A pause in the Black Forest
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Tuesday 22 Nov 2006: Flight to Frankfurt

Inside the Mercedes Benz Delivery Hall

Our Thanksgiving plans for 2006 revolved around a decision made back in the summer to trade in our Mercedes Benz E-Class for a new SLK. We chose the European delivery option and selected Thanksgiving Day for delivery because this was our first opportunity to fly to Germany due to Becky’s commitments to both work and professional meetings. Continental Airlines had blacked out all reward travel for the holiday but fortunately had a sale on first class seats; that was enough incentive to buy the seats to add to the excitement of going to the Mercedes Benz factory for the delivery. We left Houston on Tuesday afternoon with a brief stopover and plane change in Newark. The flight was very comfortable although the transatlantic leg was a bit too short to have any time for any significant sleep. It seems the evening meal service was just completed when they started the breakfast service

Wednesday 23 November 2006:Becky with the SLK in front of the Delivery Center

We arrived a few minutes early in Frankfurt and immediately cleared immigration and customs and found our way to the railway station. I had already purchased tickets for the train over the internet for the short ride to Stuttgart. Actually buying the train tickets on the internet not only saves about 40% on the normal ticket price, it also gives you a reserved seat. We rode an ICE (Inter City Express) train which is both quick and quiet. The Mercedes Benz factory is located in Sindelfingen which is about 20 minutes from the Stuttgart Bahnhof. It is possible to take a local train into Sindelfingen but the European Delivery program provides taxi vouchers for transportation from the train station to your hotel. We arrived at the Sindelfingen Marriott a little after noon and had the rest of the day to walk around the town. The weather was cloudy and cool; Becky decided she needed a hat to be comfortable and by chance we walked by a hat store which had a generous selection of hats. I guess buying a hat must be a similar challenge to buying shoes, because Becky tried on every hat in the store before making a decision. You will see several pictures of her hat in this narrative. Neither of us was hungry, but decided to stop in a Gasthaus for a beer and a snack. We returned to the Marriott for a brief nap and rest before venturing out for dinner. We had seen a Chinese restaurant only a block from the hotel and decided to try it. Actually the food was good and a bit reminiscent of our trip to China back in October.

Thursday 23 Nov 2005 Thanksgiving Day: The Bohlerhohe Hotel in the Black Forest Today is Thanksgiving Day in the USA, but it’s just another Thursday in Germany. The Mercedes Benz Delivery Center opened at 8:00am; we wanted to be there when the doors opened so we would not have to wait in line and would have the whole day to enjoy the SLK in the Black Forest. The delivery process takes about 1 and ½ hours…much of the time is required for them to prepare the insurance papers and bring the car up to the delivery hall. We learned another advantage to taking an early morning delivery…we had a voucher for breakfast and that’s how we had planned to pass the time while the paper work was completed, but little did we know that we would also receive a box lunch for the road to enjoy later in the afternoon. We were a little surprised when the waitress asked us what we wanted for lunch just as soon as we had ordered breakfast and we responded that we didn’t want any lunch just the breakfast. Then she offered us a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates instead of the box lunch which we gladly accepted. After breakfast we had a few minutes to see some exhibitions and the accessory shop, before we retuned to get the car. We had the opportunity to take a factory tour, but we had already toured the factory on a previous European delivery and we were anxious to get the car and begin the drive toward Baden-Baden. We collected our papers and then proceeded to delivery hall where we were introduced to a technician named Marcus who then demonstrated all of the features of the car. He took all the time necessary to make sure we were comfortable with all of the functions of the car and that we were ready to drive away. We programmed the navigationA view out of our window at the Bohlerhohe Hotel system (whom we have named Dolly) to take us back to the Marriott and from there to the Böhlerhöhe Schlosshotel in the Schwartzwald ( Black forest). Mercedes Benz provides one night’s accommodation in a five star resort as a part of the European Delivery Program. We selected the Böhlerhöhe Hotel for Thanksgiving night. This is a magnificent castle hotel high in the hills with a wonderful view of the Bühlertal. The drive to the hotel should have been a little over an hour via the autobahn, but we encountered road construction which had totally stopped traffic. This turned out to be fortunate for us because we reprogrammed Dolly to take us to the hotel via a route that avoided all freeways. We slipped out of the stopped traffic and entered the wonderful back roads through the hills and forest. Dolly had no problem directing us to our destination and although this drive was probably an hour longer (if the autobahn had been up to speed) the thrill of the road and scenery was more than worth the diversion. We arrived at the hotel in plenty of time to take an hour hike in the forest to a small Gasthaus where we enjoyed a beer and toasted to the delivery of the SLK. Following our hike back to the hotel, we had to time to relax and prepare for Thanksgiving dinner. We had reservations for 7:00 which gave us plenty of time to visit the library bar and enjoy a complimentary cocktail and listen to the piano player. This is the off season for the Böhlerhöhe; there was renovation underway in the kitchen and dinning rooms so we dined in the conference center which had been nicely converted. The menu selections were gourmet and elegant; Becky selected lamb and I chose beef, both fulfilled our expectations of this world class resort. We selected a 2004 Spätburgunder from Baden Wurtenburg to accompany the meal. This wine was fantastic and we hope we can find it on our return to Houston.

Friday 24 November 2006:Today is reserved for driving from Baden-Baden to Görlitz a distance of about 400 miles. We knew the autobahns had to be open and moving if we were to make this trip in one day. Also the Becky, Diane, and Conrad in Bautzentechnician at Mercedes Benz had advised us to keep the engine speed below 4000 RPM which limited our speed to only 105 MPH. Fortunately the freeways were for the most part in excellent shape; we did encounter about 20 miles of construction and one accident and I made a navigational error at Nurnburg which probably costs us about 40 minute’s delay. The SLK performed to our expectations and the navigation system directed us to the Hotel Bon Apart in Görlitz as we had planned. Much to my surprise this hotel is also a brew pub, so we quickly dropped our luggage in our room and returned to the bar to sample the haus gemackt bier. Becky tried the Export and I tried the Dunkeles; we agreed that mine was better. Conrad soon met us in the bar and we finished our drinks and walked about 10 minutes to his house. Görlitz lies on the Polish border and suffered from the time it was under the East German control. It is a beautiful medieval city but needs a major infusion of capital for restoration. Conrad’s house is a beautiful example of turn of the century architecture and with time he will have it restored to its former grandeur. Diane had just returned from work and she was ready to relax and begin the weekend. Diane’s parents soon arrived and we sat down to enjoy the abendbrot which Conrad had prepared. Following dinner we took a walk into the old town and stopped into a bar for a nightcap

Saturday 25 November 2006:

Conrad had planned a tour for the day which would take us to Bautzen and Dresden. We left Görlitz about 10:00 in The Frauenkirche restoration was finished in 2005the morning and drove first into Poland to buy gasoline because it is about 25% less to purchase. Next we drove about 30 minutes to Bautzen which is a 1000 year old city where Diane works. We had time to walk around the old town and visit the Sorbian museum where we leaned about these Slavic people who live in the area. We continued our tour to Dresden which is about 40 minutes south of Bautzen. We had been in Dresden in 1995 and it was refreshing to see the remarkable progress in the restoration. We tried to visit the Volkswagen Phaeton factory but it was closed for a special meeting. Conrad then found a place to park near the Zwinger. We walked through the historical Zwinger and then to the Frauenkirche. When we were there 11 years ago, the Frauenkirche was only a dream and a catalogued collection of rubble stored on numerous racks. The restoration was completed in 2005 and now this Baroque masterpiece stands as a monument to the determination and tenacity of the city of Dresden. We climbed the cupola to the top observation point for a wonderful view of the city. Next we went to a shopping galleria for a cup of coffee to warm the chill of the wind that had howled through the church tower. Now we had a little time to visit a museum about the restoration of the Neumarkt before finding a place for dinner. We selected a Spanish Tapas restaurant in the shadow of the Frauenkirche and thoroughly enjoyed the food, service and ambiance of the venue. Conrad had purchased tickets for a concert that evening in the Frauenkirche of the Breslau Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. This was our first opportunity to go inside the sanctuary…I won’t try to describe the magnificence of this building, but please take an opportunity to discover for yourself this wonderful restoration. The concert featured five major works from Mozart, Hayden and Polish contemporary composers. We thoroughly enjoyed the program and Becky especially appreciated the soprano who performed Mozart’s Alleluia.

Sunday 25 November 2006: The Sunday morning schedule started a bit later due to the late night before and the arrival of Ulrich and Konrad who were driving from Harlingerode to join us for the day in Görlitz. Fortunately we had a Hugh, Becky, Conrad, Diane and Ulrich in Gorlitzbeautiful morning with bright sunshine and mild temperatures. Of course Konrad and Ulrich wanted to see the SLK; Konrad and I took a quick ride around the city with the top down, we had a great view of the medieval architecture with the top down and the sun highlighting the structures. We took a brief walking tour to the Church of St. Peter and Paul for a 1:00 demonstration of the Sun Face Organ. This is a centuries old organ that has 17 Sunflower ranks on the Façade. This was not a concert but a demonstration of the remarkable capabilities of this instrument. Following this presentation we stopped at a coffee shop for a brief pause and then took a 1 ½ hour city tour. Of course the guide conducted the tour in German, but Conrad and Diane were able to translate for Becky. The tour did stop at one of the city’s three breweries and the bus driver ran inside to get a beer for each of us…first time I’ve ever been on a tour that provided beer...maybe that’s the incentive necessary to get more tourist to take the tour. We returned to Conrad’s house for a rest and refreshments. Ulrich brought his picture albums from the wedding back in June and we enjoyed the time to recall the great weekend back in June. Next we had dinner in a brew pub on the river dividing Poland and Germany…unfortunately the beers were not very good but we managed to enjoy the evening in spite of the marginal beer.

Monday 27 November 2006: A view of Gorlitz through an archway at the St. Peter's and Paul church

Today we have to bid farewell to the Dege’s and to Görlitz and drive back to Frankfurt. But we have many reasons to return next year. Both Birgit and Diane are expecting; Birgit in January and Diane in June! The drive to Frankfurt was only 300 miles which we covered in a little less than 5 hours; there was very little construction or speed limits to impede our trip. It is a shame to have to return to a country that has better highways that are speed limited and filled with stupid drivers. We can learn a lot from the German traffic system! We arrived about 2:00 at E.H. Harmes which is the car shipping agent; we completed our papers and made arrangements to return Tuesday morning to leave the car. Our hotel was closed until 4::00 in the afternoon so we decided to find a bar and relax after the drive from Görlitz. We found a Turkish café which had excellent sharmas and cold pilsner beer. After a snack and some beer we returned to the hotel started to prepare for the return to Houston. There was a nice German restaurant about 300 yards from our hotel where we enjoyed one of our favorite meals of the trip.

Tuesday 28 November 2006:

The time has passed and we now have to return to Houston and reality. We left the SLK this morning at E.H. Harmes and took a taxi to the airport. The Continental Business First service is a fitting final leg to a wonderful visit to Germany

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