History & Traditions

Part 5 – Euro Scandi Odyssey – Rothenburg Travelogue

Day 5 A Munching we go… To Munich via Enchanting Rothenburg

Sunny and up to 9 degrees… sauna conditions in the front of the tour bus…

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Today’s highlight started with a pleasant drive along the Romantic road’s Autobahn to Rothenburg, the enchanted walled medieval city in South- Eastern Germany . Thankfully, this city was untouched during the war, and a Xmas market is found here from the first weekend of Advent onwards, a.k.a. four weekends before December 24.

The atmosphere in the markets and city is magical, enchanting, and quite wonderful, even without any snow….

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Foodwise: I was not impressed with the famous “snowballs”…. A baked piece of bland and tightly woven, hard crusty pastry strips with a tiny sprinkle of icing only the top. What was needed was some way for the sugar or salt even to stick to the whole of this traditional gastronomic disaster, which are about 4 inches in diameter, and about as full of flavour as a sweet biscuit without sugar…..needless to say, I threw it away…. Now if it had been dipped in chocolate maybe, it would have had potential, but the inner layers would still be completely devoid of flavour anyway. But the Mulled wine (Gluhwein) is good, very good!   You will find both snowballs, gluhwein and other sausage delicacies in the main square, where you can witness the Glockenspiel display on the hour at the main clock. A variety of stalls selling overpriced Xmas decorations proliferate.

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Wander the narrow cobble stone streets and you will find all sorts of shops with knick-knacks, collectibles, and things that ladies like to buy and browse, hidden on every corner. An old style wooden trivet carved with an edelweiss which caught my attention. Waiting patiently in line to be served for over 20 minutes, I started panicking that I would be Europe 2011second batch 148late back to the bus, and miss the departure, so politely requested “ Bitte” in German and offered the attendant the correct money and was happy to take the item without wrapping…. As the attendant was hell bent on putting sixteen layers of sticky tape on each purchase for each PERSON in the queue. Perhaps they had seen one too many American tourists pushing in, as she flatly refused to accept my purchase and money, held in my open hand. “NO MADAM” was all she Said. I dropped the trivet back on the counter, pocketed my money to my wallet and left the store. She just lost a purchase and a customer…. And I did make it back to the bus on time… finding a shortcut through the square, I saved another 10-15 minutes. My encounter with the obsessive shop assistance was quickly forgottten as I discovered I then had time to scale the walls for a aerial look at the town.
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Rothenburg’s walls themselves are quite incredible… medieval history staring at you in the face. Unlike historic locations back home, you ARE allowed to touch and feel these walls, and climb the u shaped steps, so worn down with the treading of thousands of Rothenburg feet. One can imagine feeling like a Rothenburg citizen defending the city with bow and arrow through the narrow slits in the city walls. They are intact for quite a way and have the covered walkway on the entrance side of the city. A horse and cart ride is also possible at least when the Xmas markets are on.

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There is not one but (2) KATHY WOHLFART ‘s Christams decoration outlets here and the attendants remind adults and children “NO touching”blah blah blah at frequent intervals which detracts, from the pleasant shopping experience and the jolly Xmas spirit, but the range of products is truly mind boggling. The store will ship purchases home, for an additional fee, if you are travelling and can’t carry fragile decorations around with you.

Tourist tip: Window shopping is my best recommendation.

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Step into the middle ages. Look at the detail on the corner of the building! Marvellous.

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Gorgeous, romantic road architecture in Rothenburg’s streets. I would have liked to come back and stay within these walls one day in the future, in order to really soak up the atmosphere, but the abrupt German Fraulein did put me off that a little. I hope all the residents weren’t that obsessive with gift wrap!

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The drive to Munich was largely uneventful, although I can always find something interesting out the window. The brief sight on the outskirts of the ginormous BMW (Bavarian Motor works) factory had some male passengers hyper excited. Whilst some rather nice architecture like the Olympic stadium, remains in my memory, for the mind-numbingly callous act of killing 11members of the Israeli Olympic team and one west German police officer by PLO’s Black September group, way back in 1972.  It was such a tragedy, and in this location, which was once the stronghold of the National Socialists!!! Still very interesting to see.

Olympic stadium 1980
Olympic stadium 1980

Along the way the Insight guide gave us an abridged history lesson of the history of the Nazi party, which was given life in this area of Germany. Indeed, we even passed by Landsberg Prison, where Adolf Hitler was imprisoned in the 1920’s for inciting an uprising. It was here he wrote the infamous”mystruggle” or “Mein Kampf”.Not only was Munich, the centre for the National Socialists,and we passed the road to the German concentration camp Dachau thankfully not visiting that, on this tour. For Trivia nights note that the Second Reich dated until 1870 (unification of Germany), Second Reich with Otto Von Bismarck till 1912 and Hitler was supposed to commence the Third Reich…Bavaria, apparently is considered in some quarters, still to be a country within Germany. Bavarians are different and consider themselves to be Bavarians first and Germans second.The Wittenbach family were the Bavarian royalty and controlled the state of Bayern for many years, starting the October fest, which was a Wedding feast for the Wiitenbachs where the entire population was invited.I was puzzled by the meaning of this sign… it was frustrating having something like this to ponder about in light of history.

I was a bit puzzled by this street sign in Munich:

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We arrived on time to our Hotel in Munich, which was located near to yet another Xmas market and the English garden. In 2010, they took 6 hours to make the same journey arriving well after dinnertime at around 8.30 pm due to heavy traffic and snow. We all wanted snow, but were kind of glad we had an easy run to hotel :
Hilton Munich Park hotel Am Tucherpark 7, Munich

Rooms: Basic, clean, and a nice aspect over the English Garden.  Internet is expensive and must be used in the evening as it does not carry over to the next day. Spa and Beauty Salon had a nice special: 15 minute massage for 15 Euros. A nice way to iron out any knots and tender spots in one’s neck and back.

Breakfast: Absolutely Fabulous. Everything one could think of and more. Quark, pancakes, breads, eggs done every way thinkable, pretzels, fish, eels, and more more more.Top notch!

As I snuggled down under the covers that night: I pondered about the meaning of that street sign!

History & Traditions

Part 4 – Euro Scandi Odyssey – Offenbach and Frankfurt Christmas markets

Day 4 – Winter Wonderland Tour Day 1

Offenbach & Frankfurt, Germany

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Sunny tending to Overcast was the weather prediction and it was about 2 degrees when we set out to explore Offenbach proper. We walked northward, or at least we thought it was northward and happened upon a farmer’s market, where we found a plethora of advent wreaths and candles. Little did we know that seeing this was going to be a common occurrence in the weeks to come. 

Our breakfast had been huge: Smoked salmon, herring/ cheese/and chocolate banana muesli. I could get very used to that!!! Delicious mouth watering pastries/cake/fruit as wellas hot dishes and the most scrumptious pretzel buns. My new favourite food!!

Significant attractions this morning included many buildings and fine houses and a delightful church with wrought iron gates. Some of these manor houses are quite large and some built post war, others’ obviously pre dated the war or were rebuilt afterward, as Frankfurt was fairly heavily hit in WWII

Something unexpected was the appearance of Peter Parker a.k.a. Spiderman and of course the landlady or spouse in the apartment above was dutifully cleaning the windows. ( An obsession that is purely German, I think). 

Schloss Offenbach is the largest manor house of all in Offenbach.
Dating from the 18th Century, it overlooks the river and the barge fleet, and appears deserted but is open on some occasions, according to the sign on the door. The orange paintjob is a little perplexing and I do wonder what the interior is like….. 
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The Offenbach equivalent of the Gallery of Modern Art, was closed but H. was pleased about that as she thought the building looked creepy. In contrast, the Leatherworkers museum was open but did not look enthralling enough for us to spend more than a little time checking out the shop. Maybe if I was into leathers and whips I might have found something to buy?????:P Then there was a rather weird structure sitting outside, some kind of car with sails, that would fit right into the set of Mad Max Thunderdome!
Tourist tip: keep walking along the Leatherworkers museum street to see some really fantastic suburban architecture and manor houses. Must have been studying history for too long, as I could imagine wartime Offenbach and see German soldiers or SS trotting about with their boots on, in the ever present piles of Autumn maple leaves that seem to be omnipresent in this part of the world at this time of year.  On arrival back at the Sheraton Offenbach hotel, ( via the mall and the Xmas markets), we checked the free internet in the lobby and met up with our tour guide, Sue Mason.The Winter Wonderland tour begins, but where is the snow?

Frankfurt Orientation Tour

On tour of Frankfurt proper, we were introduced to modern Frankfurt The Euro bank ( in the news predominantly at the moment) tent city, Financial Deutsche Bank HQ with the affectionately named ‘credit’ and ‘debit’ towers, and our final stop which proved to be the most exciting of the day. 

We found the bus that was to be our quasi day home for the next 9 days was roomy and comfortable. We ended up the back, opposite a couple from Texas, and in front of a Brissy couple who were headed for London for 2 years who alighted with us at the Frankfurt Xmas markets….. our highlight….
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Well it was a Saturday but an ocean of people greeted us. It was all but impossible to make your way around. I felt like I was back at sideshow alley at the Royal National Show. Most items were a little expensive compared to Offenbach, but we did find a few souvenirs and H. bought me something for xmas on the sly. (Dear little thing) Food wise there was opportunities to sit and drink gluhwein, for 7 euro.  Your payment includes  a deposit, refundable when you return the empty cup, but who has time to sit when there is so much to see and so many people to squeeze past!!! I did grab a  baked potato with dill sour cream sauce (delicious) and that filled me up!! 

The Romer square or Romerburg is something to see, even with a sea of people. The quaint half timbered houses were amongst  the only few buildings untouched by the bombs as a postcard in one of the shops grimly testified. The city was reduced to rubble, and I mean rubble, except for the Romer square timbered buildings that we see today. Imagine how pretty Frankfurt would be if it all looked as the Romer does. 

Don’t miss the Romer round church if you go to Frankfurt, but the city hall is somewhere you can whip around in, literally, in less than 5 mins.  It was the site of the first German parliament of the unified Germany 1832 and 1871. Inside some of the gorgeous shops, real old world charm was happening bigtime, and others, no different, to any modern merchant house, had been thoroughly modernised.  

To Sum up:

The good: Romerberg square original houses and Round church
The Bad:  High prices at the Xmas  markets
The Ugly: Very touristy and worse on a Saturday


Part 3 EuroScandi Odyssey – Landing in Frankfurt

Day 3

Although it was Friday and we spent most of it flying over Asia and the Middle East, we were to move backwards in time and experience Friday a second time. It was shortly after 6 am Friday when we landed, so the start of Friday again!

Our Lufthansa flight was on the then new and so enormous A-380, which has two floors of seating. With the Lufthansa CEO and his entourage taking up most of the senator class on the Upper deck, (spotted later on German TV, otherwise would not have had the foggiest who he was),  it then took us almost a full hour to board this mammoth, flying monster that had just come into service; so recently in fact, that it still smelt new. I must comment that the cabin was very well insulated, which did cut down on that awful vibrative noise one gets during long haul flights.

The Crew were not very friendly, but not unfriendly either. Just a presence, could not really say  a verbal one, more a physical one. As for the passengers, the man next to me was either Russian or East European and he was the best flight neighbour I have had yet. He just curled up and went to sleep, and I did  not hear ‘boo’ out of him all night. The other side of the plane consisted of a large group of square-headed, severely blonde gentlemen with no. 1 crew cuts, shouting in what sounded like an angry Deutche. But then German sounds like an angry language, sometimes.

Frankfurt airport itself, is huge and extremely difficult to get one’s bearings in unless, of course,  you go directly out to an exit. On passing through Passport control, we were asked about our itinerary as happens when you are a foreigner. I must say that the customs/police were very kind and friendly, as was our taxi driver, (who was hell bent on breaking the sound barrier, getting us to our hotel in Offenbach, a satellite town of Frankfurt. He was from Pakistan, ( aren’t most taxi drivers?) and he told us how he had a near fatal car accident when he first started driving… eeek! Something he tells his customers to reassure them, no doubt……

To our delight, our room at Sheraton Offenbach was made available for us straight away, at 7.15 am, which was either by good fortune, or because we were part of a large tour group that was commencing the next day. So, after settling in, we toddled out to find what Offenbach had on offer….excuse the bad pun/Dad joke.

What we found was a small  Christmas market, focused on food, in the “main” (again excuses for the pun/Dad joke), a wonderful Cafe at the Rathaus, where hot chocolate would be served to you for a  meagre $1.20 Euro, but who am I to complain? (Especially when I am used to paying $6.00AUD).Also,  a medium sized indoor shopping centre with some wonderful clothes shops, just a short stroll from our hotel. Heidi and I spent most of the day there buying jumpers and t-shirts, also some jewellery that was a bit more stylish than the mainstream shops back home. We loved it and found many a bargain and some nice new winter gear. When I visited Germany in 2004, everthing was so  expensive, now…. things were very inexpensive. Was the AUD performing that well against the Euro?

It was rather cold and we started to feel it, but nothing daunted, we did spot a squirrel in the nearby Palais park, and it was far too tempting to not chase this little fellow into the park. Whilst the Autumn leaves periodically dropped around us, we attempted to get a good photo of the illusive creature (which turned out to be a blurry shot anyway). The Palais building, pictured below,  is now a conference centre for the hotel, but looked like something that the Von Trappe family might have once owned.  The outside temperature was about + 5 degrees, but felt a little colder, presumably after our Singapore sojourn, and we had not yet acclimatised to the cold.

Busing Palais Offenbach
Busing Palais Offenbach

Europe 2011second batch 063Europe 2011second batch 075Something else we had yet to learn about Offenbach was where to find good local eateries and we were somewhat put off by the name of some of the food at the supremarket and  Christmas markets such as  “Super Dickman.”  (The mind boggles but there we have it…) Opting for something safer, we purchased some simple bread rolls from the Supermarket, (it’s always good to check out the local’s food ) and found some delicious pastries as well, which were more than satisfying. The German bakery treats were to become so familiar to us and indeed part of our permanent body shape for the next 3 weeks and hopefully not part of our body shape for three years. They are sooo good!!!Come nighttime, we dined at the hotel restaurant and the prices, once again, I have to say were moderate, compared to Australia. I had a delicious prawn pasta dish, seen below, in its triumphal glory and Heidi had a bolognaise that would have easily fed 6 people!!!
Travellers tip: If you are used to having still water with your meals, then beware, in Germany you have to specially request still water and pay for it, or they will provide mineral water in a bottle for you, again at a price.If you just ask for ‘water’, they will give you the version with bubbles, or ‘gas’, as they say. In other words, sparkling mineral water. You have to ask for ‘still vand’, or ‘still water’. Perhaps because it is much colder in Germany than at home, noone seems to drink still tap water here.  You can see our requested ‘water’ in the background of this picture, where we learnt this lesson very quickly. Water was something we pondered about on our first night in Germany.

Searching for the illusive Squirrel