Category Archives: Country

My Favorite German Words

I am currently taking a German language class and one of my assignments this week was to discuss a few of my favorite German words. This was a difficult assignment, not because I couldn’t find German words that I like but because there are too many.

There seem to be more compound words in German than in English and many of these words are descriptive in ways that are both funny and true. They also tend to be more accurate than their English counterparts. In addition, these words are easier to learn because they are essentially two easy words put together to form a more specific word, so if you know the two easy words you can easily understand the compound word.

For example, one word I find amusing is “Handshuhe” (all German nouns are capitalized). This word literally means “hand shoes” or in English you would call them gloves. I think someone learning German can understand “Handschuhe” easier than an English learner could understand, or remember, “gloves.”

A word that I really like is “Warteschlange.” This word not only sounds good but it has a cool meaning: “wait snake.” It technically means “queue.” It would be like the line at the post office or an amusement park that twists around like a snake.

Another great word is “Scheinwerfer.” This word literally means “light thrower” which is a much cooler word than “headlight.”

Then there is “Stinktier” or “stink animal,” which is much more descriptive than “skunk.”

Faltier” or “lazy animal,” is a sloth. A “Staubsauger,” or “dust sucker,” is a vacuum. A “Stachelschwein,” or “spike pig,” is a porcupine. “Fledermaus” is a “flutter mouse” or bat. Another of my favorites is “Flugzeug,” which means something like “fly thing,” which, of course, is an airplane. There is also “Schildkröte, or “shield toad,” which is a toad with a shield, otherwise known as a turtle. There are many more similar words but I think you get the idea.

Finally, a word that I found to be quite amusing is more of an idiom than a description. “Schattenparker” literally means “shadow parker” and is a word that my teacher never heard before. It essentially refers to a man who is not very manly. The reason behind it is that a man who takes a shady parking spot rather than leave it for someone who needs it more is not behaving manly.

Of course, German does not have a monopoly on funny compound words. English has a few good ones too. “Aftermath,” for example, is a weird word. Perhaps it is the destruction that takes place after one does math. I don’t know. “Bulldozer” is probably my favorite English word but I have no idea why it is called that.

What do you think? Do you know any words, either in English or another language, that you really like or that are funny in their literal meaning or just funny in the way they sound?

Differences Between Germany and the United States

I recently vacationed in Germany with my wife and learned some interesting ways that the country is different than the United States. Of course, there are more similarities than differences but here I want to share some of those differences, at least from my observations. Keep in mind that this is only my opinion based on my travels in the southern states of Bayern (Bavaria) and Baden-Württemberg and may not apply to all of Germany.

Germany is very similar to the United States in many ways. In fact, the large influx of Germans into the United States during the nineteenth century, including many of my ancestors, helped to shape what America has become. Nevertheless, there are many differences that I have noticed that I will detail below.

Coffee

In the United States, people love drinking coffee. There are many ways to drink coffee but I think the most common is with cream and sugar. Cream, when ordered in America, typically is understood to be half and half, which is halfway between whole milk and light cream, about 12 percent fat. I like no sugar and heavy cream in my coffee, which is about 38 percent fat. So far, Starbucks is the only place I have found that has heavy cream as an option.

Coffee also seems to be somewhat popular in Germany but cream is not. It is nearly impossible to find a coffee shop there that offers cream, or even half and half. It is almost always low fat milk which is 1.5 percent fat. That does almost nothing for coffee. One might as well drink it black, which is something I can’t do. Occasionally you might find a coffee shop that has whole milk but you are just as likely to find a shop that doesn’t even have regular coffee. Surprisingly, the Starbucks at the Munich train station had all their fancy drinks like lattes and espressos but no regular coffee.

it is very common for hotels in America to have coffee makers in the room. They usually supply their guests with regular and decaffeinated coffee along with various sugars and containers of half and half. Our hotel in Stuttgart provided us with a kettle to heat water and instant coffee but no liquid cream or even milk. Our hotel in Munich did not have any option to make coffee.

It is also common for American hotels to provide free coffee for guests in the lobby. I looked for that option at our hotel in Munich and was directed to their restaurant. There, they told me I needed to have it delivered to my room, which I did. That was a mistake because the coffee was horrible and they charged me 15 euros for it. Our hotel in Stuttgart had a free breakfast buffet where they provided coffee with milk but I could never get it to taste good. They did have some good tea options, though.

Finding heavy cream or even half and half at the store was equally difficult. We looked for it at an Aldi’s store but could only find an artificial creamer. I did eventually find heavy cream at a store in Stuttgart but when I ran out and went back for more they were out of it.

Transportation

From what I have seen, the German transportation system is very similar to what you would find in the United States with a few differences,

Speed Limits – Some Americans think the Autobahn is a free-for-all and everyone can drive as fast as they want everywhere but I saw posted speed limit signs just about everywhere we went so it really isn’t that different than the United States except for the drivers. In America, you will occasionally see the crazy lunatic driving like a bat out of hell on the highway but in Germany those crazy lunatics appear way more often than occasionally.

Germany has plenty of slow drivers too and on more than one occasion while we were passing one of those slow drivers, we had to hurry back into the right lane because there was a car approaching behind us who was about to break the sound barrier and we didn’t want to stand in his way. I say “his” because the speed demons almost always seemed to be men.

Road Congestion – We sat through many traffic jams while traveling through Germany but we also covered a lot of miles so I think it is about average compared to the United States. What’s different is the reason for those traffic jams. Every traffic jam we encountered in Germany where we could determine a cause, that cause was road construction. Not once were we delayed by an auto accident. In America, I would guess that auto accidents are responsible for a quarter to a third of all major delays.

I don’t know if Germans are better drivers or we just happened to miss the accidents by chance. I did see one guy hit a pedestrian. He wanted to pull out onto a busy road and was looking left while moving forward. He didn’t notice the woman crossing in front of him from the right until he hit her. Fortunately, she was okay but it makes me think that maybe we just got lucky and perhaps Germans are not better drivers.

While stuck in a traffic jam in Bavaria one day, we noticed all the cars were driving off to the side so there was a gap in the middle. We assumed this was required so that emergency vehicles could get by.

I find this to be a great idea. After this photo was taken, a Polizeiauto sped by with its lights on.

Pickup Trucks – In America, pickup trucks are almost as common as cars. In fact, I recently read that Ford will soon stop selling all of it’s cars in North America except for the Mustang and one other vehicle. It will instead focus on pickup trucks and SUVs. In Germany, a pickup truck is as rare as a good cup of coffee with cream. I saw only one pickup truck during our entire ten days in Germany. By contrast, in America it wouldn’t be unusual to see a dozen pickup while driving to the local market.

Below is a video I took in Munich. Notice there are are no pickup trucks. I probably should have taken a video in America to show the difference but I didn’t think about it until now.

Gas Stations – When self-serve gas stations first appeared in America one would pump gas and then go inside and pay. It soon became a problem because many people would pump gas and then drive off without paying. That problem was soon solved by offering pumps that accept credit cards and and/or requiring people to prepay before pumping gas. In Germany the old system is still in place. I don’t know why. Perhaps Germans are more trustworthy. I did not see one station that accepted credit cards at the pump or that required people to prepay. Considering that I usually pay for gas with cash, it was definitely more convenient for me, although I will admit to being a little confused the first time I needed to buy gas.

Bicycles and Scooters – Bicycles are more common in Germany than in the United States. I used to ride my bike to work so I appreciate a society that embraces bicycles. They not only save gas and lower pollution, they also relieve traffic congestion and parking problems.

Another thing I saw a lot of was electric scooters. A few cities in the United States now have electric scooter rentals, or what they call sharing, but they seem far more common in German cities.

Energy and the Environment

The United States has come a long way during the last fifty years in reducing pollution and conserving energy but Germany seems to have come even farther.

Wind – I saw many large wind turbines in Germany and while I know there are areas in the United States that has them, there are none near me. According to Wikipedia 18.7% of total power in Germany came from wind in 2017. In the United States, that number was 6.33%.

Solar – Solar power also seems to be more prevalent in Germany than in the United States. I noticed many homes and small businesses with solar panels while in Germany. Again, according to Wikipedia, Germany is ahead of America in solar power generation with 6.6% of their power generated by solar in 2017 compared to 1.32% in America.

Energy Conservation – I think both countries have come a long way in improving energy efficiency but I have noticed a few things in Germany that I hadn’t noticed in the United states. Our rental car, for example, would shut off every time we stopped and then the engine would start up again when we stepped on the gas. This was a little annoying at first but I got used to it pretty quickly. I read that that feature is pretty common on German cars but I never saw it on an American car until just last week when we rented a 2020 Chevrolet Malibu that also shut off when the car was stopped.

Another thing I noticed at the Munich airport was that the escalators only run when someone steps onto them. When they are empty of passengers they are off. I thought that was a great idea and I hope to see that in America soon.

Drinking Water

In America, drinking tap water is common but in Germany it is not. At many restaurants in America, it is common practice to bring water to everyone before asking what else they want to drink. In Germany, you have to ask for water and then you usually get bottled sparkling water. We had to make sure we asked for still water when we ordered it in restaurants. I have heard that the Germans aversion to tap water comes from its name, Leitungswasser, which means something like line water or plumbing water.

Restaurants

I believe tipping has gotten out of control in the United States. It seems like everyone expects a tip nowadays and in many cases it is virtually mandatory. Restaurant workers are paid meager wages with the expectation that tips will make up the difference. I would rather pay more for the food and not have to worry about paying my server’s salary. From what I understand, this is close to how it works in Germany. A tip is still expected, I think, but it is more like five to ten percent instead of fifteen to twenty percent.

Because servers were not really working for tips, I was expecting service to be worse than in America. In some cases it was but usually it was about the same. Even restaurants in towns that had few tourists had good service.

Cleanliness

In some ways, Germans seem to take care of their public properties better than Americans but in other ways Americans are better. Many places we went to in Germany were very clean, including the trains and the underground stations but for some reason the government seems to tolerate graffiti much more than in the United States. Sure, there are some bad areas in America but it seems like everywhere we went in Germany, except small towns, someone, or many someones, had defaced public property with spray paint. Sometimes it was artistic but more often than not it was an eyesore. Some of it seemed very old too, like nobody has bothered to paint over it in more than ten years.

Public Restrooms

I don’t think there was anything that caused more problems for us in Germany than finding a public restroom. I can only assume that Germans have developed very strong bladders. There were many times during our trip when our good time had to be put on hold because one or both of us had to use the restroom. In Heidelberg, for example, we probably could have spent much more time there but my wife and I both had to pee after the long drive to get there and we couldn’t find a restroom that we could use.

In the United States, places that sell food are required to provide restrooms for their customers but I don’t think that is the case in Germany. Also in the United States, grocery and convenience stores always have restrooms for customers but in Germany I did not find one store with a restroom. Gas stations we encountered in Germany had restrooms but they were always outside and needed a key. Most gas stations in America, except for the older ones, have restrooms that anyone can use and usually nobody need buy anything, although I always buy something because it just seems fair. Some gas stations even try to attract customers by making clean restrooms a top priority.

Hotel Beds

In the United States, it is most common to have a choice between one king bed or two queen beds in hotel rooms. In Germany you can get a single room (Einzelzimmer) or double room (Doppelzimmer). That means one twin bed or two twin beds that are sometimes pushed together to form a king bed. For Americans, this is weird.

First, there is a crack down the middle which is awkward for couples who like to sleep close together. Second, there are separate sheets and blankets which also works against closeness. Third, the pillows are square which is fine for putting behind your back while sitting up in bed but rectangular pillows, in my opinion, are better suited for sleeping.

Conclusion

Our vacation in Germany was perhaps the best vacation my wife and I took together. It is a wonderful country but my intention here is not to conclude which county is better. I simply wanted to point out some of the differences I noticed. I am sure there are plenty of other differences I could have wrote about but I would have needed more time in Germany to notice them.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed my posts on Germany and I welcome any comments you might have. There are a couple of more German related posts that I want to write before moving on to another topic and I hope you will watch for those.

If you want to read the entire series about our trip to Germany, you can start here.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 11 – Going Home

Our flight back home from Munich was fairly early so we got up at 3:30 in the morning, which was actually fifteen minutes before our alarm was set to go off. We were ready to go by 4:30 but waited until about 4:45 before leaving the hotel room.

We had arranged for our car to be picked up from the garage by 5:00 and were pleasently surprised to find out that it was outside waiting for us. It took a few minutes to get the address to the airport programmed into our car’s GPS because we didn’t realize that the Munich airport was not in Munich.

There wasn’t much traffic that early in the morning so we got to the airport fairly quickly but finding the rental car drop off was a bit confusing but after one or two wrong turns we found it. It was organized chaos with what seemed like hundreds of cars waiting to be processed.

Once inside the airport we had some problems figuring out where to go but that is why we gave ourselves plenty of time. We had an 8:50 flight but boarding started much earlier, at 7:45. I suppose that is because we had to take a bus to the plane.

View from our terminal as we waited to board.

Our trip back from Germany was not as bad as the trip to Germany. The long flight was earlier in the day and the hours of sitting didn’t seem to cause me as much pain as did the flight to Munich.

I think the only part of the return trip that was a hassle was going through customs when we got to Charlotte, North Carolina. The process seemed designed to make it as inconvenient for travelers as possible. We first had to go through customs and then we had to pick up our luggage and go through customs again, but this time with our luggage. Since they didn’t bother looking through our luggage, I don’t know what the point was. Why the customs people just couldn’t be on hand while everyone’s luggage was transferred to other flights is a mystery to me. It would have been much easy and faster for travelers.

We then had to stand in a very long line to go through a security checkpoint again even though we had just come off of an airplane and had already been screened in Munich.

If we arrived on a domestic flight and then transferred to another domestic flight this would not have been done. This tells me they don’t trust the screeners in Germany and other countries but if that is the case, why do they allow them to fly into the country in the first place?

Once we got through security, we found a pizza restaurant and had lunch. I then found a Starbucks and couldn’t resist buying a real American coffee with heavy cream. It was very difficult to find coffee with real cream in Germany. Everyone offered only milk and usually that was low fat milk.

We flew back to Tampa in another sardine can but at least the window shades were open this time and the person next to me wasn’t hogging the arm rest so it was tolerable.

When we finally arrived in Tampa, it was about 6:30 in the evening. We had been awake for 21 hours and we were exhausted. Once we got our luggage, we ordered an Uber which took only about five minutes. Taking an Uber to and from the airport was a very smart decision because it not only saved us about fifty dollars in parking fees, it also saved us gas and we didn’t have to risk parking our car in a public lot for ten days. Plus, we were too tired to drive.

We had a wonderful time in Germany and I hope we can go back again in a few years, but after a long trip we were very happy to get home to our cats.

That is the end of our trip but I still have more to say about Germany. I hope you will look for my next post when I compare some of the differences I noticed between Germany and the United States.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 10 – Back to Munich

Our last morning in Stuttgart was mostly spent packing. We packed everything that we didn’t need for the rest of our trip in our suitcases and put what we did need, or at least what we thought we might need, in our backpacks and one other bag. We then had breakfast at the hotel, checked out, and headed back to Munich.

We checked back into the Excelsior Hotel where we stayed three nights at the start of our trip. We planned to stay here two more nights at the end of our trip but decided to spend another night in Stuttgart instead. Since we had already paid for the previous night we were able to check in early. We were put in room 326. It was on the same floor as our last room, 328, but we had a view of the street this time instead of a view of other rooms.

We then decided to walk in a direction that we hadn’t been to yet. Not long into our walk we noticed several tour buses.

After speaking with the lady selling tickets, we decided to pay the 36 euros and got on the next bus. They said we could get off at any stop and get on another bus when we wanted to continue. That was certainly a great option but we just wanted to tour the city and see what we had missed. Since we spent every day on road trips, we never really saw Munich.

We sat on the top level in the front, which offered a great view. The top was open so I was able to stand and get photos without the glass obstruction when the bus was stopped. Coincidentally, we sat next to an American couple. They asked us where we were from and I said Florida. They said they were too. They lived in Dade City where they recently moved to from Clearwater. We told them we also recently moved from Clearwater but to Largo. We all lived in the same town at the same time but met each other thousands of miles away.

It was a pretty interesting tour. We saw many of the places that we were not able to see before. I think if we planned it better it would have been good to spend an entire day in Munich and get on and off the bus at our leisure. When we booked the trip I thought we would spend the entire day following our arrival touring the city and then an entire day again on the day before our departure but it did not work out that way.

After getting off the bus we had a nice lunch at a German restaurant called Münchner Stubn. The weather was beautiful and we were able to sit outside and enjoy the day.

I had the bratwurst platter and Rose got the Fillet. We both enjoyed the food. If fact, I think every time we ate real German food during our vacation it was delicious. Of course, who knows how to make real German food better than real Germans?

I started eating before I remembered to take a photo.

After going back to the hotel for a while, we went back out to the coffee shop across the street for drinks where we sat outside again. We were sure the second half of October wasn’t always that pleasent in Munich so we wanted to enjoy being outside as much as possible.

We needed to get out the door by 5 a.m. the next morning for our trip home so we packed our stuff and went to bed early. Very early. I don’t remember the time but I think it was around 7:30. That was about 1:30 p.m. Florida time. The jet lag was bad enough after getting to Germany, I could only imagine how bad going home would be. Of course, going to bed at 7:30 is not the same as going to sleep at 7:30. I think I lay in bed for three hours before falling asleep.

What do you think about Germany so far? Next I will write about our trip home and then I will write about the differences I noticed between Germany and The United States.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 9 – A Day in Stuttgart

As our vacation was nearing an end we decided to skip the day trips and just spend the entire day in Stuttgart. We were supposed to be heading back to Munich on this day but we bought another day at our hotel in Stuttgart, The Park Inn. Actually, we decided we liked it better there the day we arrived and asked about extending our stay that afternoon but we were told that the hotel was booked for that extra day. That evening my wife, Rose, saw that there were rooms available on the internet and at a rate that was a little more than half of what we paid by booking eight months in advance. We talked to the manager the next day (who was very nice and helpful during our stay) and booked the extra night even though we already paid for the same night in Munich.

After breakfast, which was free in the hotel, we went across the street to Marienplatz and bought an all day ticket for public transportation, which cost around 13 euros each. We were a bit unsure about which train to get on but since it was an all day pass we figured it didn’t matter. We ended up getting on what I later learned was called Zahnradbahn.

Since learning the German language, or at least trying to, I have been interested in why things are called what they are called. I knew Zahn means “tooth” but later learned it also means “cog.” I also knew “bahn” was a track or railway. I was not sure about “rad” but I knew “fahrad” means bicycle. I looked it up and found out it means “wheel.” Put together we get cog-wheel-railway. Okay, I can kind of unterstand but that was the only line with that name. Most everything else was called “stadtbahn” (city railway).

We road the train for about ten or fifteen minutes until it reached the end, a station called Dergerloch. We wanted to go to Konigstrassa but it was clear pretty early that we were on the wrong train. We didn’t care because we wanted to see the city and going to Konigstrassa was just not that important.

The area where we got off had many stores. Rose found a nice store that sold chocolates.

We walked on a little and came upon a little farmer’s market.

There we bought some grapes and a few other things to take back to our room.

We also bought some specialty olives.

We skipped the pasteries because we didn’t want to deprive the bees.

The train went uphill to get to Dergerloch so we had a good view of the city on the way back, even if it was through wet glass.

When we got back to Marienplatz we took the elevator down to the stadtbahn station and found the right train.

We got off a few stops later near Konigstrassa.

Rose did buy a few things there but there were not many stores that interested us so we headed back to Marineplatz. Since there was a constant light rain, it wasn’t a great day to walk around.

After we got back, we went out for lunch to a place called Onkel Otto’s. It was a nice place with very good German food and good service. Rose took a photo of me there but it came out blurry The only other one I have is below. I wish I had thought to photograph the food.

Later we went back to the hotel and repacked our luggage for our trip back to Munich the next day. Instead of going out for dinner, I bought some bread and bologna at the store and a few other things and we ate that and the grapes we bought earlier.

On my next post we will be heading back to Munich. I hope you will look for it.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 8 – Finding a Cuckoo Clock in Triberg

Our last day trip in Germany was to a town in the Black forest called Triberg im Schwarzwald. We wanted to buy a cuckoo clock and my research indicated that Triberg was the best place to look.

The drive from Stuttgart to Triberg was pleasant with a lot of beautiful scenery .

I even got out of the car to get a photo of the Black Forest from the inside.

When we arrived in Triberg we were impressed with how beautiful the town looked.

Finding a parking space was not easy but we got lucky. It was a bit of a dreary day but it wasn’t raining yet. When we got out of the car I noticed a sign that said “Max. 30 Minuten” so I thought I would just come back and move the car to another spot after 30 minutes, if possible.

Triberg is a very pretty village with lots of shops that sell cuckoo clocks and other locally made gifts. We stopped at several stores including the well known Haus der 1000 Urhen (House of 1000 Clocks). On the outside of the store is a huge working cuckoo clock.

Inside there are cuckoo clocks everywhere.

We eventually found a clock that we liked, with the help of a young lady that was very knowledgeable, but we wanted to look at other stores before deciding.

The store sold clocks but did not make them and I thought we should at least check out a store that actually made their own clocks. My wife is a big fan of unique stuff and where better to look for uniqueness than a place where things are custom made?

I read about a place called Oli’s and we decided to check them out. They were about a block up the hill and around the corner so we started walking that way. We reached a point where I felt like I should go back to the car to check on it and get our umbrellas because there was a light drizzle. Rose saw a store that she wanted to check out so she said she would wait for me there. I saw a photo opportunity next to the store.

When I got back to the car I actually read the entire sign that I just glanced at earlier when I focused on the time limit but not the rest of the text. The text under “Max. 30 Minuten” said “Gebuhrenpflichtig, nur mit Parkschein.” I didn’t know what “Gebuhrenpflichtig ” meant but I knew the rest of the sentence meant “only with a parking ticket. That’s when I realized I had to pay for a parking ticket at the machine. Oops. I did eventually look up “Gebuhrenpflichtig” and it means “Charges apply.” Put together that means “Charges apply only with parking ticket.” Does that mean if I don’t have a parking ticket there will be no charge? Anyway, back to the story.

I put money in the machine but could only get a ticket for 30 minutes. I put that in the window, grabbed the umbrellas and headed off to meet Rose. I was a bit worried that even with a valid parking pass, I was probably violating some law because my car was parked there too long. The last thing we needed was for our car to be towed but I doubted that merchants would complain and since it was raining I didn’t think the Polizei would be out looking for parking violators.

I caught up with Rose and we found Oli’s and went inside. We didn’t see a cuckoo clock that we loved but Rose bought a couple of things to give as gifts.

We then walked outside and into the next door. At the time I thought it was another section of the same store but realized later that we were in a different store called Kuckucknest.

There were a lot of interesting things in the store besides clocks and the owner was very nice about showing us around and explaining things. Rose found a cat nutcracker that she really liked. It was not made there but that didn’t matter. She also found some “smokers” that are designed to burn incense. The front smoker in the photo below blows smoke out of his pipe. The nutcracker, and I believe the smokers too, come from a company called Christian Ulbright.

We eventually found a great clock that was more than we were planning to spend but Rose loved it. It was his wife’s favorite, the owner told us. He also said that he only makes ten of each design and he listed all the places that he could remember shipping that clock to and none of them were in the United States so it certainly qualifies as unique for us.

I think it was 1258 Euros before the twenty percent “Value Added Tax” that is common in Europe. The nice thing was that the tax did not apply if the item was being shipped out of the country, or the EU, one of the two.

We also talked about the owner’s son going to cuckoo clock making school. He might have said clock making school but I don’t remember because I was thinking cuckoo clocks when he brought it up. If there is a school specifically for making cuckoo clocks than I think that is very cool.

By the time we got back to the car thirty minutes were long past but the car was still there and we had no ticket. We thought we should push our luck so I bought another thirty minute ticket and we went across the street to have lunch at a pizza place while it was raining.

I wish I had researched Triberg better before going because one of the tallest waterfalls in Germany is there and I would have loved to see it. I even photographed the stadtplan when I was there which showed the waterfall at the bottom left but I just photographed it, I didn’t look at it.

When we returned to our hotel in Stuttgart we bought some food at the market next door to the hotel and then I went down to get ice. When I reached the lobby the alarm went off and everyone was made to leave the building. I stood outside with many other people. I had no jacket and I was holding an ice bucket. I felt a little silly. I waited for Rose to come out but she never did. I couldn’t call her because we only had one phone that worked in Europe and Rose had it. After five or ten minutes the police arrived followed several minutes later by ambulances and a fire truck.

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I think I stood out there for at least twenty minutes before they let us back inside. I found out when I returned that Rose didn’t even know anything happened. I was told it was a minor kitchen fire but I think they need to work on their evacuation plan before a more serious emergency comes up.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 7 – Heidelberg

After our trip through the Black Forest to Baden-Baden, we decided to head north to Heidelberg. We were told it was a beautiful town and since I used to be in the printing industry I was very familiar with Heidelberg presses.

It wasn’t too far of a drive from Stuttgart, maybe two hours with the typical construction delays. When we got there we were struct by how many people rode bicycles in the town. All German towns tend to have a higher percentage of bicyclists then in the United States but I think Heidelberg tops them all.

Our first impression was that it was a beautiful city. It was big but still had an old world charm.


When looking for a parking spot we realized why everyone rode bikes, We eventually found a place to park but after the drive we both felt like we needed to find a restroom. During our vacation, we learned that bathrooms are very difficult to find in Germany. We weren’t desperate so we stopped at a store but the clerk was a bit too pushy so we left.

We walked around for a while hoping to find a restaurant where we could both have lunch and use the restroom but the only restaurant that we were interested in was an Italian deli that had no restrooms.

We walked down to the main bridge because I wanted to get a few photos from there but also because Google said there was a public restroom near there that we were never able to find.

We wanted to see the city but at the same time look for a restaurant that had parking, so we got in our car and drove around for awhile.

It really was a beautiful city but we could not find a place to eat lunch that had an open parking space anywhere near it so we decided to head back to Stuttgart. I don’t remember if we found a restroom on the way back or if we just held it for that long.

Once back in Stuttgart, we walked down to the Dinkelacker brewery restaurant where they not only serve good beer, the food was also fantastic. I think it was one of the top three meals that we had while in Germany.

I rarely drink beer, or any alcohol, when I go out for dinner but while in Germany I could not pass up the opportunity to try the local brews.

My next post will talk about Triberg and our cuckoo clock purchase. I hope you will watch for it.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 6 – Driving Through the Black Forest to Baden-Baden

On our first full day after arriving in Stuttgart, we wanted to go to the black forest to look for a cuckoo clock. I found that Freiburg seemed to be the place to go for cuckoo clocks but my wife heard of many towns in the Black Forrest and thought we should look for one or two that were closer. I looked it up and found a list of towns that were closer. She remembered hearing about Baden-Baden and thought that would be a good place to visit.

The hotel gave us a card for the parking garage and we conveniently got into the elevator and took it to the basement where our car was parked nearby. It was so much easier than our last hotel in Munich.

Rose wanted to drive through the Black Forest and see the scenery so I set our British navigator to the scenic route which took us through the northern part of the Black Forest. It certainly was a great drive with some beautiful views. We would see beautiful scenery followed by a small town and then more scenery.

We did run into some problems, mostly from our navigation system which seemed to be plotting against us. It started by taking us off a main road, bringing us around in a big circle, and the putting us back on the road again. I thought we misunderstood her so we paid close attention and followed her instructions to the letter but ended up doing the same loop. It felt like a Star Trek episode and we were caught in a time loop. On the third loop I told Rose to ignore her and stay on the main road and the navigator seemed happy with that choice. At least she didn’t complain about it.

Another time she took us off a two Lane road and onto a road only wide enough for one car.

This road had some steep inclines and when it ended we had a choice to go left, down to the main road,  or right up to who knows where. The navigator said to turn right. Eventually we ended up on a road so narrow and steep it was foolish to go any further so Rose had to carefully back up to a place where we could turn around.

After that we were taken to a road that was closed. It was actually closed on one end but open so people could get out. Rose wanted to go through anyway but I figured it was closed for a good reason and said I would find a way around so I opened Google maps and guided her around a very long loop in the other direction. It connected to the road we needed to be on several miles ahead but when we got close to the connection point, that road was closed too. This time it was completely blocked off.  I then had to find us a way out of the mess we were in. Eventually we got fat enough away for the navigation system to change the route.

The other things that would happen is the navigator would suddenly stop talking and we would miss a turn. I would then have to fiddle with the controls or reset the map to get her talking again. I also tried to turn off the radio once because of bad reception but couldn’t figure out how to do that without also turning off the navigation. Finally she would sometimes tell us to turn were there were no roads, even though the map on the screen showed us continuing straight. If there was a road, we would turn on it and then be told to make a uturn back to the road we were just on.

Dispute all the navigation problems, the drive was very beautiful and well worth the trip. We are blessed with beautiful beaches where we live in Florida but there is nowhere in Florida that I know of that has countryside as beautiful as I have seen in Germany.

When we arrived in the town of Baden-Baden, I was reminded of a college town, and I learned there are several colleges in the area but I didn’t know that at the time.

We drove around but we couldn’t find a parking spot. After awhile we found an Italian restaurant we wanted to try so we drove down the side street next to it and up the next street before finding a spot to park.

We walked down to the restaurant which was also a hotel. The lady inside said the restaurant was closed and then added “It’s Wednesday,” like that was an obvious reason for closing a restaurant. After that we decided to go back to Stuttgart.

When we got back we made a reservation and then had dinner at our hotel’s Italian restaurant which was very good and more reasonably priced than the restaurant at our Munich hotel.

I will talk about our trip to Heidelberg on my next post. I hope you will join me.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 5 – Munich to Stuttgart

After spending three nights in Munich, it was off to Stuttgart, a place you might call our second base of operations. When we booked our vacation we didn’t want to have to change hotels every day or two so we chose two locations that were near places we wanted to see, namely the Bavarian Alps and the Black Forest. Of course, there were plenty more places around Germany that we wanted to visit but we couldn’t see everything in nine days.

That morning was our twentieth anniversary. Our main anniversary gift to each other was to be a cuckoo clock that we bought together in the Black Forest so on this morning we just exchanged cards and token gifts. As soon as we were ready that morning, we checked out of our hotel and headed to Stuttgart. Before leaving one of the hotel staff took our photograph.

On the way to Stuttgart we stopped at a town called Ausburg. It was an okay town but it didn’t seem special enough to spend a lot of time in. 

While we were there, Rose saw a sign at a corner bakery that looked like a pretzel so we parked and I went inside but saw no pretzels at first. I did see pastries that looked like pretzels. Then I saw it. A single lone pretzel. I still didn’t know the German word for pretzel so I just pointed and said “Diese pretzel, Bitte.” When I got back to the car Rose opened the bag and noticed it was cut in half and had some kind of lunch meat in it. She gave me the meat and ate the pretzel but was not impressed. So our hunt for a good German pretzel continued.

We arrived at our hotel in Stuttgart, The Park Inn by Raddison, at around 1:45. As in Munich, we also had to park in a public parking garage but this garage was cleaner than the one in Munich and the elevator near were we had to park brought us up to just outside the reception desk inside our hotel. It also brought us up to just outside our room which was very covinient. The hotel was more modern than the Excelcier and we had a real king bed, although, like in Munich, we had no top sheet and two single comforters. They did have USB chargers near the bed, which meant I didn’t have to deal with power converters, at least to charge our phones.

Our room was number 703 on the seventh floor, or eighth considering the lobby was considered zero.  It was the only floor with balconies and we were glad we spent the little extra money to get a balcony room because we had an awesome view of the city and it was just nice to sit outside since the weather was near perfect for most of our trip.

We then took a walk through Stuttgart. Rose was looking for a large market that she heard about but it was too far to walk to with her bad foot. We walked a few blocks and passed the beautiful Saint Maria’s Church.

We then ended up eating an early dinner at a place called Rathaus im Gerber. They actually had real German food, and it was good. We also had a nice conversation with a waiter who was Indian and spoke good English. He talked about how great Germany is. He said it is the safest county in the world and people don’t have to worry about pickpockets, purse snatchers or even businesses ripping you off. He did not have the same kind words for Italy.

When we returned to the hotel, we sat on the bacony for awhile and enjoyed the evening view.

The following day we took a trip to Baden-Baden. I will talk about that on my next post.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 4 – Salzburg, Lake Chiemsee and Rosenheim

Our third day in Germany saw us heading out of the country, to Salzburg, Austria. Salzburg is where they filmed The Sound of Music and Rose read that it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and wanted to see it.

Our rental car agent told us we would need to buy a toll pass sticker to drive on Austrian higways after Rose mentioned to her we would be going to Austria. Without the sticker, we could have faced hefty fines. On the way there we stopped at a convenience store. Since I didn’t know how to ask for it in German, I asked the clerk, “Sprechen Sie English?”

“Ein bissien” was her replay so I said “Toll pass?” She said, “Oh, vignette?” I said, “Ja bitte,” then added, “zehn Tage,” before she could ask how many days. The shortest option, a ten day pass, was about ten euros.

Before I left she asked if I wanted coffee or anything else. I said, “Ja, zwei Kaffee bitte und Eine pretzel.” I didn’t know how to say “pretzel” but she knew what I wanted. I added the only thing I could to the coffee, which was lowfat milk, and then dumped both cups into a Yeti mug. It tasted so bad neither one of us could drink it.

On the way to Salzburg we noticed a long traffic jam in the opposite direction. We hoped that by the time we drove back it wouldn’t be as bad.

I was expecting some type of border crossing. I thought they would stop us and perhaps check our passports but we didn’t see anything like that. In fact, if there was a sign announcing that we were entering Austria, we missed it. I think that when we entered Salzburg, I checked Google Maps to make sure that we actually crossed the border.

Even though Salzburg was said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, when we got there we couldn’t find any of that beauty. I thought maybe there was more than one Salzburg and we were in the wrong one. We drove around for awhile but if there was beauty to be found, it was hidden well.

I didn’t take many photos there, mostly because I didn’t see anything worth photographing. I’m sure if we looked harder we probably would have found something interesting but after a half hour of driving around we decided to head back to Munich. On the way back I tried to find places to go along the way But the phone signal was intermittent so it was time consuming to search the internet. 

On the way back we hit the traffic jam that we saw earlier. We noticed that drivers were inching along on the far side of their lanes, leaving a gap in the middle. I assumed there must be a law requiring drivers to leave space for emergency vehicles. If there is, it is a good idea because 30 seconds after Rose took the photo below, a police car with its lights and siren on cruised past us in the gap.

After we go out of the traffic jam, we stopped near a lake called Chiemsee where we parked and got out for some photos.

We then we drove around the area for a while and ended up at Aldi’s. I was hoping to get real heavy cream for our coffee but the didn’t have it. They also didn’t have light cream or half and half. We ended up buying some weird artificial liquid coffee creamer.

We then found a cute little town called Rosenheim. We drove around for a while admiring the small town charm.

I noticed corn fields, which we don’t see in Florida, but Rose was not impressed. She told me they are everywhere but I don’t pay attention. For that, I had to put up with her pointing out corn fields for the rest of our trip.

We then found a restaurant that was attached to a hotel. The place was called Hotel & Landgasthof Happinger Hof. This looked like real German food, which we had not yet had on our trip, so we decided to have lunch there. Our server asked us, in German, if we wanted to eat here or in the beer garden. The dining area we were in was covered but outside. The beer garden was nearby and also outside. We told her we wanted to eat here and sat at a table overlooking the beer garden and a small playground.

Our server did not speak English but we managed to communicate with her pretty well. I actually liked that she didn’t speak English because I needed to practice my German, but it was obvious that I needed more practice. Rose asked me about potato pancakes so I asked her, “Haben sie kartoffelpuffen?”

She laughed at that and quickly stopped laughing when she realized she was being rude and said, “kartoffelpuffer? Nein.”

I wasn’t offended buy her laughing at me. She was, after all, very nice. Who knows, maybe kartoffelpuffen is slang for “stupid tourist.” If that’s the case, that would have been very funny.

It was a very good meal, perhaps the best or at least one of the top three meals of the entire trip.

Our lunch was also reasonably priced. We paid 45 euros for two meals that included drinks and desert, and that was including a good tip.

When we got back to Munich, Rose wanted a real German pretzel from a vendor that made them fresh. So far, I could only find them in gas stations or small markets. We had a hard time finding pretzels, or any German food, within walking distance of our hotel. Not only could we not find a German restaurant, we also couldn’t find a stand that sold sausages or fresh pretzels. We walked to Karlsplatz looking for a place that Google said sold pretzels but it wasn’t there. We then walked past Karlsplatz until Rose’s foot started bothering her. She stopped to rest and I continued for a hundred yards or more but found nothing. We ended skipping the pretzels and went to a place called Ruff’s Burgers for dinner.

The next day we checked out of our hotel in Munich and checked into our hotel in Stuttgart. I will write about that next.