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Germany Bavarian Beer Tour: Fredericksburg, TX to Bamberg Germany October 11, 2014
The first week of October in Fredericksburg had so much happening…including Oktoberfest and Pints for Polio that we were anxious to begin this long anticipated trip. Our flight to Germany originated in San Antonio; we have learned to book the night before the flight at the Drury Inn because they provide free undercover parking for the duration of your trip. We were treated to a nice rain shower on Saturday morning in advance of cold front. Fortunately the weather moved through quickly and by the time our flight departed, we had clear flying to Houston. We had to change to the International D Terminal for our connecting flight to Frankfurt on Lufthansa 441. This was our first ever flight on an Airbus 380…a two level aircraft which carries over 500 passengers. The boarding process required almost an hour to get everyone in their seats. The plane is divided into at least 4 sections in the lower level so it did not seem so immense once inside. We were in the forward section which was the smallest of the 4. Service was up to Lufthansa high standards and the food was typical economy class fare…at least they did not charge for beer, wine or cognac. We arrived in Frankfurt on time into a thick fog, but the sophisticated instrumentation brought the aircraft onto the runway with one of the smoothest landing. Our luggage arrived in a timely manner and we were soon loading our car for the short trip to Wiesbaden to have breakfast with Becky’s niece Jill and her family. We had a pleasant visit with them and learned that after seven years with the Army, they will be returning to Fort Bragg in December with a promotion. Everyone seems to be pleased. From Wiesbaden we started our drive to Bamberg for a 3-day brewery tour in Bavaria. We used our new Garmin navigation device and programmed in the Bamberger Hof hotel as our destination. I did not realize that there are more than one hotel with that name and as Murphy’s Law would dictate I selected the wrong hotel. When we arrived, we immediately realized our mistake but still had 120 kilometers to drive to finally reach Bamberg. We arrived and checked to this wonderful classic Germany hotel and set out to find a pub where we could toast to our successful arrival. Bamberg is a wonderful old Unesco preserved Medieval city with ample sites to engage even the casual tourist not to mention the nine resident breweries. We stopped for a casual meal at a restaurant attached to the hotel; by this time we were not really interested in fine dining but just a nice bed to start the recovery of jet lag from the transatlantic flight.
Monday 13 October 2014 Bamberg:
One of the determining factors for selecting the Bamberger Hof was the sumptuous breakfast buffet which met all of our expectations. Breakfast is always once of the treats to any vacations especially after a year of cereal and yoghurt for our daily morning feed. Following our leisurely and late grazing through all of the breakfast selections, we moved to the parking garage where we reassembled our tandem bicycle in preparation for an afternoon cruise to the neighboring villages to visit local breweries. There is even a bicycle path named the Bicycle Brewery Tour. We wanted to tour a bit of Bamberg before we started our ride…we really needed some maps and advice of routes and places to visit by bicycle. We first found the Tourist Information Office where we got a listing and a map of 60 local breweries although the map did not have enough detail to be of much value. We had be advised to visit the Cathedral built in the 12th Century and by pure luck we met the hotel guest who had advised us to go there as we entered the Dom Platz. Peter is an amateur historian who gave us more history about Bamberg and the Dom than we could have ever gleaned from a guide book. After taking his guided tour through the Cathedral (he was more than willing to continue) we explained that we were going start our bike ride and started back into the Altstadt. We stopped at a book store where we got the detailed bicycle route map we wanted to plan our ride. Next we found a Trachten Laden (store which handles typical Bavarian Costumes) where I bought a nice pair of Lederhosen, shirt and knee socks so that I’ll be in style for the next Fredericksburg Oktoberfest. From there we visited a brewery famous for Rauch Bier and then returned to the hotel and changed into biking clothes. Our first stop was only 8 kilometers away, fortunately the bike paths were very easy to follow and kept us off the busy traffic streets. We found a brewery in Lohndorf named Reh – Braurei. We met one of the owners who poured his signature Pils for us. It was very pleasant. We visit a short time while I asked all my questions about his brewery, but they were more interested in our tandem bike and our trip. We then pedaled on to Memmelsdorf to the Drei Kronen Braurei where we sampled two of their beers…a Pils and an Alt style. Now it was time to return to Bamberg and prepare for the evening. Our bike tour was just a little of 18 miles and we passed more than 12 breweries…this is really a great tourist venue! We had planned to have dinner at one of the breweries we had visited earlier in the day, but that was also the plan of so many other tourist that we could not even get to the front door. Not a problem…there are many other fine restaurants around and we quickly found a suitable substitute where we enjoyed very typical Bavarian fare…Sauerbraten for Becky and Sweinerhaxe for Hugh and of course plenty of the local brew. Finally it was time to return to the hotel and continue the jet lag recovery.
Tuesday 14 October 2014 Bamberg
One of the highlights of visiting in Germany is the leisurely breakfast in the hotel. Becky enjoys the endless lattes and I like the generous selection of meats, cheese, breads and fruit. There was some rain in the evening so we thought we would wait until the streets were drier before started our ride. Also we wanted to wander around the parts of Bamberg which we had not yet explored and take a few photographs. We walked along the canal and then stumbled onto a marktplatz in front of the Rathaus. Becky had forgotten a belt for her jeans which was the only excuse we needed to visit the market. She found the perfect belt which is now an essential part of her traveling wardrobe. We returned to the hotel to change into bike clothes and continue of brewery tour. We mapped out a route to visit at least two breweries; getting out of town was a struggle with all of the tourist and narrow cobblestone streets, not to mention the steep ascent up the Domberg. Once out of town we were in beautiful rolling pasture land with nicely paved streets and bike paths. We first rode to Schönbrunn to the Fritz- Bähr brewery, but unfortunately it was closed on Tuesdays. We found another brewery on the map which was a few kilometers farther. As we approached Viereth, we passed the Kundmüller brewery in Weiher. We stopped there and discovered a nice Pils which we drank in the outside garden with a piece of zwiebelkucken. As we started back to our hotel we tried a new setting on the Garmin to minimize ascent; this was a mistake as it directed us through a dense forest over a dirt path with was soft from rain. We managed finally to exit the forest, but not without having to walk a few hundred meters. We retraced our path over the cobblestones and found the hotel garage when we dissembled the bike and repacked it in the suitcases. After a nice hot shower, we found a popular gasthaus close to the hotel for dinner and beer. I tried the kellnerbier and Becky had the Pils. I ordered a grillteller while Becky ordered the schweinlenchen; both were excellent. Next we wanted to visit the famous Schwenkerla brewery; it was too crowded the night before but this time we were prepared to stand in the street with the other patrons. I ordered the famous smoke beer; it was different for me but I think it would be good with barbecue. People who enjoy Scotch would probably enjoy this beer. After tasting the beer (I didn’t finish the glass) we returned to the Bamberger Hof for the night.
Wednesday 15 October 2014 Bamberg - Görlitz
Today is a travel day for Bamberg to Görlitz so there isn’t a lot to record. We enjoyed our last sumptuous breakfast at the Bamberger Hof then paid our bill and started our 420 kilometer drive to Görlitz. We did not find a direct route out of town and saw parts of the town we had never seen before; finally we found the correct road and were on our way, but first a quick stop to fill up the rent car and buy some wine to give to our hosts. The autobahn is close to Bamberg so we were soon traveling at close to 100mph. Our route took us by Hof, Chemnitz and Dresden. Conrad was our exchange student in 1985; he moved to Görlitz about 10 years ago where he met his wife Diane. We saw him the last time in 2012 in Friedrichshafen when their youngest child was only 10 days old. We arrived at Conrad’s house about 3:00 in the afternoon. Conrad lives in a turn of the century five story building which he purchased soon after moving to Görlitz. It is a lifetime project to convert a 120 year old building into a modern living space. Perhaps 85% is complete; 2 floors are rented; Conrad had accommodations for us on the 5th floor. Conrad is still working on that floor, but we had everything we needed for the visit. We walked through the city to the kindergarten to collect Constantine (the youngest of 3 children), then we walked to the afterhours school to pick up Vanessa. Finally we arrived back at the house and found Diane with Johann. The remainder of the evening we drank beer, had dinner and caught up on the activities of the past two years.
Thursday 16 October 2014 Görlitz
By the time we finally showered and climbed downstairs to meet Conrad and Diane, the children had already left for school. We had breakfast with Conrad and discussed plans for the day. It was a cloudy and wet morning so Conrad suggested ideas that we could manage inside. His idea was to drive an hour into Poland to visit Boleslawiec which is famous for hand produced ceramics. He had a pitcher on the table which was produced there and we agreed that it would be an interesting trip. The autobahn A4 toward Breslau was completed less than 5 years ago and is a super highway through the forest. There is not of lot of interesting sights to see along the route, but it was fast and safe. The ceramics are completely handmade but they are stamped instead of painted. Each is really very nice and there were every imaginable shape and design. Becky started looking for a dish suitable for dips…the challenge was to finally choose from the many available, but she finally made a decision and now we have a lovely dish for serving dips. We visited two factory outlets before we drove into the historic city center for coffee and a pastry. The town center is very colorful and beautifully restored although the economy is very slow and there was little activity in the town. We continued our stroll around the old city walls before returning to the car. We stopped at one last ceramic store the way out of town where Becky found a souvenir egg to add to her collection. We planned our return to Gorlitz to visit the local Landskron brewery at the scheduled 3:00 tour. The brewery is new by German standards…built in 1869. It is family owned and produces 13 styles of beer. All of the equipment is modern although all of the old kettles remain in place and must be preserved because of their historical significance. Much of the brewery is underground to help maintain the cold lager temperatures. The fermentation is in open vats; this brewery is one of only 7 breweries that continue with the open fermentation. We visited the tasting room where we could try any of the 13 beers. The only ale produced is their hefe weissen…all the others are lagers. After the brewery tour we returned to Conrad’s house; Diane and the children were already there. We visited for a while, enjoyed a few beers and had dinner. Diane had prepared turkey with potatoes and salad. The children are very active following dinner and made quite a ruckus as they chased each other around the house. We were ready for bed following dinner.
Friday 17 October 2014 Görlitz – Harlingerode
Today is a travel day to visit the Dege Compound in Harlingerode. By the time we had made our way downstairs, all of the children were already in School and Diane had left for work. We had breakfast with Conrad and discussed plans for the day. He suggested that we visit Herrenhut where he had worked for a while in a textile printing factory. This was the international headquarters of the Moravian Church and the site where the Moravian Stars are made. We stopped to visit the church and the exhibition. We were familiar with the Moravians because of John Wesley’s experience with them on a return voyage from North Carolina. There was a comparison between Wesley and Zensendorf which offered a good comparison between the Methodist and Moravian philosophies. We had time for a quick snack before we had to drive on to Harlingerode. Conrad took us to the local super market where there was a lunch counter…we ordered a bowl of the typical local soup and while it was tasty and hearty it may have caused some digestive distress later. We managed the trip to Harlingerode in about 4 hours. Most of the driving was over the autobahn at 110 mph although there were a few construction sites which had lower limits because of the slower traffic. We had no problem finding the house and met Birgit who directed us to the main house to see Conrad and the rest of the family. This was the first time we had seen Conrad since meeting him in 2012 in Friedrickshafen. His stroke occurred after then and left him paralyzed on the left side and very compromised with his ability to speak. He of course did recognize us and appeared please that we had come to visit him. I really never understood his speech but that did not seem to lessen the fact that he was happy to see us. Volker, Ana, Carmen and Niels had returned from London last Christmas and they live downstairs in the big house. We had also seen Volker in Friedrickshafen, but we had not seen the rest of the family since Conrad’s wedding. Dinner plans were to drive to the Harz Mountains to a Bavarian restaurant. We had reserved a big table and enjoyed a great meal together. We had asked Ulrich to reserve a hotel for us because we knew there no guest room available. They had reserved a nice apartment in Bad Harzburg which was convenient and very comfortable. As we returned from the Bavarian Restaurant they dropped us the apartment and we retired for the day.
Saturday 18 October 2014 Harlingerode
Breakfast was planned for the big house in the Dege compound at 8:30 in the morning. Becky and I woke up much earlier in Bad Harzburg and started a search for a coffee shop. Finally we found a bakery which opened at 7:00am where we could order a cup of coffee. After a nice leisurely visit in the bakery, we walked back to our apartment and drove to Harlingerode for breakfast. Of course it was a huge spread with a selection of breads, meat, cheeses, homemade marmalades and Becky’s favorite quark. We had planned to visit the Volkswagen factory and exhibits in Wolfsburg for the day’s activity. Conrad decided that he was not up to the trip so just Ulrich, Becky and Hugh made the excursion. Wolfsburg is about an hour drive, we had been there many years ago, but my interest in cars and especially VW’s was all the encouragement we needed for another visit. We toured the production exhibition, the Porsche pavilion, the Audi pavilion, the VW pavilion and the antique car pavilion. I thoroughly enjoyed the cars; maybe it’s a guy thing but certainly fulfilling for any mechanically inclined individual. We finally stopped for lunch and then drove back to Harlingerode. We had about an hour and a half before meeting the family again for dinner. Barbara (the hired care giver for Conrad) had prepared a beautiful spread almost too pretty to eat, but none the less we soon had devoured the awesome presentation while sampling a variety of German beers. Ulrich was concerned that I had to drive 6 kilometers back to Bad Harzburg after drinking some beer. I was very cautious to ensure that my blood alcohol did not exceed the allowable limit….there was no problem. So following dinner and much conversation, it was time to return to the apartment and to bed.
Sunday 19 October 2014 Harlingerode – Frankfurt
Today is another travel day; we have to drive to the Frankfurt airport for an afternoon flight to Venice. But first we enjoyed another enormous breakfast with the family. Everyone joined around the table one last time to enjoy fellowship and memories of many past times together. But with a little over 300 kilometers to drive, we had to bid farewell and begin the 4 hour drive to Frankfurt. Sunday is always the best day to drive the Autobahns in Germany because trucks are not allowed and there is generally less traffic. One can generally travel as fast as he has courage, according to my Garmin, my maximum speed was 175 kilometers per hour. Returning the rent car at the Frankfurt airport was very easy; we simply followed the signs for the Europa Car Return and handed in the keys…that was all. Next we checked our luggage and passed through security and customs. We had some time to relax in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge before our flight. I needed some time to claim the VAT return for the lederhosen I had purchased in Bamberg. This was inconvenient but with perseverance I finally managed to have my credit card credited for the amount of the tax. I met Becky in the lounge where we enjoyed some beverages and snacks. Our flight was delayed almost an hour, but finally the flight took off and we were on our way to Venice to meet the Santana Tandem Tour of the Dalmatian Coast.