moving. I decide I need to run to the doors and ask them to hold since we are stuck. I was too late, the doors had shut and there was no opening them. At this point I was OMG we missed our stop (which at the time seemed like a really big deal but in the grand scheme of things probably not). The train started moving and I realize it wasn’t our stop, our stop was actually next. It bought us some time but that belt was not moving no matter what new strategy we imposed on it. Carlos tries to clip it with his nail clippers but it is too tough. Another passenger starts looking through her makeup bag for makeup scissors. She finds a pair. Another guest cuts and Carlos is free, with a slightly broken backpack now. Just in time for Munich Hauptbahnhof (the main train station). After all that drama we exit the train and joyfully walk a couple blocks to our hotel to unload.

Since we waited too long to book our hotels we missed out on some money saving opportunities closer to all the tourist spots. We chose instead to book the well maintained and decorated Arthotel Munich. Arthotel is a art themed economy hotel near the train station. Throughout the hotel there is modern art decor and many doors are painted with pictures of artists and other famous people. We stayed in the Elvis room for our stay. I didn’t love the part of town we were in since it was a little of a walk to the tourists sites but it was clean, friendly and good value for the money we paid.


Butt chair

Normally I am very educated on what a city has to offer and make lots of notes on choices of activities while we are there. For Germany I did the bare minimum. I had too many distractions leading up to the trip. When we arrived in our room we started doing a little Rick Steves research in our guide. There were two beer tours we could possibly do that afternoon. Not a lot of preparation needed for that so it was right up our alley. Of the two tours one was strictly a beer one and the other was a beer plus German food tour (BAVARIAN BEER). We decided to take the beer plus food one so maybe we can look like we weren’t lushes that didn’t desire to know anything but beer. Against my better judgement I took the advice in the book about just showing up at the train station to book and the tour was sold out (Bad Rick Steves!). I could have easily booked the tour from the hotel before we left. The guy at the desk tells us that sometimes people do bail out last minute and we could come back before the tour starts and see if they have a last minute spot for us. We still have an hour to wait so we sit on the steps of the train station. We think about trying to make it to the other tour which starts a little further away but we decided to sit and wait. Closer to the time the tour starts there is another couple waiting standby. The odds aren’t good we are going to make it in. Groups slowing trickle in but when it is time to start 4 people still haven’t arrived. The person at the desk lets us in the tour. We pay as the tour guide hands out beers outside the train station and starts giving us some background info for the tour. While we are standing there the missing 4 appear but luckily we get to stay in the tour. That was a close call. Moral of the story if you know you want to take a tour, book it right away. (We did that for the tours scheduled the next day).
The tour starts with a beer and some background info while we are still at the train station.

The tour is an active tour that utilizes public transportation to get around (no huge AC tour buses). We together walk to the metro and take it to our first location the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum

Our guide takes us in for samples and intruduces the different beer styles and tells us about the German Purity Beer Law.


Some pretzels to soak up the beer

After our beers our guide took us through the museum where he explained about the history and what some of the symbols were.

Famous beer maid

Next stop was a visit to the HofbrauKeller beer hall where we sampled some German sausages and other goods.

This special sausage is specific to Bavaria and is primarily eaten in the morning. Weisswurst is made from veal and pork and was very good with the sweet mustard we ate with it.

The tour guide also explained the significance of the maypole and how mischievous people steal them and use them to barter for beer parties. Each sign represent what services the town or area provides.

Finially we end up the tour outside the famous Hofbräuhaus. We did not go inside at that point but the tour guide told us about the experience inside and the history of the building.

After the tour it was late and we decided to wander back to the hotel area. After a couple of beers I thought I wanted to stay out a little longer but after getting lost, since it was our first night in the city, we were both exhausted and just tried to find our way back.

Plus we needed rest for a long tour day the next day.

July 4th on a mountain and in the spa

The next morning we decided to visit some nature and do a hike since that was a main reason for visiting this region. After doing some research we narrowed it down to taking a trail at the edge of town or going up the local mountain Merkur Mountain. We chose Merkur mountain because I wanted to ride the funicular.
First breakfast in our cute breakfast room at the hotel.

We found a bus that took us to the bottom of the mountain where the funicular starts. For some reason I was able to convince my husband to take the funicular up and hike down. He must have felt guilty for the long hike a couple of days prior.
At the bottom of the funicular there is shop to buy snacks, gifts and I guess booze for the mountain.


We took a couple minutes to look at another less than useful trail map, and then we got our tickets and went up.

Hey look at this water fountain first –

After we entered the funicular, a guy hurried on with a huge pack of stuff. Was he a backpacker? Was he going to camp on the mountain? We came to find out that he is a paraglider and the top of the mountain is a popular paraglider launch location.

So we got some drinks at the cafe and watched the hangliders for about an hour. Hike=delayed.

It was also at this point that we realized we accidently booked too many nights in Baden-Baden. We were supposed to leave for Munich the next day. We were too late to fully cancel so we had to pay a fee to get out of the last night. I am usually much more prepared for traveling than this. I guess it got confusing because my husband booked some hotels and I booked the other. I guess we had a miscommunication. I was looking forward to leaving the next day to go to Munich. Our stay in Baden-Baden wasn’t terrible but I wish we would have picked another black forest town.

Back to the hike…..

We finished our drinks and started the journey down the mountain. We of course did not stay on the main road since it was boring. I made sure to keep my husband in check so we didn’t get too much off the beaten path and get lost…or end up miles away from where we needed to be at the end.

Some growing that looked like yummy dim sum

We crossed the path of the funicular a couple of times on the way down.

The walk down was relatively pleasant with the exception of discovering the bastard bugs of Germany. They aren’t quite mosquitoes but they bite like a MFr and fly off pretty quickly. Not quite a horsefly but painful bites that welt up afterwards. They only attacked me somewhat on this mountain but they really got me later in the trip. Should have worn more bug spray!!

At the very bottom of the trail we found where the para-gliders land.

After we got back into town we decided to eat a late lunch at an outdoor cafe where we once again had terrible service. Not really loving the hospitality of Baden-Baden.
We went back to the hotel and changed into our suits and picked a thermal spa to do some relaxing and swimming at. There were two big ones in town and they were both pretty close to our hotel. One was with no suits and one was with suits. We aren’t prudes but I just wasn’t up to sloshing around a bunch of nude people. We ended up attending the Caracalla Spa . See Rick Steves colorful explanation of the spa below.

You pay for admission at the front and then get a wrist band that controls a locker and allows you to purchase things at the cafe if you wish. I saw people bringing in food and drinks. I wish I would have brought water to drink. No water fountains that I could see and the swimming and sweating got me thirsty. Once we changed we locked our things in a locker and grabbed our rented towels (I will guard these with my life, well sort of kidding).
The way the spa is layed out there is a large indoor area with heated pools with jets at different places, hot dip pool (short visits only), cold dip pool, saunas, and an aroma therapy sauna room. Outdoors is two major pools. One has a lazy river of sorts with some massage jets. The other pool has a number of jets and waterfalls. Upstairs is the nude only sauna, which we never visited.
Since it was still pretty light out (early evening) we decided to start outside. I tried the lazy river pool and let the current pull me along for a while. That got pretty boring quickly so I moved over to the waterfall pool and found a jet to massage some sore body parts. Basically the jets will run for a while in an area and turn off, then they start running in a different area. So it is a game of where to move to next. All in all I got a pretty good water massage on my back neck, thighs, feet and calves.
Next I tried the indoors and decided to try a personal sauna room. A couple minutes in there I got slightly claustophobic since I am not a big sauna fan. I decided then to try the aroma therapy room. It was a good sized room and people seemed to feel very comfortable hanging out in there. I got hot and had a hard time breathing. In addition I was afraid the smells would cause a migraine as sometimes strong scents do to me. I hit the shower and tried the indoor pool. I got some more neck and leg massages while I was there and also hit the hot and cold pools. After a while I was done and tried going back outside. To my surprise there was an instructor teaching a water zumba class. I joined in and tried to do my best Despacito moves in the water. After a while thirst took over and it was time for me to go. Fortunately my husband was done too and we changed and went back to the hotel to clean up for dinner.
So many bad experiences eating at Baden-Baden I had little hope for our dinner choices. We decided to go to the tourist looking outdoor cafe around the corner from our hotel,  Prager Stuben. It was a quite cafe with very attentive service. I enjoyed the Czech inspired dish I ordered: Pork in Sauce with a side of dumplings. Very good. So happy this ended our stay in Baden-baden. Now off to bed for traveling the next day.

Only good dinning experience in Baden-Baden

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:

Overview of the region