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Neighborhood Day Trips

July 16 , 2005


Dear Families and Friends,


One thing we enjoy about living in Germany is the ability to travel. This is most fun when it's a trip of a week or a month -- or even more of course. However, we try to work in quick trips as well and we find their memories as enduring those of the big road trips. Here are a few.


Mühlhausen in a few hours

(or Mühlhausen

Mühlhausen (or Muehlhausen if umlauts don't work) is a Bavarian village over a hill and around a corner from our new hometown of Pommersfelden. I suppose all places will now be measured in their relationship to Pommersfelden.

We chose to spend one over-night here and did little more than eat and sleep. The pink "mill house" is still here, and it was easy to imagine life hundreds of years ago when the the surrounding wheat fields fed the old mill: a living history lesson.

Many villages have monuments to the local soldiers lost in the two World Wars of the 20th Century. Even a village as small as this lost dozens in each war and their names filled the two-sided monument. Mühlhausen also included a monument to local Jews and others who also lost their lives in Nazi persecution.

A granite history lesson.


Franken Alps on the way to dinner

Sometimes we have to squeeze in trips in small spaces. On this Sunday, we had a four-hour gap between church and a dinner invitation. We went to the Alps, the "Franken Alps" just to the east of our Bavarian hometown.

The first stop was Buttenheim, at the Levi Strauss Museum. The future clothing entrepreneur was born in this three-story "fachwerk" (half-timbered) house. He left for America as a teenager, determined to carry on the family dry-goods business. "The rest", as the old saw goes, "is history" and the Buttenheim museum tells the story well.

Stop if you are in the neighborhood.

The Franken Alps are famous for dramatic rock formations but, on this trip, we ended up looking down rather than up. The wild flowers were decorating fields and drew our attention.

Of course, the area has other plants as well, not the least of which were berries and other fruits. We stopped at a stand where the strawberries came from 50 meters away and were wonderful. We said they were too good to worry about spoiling our upcoming dinner.

These particular fields of wild flowers and cultivated berries were guarded by an old fortress. (I think it's called "Ruine Neideck", but it's sometimes hard to sort among the various ruins in Germany. )


Frensdorf Museum - between courses.

After a quick tour of the Franken Alps before our dinner, we added in a museum tour DURING dinner, well almost. Mr. Werner asked if we wanted to see the local museum and we seldom pass up either invitations or museums. It seems that even a village as small as Frensdorf has history.

The museum is in an old farm house, or, more correctly, in an old "fish house". In the olden days, and even today, the Franken part of Bavaria was spotted with fish farms, where carp were raised and this was indeed both a fish house and a farm house.

Many style details reminded us of our own place. The shutters were the same and had been restored by the same carpenter who would do ours. The walls had layers of stencil decoration much like we have been seeing as we dig through our own house history.

Bedrooms were simple, but colorful. I don't think we'll repeat this dramatic blue wall, but we'd be delighted to find an old painted "schrunk" like this one.

Out in back, the museum sponsored a sampler garden. Marianne asked what these half-dozen different green-leafed plants were. The answer was "Potatoes, all potatoes". This may be a clue as to what would be traditional for our own garden.


One Day in the Mosel Valley

When Marianne's mom visited, we tried to do as much as possible. On this Saturday, we finished our chores early and decided on a quick overnight to one of our favorite places in Germany, the Mosel Valley.

This picture from near the confluence with the Rhine shows the valley from a dramatic angle.

Down in the valley, every hillside was planted with vines and every bend in the river revealed a different village. We chose to stay in Ernst, at one of several guest houses in the village. The reliability and charm of the German guest houses makes it one of the easiest countries in Europe in which to travel.

Driving back we went through Cochen, one of the most photographed villages along the Mosel. The castle guards the town and the river and the scene in morning sunshine was dramatic.

So dramatic was the sight of the Cochen castle that I managed to flatten a tire as I quickly pulled off the road to stop for one of those famous pictures. I don't know if I was more upset by the mistake of getting the flat tire or of changing it.

With our replacement tire in place, we headed down the Mosel and ferried across the Rhine. These ferries are very much the "normal" way to cross the river and the slow speed process of ferries and country roads fit our mood - and our spare tire.



Bamberg on a medieval sort of day

On an afternoon to kill (Marianne was away in California) I took up Alex's suggestion to see the street entertainment in his hometown, Bamberg. It's one of my favorite German small cities, so I was easy to convince.

I started in the "Altenburg" or Old Fortress. This is the highest spot around and has been fortified for centuries. I suppose there have been street players from time to time but these Alpine horns seemed out of place this far north.

On the ride down from the Old Fortress, the view of Bamberg may not have changed in hundreds of years. The wheat fields are ripe right now, as they may have been every July for those centuries.

In town, no picture tour of Bamberg is complete without at least one bridge and a shot of the colorful Rathaus.

Young entertainers were scattered all along the main shopping streets. These were not professionals.

Maybe because of that, the whole impression was both charming and somehow reminiscent of stories of a medieval city on market day. Kids of all ages were enjoying themselves, as entertainers or as entertained.

Hidden around one corner was a silent display. This old Mercedes was complete with driving gloves arranged carefully on the front seat and throw pillows placed in back for another reminder of old times.

So, that's it for now.

Remember; big trip, short trip, any trip can be better than hanging around the house.

John and Marianne


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