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.
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.
After finally getting to Munich, we had been awake for over 24 hours and were exhausted. We slept for about three hours and got up around 4:30. We didn’t have time to explore the city so we just decided to go out and look for a place where we could have dinner.
There was a coffee shop across the street which we were happy to see but it was not what we were looking for at the time. After traveling thousands of miles to Germany we wanted real German food.
We walked down to Karlsplatz, which was about two blocks from our hotel, maybe three at the most. We passed the Italian restaurant in our hotel, a Middle Eastern Restaurant, a burger place and another hotel bar and restaurant. We then passed through a sea of people and made it to Karlsplatz.
After passing the large fountain we could see a coffee shop and a very large McDonalds but no German food. We were thirsty so we went to McDonald’s and bought a bottle of water for three and a half euros.
I wanted to continue on toward Marienplaz but by then Rose’s foot was hurting. It was an old injury that comes back to haunt her occasionally and it chose this time to come back.
We decided to just have dinner at our Hotel’s Italian restaurant. Our German waiter was very friendly and not only spoke excellent English, he did so with a bit of a Scottish accent. We found out later that he spent a lot of time in Scotland and the UK.
The food was very good and it was nice that we didn’t have a long walk back to our hotel when we were finished. The only drawback was that it cost us 100 euros. In comparison, the second most expensive meal we had on our vacation was $65 euros. We learned later that Munich was more expensive than anywhere else we visited.
That night jetlag caught up to me and it took about three hours for me to fall asleep. It was probably because we went to bed around 4 p.m. Florida time.
The next morning we set off on our first road trip and it was an awesome day. I will write about that next.
My wife and I wanted to do something special for our twentieth anniversary so we decided to finally book the trip to Germany that we had been talking about for years. Now that we are back from that trip I decided to write about it in segments because there is just too much to tell for one blog post. I should mention that the first 24 hours did not go well but please stick with me because the story does get better.
We got up early Friday morning, October 11th, and got ready for our trip. We booked an Uber because parking our car at the airport would have cost us around $180 but an Uber was only about $40 each way and that was with a tip. The driver picked us up a little after 8:00 a.m. He was a little older than us and moved here from Crete, Greece in the 70s. He also survived cancer by refusing chemotherapy and changing his diet. I know this because he was talkative. Very talkative.
Our American Airlines flight left for Charlotte just after noon. I sat in the middle seat next to a guy sitting at the window and Rose sat next to me on the isle. The guy had taken over the armrest so I felt squeezed in like a sardine. He also had both his windows closed, as did the people across the isle from us so I couldn’t see outside. That made me feel even more like I was in a sardine can. It was a very uncomfortable flight. Fortunately it was less than two hours. I don’t think I could have survived if the flight lasted much longer.
We arrived in Charlotte before 2:00 and our flight was scheduled to leave for Munich two hours later but it was delayed for two more hours because they found a dent in the plane and had to wait for another plane. Perhaps the pilot hit another plane while backing out and didn’t tell anyone. Whatever the reason, I don’t mind a little inconvenience in exchange for my safety.
The flight to Munich was a little better because we had bought the economy plus which had slightly wider seats, twice as much armrest room, and only two seats in our row. It was also a wide body plane so getting up to streath was a little easier but it didn’t have a lounge like a 747 so there was nowhere to go.
Every seat had a video screen but mine didn’t work right. I tried to watch a movie but had to restart it every two or three minutes because of an error that told me, “Where sorry. The channel is no longer available.” After restarting the movie more than ten times, I just gave up and turned it off.
The last few hours of the nine and a half hour flight were very tough. I was tired but couldn’t sleep and everything was hurting.
When we finally arrived in Munich I had to pee but everyone was blocking the isle and I didn’t want to wait until the line started moving out of the plan to use the washroom so I figured I would go when I got inside the airport. That was a mistake. Upon leaving the plane and exiting the jetway I noticed we were not connected to the airport. Instead, there were busses waiting for us. That did not please my bladder but I had to grin and bear it.
When we got inside the airport we were directed upstairs where there were no bathrooms in sight. First, we had to go through customs but there were no customs agents around. The room slowly filled with people and the ones in the front were waving trying to get the attention of someone on the other side.
Ten minutes went by before anyone came out but they were not customs people. Three or four walked past us pretending not to notice. Finally, after about fifteen minutes, someone said they were on the way but they didn’t say from where. I think a half hour went by before they started processing people. By then many people who came in late filtered around the line to the left and got ahead of us. By the time I got through and made it to the bathroom I was ready to explode.
We got our luggage and proceeded to look for the Avis car rental place. It was quite a long walk and when we got there and saw how long the line was we were not happy. Rose guessed we would be in line for a half hour but it was actually closer to 50 minutes before we got to the counter.
We preordered a Mercedes six months before but we were told they didn’t have any and we were given a Volkswagen SUV insted. They offered us insurance for $350 euros, which was more than the cost of the rental, but Rose said our insurance would cover it and didn’t buy it. We then had to walk what seemed like another mile to the Avis lot where we passed about 500 cars, including several Mercedes. When we got to the car Rose wondered if we shouldn’t have gotten the insurance. I suggested she call our insurance company, which she did, and they told her they did not cover cars outside of the United States.
Now we needed to get the insurance but didn’t want to walk all the way back and stand in line again so we called them. The phone system put us in the queue but never answered. Since our phone company was charging 25 cents a minute we decided to hang up after almost ten minutes.
Rose said she would wait in the car and I could go back. She told me not to wait in line but go right up to the person who helped us. I felt uncomfortable pissing off everyone in line but I went. When I got there the woman was busy with a customer but another woman was off to the side talking to a customer. I decided to talk to her when she was finished so I waited behind the customer. When she was done she ignored me and walked away. I took that as a sign that they were not going to help people out of line so I walked back to the car.
Rose’s was pissed at me for not doing what she said. I told her we should could call the Avis corporate customer service and we got right through to them but we were told only the desk agent could issue the insurance policy so Rose and I both walked back to the counter. When we got there Rose butted right in behind the agent’s customer and when she was done the lady took care of us. I guess I should have listened to her.
When we got back to the car we wanted to put the hotel address into the navigation system but it was in German. Despite all the German I learned, there is still more that I don’t know than I do know. I tried to figure out how to change the language but the solution was far from obvious so I put in the address in and hoped for the best.
Once on the road the navigation system seemed to contradict the road signs on two or three occasions. I wasn’t 100 percent sure I programmed the address right so I decided to trust the signs and ended up adding ten or fifteen minutes to our trip. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem but at that point we were both very tired and ready for the trip to be over.
At home, Rose drives because she claims that I am a terrible driver but really she is a terrible passenger. This time I drove because she knew I would understand the road signs better. It was a bit stressful, especially driving through Munich because there was so much traffic and so many pedestrians. Add to that the fact that I didn’t know where I was going and it made for a less than pleasant drive.
When we finally got to the Excelsior hotel, we saw we couldn’t drive to the front of the hotel like every other hotel I have ever seen. It was a pedestrian only area.
There was an area relatively close but there were cars parked there so I drove past and found a parking garage. I was under the impression that the parking lot was owned by the hotel but this was a city garage that charged by the hour.
We pulled in and went down one level but there was nowhere to park so we went down another level and found a spot way in the back. Nearby there was an elevator and we took it up to the main level. When it opened we were looking at the inside of a department store. There we were standing there with two huge suitcases and back packs and needed to go through an entire department store. Rose was willing but I didn’t want to do it and talked her into going down one level and walking up the ramp. She was not happy with me, again, and complained that the garage smelled like piss.
We paid for a room that Friday night simply so we would be able to check in early Saturday morning because we knew we would be tired. By the time we got there it was so late that it wouldn’t have mattered. We got the keys to our room on the third floor and went upstairs with the sole purpose of going to sleep
We expected the beds might be weird but weird doesn’t begin to describe it. Essentially they were two single beds pushed together, each with a single fitted sheet, no top sheet, and two heavy comforters, one for each side. The pillows were also a bit weird with the main pillow being square instead of rectangular.
Our room also had a great view of more rooms.
The good news was that we had arrived and had many days of adventure ahead of us. Next I will write about our first day in Munich.
As I have aged, I have gained a respect and curiosity for those who have come before me. I have become interested in learning about my ancestors. I kick myself now for not being interested when I was young. So many people then could have told me so much, but now that knowledge is lost.
I think I became seriously interested in researching my family’s history after my father and three of my grandparents had passed away. It was the year 2000 or 2001. My only remaining grandparent at the time was my mother’s mother, Sadie (Thomas) Blake. I asked her about her parents but she said she knew nothing and had no interest in knowing anything.
That attitude came from the fact that she and her younger brother, Pat, were put in an orphanage when they were young. She had older siblings that did not suffer the same fate and I assume she was still bitter towards her parents for doing that to her. I don’t know the reason. Perhaps it was during the great depression and her parents were desperate.
I did manage to get some information at that time, although I don’t remember from where it came. I obtained photo copies of several important documents from both sides of my family. These documents had useful information but some also complicated my research.
For example, one document was my father’s mother’s passport. Elizabeth Höffler came to the United States when she was three years old with her mother, Eva. My grandma had told me years ago that she was from Hungary but her passport said she and her mom were both from Yugoslavia. Another problem was the spelling of the last name. The document spells the last name as Höfler in two places, with one “f,” but the signature is “Höffler.”
A couple of years ago I was able to clear up some confusion with the help of a Serbian coworker. She explained that many Hungarians lived in Yugoslavia at the time. She also pointed out that the alphabet is different there and the name was probably translated during their trip out of the country and the spelling was arbitrary. In fact, she said my grandmother’s name was really “Erzabeth” or something like that. My uncle also said that the time was just after World War One and Hungary did not really exist as a functioning country so it is possible that they entered Yugoslavia to get the proper paperwork to leave for America. What throws doubt on that theory is the fact that her Certificate of Naturalization in 1943 lists her as Yugoslavian. Since she was an adult at that time she probably would have corrected that if it was wrong.
Another problem is that Eva left with her three year old daughter but not her husband so I don’t know what her father’s name was nor do I know Eva’s maiden name. Perhaps Höffler is her maiden name and she was never married. My grandmother told me years ago her father was a German diplomat but my uncle said he was a German sailor. In either case, I was told he did not want to come to America and instead returned to Germany after the war.
On the other side of my family My mother’s father’s father was Irish and his mother was German. One document lists her as Tilly Williams and another as Matilda Bouer. Since her married name was Blake, one of those names is wrong or she was married to someone else first, which is probably unlikely since it was a hundred years ago and people didn’t get divorced like they do today, although her previous husband, if she had one, could have died.
These just illustrate some of the problems I had during my early research. It also is typical of geneology research in general. I have since encountered many conflicting documents that have complicated my research.
Another problem I ran into was finding information on my Grandmother’s parents, the ones who put her in an orphanage. In particular, her mother was listed on her delayed birth certificate as Rubina Slaughwhite, born in Marble Mountain, Canada. At the time, Google returned zero results for “Slaughwhite” or for “Marble Mountain” but Google was young at the time and there were far fewer web pages. Today I get 113 results and it asks if I mean “Slaunwhite” which I believe is the correct spelling. That spelling now produces 118,000 results. I also get 25,300,000 results for “Marble Mountain Canada.” What a difference 18 years makes.
I gave up my research for over a decade and when I started looking again I found more than I could have hoped for, at least on my mother’s side of the family. I uncovered many interesting stories along the way that I want to tell in future posts. One of those stories I wrote about a few years ago that you can read here. I hope you will join me for more.