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A Quiet Birthday

October 24-25, 2009

Written October 25

Friends and Families,


OK, everybody has a birthday every year and the two of us are no different. On the 25th, Marianne had her turn. We had no grand plans: no trips to Paris or Istanbul; no fine dining in San Francisco; no lavish gifts of cars and houses and jewelry. Not that she might not want some of that, but they will all have to wait for next year.

THIS year, we had just a simple target, a Bamberg restaurant she'd recently found out about. I figured we couple couple that with an overnight stay in a quaint Bamberg hotel and it would be "almost Paris". As it turned out, there must have been lots of birthday's this weekend because all the hotels in town, quaint or otherwise, were booked. Oh well, we left home without hotel reservations, counting on traveler's luck.

Bamberg is only about 25 minutes from home so we made it there early, well before our planned lunchtime. We wandered around the streets we've seen dozens of times before. (despite the very gray weather, it was still a nice place to wander, one of our favorite in all of Germany. No pictures this time though because the clouds and light fog would have ruined our memory of a very pretty old town.

Precisely at noon, we went to Fellini Ristorante, our new find. When we got there, the only other people who had found it were the staff, who gave us our choice of the empty tables. We settled into a cozy two-top, hugging the tile fireplace. We each ordered special salads, which were fresh and good. They were followed by MORE salads since it seems our main dishes came with salads. We hadn't seen that on the menu and normal custom around here seems to be a la cart, so we hadn't expected it. Oh well, it is healthy I guess. We each ordered fish, Marianne a white fish and squid rings for me. Both were quite tasty with particularly good sauces. We agreed that we would need to return.

So now were were faced with a search for an overnight stay. We opted to look out in the countryside, for that perfect quaint village guest house. Good idea, but we also tried to look in an area we were unfamiliar with. Our first try was Eltmann since, on the map, it appeared like a river village that MUST have quaint places with views of Main River traffic. Nope. Only Main River industry and river worker housing.

No problem, we crossed over the river toward "Zeil am Main", with the same expectation. Here, there was a nice small Bavarian church and a good feel for the town. We stopped by the empty tourist information office and learned of two hotels in town and one out in the quiet countryside. We look at the first in-town place and decided against it because it look too ... plain. It's a birthday celebration, after all, and we would not compromise -- too much.

We walked several blocks to the other hotel, which did indeed look like a charming old building. The office was closed on this quiet weekend, but the sign said the hotel was open and all we needed to do was make a phone call. When Marianne did call, and inquired about a "doppel zimmer frei", the abrupt answer was "Nein." Too bad, I guess the owners just didn't want to open their big place for a single customer.

We left quiet Zeil for even quieter Bischofscheim, where our third choice was waiting. When we saw the Altes Forsthaus, we considered continuing our search. I think it was the gray day or maybe just the road construction half blocking the entrance , but this was not quite the level-of-quaint we had in mind. However, it was getting toward evening and was past our normal 4 pm cut-off for find a place to stay so , after sitting in the car for a few minutes debating, Marianne got out and checked out the place.

She was back in a few minutes with a room key and a grudging analysis: "It's OK." I followed her up to room 15 and the description "OK" was correct. Spotlessly clean, as virtually all places in Germany are, but old instead of quaint and quite simple. I would show a website link, but Altes Forsthaus has no website. Unusual in today's travel industry, but appropriate for Bischofheim's only tourist attraction.

After moving in, we went down to the restaurant for an afternoon Kaffe und Kuchen, one of my favorite rituals in Old Europe. On days with a big lunch, we substitute a coffee and cake snack for dinner and justify the calories by skipping a real dinner.

There were two dessert offerings: fried donuts, with cream sauce, and a coffee cake. I opted for the first and Marianne the cake. Mine had plenty of calories and, since we were pretty hungry, tasted "OK". Marianne's didn't. She said it was the onion contamination that put her off but, when I sampled it, I imagined it was the driest cake we'd had in Germany, dry and with just a hint of onion, not our dream dinner.

The other attractions of the dining room were little stuffed animals on all the walls and a table full of locals drinking beer, wine, and moonshine. One group was as pickled as the other, but the little animals were quieter. We do this travel stuff for insight into other people's lives and I suppose that's what we were exposed to. Stuffed squirrels and celebrating farmers. We retired to our small room as soon as we could make a gracious exit.

On Sunday morning, we were back in the squirrel room enjoying a nice breakfast. Really. It was quite tasty with fresh-baked bread and plenty of good coffee. Maybe Altes Forsthaus was more than OK, at last in the early morning

In any event, we paid our very reasonable bill and left for home. I suppose I now owe Marianne a Paris birthday next year, but we'll see what the next trip somewhere brings.




John and Marianne


ps: Why report on such a simple overnight? Because memories, and diaries, should be a truthful mixture and I'm not sure we remember that.


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