6,500-kilometers from our home in southern France to the top of Germany, back down to the bottom with many stops in between, then home through the French Alps.
We were happy to be back in Deutschland where we lived and worked for many, many years. We saw old friends. We made new friends. We visited old haunts and new places. And, we enjoyed culinary favorites – great beer and wurst.
The down side: weather (mainly gray) and traffic. We moved to France for sunshine, and after a month of mainly depressing, grim weather, I think we made the right decision—despite sweltering last summer. On those legendary autobahns with sections where there is no speed limit, we encountered too many “staus” (traffic jams).
First stop: two towns in northern Germany from whence my ancestors hailed long ago: Cloppenburg and Vechta. We were not overwhelmed with either. We could not even find a Gasthaus for a beer and bratwurst in Cloppenburg, only pizzerias and all manner of ethnic restaurants. Unfortunately this seems to be the trend throughout the country.
On to Bremen which is overwhelming with its fairytale perfect Markt Platz. We stopped in Bremerhaven to check out its famous Emigration Center and fascinating museum. We used their computers for some ancestor research. One could spend hours, days, on this project.
We moved on to Hamburg which has grabbed headlines worldwide with its glittering new landmark, the Elbphilharmonie, an astonishing structure which has been in the works for more than 13 years, grossly surpassed cost estimates with a final price tag of $843 million, and has sold out the 2,150 seats for each performance in its Grand Hall for more than a year.
Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city and largest port, is all about water. The open waters of the North Sea are 65 miles from the maritime city, but it’s water that imbues the city with a distinctive, enticing flair. We took a harbor cruise, and a cruise on the city’s two lakes, the Binnenalster (Inner Alster) and Aussenalster. (Outer Alster).
To experience the North Sea, we traveled on to the coastal resort, St. Peter Ording. I had hoped we could bike along the dikes. Rain. Downpours. No biking for us. However, between the deluges we managed a few invigorating beach walks. The North Sea winds make the Mistral seem like a gentle breeze.
Wismar and Stralsund, two cities on the Baltic in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (part of the former East Germany), were next on our agenda. Both are medieval treasures which were about to crumble before reunification. They are now restored
jewels. “But, it is thanks to our (western German) money,” a friend in Stuttgart reminded me. Wismar’s ancient churches are a marvel. Stralsund has a wonderful new Ozeaneum musem, in addition to its antique structures.
I will be writing articles for the magazine German Life on many of the places we visited, including an article, “Lodging in Noble Homes.” These are homes still occupied by royalty, friendly nobles whom you can meet, even dine with. We stayed at three such homes/castles, and had delightful times with the owners, all of whom encounter monumental expenses to keep their royal residences intact. Income from tourists helps with expenses.
More photos from Germany below:
Coming soon, the Maldives and more on Germany’s noble families and castles. If not already a Tales and Travel follower, sign up (upper right). Your address is kept private and never shared.
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Two Americans living in southern France set off to Germany to buy a car. Not a Porsche (pity). Not a Mercedes. Not a BMW. Not even an Audi. But — a Toyota! No, not a new model, but a very old Toyota (2004).
Crazy? Bizarre? Idiotic?
Perhaps a bit of all. Here’s the story. Two years before moving to France from Germany 12 years ago, we bought a royal blue Toyota Yaris Verso. The back seats of this minivan collapse and slide under the front seats, leaving lots of rear space, enough for two bicycles standing up. That was the selling factor. We could park the car anywhere with the bikes chained and locked inside. And, it was easier to put them inside the car instead of on the roof.
Back then we did lots of pedaling. The bikes went with us on cycling trips all over Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. All l that space was also practical when making large purchases: washing machine, mattress, cases of wine.
We love this car. It has been reliable, trouble free. It now has some 255,000 km, but has had only minor repairs. We knew it could not last forever and were getting worried. No reason to spend big bucks on a new car at our age. Besides, Toyota no longer makes this model and we found no others with the same features and known reliability.
Bicycle Bob (BB) dove into Internet research on used Toyotas. He claims he could not find any in France. No wonder. I later learned that all his Toyota finds were coming from a German web site. He said he would feel better buying a used car from a German rather than a Frenchman. Those neighbors to the north treat their cars with over-the-top TLC, like rare endangered species. Check out the cars in parking lots in France. Dents. Dirt. Rust.
The cars he was finding were old, but there were many with far fewer kilometers than ours. We had to see a car before buying it, and probably look at more than one car before purchase. That meant a train trip to Germany, hotel and meal expenses etc. The price tag was climbing.
No matter. We could do more in Germany than look at cars: Satisfy cravings for good beer and hearty cuisine, visit friends, perhaps even see some new sights. He found versions of the desired Toyota all over Germany – Leipzig, Zweibrucken, Hamburg, Munich. We had to narrow our selection lest we spend weeks canvassing the entire country.
So, one dreary day in February we hopped aboard the TGV (fast train) from Aix to Frankfurt, then another train to nearby Erlensee where a friendly car salesman met us and took us to see the first selection. It looked just like our car, same bright blue, just two years younger (2004) but with a mere 134,000 km.
Promising, but we had another car to see in Kulmbach, three autobahn hours away. We rented a car for that trip. It rained. It poured for the entire drive. We checked out the second Toyota . Both cars were in immaculate condition. Each car had had just one owner, elderly folks like us.
The blue Toyota owner had been male; the silver Toyota had been in the possession of a female. We test drove both cars. “There is something I don’t like about the clutch in this car,” BB said of the silver one, knowing it had had a woman owner. He maintains women drivers often ride the clutch. A sexist view, in my opinion. “I think this car could have a problem,” he insisted. I found nothing wrong with it, but he makes the car decisions. Besides, the silver color was wimpish . And, the salesman was anything but accommodating. Our salesman in Erlensee, a Jordanian, was terrific, helpful.
We spent the rest of the day and an overnight in Kulmbach before returning to claim the blue baby. The rain never stopped, but great beer made up for it. Kulmbach is noted for its beer. We visited an artisanal brewery, bought beer to bring home, toured a beer and bread museum – all wunderbar.
We figured it would be a multi-step procedure to finalize the sale and get the car temporarily registered and insured for the trip back to France. Never underestimate the Germans. Our salesman took us to a trailer type office in a parking lot where, within a half hour, all was complete, including temporary plates on the car.
We set off in our new old car south to Darmstadt to visit old friends, enjoy more beer and hearty food, and then on to Basel, where we were married 26 years ago. The nostalgia visit to this Swiss city was more than moist. The rain, six days of it in Germany, followed us to Switzerland. We spent a day indoors, visiting some interesting museums, before coming home to France where we did find sunshine, but also frustration, headaches, obstacles.
I knew car registration in France would never be the smooth and easy process it was in Germany, however…. We started the process after our return, Feb. 15. On March 22, 36 days later, it was finally finished…or so I thought.
We began the ordeal with a visit to the mayor’s office in Reillanne, our town. Then the tax office in Manosque (1/2 hour away). We had to go there twice since we did not have one of the required documents the first time. From there we were sent to Digne, a city about 1 ½ hours away and the seat of our region’s “prefecture,” the folks who could make our car legal in France. We thought we had all the required documents.
At the tax office in Manosque we had been given a list of requirements: six documents. The woman in Digne gave us a longer list: 10 different documents. Sacre Bleu! We did not have the “Certificat de conformite,” a document which could only come from Toyota. And, we were told the safety inspection document we had from Germany would not fly. It was several months old. So, we had to make an appointment and have the car inspected in France and get yet another document.
Off we went to our nearest Toyota dealer, 1/2 hour away. A young man filled out a form requesting all sorts of technical details on the car. We sent that form and a check for 150 euro to Toyota headquarters in France — fortunately not in Japan. A week later we had the form. We were making progress.
On our second trip to Digne, miracle of miracles, we had all the correct papers. We received a temporary registration. We went to a nearby garage and had plates made – instantly. We were overwhelmed. The French are efficient at something.
Only insurance left to conquer. We have our cars insured with a bank in the town of Pertuis (45 minutes away), but we arranged for temporary insurance by phone, and followed up with a visit to the bank last week to sign the form.
We were elated. Finally all finished. Not quite. Today I received a letter from the prefecture in Digne. They need the original car registration from Germany immediately. I checked our thick folder of documents on this car. We do not have it. I am certain we turned it in with all the other papers to the woman in Digne. ???
Will they cancel the registration without it? Seize the car? Insist we contact the German registration office and get a new ”original” on a car that was registered 12 years ago?
Moral of the story: If you live in France, buy a car in France.
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The previous post, Humanity is Lost, was my attempt to reblog a post of a bloger I follow. If you click on the title, you should be able to open and read the post.
201 kilometers of pedaling in four days. Certainly nothing to brag about. But, we are no longer young and it’s been a few years since we have done any serious cycling. We were also biking with our panniers – worth a few extra Brownie points. The cycling was mainly on flat terrain following bike routes along the Saar and Moselle rivers in Germany: pleasant, easy, scenic.
The bike excursion was a highlight of our spring trip back to Germany where we lived for many, many years before moving to France. We love going back, seeing friends, drinking the world’s best beer, enjoying our favorite German foods — and discovering more of Germany. Wines in Baden, hikes in the Black Forest, sights in Saarbrücken– add all that to bicycling and it makes for a wunderschön (wonderful) trip.
Google led me to a blog post,”A Bicycle Ride along the Saar and Moselle Rivers.” Perfect for us, I decided. We cut short the part on the Saar, pedaling only from the town of Merzig to Konz where we picked up the Moselle Bike Route and followed it to Bullay.
The Saar section was serene, sublime. Few people. Few major towns. Trees, the river and vineyards. We stopped to chat with a couple from northern Germany who were taking a break from the bikes and lounging in the grass. “We’ve never be to Saarland. It’s beautiful and not so touristic,” she said.
Along the Moselle we pedaled past lots more vineyards, through more towns, and encountered more cyclists. We felt we needed to see the major sight in Trier, the Porta Nigra, but biking through the congested city was not pleasant. However, tasting wine in the town of Graach where Mythos Mosel, a Riesling wine tasting event was underway, was very pleasant.
Be it in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France—wherever, biking along marked cycle routes is usually a joy. For the most part you encounter few cars. Unfortunately this was not entirely the case for us this ride. As navigator, I am to blame.
Instead of carefully consulting the bikeline guidebook when leaving one town, I chose the wrong side of the river for our ride. We were on a bike path, but not the right one. The trail deteriorated, leading us onto a muddy track bordered by thick vegetation. No way to ride this, so we pushed the bikes through the swamp. The worst was not over. We followed the path out of the mud and up a hill, only to be faced with a busy major and narrow highway. Cars sped by much too close for comfort. Add to that: rain.
I don’t frighten easily, but this was very scary. I feared we may have missed the one bridge that would lead us to the other side and the correct bike route. I used all my energy to pedal as fast as I could, hoping we would find the bridge before being crushed by a car.
We survived and were relieved to arrive in Trittenheim and find the welcoming home of Marlene Bollig, a guest house where we had booked a room. I told her about our adventure. “No one rides on that side of the river,” she said. “Well now you have an adventure to write about. “ One adventure I could have done without.
Our adventure in the Black Forest was problem free, fun and interesting. We joined a guided group hike, Wild herbs: Multitalent. “My passion is to delve into nature and gather herbs. I learned from my grandmother,” guide Heidi announced. The trek was easy with numerous stops where she plucked a plant or flower, then explained its use in the kitchen and its nutritional, as well as medicinal, value.
The forests and fields are indeed rich in edible treasure, but don’t try to eat all. “No, you can’t eat that,” she announced as one of the group pointed to some lovely yellow flowers. “Not even cows will eat that. The stomach won’t tolerate it.” She treated us to a wild herb snack which our stomachs tolerated with pleasure, bread smeared with tasty herb butter made from plants of the forest.
We followed guide Rolf Wein on another hike, uphill to the Genuss Platz (Pleasure Place), a scenic spot with benches he and friends had made long ago. His treat, wild plum schnapps which he had made.
“This is my home,” Rolf said as he looked below to the town Baiersbronn surrounded by forests. “I enjoy outings with guests, to show it off. It is wunderschön here in the black Forest. I would never move away.”
Baiersbronn is a wunderschön town, especially for foodies. Its restaurants have a total of eight Michelin stars, quite amazing for a town of 14,500. I had the privilege of interviewing three-star chef Claus-Peter Lumpp at the Hotel Bareiss, one of the town’s five-star hotels.
“It’s hard work,” he said of his profession, but “good.” “There is nothing better than to see happy people when they are satisfied. Guests are the most important for me.”
Dining at the three star restaurant was beyond our budget, but we enjoyed the tastes of Germany at the hotel’s gemütlich Dorfstuben where I indulged in my all-time German favorite: Zwiebel Rostbraten (Onion Beef). During our travels we savored other German favorites, such as Sauerbraten, Bratwurst, Sauerkraut and red cabbage.
And, German wines. Although the Moselle is a noted German wine region, except for our one tasting along the bike route, we had no time for serious wine discovery there. We made up for it in Baden, part of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg in southwestern Germany. The Black Forest is part of this state. The Baden section borders both France and Switzerland and is Germany’s warmest and sunniest region. Baden produces more red than white wine, which is rare for Germany, a country known best for its white wines, especially Riesling.
Bicycle Bob (BB) is known more as VR (Vino Roberto) these days since his passion for wine now exceeds his love of his bicycle. We not only tasted our way through many Baden wineries, VR bought a supply, too.
Our friend Heinz gave us a delicious souvenir to take home – six bottles of his favorite Baden white, Oberrotweiler Grauer Burgunder. Heinz and Heti live in Sindelfinen adjacent to Stuttgart, not far from where we used to live. We stayed at their beautiful home and had the chance to reunite with many of our friends from those days at a fun evening, a pot luck dinner they arranged. Danke Heti and Heinz. Alles wunderschön.
Germany was my home for 28 years. Good times, wonderful memories – and fabulous friends. Husband Bob and I recently returned to reconnect with many of those friends, to visit old haunts, as well as other destinations that I will be writing about for the magazine German Life. (www.germanlife.com).
Maybe we’ve lived in the boondocks of rural France too long (since 2004). Here life is tranquil, serene, quiet. This time we found Germany a bit chaotic with monstrous traffic jams on the autobahns, construction sites almost everywhere and crowds of people in the city centers. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could be unemployed in Deutschland with so much building in progress.
We spent several nights with friends Klaus and Dagmar who live in Gerlingen just outside of Stuttgart. They urged us to take the U-bahn downtown to see the massive and controversial construction site for Stuttgart 21, the city’s new railway and urban development project which involves 57 kilometers of new railways, including some 30 kilometers of tunnels and 25 kilometers of high-speed lines. Protesters still demonstrate at the site every Monday. The project, which is estimated to cost as much as six billion Euros, won’t be completed until 2020. Another attraction adjacent to the site is the new library, a modern and dazzling wonder in white by architect Eun Young Yi which has been likened to a Rubik’s cube puzzle.
Dagmar invited several of our friends for an excellent dinner, an antipasti of grilled vegetables, followed by a Swabian favorite, stuffed breast of veal, all topped by our very favorite German dessert, Rote Grϋtze, a yummy compote of red fruits. Friend Heti also entertained us with an amazing meal of Peruvian delicacies: ceviche (fish marinated in lime juice) and veggies, gallina picante parmesana (chicken with aji -hot yellow pepper), quinoa risotto with veggies, and for dessert, coconut flan and Tonka bean mousse. All over the top. More on those beans to follow.
Heti is an inspiration, and not just in the kitchen. She recently lost 14 kilos on the Dukan diet combined with an hour of aqua jogging every day in the nearby Sindelfingen indoor pool. When I lived in the area, I frequently swam there year round. There are also several outdoor pools for summer months. Sadly, France is lacking in these first-class swimming facilities.
Klaus and Marianne, other friends from the Stuttgart area who frequently housesit for us in France, treated us to a delicious pasta lunch and a homemade Swabian apple pie at their new apartment.
We took a trip north to the Darmstadt area to see more friends. For years I worked for the military newspaper Stars and Stripes which was previously headquartered just outside the city. A group of former colleagues met us at an Italian restaurant for a fun evening. Special pal Andrea, whom I consider a surrogate step-daughter, and her husband Thiemo, joined us at Darmstadt’s famous brewery, Grohe, where we sat outside in the sunshine savoring the brew. Another Darmstadt friend, Wilma, invited us for a delicious salmon dinner and stimulating conversation with her friend Erik.
Our travels also took us to the Bergstrassee south of Darmstadt, Kaiserslautern, Augsburg, Munich and the Starnberg Lake district south of Munich.
For many years while I worked at Stars and Stripes, I lived in Jugenhiem at the northern end of the Bergstrasse in an apartment I called the “Treehouse.” It was the top two floors of a former seniors’ home at the edge of a forest and surrounded by tree tops. We stopped for a visit, and it’s still the same – an idyllic hideaway in a jungle of green.
The best of the visit to the Bergstrasse, which extends 70 kilometers south from Darmstadt to Heidelberg, and where many an ancient castle and castle ruins crown hilltops, was wine The Bergstrasse wine region is divided into two parts, vines in the south in the state of Baden Württemberg, and those in the north in Hessen. The former is Germany’s smallest wine region. German wines, as well as wines everywhere, have improved thanks to up-to-date knowledge and techniques, an expert told us.
For years German wines had a bad rep because “we exported the wrong wines, “ such as the sweet Blue Nun, explained Maria Zimmermann of the regional tourist board. Today German vintners are also well-educated, studying viniculture, not just learning the trade from their parents. We tasted some fine wines, and Bob made several purchases.
In the town of Weinheim, we toured a lovely garden followed by the best restaurant meal of the trip, an amuse bouche of scallops topping a pumpkin salad sprinkled with mandarin oil, and a Hirsch (venison) medallion with an elderberry sauce and Steinpilze (boletus), plus parsley root puree. It was perfection.
Heppenheim is the quintessential Bergstrasee town with a market place of well-preserved half-timbered houses. We joined an after-dark tour up and down the ancient streets and stairways, following a costumed story teller and her lantern carrying assistant. Periodically they stopped with the story teller relating charming tales and fables of the region, most translated from old German into an English that rhymed. Very impressive and a delightful, unusual experience.
The greatest number of Americans outside of the U.S., some 50,000 who are military or civilians working for the military, makes their home in the Kaiserslautern area. There I interviewed Wolfgang Tönnesmann, director of the Atlantic Academy, who had a life-size cardboard replica of Obama in his office. Like me, he is no doubt thrilled with the recent election results.
My quest to try local food specials in Kaiserslautern led us to the town’s only half-timbered building and the restaurant Spinnrädl. We were in the Rhineland Pfalz area and the restaurant served up Pfälzer dishes written in the local dialect on the menu: Brotworscht, Saumaa, Lewwer (Bloodwurst, potatowurst so named because it is stuffed into a pig’s stomach or Saumaa) and liverwurst. Hearty fare accompanied by Grumbeerstampes (mashed potatoes).
Jakob Fugger (1458 – 1525), a wealthy merchant (according to a guide, “he had more money than Bill Gates) put Augsburg on the map. The Fugger family, in particular Jakob, was into finance and trade. Jakob, known as the Empire’s banker, and not unlike Bill Gates, had a social conscience. He founded the Fuggerei, a section of the city for the town’s poor, the world’s oldest social housing which still exists with 140 apartments. Rent is 1 euro per year. We followed a fascinating tour of the area, and also visited a dazzling Rococo banquet hall, the Schaetzler Palais (1767), as well as other local attractions.
The Munich visit focused on food with visits to the city’s legendary outdoor market, the Viktualienmarkt, its classy food emporiums, Dallmayr and Käfer, as well as the food empire of Alfons Schuhbeck who has a collection of shops, including a Michelin starred restaurant, in the Platzl near the Hofbräuhaus. Friend Heti clued me in on Schuhbeck who is huge on the German food scene. It was at his incredible spice shop where she purchased the Tonka beans which come from South America for that exotic dessert.
Our visit wound up at the Starnberg Lake, one of several lovely lakes south of Munich. All the sailboats which blanket the lakes in summer had been put to bed, but the region had plenty of charms for a fall visit.
A must was a visit to the nearby Andechs Abbey above the Ammersee, another one of the regional lakes. After admiring the Abbey’s church and its stunning Rococo stucco décor and frescoes, we moved on to the terrace beer garden. Monks have been brewing beer at Andechs since 1455. These days seven different kinds of brew can be ordered, as well as Bavarian food favorites.
Other Starnberg highlights are the Baroque St. Mary’s Minister in the town of Diessen and the lakeside Buchheim Museum noted for its collection of Expressionist works. Last but not least, a wonderful bike ride following a cycle route along the Starnberg Lake with an outdoor lakeside lunch stop, as well as many breaks for postcard photos of the lake framed by distant Alpine peaks. (For more photos, see slide show to follow. Comments are welcome. )
2011 is upon us, and I wish all a year of joy, good health, good fortune, happy trails — and delicious food.
In addition to making resolutions for the coming year these days, I like to reflect back on the past year. It began on a sad note with the loss of my mother on Jan. 3. I think about her a lot and am grateful that I was able to hold her in my arms when she died. (See my tribute to her in an earlier blog, “Homage to Helen.”)
On a brighter note, there were some fun times last year, including the highlight – our houseboat trip on the lakes and canals in Brandenburg, a region in northeastern Germany around Berlin that was part of the former East Germany.
The Katinka, a 13-meter (43-foot) long, 15-ton houseboat was our home during our five-day journey in early October in this region of 3,000 lakes and 30,000 kilometers (18,600 miles) of waterways. We were six, three couples, including the captain. Each couple had a separate cabin and head on board the spacious craft.
Days were mostly leisurely: lounging on board, admiring the scenery, reading, chatting. That is, until a lock approached. Then, all sprung into action. We navigated eight of these narrow passageways during our voyage. With the captain at the helm, two “mates” rush to grab the ropes for tying up. Others keep a careful watch at the bow and shout directions to the captain as we enter a narrow, walled channel. It’s a challenge to keep the craft from crashing into the walls. But this tricky navigation added fun and excitement to the journey and kept us on our toes. Most of the locks had attendants, but a few were self-service, adding more demands to the task.
Even though October is not swimming and sunbathing weather in northern Germany, we were content on our cozy ship. The Brandenburg panorama, Germany’s largest water landscape, was an awesome surprise for us (me and husband Bob), and our German friends (Heinz and Heti Lutz, Klaus and Dagmar Stark).
“I never expected the scenery to be so beautiful,” said Heti. “This was one of the best kept secrets in Western Germany – the beautiful scenery in the East…It reminds me of Finland, Scandinavia.”
Dagmar piped in: “We are so lucky to be reunited. I never knew Germany was so beautiful. It’s a shame people don’t know so much about the new states in the former East Germany.”
While we relaxed, Captain Heinz was always on duty. Occasionally someone would relieve him and take the helm. In the open water, steering the boat was child’s play. Locks and maneuvering the huge boat in and out of harbors were another story. Captain Heinz, who has a German motor boat license, was given a brief trial initiation before we set sail. “It’s challenging at first, but after a few turns and trials in open lakes, it’s easy to operate,” he said. He impressed us with his skills in those tight spots.
In early October there was little traffic on the placid lakes, wide expanses of shimmering water bordered mainly by forests. Along many of the canals connecting the lakes are pretty, well-kept houses with perfect gardens. Big villas and small cabins. Many were, and still are, the “datsche,” weekend homes of East Germans.
We cruised by willows whose branches skirted the water, reeds and water lilies, families of ducks, swans, the occasional heron, and fishermen. Sometimes we’d pass a small boat. Faster boats passed us. On shore we enjoyed a walk in the woods, a visit to the lovely spa town of Bad Saarow, and several tasty meals at harbor-side restaurants. It was all calm, peaceful and totally relaxing.
Our first day out, Heti’s brother, Hermann Riedemann who lives in Berlin and has a sailboat on the Wannsee, joined us. He gave us tips on the region and its waters, and suggested a super place to pull in for lunch. That evening we docked at the home of his friends, Thomas and Birgit Pfannschnitt We all huddled around a roaring fire in their terrace fireplace, drank red wine, and listened to their stories about life in the former East Germany. “Berlin is the most beautiful city. It’s multi-culti. The changes in the past twenty years are phenomenal,” said Thomas. “Most people don’t know about Berlin and all the water,” said Birgit. “Berlin has more bridges than Venice.”
The other evenings we tied up for the night at harbors where we could plug in to electricity needed to heat the boat, and take advantage of the on shore shower facilities. We could have showered on board, but the bathrooms were mini, and we had visions of a flood if we attempted a shower. We opted to keep things dry. We all slept well. There was a gentle rock to the boat which Dagmar said was like a water bed.
The Katinka galley was well supplied with dishes, pots and pans, cutlery and gadgets. Heti was our “chef” who planned and prepared scrumptious meals. We usually had two meals on board –always breakfast, hearty German fare of wurst, cheese, soft-boiled eggs and fresh Brötchen, then lunch or dinner. Someone would search out a bakery on shore to supply the Brötchen .
In addition to maps of recommended routes, the booklets supplied by our boat rental company, Kuhnle-Tours, provided restaurant recommendations. The culinary highlight of the trip was the four-course gourmet dinner we savored at the Schloss Hubertushöhe, a 100-year-old hunting castle which is now a luxurious hotel and restaurant on the Storkower See. The over-the-top meal began with appetizers served in small glasses: cucumber soup with smoked salmon and an Asiatic lemon grass soup with scallops. This was followed by variations of foie gras and green apple, pumpkin soup with lobster ravioli, rabbit with polenta and steinpilzen (boletus), and the finale, a gorgeous creation of white chocolate and peaches.
Our journey started in Zeuthen, a Berlin suburb where our boat rental company has a dock with its craft. We cruised about three to four hours per day at a top speed of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) per hour and covered about 115 kilometers (71 miles) in the roundtrip to and from Bad Saarow.
“The scenery was changing all the time. It was never boring. I did not expect our boat would be so big,” said Heti as we gathered to celebrate the end of the idyllic voyage with a bottle of Rotkäppchen Sekt (a “champagne” that was famous in the former East Germany).
Kuhnle-Tours (www.kuhnle-tours.de) rents houseboats in Germany in both Brandenburg and Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, as well as in Poland and France.
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