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Report 582: An Independent Driving Tour of Europe - 2001

By JaniceB from Ontario, Canada, Spring 2001

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Page 10 of 15: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

May 26, 2001 16:01

Well, here we are again. Several of you, Dear Readers, have written to say how much you're enjoying our adventures. Thanks! Interesting stuff keeps happening.

Tonight when we checked our email, we had the following note from Hans Beurling in Norway:

Dear Janice,

Guess what I found When I took the old picture out of the album!. The pictures of Gustav Ferdinand and the picture to the left in the album, the one your father thought may be was Julia Johanson. Both pictures is taken in Hjerpen Sweden. It look likes theese are the only pictures coming from Sweden. I belive that Richard is right about Julia Johanson. in the back off the picture of Gustav Ferdinand it says in Swedish, besides the buisniss name and adress : "The plate is archived in case of an after order".

Look at the attachments. If you would like me to mail the pictures to your ordinary e-mail, please tell me.

Venner for alltid (Friends for ever)

Hans

How exciting can this genealogy stuff get? [Thanks, Hans. We're so glad you checked those photos thoroughly.]

Now, to our latest adventures.

After we left the Ruesink farm in Holland on Thursday morning, we had only a few km to drive before we reached the German border. Again, nothing remotely resembling customs. Just a sign saying we were in Germany.

Our first order of business was to master the art of driving on the Autobahn. There weren't many cars at first and we didn't even realize we were on the famed speedway. However, as we sped along at about 120 km an hour (under the speed limit for the right lane) we did notice the car shaking as other cars started to drift by at -- Dad thinks -- about 180 to 200 km an hour. Needless to say, Mom was again trying to drive from the back seat. She helped Dad every time he had to pass a slower truck. He says he spent the whole time watching for approaching vehicles in the rear view mirror. Motorcycles were even faster than the cars. I think we only heard them as they broke the sound barrier.

The terrain changed fairly quickly from the very flat land of the Netherlands, to rolling hills, not mountains but much bigger than anything in southern Ontario. We left the highway just before noon to drive smaller (much smaller -- and slower) roads to the village of Bacharach (as in Burt). Our goal was to take a river cruise on the Rhine River, one of the greatest rivers in Europe. As we were making our way toward the river, we stopped on the road at one spot where we had a fabulous view. The wildflowers were blooming, the sun was shining, the breezes were blowing, Dad was videotaping, and then we could hear the noon bells from the distant villages ring out. It was almost The Sound of Music.

However, the bells reminded me that the cruise left the docks at 12:30 and we still had a way to go. We flew down the hills (just like Maria), and finally reached the town of Bacharach. The streets were cobble-stoned, the streets were narrow, and Mom was again driving from the back seat. We finally emerged from the old part of town onto the main (I use the term loosely) road that runs by the river. Lo and behold, but didn't we pop out exactly by the dock parking lot. We pulled into the last parking spot and hurriedly grabbed backpack and cameras. We had only a few minutes before the boat was to arrive. In fact, the boat schedule had been changed and we had fewer minutes than we'd expected. We left the car so quickly, Dad had to go back to close Mom's door and lock up. We hopped on board the crowded boat and settled in on the top deck for a fun ride.

The river current is about 10 km per hour in the wider sections, and as fast as 20 km an hour in the narrows. We travelled downriver to the fourth stop on the route, St. Goar. In between, we saw castles guarding the river. These were originally built to control river traffic. There is one castle where they would pull chains across the river to stop boats until they paid a toll. If the sailors didn't pay up, they enjoyed castle hospitality in the dungeon.

Another feature of the river is the river traffic. We saw many river boats and barges carrying any number of heavy loads. The boat owners live on board (you could see the lace curtains in the windows) and sometimes carry their own cars on deck. These boats are massive.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Rhine (and Mosel) River is the many, many vineyards climbing the hills. We thought the hillsides rose at about a 65 degree angle, yet they were covered with rows of grape vines. The hillsides were terraced with ancient stone walls. We couldn't imagine how anyone could till the fields, let alone harvest the grapes. It is quite amazing. Dad says it's beyond telling and you'll have to look at our photos (his videos!).

When we arrived in St. Goar (about an hour's ride) and found a restaurant for lunch, Mom said to Dad, "You have the German money, don't you?" Dad looked blank and said, "I thought you had the money." Then we realized that in the rush to catch the boat, we'd left the money in plain view on the car dashboard. Oy! Not only that, but I started to think about how we hadn't seen any parking meters, but neither had we really looked. Nevertheless, when we returned to Bacharach a few hours later, the car and money were still intact -- no fines, no break-ins. Whew! (We did have a good lunch anyway. Plastic is still good for some things!)

After our boat adventure, we hurried to our hotel for the night in Beilstein on the Mosel River, a tributary of the Rhine. We found the village without any trouble, but couldn't find the hotel itself. I set out on foot down through the village toward the river. Dad and Mom followed me by car. The street they came down was so narrow, Dad scraped the car mirrors on the walls of the buildings. Needless to say, I've never seen Mom get out of a car so fast! There was steam seeping from the car windows when they finally reached the hotel. I'm glad I was on foot.

The hotel was built in the 1600's and our room was quite remarkable. It wasn't large (although the owner's father told Dad it used to be three rooms) and the wooden beams were very much in evidence. Also, the floor distinctly sloped. You had to walk UP to the windows. The bathroom was modern. We also had a great breakfast the next morning -- everything from a boiled egg to rolls with cheese and meat to Mooselips and Yoggi (mueslix and yoghurt). A fun place!

The next morning we toured our first castle, Burg Eltz. This striking, rather fairytale looking assembly of buildings was built in the 1300s. We visited about eight or ten rooms that were beautifully decorated. We really enjoyed this experience. The same family has owned the property (and still uses it) for 700 years. A must-see if you visit this area.

That afternoon we drove to Rothenberg on the Tauber in Bavaria (southeastern Germany). The drive (more autobahn) was beautiful and the town is one of the best walled medieval towns in Europe. We're staying in a manor house hotel that was built in the 1400s. Our room on the second floor is as large as the previous hotel room was small. We've been hanging out the five windows in our room, over the geraniums, to watch the parades passing by on the street below. This town is also for serious shoppers. Mom and I have dropped several times today. This morning, Dad and I took in a brief organ concert in one of the local (ancient) churches. It was great. The pews shook.

Tonight we opted for a choir and organ concert at the St. Jacobs Evangelical Lutheran Church a couple of blocks from the hotel. The church was built in the 1300s and Dad estimates the roof is about eight or nine stories high. With the stone and structure, the acoustics were fabulous. The choral notes just floated up and wandered around the roof long after the choir had finished. They performed a number of pieces, including some Bach and Holst. One song we recognized was Nun danket allet Gott (Now Thank We All Our God). It was fabulous.

Now, about food. My brother, John, said we should be sure to try exotic dishes. Well, sometimes it's hard to tell what you're going to be served when your waitress doesn't speak English and you can't read German menus. For example, at lunch today, we placed an order for something exotic. What did we find when we received our meal but -- Chicken McNuggets. Go figure!

However, tonight I had Venison Ragout mit spatzel. Spatzel was described as potato dumplings, but it looked more like Klingon gagh! to me. Mom had salmon with noodles and salad. Dad had sauerkraut (again) with several kinds of meat including bratwurst, bacon and steak with boiled potatoes. It was all terrific.

Now we're exhausted, it's dark out and Mom is sure we won't find our way home. If you don't hear from us again, send help!

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