I lived and worked in Deutschland for some 27 years; husband Bob for almost as long. We love the country and have many friends there. But, when it came time for Bob to retire, we decided to seek the sun in southern France. Too often Germany is gray and gloomy. A friend remarked they should have named a shade of the color gray “German.”
We just returned from our annual trek back north to see friends, dentist (they don’t do proper teeth cleaning in France where there are no dental hygienists), to take the car to the garage for annual service (Bob thinks they do a better job in Germany). And, as a contributing writer to the magazine German Life, I did research for articles. During our two week visit, we had but two days and a few hours of sun. We were elated to return to sunny Provence.
First stop on our trip was in Austria: Bregenz on the shores of Lake Constance where elaborate preparations were underway for the annual summer festival featuring productions of opera on a floating stage on the lake. This summer billing goes to Aida. We visited the “stage” where cranes were in place to build two gigantic feet (shoe size 2,400) which will feature in the production.
An eight-minute segment of the latest James Bond film was shot on this stage.
We continued along the lake which is the third largest lake in Europe and borders on three countries: Austria, Germany and Switzerland. When we lived in Germany, we pedaled the delightful bike route around the lake through the three countries several times.
One of our favorite lakeside towns is Lindau in Germany where we spent a night. It’s picture-book perfect with snow-covered mountains providing a backdrop for the harbor, its lighthouse, and boats big and small. The town suffered no damage during World War II and has several well-preserved structures from the Middle Ages, including the old City Hall.
Northwest of Lindau is the Swabian Alb, a region of bizarre rock formations, dense forests, rolling hills and sheer cliffs. We wandered in this beautiful area for two days with many stops. We admired a collection of historic buildings which have been reassembled in an open air museum in Neuhausen ob Eck. We followed an especially scenic route to Beuron and its Benedictine abbey. There we spent the night in a lovely hotel, Haus Maria Trost, on the side of a hill with spectacular views of the abbey below. The hotel’s managers, Herr and Frau Zimmermann, told us frightening stories about how they and their three sons escaped from East Germany in the late 1980s.
The next day we continued on to Sigmaringen with its famous castle, then to Zwiefalten to admire an outstanding Baroque church, and finally to a cave, the cave of Wimsen where we took a boat ride on Germany’s only cave navigable by boat. It was eerie, but fun.
Our overnight stop was in Lichtenstein with its impressive castle perched dramatically on the edge of a cliff. We had a fabulous trout dinner below the castle at a restaurant which has its own trout farm.
The Swabian Alb tour ended with a visit to the town of Bad Urach with its noted collection of half-timbered houses and then to Blaubeuren where there is an old Benedictine Abbey and the Blautopf, a spring fed pond in the woods whose water is an amazing bright blue.
We lived in a small village on the edge of Stuttgart for many years. The home of Porsche and Mercedes was next on our agenda. We stayed with friends, Heti and Heinz, who organized a pot luck dinner for all of our old friends from a dining-out group we previously belonged to. Heti is an excellent cook. She was ecstatic about her new kitchen “toy,” a machine which does everything from weighing, kneading dough for bread, mixing, chopping, blending to steam cooking. I was impressed and decided to purchase this kitchen wonder, “Thermomix,” which is amazing.
We left Stuttgart for a day and headed north to Heidelberg to visit friends Gayle and Ralph who hope to follow our footsteps and retire in southern France.
After Stuttgart and visits to the dentist, the garage and friends, we made one last stop in Germany, the town of Esslingen. A special treat there was a visit to the German “champagne” producer Kessler where we tasted and bought.
When we lived in Germany, we often visited nearby Alsace in France. We always stayed at Neufeld, a bed and breakfast horse farm west of Strasbourg where dinners are also available. We love its laid-back ambiance, delicious food and scenic surroundings. Owners Marcel, Marguerite and their daughter Francoise have become friends. We couldn’t return to Provence without spending a few nights there. We spent a day revisiting favorite haunts along the Alsatian Route du Vin. The hills of vineyards, the storybook villages, the flower-bedecked half timbered houses – all are a wonder.
Of course, we made some stops to taste and purchase some of that delicious Alsatian white wine.
Special places to stay: Hotel Weisses Kreuz in Bregenz: www.hotelweisseskreuz.at,
For photos of our trip, click on the Photo Album in the center column