Sunday, October 21, 2012

And, now, on the way home!

I have been lax in finishing up my trip.  Sorry, people!  But now I am going to finish up the trip.

We left Rothenburg about noon and headed to Aschaffenburg, an old city only about an hour from Frankfurt.  Dad picked this city because it was close to the airport; that way we didn’t need to worry about getting the car turned in and not being in time for the flight.

Aschaffenburg was around during Roman times but became an actual city in the Middle Ages.  We stopped at a McDonald’s (Dad wanted to eat there and I didn’t object), then checked into our hotel, the “Hotel Olive Inn.”  Dad asked the receptionist if the city had any cathedrals or castles and she called a taxi to take us to the “Stiftsbasilika St. Peter un Alexander.”  She assured us that we could walk from the cathedral to the Johannisburg Palace.  When we were ready to come back to the hotel, we could call a taxi from any café or flag one down on the street.

The taxi drive took us right to the cathedral and he also assured us that we would have no problem getting a taxi to head back.

A Basilica is so named because it was specially designated by a Pope as something a little bit better than a church or cathedral.  This one was named for St. Peter and for (I believe) a pope, Alexander.  It was begun in 958.  In fact, in 1958, Pope Pius XII helped celebrate the 1,000th anniversary.  (Now, THAT IS OLD!)

I spent a lot of time wandering around inside and out.  Dad was very patient ... he wandered, then sat and waited for me.  I could have spent several more hours, going into more of the corners, but decided if we wanted to see the palace, I needed to pace myself.  I did take a lot of pictures and purchased a small booklet on the church.  It is in German but there were a lot of pictures that I knew I couldn’t reproduce with my camera.  (I have since gone on line and read as much as I could about the Basilica, since I couldn’t read the booklet.)

This was right in the middle of the city, so we then walked (after asking someone the directions) to the palace.

This is the Schloss (castle or palace) Johannisburg, built between 1605 and 1614.  It was damaged in World War II but has since been restored.  After we went through the courtyard and left the palace, we found the tourist / information office and realized that if we had planned better, we could go into the palace itself and see the displays and rooms.  Oh, well, the outside and the courtyard were impressive in themselves.

We then walked into a market area of the city and enjoyed looking around and watching the people.  There was a man who came and played the violin near us.  Dad gave me some coins and I put them in his violin case.  He wasn’t the best player I’ve heard, but he wasn’t too shabby and it was enjoyable to listen to and watch.  It was too early to eat, so we then walked to a busier area and found a taxi dropping a rider off, so we flagged her (yes, a female driver) and asked her to take us to the “green hotel” and she knew exactly where we were going.

We rested for awhile - I got online with Sammy and checked FaceBook entries and email - then walked to a sports bar for dinner.  That was an adventure in itself, so that will be told another time.  We caught a taxi home and hit the sack.

Early in the morning, had our last breakfast, packed the car and headed to Frankfurt.  Dad had to fill the car with gas, so we found a gas station, asked where the terminal and the car rental place were and the guy said “Same place” .... “Go to the first corner, turn, and there you are.”  And he was right ... we checked the car in, pulled our bags (thank goodness for wheeled bags) and got checked in early.  We had a lunch and waited for our flight. 

Then on to Iceland, changing planes there and heading home.   Joy and Norm met us and took us to Joy’s house where we had a lovely dinner to celebrate Ken’s birthday and our return. 

On Saturday morning (well, noon, actually), we got into the van and headed home.  Dad spent Saturday night with Candy and Wayne, then treated us to breakfast and headed home.

The end of a monumental trip.  A trip of a life time!

But it ain’t over yet, folks!  I promised Norm’s niece Glenda (yes, it’s nearly time, Glenda) that I would take pictures of our food, so that will be the next blog and slide show.  Until then, enjoy these.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On to Rothenburg

This city was built in the 1300s and is a totally awesome place.  The “old town” is an enclosed walled city which is right in the middle of the new, modern town.  We drove through an archway which is only of 2 ways into the old city, then followed Sammy’s instructions and drove directly to the hotel.  We checked in and parked in a small parking lot about a block away. That is, an American block.  I rarely saw any “blocks” of our normal length.  They all, everywhere we went, were longer or shorter or non-existent.

Rothenburg, pronounced “Rote-in-burg” is an awesome town.  It’s become a tourist place and there are shops (called houses, not shops) everywhere.  I asked were such-and-such a place was and was told “It’s two houses down,” etc.  There are people everywhere.  The narrow streets are built of stone and are bumpy when driving over them; you have to watch where you put your feet and / or cane when walking so you don’t trip over a stone sticking up higher than the others.

There is a wall all around the old city, built to protect the residents from invaders.  However, during one war, the city was conquered and was threatened with destruction.  The mayor pleaded with the general to save the city and the residents.  The general said if someone could drink a large tankard of beer in one glug, he would save the city.  The mayor, supposedly, did so and was a hero.  There is a large building - I think it was the city hall - that has a clock and two windows.  At the hour, the windows open and an animatronic general watches an animatronic mayor glug down his beer.  At 5 minutes to the hour, the market square gets very full, everyone watching the clock and having his / her camera ready.

Old buildings everywhere!  Not a new building in sight.  New windows, perhaps, and new interiors, but the walls on the outside are originally old.  We Americans, as most know, think “old” is 200 years or so.  Walking on streets that were built in the 1300s is amazing!  Touching walls that are 700 years old is awe-inspiring.  I love “old” (maybe that’s why I love Norm?) and it was thrilling to be in Rothenburg. 

We did a lot of shopping and even (shock) split up, planning on meeting back at a certain spot and knowing we wouldn’t get lost.  I saw an old cathedral but didn’t go in, as they charged to go in and it wasn’t too impressive, from what I could see.  It was more impressive on the outside (I did see a properly aged cathedral the next day). 

Touristy is a correct word for the shops (houses, excuse me).  Knick-knacs everywhere, but I bought into the idea and bought my own knick-knacs.  I wanted dolls, so got my second one (first one was Swiss), a Bavarian one.  Pictures of them will come at a later time, I promise.  I also found some thimbles, some liquor glasses for Norm and other cool things that can’t be mentioned now.  How about I take pictures and show them when the receivers have received them?    

We had a beautiful set of rooms (two bedrooms) in the Hotel goldener Hirsch but there was no Internet ... this was the first place we stayed that did NOT have Internet.  I was told that an Internet Café was down the street, through the famous archway.  Dad and I walked down there; the proprietor was closing up early to do some shopping.  He told us that there was another one up in the Market Square, so we walked up there.  The two in the shop could not speak any English except to know that I wanted Internet, but we couldn’t connect.  I was charged € 2 (2 Euro) for the password but because there was some trick to connect that I couldn’t figure out, I was given the money back.  We went back to the first Internet Café in the morning and had good connections so we could plug Sammy into directions for our next hotel.

I had a lot of questions to ask the receptionist; she was very helpful and would get the other office girl if she couldn’t understand or tell me what I wanted to know. 

I need to say, right now, that I met no-one in Europe that was not friendly, helpful and kind.  The taxi drivers (all but one - late at night and non-English speaking, so he wasn’t very talkative) talked and asked questions and answered questions and got us to our destination quickly and without cheating us by going a longer way, as we had been warned could happen.  The people who could speak English were helpful; those who could not speak English would find someone who could to help us.  We saw no suspicious characters that were out to steal anything of ours.  We felt very safe, as far as our bodies and our belongings, the whole time.
In Oberammagau, I asked the waitress what the name of the berry was that I had discovered everywhere.  After trying to pronounce it in English, she finally wrote it down.  That is the kind of helpful I mean.  (This lovely berry that I fell in love with is Red Currant.  We have it here, but it doesn’t seem to be used as much!  I got some Red Currant jelly when I got home!)

In the morning, this was our last full day, we spent time until almost noon wandering around.  We went to the back side of the hotel and found a path and also a “short” wall (I could look over it but it ran clear down to the valley below) that I could take pictures from.

We left Rothenburg, which was the highlight of my trip.  I need to go back and spend more time prowling around - hopefully Norm and I can do that some day.  We then headed to our last city before flying out.  This was another old city, Aschaffenburg, with a lot of old buildings, but it also blended new buildings alongside.  But that’s another story for tomorrow.


The church bells of the Town Hall


Friday, October 12, 2012

On the road again!

Okay, we’ve been a little distracted for over a week, so it’s time to get back on the tour.  This is day seven of the ten day tour.  Things are winding down but still extremely busy.  Actually, it seems like we are getting busier, trying to get everything done.

We left Innsbruck in the morning after a breakfast at a small café.  This was the first and only place that didn’t offer a B&B type breakfast along the way.  But the breakfast was very good.  We went through the Austrian Alps and headed into Italy for a little bit, then turned around and came back.

On the Autobahn from Austria to Italy there was a toll road.  We paid to go through the gates and were in Italy (I assume).  We went for a long while (maybe even an hour) and decided to turn around just before another toll gate.  Then when we got back to the first toll gate, Dad handed the clerk his ticket, which had no exit stamp on it.  The clerk was horrified; “That is forbidden!”  He kept repeating that while Dad kept trying to tell him that we simply turned around in the parking lot before the second toll gate.  The clerk called someone, I assume a supervisor, all the time saying, “That is forbidden!”  I had visions of us being hauled to jail or something when Dad finally said “What can I say?  Stupid Americans!”  After a little bit, the clerk hung up the phone, raised his hands in dismay and told us to go ahead!  Whew!  Guess it was the “Stupid Americans” that did the trick.  And I hope we never do a “forbidden” again!

We drove back down the Alps to Oberammagau and found our hotel, the Hotel Friedenshöhe.    As we were driving in, we met the owner, Eric.  He had us check in; Dad asked about the castle he wanted to see and Eric said that it was too far away to get to and return in an afternoon.  He suggested we go to the Königsschloss (Castle) Linderhof, which was only about fifteen minutes away.  We drove over and had a wonderful afternoon.  The castle was not as beautiful as the Neuschwanstein Castle (Walt Disney designed his Sleeping Beauty castle after this one), but it was awesome, non-the-less!  There were gilt rooms, gold everywhere, a magnificent fountain and swans in the lake.

After having a tour of the castle by a very well-informed guide, I did some shopping - can’t tell you what, as not everyone has received their gifts, yet, but I did get some neat things and also got some good postcards.  No matter how good a camera you have, postcards are the best for showing what you have seen.  I don’t feel guilty about using postcards as part of my story.

After the castle tour, we went to the old part of Oberammagau, which had a lot of tourist shops.  Again, I bought things, but, again, I cannot say what I bought.  We went back to the hotel and had a lovely dinner that we didn’t realize was in the package deal.  We had wireless, but the router, said Eric, was an old one and not very strong, so to get emails, etc, I had to sit in the reception lobby to get connected.  Another guest was there with his IPad getting connected as well. A storm started while we were eating and we went to bed with thunder and lightning.  Our room had a lovely balcony and Dad wanted to sit outside for awhile but the chairs got wet so he couldn’t.

The next morning we had a lovely breakfast, checked our GPS on Sammy and headed to Rothenburg, the oldest walled city in Europe.  But that’s for tomorrow.  Enjoy the pictures!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Big Island Educational Rendezvous

This past week has been spent at Albert Lea, where the twenty-sixth rendezvous was held.  We have been there for about 5 or 6 years, I believe.  We had a chilly but great time.

Wednesday, we set up our tent in 80º weather.  Fortunately the wind was breezy enough to make it semi-comfortable.  It took us longer to set up because we had been moved from where we’ve been for nearly the whole time we’ve been at Big Island.  I requested (I guess ... everyone told me I did) to be closer to a weaver / woodworker named Blackie.  So when we got there, we had to figure out what way we wanted the tent to be, how far in the front, how far in the back.  I had to figure out where my brazier was, my kitchen was on the outside, where the bed and bathroom would go inside.  It took almost an hour to do the figuring (you don’t want to put the tent up and then change your mind).

Once the tent was up, we visited with Blackie and our new neighbor between Blackie and us; Norm took the van out and picked up ice and broasted chicken for supper.  As it got dark, we lit the candelabra candles, put a lantern on the table outside and settled down for the night.

The next day, Thursday, bright and early, we had to set up the school kids demo stations (I was in front, Norm was in back) and get ready for kids bright and early.  Norm wanted a good breakfast so I cooked while he cleaned up.  We had bacon, eggs and toast.  My favorite toast (and SOOOO good for you!), is fried toast - throw some butter (stiff and cold from the cold night air) in a small cast iron pan, melt it and put in a piece of bread.  Turn and put more butter on.  The whole piece of fried toast is covered with melted, browned butter.  Then jelly or bacon (or both) as a sandwich.

Lunch was cold chicken.  We had kids from 9:00 until 2:30, with a few breaks (especially lunch time) in the stretch.  I teach the history of material from the first yarn to machine made material.  Norm demonstrates spoon carving and talks about wood work.

After the kids left, we went visiting.  Wally, my favorite blacksmith (sorry, Blackie - I’ve known him longer), came over for supper - beef soup and egg dumplings.  I had pre-cooked and frozen the meat, then added it to beef broth and veggies in the cast iron Dutch Oven and cooked, then added the dumplings a little bit before Wally came.  Along with home-made rolls and beet pickles, it made a good meal.  Then I cooked some apples for a chunky applesauce for desert.  Wally (and Norm) ate so much that rolling away from the table was the only way to leave.

It started to get cold and the wind was “wicked fierce” so we started the stove inside and got the tent toasty warm before going to bed.  What with getting up several times a night, we kept the stove going all night and it was warm when we got up.

School kids again all day - with sandwiches for lunch.  We had hamburgers and baked beans, just we two.  I cooked them over the brazier but then we ate inside, as it was too chilly to eat outside.

Saturday morning, I made biscuits and fried sausages, then served the biscuits with home-made peach-peel jelly.  Our friend, Ole, came to join us for the traditional Saturday breakfast, as we had no school tours to hasten for.  Saturday was extremely cold (I even saw snow flakes); Joy and family joined us for the day.  Bitty and Bubba, because they’ve been raised in Living History, always feel strange and embarrassed when they are in “civilian” clothes at an event.  I talked to my neighbor, Robin, who is a seamstress, and she volunteered to loan them proper clothing.  Because of the cold, the girls put skirts on over their jeans and kept their tennis shoes on.  I had shawls and jackets and mittens for them to wear, so they were almost toasty warm.  Joy was cold, but she’s always cold, even in 70º weather.  Ken was cold, too.  For some reason his shoes got too cold, so his feet were cold.  They spent a lot of time in the tent warming up and stoking up the stove to sauna temperatures.  We also ate inside - I fried potatoes and onions and then fried pork steaks.  They caught the shuttle out to the parking lot later that evening and headed home.  We settled in for the night, again, with a very toasty tent to sleep in.

Sunday morning we had friend Steve come for bacon, toast and eggs for breakfast.  It was COLD that morning ... ice on the water buckets.  Our neighbor, Roy (Robin’s husband) brought his wash basin over - it had a stalagmite (upside down icicle) in it.  We don’t know the temperature - no one had a thermometer and few listen to radios or check their smart phone weather applications - but that stalagmite was might cold looking!

So, Sunday was like Saturday in that it was a public day.  But the weather was totally different - sunny and warm in the sun, cool and breezy in the shade.  I think I got a sunburn!  At 5:00, it was quitting time and the guests left, then the cars, trucks, vans, trailers came on to start the tear-down.  We, however, just slowly started packing, had leftovers for supper and went to bed rather early.  Norm went out to get the van before dark.

Monday morning we got up and started tearing down in earnest.  Even though the inside stove was still hot, we decided not to cook anything but have a cold breakfast and let the coals burn down so we could dump them out.

After we were all packed, we grabbed lunch at the local Arby’s and headed home.  It was great to be home but I missed sleeping in fresh air.  Even though we had heat every night, my face was pleasantly cool (sometimes MORE than pleasantly) and the air was not stuffy like it gets in the house.

It was a great 5 days but I’m glad to have a modern gas stove rather than an open fire for cooking and having a hot shower rather than having a spit bath at night.

Here are a few pictures of the week.  It was a beautiful time, even though it was cold several days.  It was a chilly, beautiful day today.  You have a beautiful day.

With their favorite (historical) grandpa

Bitty is demonstrating spinning, using Angora rabbit fur

An awesome bunch of clouds

Ice in the water basin (and on the scrub pad)

A beautiful tree in the beautiful sunshine

Our neighbors had an upside-down icicle.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

And On We Go

We left Schaffhausen and headed through the Swiss Alps and ended up in Innsbruck,
Austria.  We saw some awesome mountains!  I know that the Colorado Rockies are higher, but the Alps are steeper!  And even though I’ve been in the Rockies (some, not a lot), it’s a totally different feel in Switzerland and in Austria. 

After a lot (LOT) of mountains, we arrived in Innsbruck.  We found the hotel, thanks to our faithful Sammy (Dad got hooked on my tablet’s ability to navigate ... once I plugged in our destination in the morning - if we had wireless, we were able to arrive safely and securely at our evening hotel even if we took alternate routes).  Of course, Frankfurt would have been easier to navigate if we had plugged Sammy in to the hotel, but I had wanted to find the cemetery and had no wireless to continue on.  More about wireless later.

I had read reviews of our “Pension” - pronounced Pen-shi-on - and they weren’t too hot.  But I was impressed with the manager and the room.  It was clean (all of them were, by the way), on the main floor, so no steps for us oldies, and very comfortable.  I had a slight difficulty with wireless but the manager smoothed it out easily.  He also told us where to have lunch (we got there about noon) and where to go to get to the “old” part of town.

We ran into a glitch, money-wise.  In Steinbach in Linde, we went to an ATM.  The name for ATM is “Bankomat” but we never figured this out so had to talk about money machines.  Anyway, we found one and Dad put his debit card in to get money and it didn’t work.  So I got some out with my credit card for him.  But in Austria and Bavaria, neither of us could get money out of an ATM.  We went, in Innsbruck, to a couple of banks, but they couldn’t give us money because our cards didn’t have some kind of stamp on them.  Why we needed that, we never found out!  Oh!  What I wouldn’t have given to be even semi-fluent in German!

But we never had trouble using our debit cards or my credit card to purchase items or eat at a restaurant or pay for hotels!  Puzzling.  We even went so far as to Skype Jody and have her call Mom and have Mom ask the bank what was going on.  But Dad’s bank couldn’t answer that.  And my banker had no control over my credit card because it wasn’t a bank one!

However, going out of sync, here, we finally got money when we got to Rothenburg.  Guess Austria and Bavaria just didn’t like our cards!

Anyway, to get back to the story: we walked down to the “old” part of town and took in the sights.  When in the center of town, we could see mountains everywhere, if the buildings weren’t too tall.  The main street had mountains on both ends.  And there was a square that allowed you to see the mountains.  Breathtaking!

About that time I realized that I was going through batteries like gang-busters!  So, when we were at a shop, I would pull out a dead battery and ask where I could get more.  Eventually, as we moved down the street, the directions got a little bit clearer and I finally found a store that was very much like an old Woolworth’s or Ben Franklins ... a lot of stuff in one place - but not in a Wal-Mart feeling, if you get my meaning.  There were all kinds of things in two stories.  I went down an escalator to the bottom - and found batteries and all kinds of wonderful kitchen-ware ... I was tempted but got away with just two sets of coffee cups / saucers (for Jody).

We walked back to the hotel and got ready for the dinner / show that Dad had planned for us. I did not get any good pictures but this link will show you a lot of what we saw.  We had a wonderful taxi driver who had lived in the US for a while so was very fluent in English and told us about his life there in Innsbruck.  He skis nearly every weekend of the winter - cross-country rather than down hill.  He liked being in the US but loves being back home in Innsbruck.  We had a lovely meal and then were seated for the show, which was funny and marvelous.

After catching a taxi to our hotel, we collapsed for the night.  This hotel was the only one that didn’t have a breakfast in the morning, so the next day we walked to the little café that we had eaten lunch in the day before.

So, now is time for the pictures. 
We will now take a break for about a week.  Norm and I are heading to Albert Lea for the Big Island Educational Rendezvous tomorrow and won’t be home until Monday evening.  It sounds like it will be a beautiful week.  It was a beautiful day today - you have a beautiful day and a beautiful week.

Switzerland to Austria