Thursday, August 31, 2017

Western Europe: Germany - Black Forest's Alpirsbach, Schiltach and Triberg

Buses are not my favourite mode of transportation, probably because the brain associated it with long distance rides in my uni days from uni to home and motion sickness. The nearest train station is in front of Vogtsbauernhof but it is much convenient to get around in buses from Gutach and I am totally ok with it! In fact I probably even taken too many rides on the trusty bus #7150 that I reckon one of the bus driver could recognise me. Though speaking of bus #7150, I realised sometimes the bus number was #7160 but as bus services are not regular, I flagged down the bus anyway and they did stop at the ones that I wanted to go.

I was being ambitious and thought I could fit in 3 towns, also considering distance from Alpirsbach and Schiltach isn't far, Alpirsbach was my first stop for the day.

Story has it that Alpirsbach is named after a cleric who exclaimed, "All Bier ist in den Bach! (All the beer is in the stream!) when his glass of beer clumsily slipped from his hand and rolled into the river. Such an apt name as presently Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu is brewed from pure spring water. I skipped the brewery tour because I am such a lightweight (ticket comes with 2 beers) and didn't feel like drinking then, especially just right after breakfast. The souvenir shop carries all sort of beer and beer products including shampoo, soap, etc.

This town is also the home to a 11th century former Benedictine Kloster Alpirsbach. I wasn't a good tourist/visitor at that morning because I sat this out too after being told that the explanation in the monastery is in German.

It is easy to get to Schiltach from Alpirsbach, either by train or bus. I took a bus as it was the next scheduled transport to get to Schiltach when I was ready to leave Alpirsbach. The bus actually passed close to the Marktplatz before getting to Schiltach Bahnhof.

Schiltach sits at the foot of wooded hills and on the banks of Kinzig and Schiltach Rivers. It is a charming town with beautiful half-timbered building, rafting and tanners.

It would be a lie if the promise of delicious Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte didn't tempt me.

I also successfully convinced myself that calories don't count on holidays, so I had 2 slices of cake accompanied by coffee all by myself. After all, why stop at one? ;)

First choice - Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, of course.
Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
I like the look of the crushed peanuts on the cake, so I picked the Frankfurter Kranz after I finished the black forest cake - light, moist, delicious.

Frankfurter Kranz

If I still had tummy space, I would go for the apple strudel. Oh, and one could access free internet hotspot courtesy of Schiltach town.

There are also some free museums in Schiltach - Museum in the Market Square which would give an idea of the history of Schiltach over 700 years ago. The other one would be Schüttesäge Museum, on route to the bahnhof. Schüttesäge Museum shows Schitalch's rafting tradition from trees, timber transportation by river, etc.

On I hopped to a bus again, this time to Triberg (again!). This was my second time to Triberg actually, the first was the day before when I arrived in Gutach.

From the bus
The story went like this, I arrived in Gutach on a Sunday and after I finished going around Vogtsbauernhof it was still pretty early before 4pm so I thought I could popped by Triberg for calling it a day. It slipped my mind that bus services on Sunday was even more less regular than the already not very frequent service. I took the last bus from Vogtsbauernhof to Triberg at 3:54 pm that would get me there by 4:21 pm.

As precaution, I asked the bus driver if there would be another bus to take me back to which he replied yes. So I happily got on the bus to get to Triberg. Upon getting off the bus, the bus driver very kindly reminded me that he would return in about 10 minutes and that would be the last bus... hahaha, I so need to rethink how I ask my question next time! Anyway, so I was back to Triberg again as the only place I have time was a shop across the road from the bus stop.

Triberg is the house of cuckoo clocks in Black Forest. Although it is said that masses of tourist visits Triberg I didn't really see truckloads of tourists but there were more visitors noticeable. No doubt it is very touristy but I have a soft spot for cuckoo clocks as I grew up in a clock shop.

My second visit was more fruitful comparatively which wasn't hard. One of the more nature based attraction is Triberger Wasserfälle. It is Germany's highest waterfalls, feeding from Gutach River and drop 163m down.

Side note: To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble. ~Bill Watterson

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Western Europe: Germany - Gutach, a great start to the Black Forest

When Paul first wrote about Gutach im Schwarzwald, I've made up my mind that if I go to Germany, I'll make my way to Black Forest and stay in a farm house. Sometimes I surprise myself on how decisive I could be on certain things. Ha! I send an email to Joklisbauernhof about three months prior to my holiday and was told that they were fully booked! I thought that was quite far in advance for a room booking, obviously not. Then it dawned on me that it must be peak season already and if I didn't make haste with my bookings I would missed out on good value accommodations.

I was determined that staying in Gutach must happen, so more googling happened and I made a reservation for 2 nights in Rommelehof. Rommelehof was built since 1665 and is about 1km from the village centre. The nearest bus stop is Gutach Bergle, about 10 minutes walk away.

Likewise Burg Arras, I informed them of my arrival time as requested and Markus came to pick me up from Hausach station. My room was not yet ready upon arrival in Rommelhof so I was offered a coffee while completing a form for the KONUS Guest Card (free bus and train rides) as well as a Gutachtal Card for guests staying in Gutach. Coffee and breakfast was served their breakfast room.

Check out the bollenhut on the left (in the photo above), a PomPom hat with pompom either in red or black colour. Red for unmarried women until their wedding. After that, they wear a black hat. It is being worn in Gutach, Wolfach-Kirnbach and Hornberg-Reichenbach. Also, the 'heater' on the right of the photo, technically was a stove/oven with opening in the kitchen but at the same time would heat up this room.

I sat the the last chair, nearest to the window when I had my breakfasts and dinner. Anyway, by the time I finished my coffee, my room was ready :)

The ceiling is low as with the old houses. It was said that people in the past were shorter.

This is the door latch for the balcony door, a similar one was also at the window. To open the door, the latch is to be pulled towards you and the door will move down.

I decided to just walk to Vogtsbauernhof, the Black Forest Open-Air Museum instead of coinciding with the bus time. It was an easy walk, albeit a little warm. Vogtsbauernhof (the museum) houses fully furnished farmhouses from various regions of the Black Forest, as well as labourer's cottage, mills, sawmills, barns, etc. The entrance fee when I visited was €9 (before discount) but Gutachtal Card gives a 50% discount. Small wins.

This farmhouse above, Vogtbauernhof was built in 1612 and it is at it's original site in Gutach valley.

On my way to the museum, I stopped by the Gutach Rodelbahn as Gutachtal Card gives one free ride. Sis and I first tried this in Mutianyu Great Wall. No photos at that time but we were allowed to carry our bags with us. This round I left my bag at the entry point to the ride.

Don't know why I didn't use the camera to get a shot... 
I had dinner in Rommelehof, it was simple dinner of cold cuts and cheese. I was told that hot food was for lunch and simple cold food for dinner, that was how they eat in the farm. I can do that... so this was my dinner. When I approached the woman who was working in the kitchen though, she actually offered if I wanted pasta but I went with the cold cuts ;)

Dinner... or breakfast? 
Breakfast or dinner? Haha.. 

From top left, clockwise: Honey, strawberry, apple, cherry, rhubarb

I had an absolutely amazing time in Rommelehof and Gutach.

Side note: Malaysia or New Caledonia or sit at home for 2 weeks? 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Western Europe: Germany - A day in Heidelberg

When I was planning the holiday, my friend asked where I was heading to. Despite telling her a couple of times, she only remembered one place - Heidelberg. Unfortunately it wasn't because Heidelberg holds any significant importance, merely because there is a suburb in Melbourne with the same name.

The Germany's Heidelberg though is a college town in Baden-Württemberg on the Neckar River in south west Germany. It is the home to Germany's oldest and one of Europe's most reputable universities - Heidelberg University. I was told that there are many medical scholars from Heidelberg.

I was on a rather empty train from Bacharach to Heidelberg and the train was one of those with no electronic boards indicating which stop we were at or passing through. It was quite tricky to spot the signboards most of the time too. I mostly relied on the expected arrival time but on this leg of the my journey there were some delay when I was on board. I went with the logic that Heidelberg should be a biggish station so it would be easy to spot. That almost got me getting off at the one station before though, as that was an even bigger station, Mannheim. Anyway, all was good I arrived safely without dramas. I found out later that an email was sent to me by Bahn to inform of the delay but of course, I didn't have internet connection then. Ha!

I was being quite realistic and if all fails, the one place I wanted to go was Schloss Heidelberg. It felt ages to walk up to the castle in the hot weather. I stopped midway to get a sandwich and a slice of cake for lunch. Both were not memorable plus the cake was a bit dry too so I'll spare the photos.

Schloss Heidelberg was the last castle I visited, it was also the largest, the most crowded but the one I least enjoyed. I paid an additional fee for a tour to visit the interior of the castle and picked the English tour. It was a little disorganised, started off with the tour guide had to send a few people out because they sneaked in without a ticket and on their way out, they wandered to another section of the castle so she had to run after them. Unfortunately it was also a little hard to hear her due to the space, coupling with some echo and noise around.

The admission ticket also include entry to the the German Apothecary Museum (Deutsches Apothekenmuseum) which displays a large collection of things used in pharmacist in earlier times. The souvenir shop at this apothecary museum was small but interesting. Oh! It was the only place I've been that sold the elusive magic colour pencils that my sister showed me, the exact ones.

After that I wandered back down, heading towards the direction of the Old Bridge (Alte Brücke), actual name Karl-Theodor-Brücke. The bridge connects the Old City with the opposite bank that was across from the Neckar River.

After that I cut across the Marktplatz area and made my way back to Steffi's Hostel where stayed the night.

Side note: This is me at the moment... if I can't see the world, the world can't see me... maybe? 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Western Europe: Germany - Day trip to St Goar, Koblenz and Oberwesel

Cheat photo - obviously taken from Rhine River but it shows Burg Rheinfels...
Travelling by myself means not able to take advantage of the Rheinland-Pfalz deal that make it cheaper for more than one person. I ended up buying single ticket for all of them. If I go according the train stops, it would make sense to start with Oberwesel, St Goar and Koblenz but I wanted to visit the castle in the morning. So it was St Goar, Koblenz and Oberwesel, in that order. 

It was cloudy with the sky threaten to rain and I forgot my rain jacket. 

Lucky for me it didn't rain till I was almost to the entrance of the castle.

Burg Rheinfels was once the mightiest fortress on the Rhine. It was built in 1245 for toll-collection, I spend a good few hours going around the galleries though there were some parts being blocked of due to safety purposes.

I was given a piece of paper with map and description along with the path to follow. By the time I finished, it started raining again. I sought shelter at the gift shop outside the castle, taking exceptionally long to check out the souvenirs on sale. Even that, the rain was still quite heavy. I stood outside at the car park for a bit and watched a newly wed couple got into a car and drove away. After 'sending off' another two cars, I decided to just brave the rain and made my way down to the town again.

Next station, Koblenz.

This was the first place I actually see other Asians in the train station. Ha! I have no specific plans in Koblenz so I just strolled to the Löhr-strasse shopping street and see if I can find the elusive magic pencils that for my nieces. I went shop after shop but none carry the pencils. The rate I asked, if this is pasar malam in Malaysia (night market), I'm sure a week later I would see all the stalls selling them! I realised that the pencils that my sister showed me was made in Austria, I found a good 'substitute' (I hope), that is made in Germany - Staedtler of course ;)

Also saw stalls selling currywurst so I decided to give it a try as I am nowhere near Berlin. I'm hoping the versions in Berlin will taste much better.

A random building which I think the mural is pretty cool.

Then we go back to the historic town halls and Middle Ages in the form of Oberwesel.

Haagsturm / Roter Turm
Oberwesel if known for its 3km long medieval town walls with 16 guard towers. One can climb up on the walls at many points and a few of the towers are open to public.

The round tower in the above photo was formerly known as the Red Tower. It's current name is Haagsturm, after Carl Hagg who established a workshop here in 1865.

This - Ochsenturm was described of looking like an exclamation mark. it is unique amongst the town's towers and demonstrates power and confidence of medieval Oberwesel.

St Martinskirche
It is a charming place but for some unknown reason I kept on walking to the wrong or opposite direction to where I wanted to. That must be the reason why it was the day I clocked the highest steps... from all the wrong turns I took. -__-"

The day that started off with rain ended with glorious sunshine, in fact it was so hot that I treated myself to a gelato though I don't really any excuse to have one. :P

Meet Riesling-Wein Eis... umm.. just sounded interesting but if you have a choice, pick the drink and another ice-cream flavour. ;)


Train tickets price:
Bacharach to St Goar €3.90
St Goar to Koblenz €8.00
Koblenz to Oberwesel €8.00
Oberwesel to Bacharach €2.60

Side note: It has been a long time since I so desperately needed a blanket day

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