Oberstaufen, Germany Part One

Our destination for the second week of this European vacation was Oberstaufen, Germany. This is a small town in the southwest part of Bavaria. Nestled in the mountains is a tourist destination for the local people. We stayed at Mondi-Holiday, a resort with chalet type apartments. While tiny, they had all of the things we needed to be quite comfortable.

The English speaking staff showed us the short cut into town and since our stomachs’ were grumbling we immediately set off. The short cut was all uphill and I was plenty grateful for the hours spent on a treadmill and at the track this past year. Atop of the climb was a small town filled with a beautiful church and many nice places to eat. My favorite so far has been Spatzle mit Kase (a Bavarian macaroni with cheese).

We went to Mass on Sunday to a totally German service but since the Catholic service is universal I had no problem joining in. I even sang to one song since I knew the melody. The service was accompanied by a choir with organ, violins and timpani  so it was quite lovely. The congregation was predominately older people and we were told later that the younger folk hold Christian values but do not care for a church that does not seem to fit in the 21st century.

This weekend Oberstaufen held a street market or neighborhood festival. Kiosks of food surround tables and a musical stage. We ate sausages, roasted chicken, french fries (which are huge in Europe) , roasted almonds and different kinds of cakes. I drank Apfelschorle (apple juice with fizzy water) while Mike sampled the local beers. The music was Bavarian what we might call oomph music. It made you want to swing back and forth which much of the crowd did joining in on refrains. The night ended with a five piece Alpine Horn band (think Ricolla cough drops) which was peaceful and seemed to be the same song over and over. I enjoyed mostly watching the locals enjoy a favorite past time.

Oberstaufen Photos

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Frankfurt, Germany

We stayed one night in the Frankfurt, Germany the city of banking and Apfel Wein (apple wine.) Our German friend Uschi took us around the old part of the city explaining that unfortunately most of the older buildings had been bombed in World War II. The Germans rebuilt this small area of the city that includes the town hall. Uschi explained that she had married her first husband in that building.

Michael Jackson died the day before as well as a young woman in Iran. The area was filled with people mourning their deaths through displays of pictures and candles as well as musical tributes. It was fascinating to see German teens dressed as Michael singing his most famous songs. Of course Mike joined in for a bit of the sing-a-long.

We ate dinner at Uschi’s favorite restaurant, a small place on the outskirts of downtown Frankfurt. Her friends Ziggie and Herbert awaited us with a traditional pitcher of Apple Wine. It is low in alcohol and very dry. The Germans usually mix it with fizzy mineral water or orange juice. I chose the mineral water and found it very refreshing. Germans love to eat outside (regardless of how pretty the indoors might be) perhaps because they don’t get many opportunities to do this so we sat at a long picnic type table under umbrellas in a fenced in former parking lot. It is also a custom in most European countries to value the hundes (dogs) so many canines shared our dinner atmosphere, usually politely parked under the table of their owners. I ordered the Frankfurt Schnitzel, a wonderfully crisp piece of pork and fried potatoes that came with a indescribable but delicious creamy green sauce. Dessert was fresh strawberries over Bavarian cream. It took several hours to finish the pitcher of wine but the good conversation (in German and English) made the time go fast. Another characteristic of European dinners is the length. Server only come when you need them and allow you to have a relaxed dining experience. You have to ask for the tab. We have been told that they get paid well and tips are extra not expected. Perhaps that is why.

Frankfurt Photos

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A Day in Amsterdam

First and foremost I am glad that I got to spend a day in one of “the most beautiful cities in the world.) That being said, it is a dirty city filled with bicycles, motorcycles, trams and cars. These forms of transportation will go down any street as long as they fit. Pedestrians seem to have no right of way so you take your life into your hands in a seemingly quiet walk way.

A city of canals, they are brown and decorated with houseboats that may or may not have curb appeal.

The most important thing on my agenda was seeing the Anne Frank Huis. An important help tip – buy your tickets in advance on the Internet. The lines are long and in the sun. With tickets in hand we bypassed the queue and walked right in. There are many things to see, hear and read but the highlight is standing in Anne’s room imagining her writing and dreaming of a better world. Knowing that her dream was not realized makes you ponder destiny and your place in this world. Did she accomplish much more for dying??? They have the actual diary under glass – how awesome.

The book shop was a teacher’s delight! I bought so many that the cashier asked if I was an educator. They had books that I would never had been able to get in the US or Amazon.

We then went to the Rijks Museum – the home to many Dutch Art Masters. I stood in front of and learned about Rembrandt’s “Night Watchman” and “The Jewish Wife” but the highlight for me was the three Vermeers. After watching “Girl With a Pearl Earring” I developed an appreciation for the camera aspects that Vermeer applies to his work.

The day was concluded with a requisite canal tour that provided a different perspective of the houses and an hour to relax your feet.

I was glad that we were able to return to Drenthe, a quiet province to the northeast. Amsterdam was too busy (it even gave Mike a headache) that the peacefulness gave us a great night’s sleep.

In spite of all of the touristy things, the highlight of my day was noticing a real hedge hog creeping about outside our window. I have never see one especially in the wild. It looked exactly like a Jan Brett illustration. I was thrilled. This area’s love of animals – geese, ducks, cows, sheep, goats, cats, ponies and dogs can be seen almost everywhere helps to keep me from missing my own too much.

Photos of Amsterdam

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Drenthe, Netherlands

Arrived in this rural northwest area of the Netherlands late afternoon on Friday, June 19, 2009. We are staying in a Bungalow Park which is kinda like fancy camping. The two bedroom unit is sparse which is normal in Europe with the basic essentials and nothing more. At first I wanted to bolt for the nearest four star hotel but knew that that was not going to happen so I decided to make the best of it. After purchasing an extra pillow, towel, chocolate and pastries, I have decided that the unit will do for the week.

Landal Greenpark is in walking distance of a windmill and quaint thatched roofed farm houses. The people all speak “a little English” and are very friendly. The Dutch LOVE their dogs so the four legged critters can be found everywhere – restaurants, shopping centers, etc.

We have mostly just driven around (a car is necessary to really enjoy the region) and stopped when something looked interesting. This included the megaliths (prehistoric burial tombs), pannenkoek shops (pancake houses), Boomkroonpad (a walk across the top of a forest) and Westerbork (the transit camp Anne Frank was sent to before Auschwitz).

The Dutch put any possible combination of fruit, vegetable and meats in their pancakes so you can eat these high calorie yummies everyday (and I have). They also have a bakery in every hamlet that is filled with many delicious breads and pasteries.

The Netherlands is flat which makes it a great place to run so I have continued my half-marathon training. The weather has been cool so the minutes tick off much faster than they have in Clarksville.

This is not a popular tourist place but that has been a definite advantage – there are plenty of things to see, do and eat but no throngs of people.

Drenthe, The Netherlands

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