Alsace and the Black Forest
April, 2002

Click on ThumbnailBy Jack Welsch


This was a trip to celebrate the birthday of our friend, Gisela. My friend, Karl-Heinz, had called shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to invite us to the party at their favorite restaurant, L’Auberge de l’Ill - Haeberlin, in Illhaeusern, Alsace, France. After some initial hesitation due to the war on terror, we enthusiastically accepted. As long as we were going, we decided to make a little vacation of it, visiting Germany's Black Forest as well as France's Alsace. The way we really like to travel is with little in the way of structure; we like to just "follow our nose." Karl had made for us hotel reservations for our first night, for the weekend of the birthday party, and for the night before our departure. Beyond that, we wanted to be free to go where our whims directed and choose hotels either from one of the several guidebooks we carried or just because we saw something we liked. We were able to cash in US Airways points for two business ("Envoy") class tickets and Karl lent me a car, both of which really helped the budget!

As usual, I've included some links to help in case you're planning a trip. Wherever I could find good sites in English, I've used those. However, I've included some German and French sites as well where they were the best choices and there were no good English alternatives. I'm using the names of some friends but, to preserve their privacy, I'm using first names only. I've also blurred their faces a bit in the picture I provided of the party for the same reason.

Wednesday, April 3, 2004

Leaving home at 10:30, we drove to Philadelphia, stopping along the way to see my Uncle Welland and his friend, Riba . We had a nice visit with them and a tour of their place but left there a bit after 3:00 because we were worried about possible delays by traffic and security at PHL. We had a hell of a time finding the economy parking lot and then a harder time finding a parking space. In any case we were still parked, checked in and through security by 4:00!! We had something to eat at TGI Friday’s and got ourselves settled into the Envoy Class Club by about 5:30. We needn’t have eaten as there were lots of things to eat and drink at the club.

We boarded and pushed back on schedule but, as usual in PHL, there were ground delays. Business class was great! The seats had all kinds of electric positioning controls, a built-in CRT and even ANR (active noise reduction) headsets! We had a good meal and watched a movie but, naturally, got little sleep. Of course, I adjusted my watch forward by 6 hours to correct from EST.

Thursday, April 4, 2002

We arrived at what we thought was 9:40 (more on that later) and spent almost an hour getting the bags and finding our way to the Sheraton lobby where we were to meet Karl. Karl was there with his son, Niels, to meet us and deliver a car for our use. They had driven two cars all the way from Düsseldorf just to lend us a car! Few people have friends like that! Karl had done a LOT of work in planning our visit (more than we had, I think) and had a detailed itinerary prepared for us. After a briefing on his recommendations, we followed him to his car and got instructions on the use of the built-in GPS. Fortunately, he’d programmed it to be in English and put in key places along his recommended route! We followed Karl and Niels to the hotel he’d booked for the night before our return so we could check it out and also check out the use of the GPS. After final farewells, we headed south to Heidelberg.

HeidelburgLed by the voice of the GPS, we parked in the appointed place and walked along the Hauptstraße in Heidelberg. What a nice town! The only reason we visited it was because we’d heard during our 1992 trip that there was a jeweler named Welsch who supposedly looked like me. Karl had found his address, 2A Theatrestraße. We found the address easily but learned that Herr Welsch would be out until 3:00, 2 hours later. We hadn’t had lunch so we did that and walked around a bit before returning. While Herr Welsch wasn’t exactly rude he was something far less than enthusiastic to meet us so, after waiting so long and coming so far to meet him, we left after but a few minutes. One of life’s little disappointments, I suppose. We were tempted to visit the schloß overlooking the city but were both dead tired so we skipped it and left town heading eastward rather than directly westward towards the Autobahn. My plan was to drive back on the opposite side of the river Neckar for a better look at town but we had to go quite a way out of our way to do it, getting tangled up in a tiny town along the way.

Back on course, we took the A5 and A8 into the Black Forest, eventually arriving at the Gasthof Ochsen Post in Tiefenbronn. In trying to find our way into the hotel itself, we asked directions of an elderly Swabish couple and had an enjoyable few minutes with them. Some folks have said that Germans are unfriendly to strangers. We've found that, while they are often somewhat reserved, they're normally quite pleasant. Checking in, I lugged the three heavy bags along with the carry-on up two flights of stairs to a rather nice room in this old, half-timbered building. After a change of clothes, we drove to nearby Mühlhausen for dinner at the Hotel Arneggers Adler. As instructed by Karl, we asked for Melanie and were welcomed enthusiastically. Melanie had attended culinary school with Karl’s older son, Heinrich. The menu was all in German and Melanie spoke little English. Our German is normally adequate to get us by but there were many items on the menu that we didn't understand. We were assigned a waitress who was a bit better at English but dinner was still an adventure and we used the dictionary a lot. We finally both agreed on a Swabish menu of filled noodles, salad, pork medallions, and a fruit compote. We drove back “home” and were in bed by what we thought was 8:30. On the way, I noticed there was a beautiful view of the village but it was too dark for a photo.

Friday, April 5, 2002

TiefenbronnMy watch said 6:10 when I first awoke and 8:15 when we we finally got up. While Lin was doing her hair, I drove out of town to get pictures of it, then walked around town to get some more. We had breakfast at the hotel when my watch said 10:30 and then hit the road. We used a combination of what Karl had suggested and what we’d picked from the tour book we were using. To get from place to place, we had the GPS set to shortest distance so it took us over small roads. In Bad Liebenzell, I climbed up the castle keep while Lin stayed in the car. We agreed to skip Freudenstadt in favor of nearby Dornstetten. DornstettenWe found that to be a delightful little town and we got dragged into the Heimatmuseum by a very enthusiastic older gentleman. He was very proud of the museum and, though his English was somewhat limited, he was a great guide. We had lunch at the Schöller Restaurant/Café, then drove on to Schramberg. On the way, we breezed past a place that said "Welschdorf" so we went back to have a closer look. It seems as if the village of Welschdorf doesn’t exist per sé but I got a photo of a restaurant with that on the sign. We stopped again in Alpirsbach for a tour of the Alpirsbach brewery but it was closed. We had to wander around Schramberg a while looking for the Stadtmuseum where we’d heard there was a clock collection. The lady there said it closed at 6:30 but it seemed to me that we had lots of time. They had a huge clock there and the woman activated it manually so we could see the 8 passion scenes it displays. About 45 minutes after entering, the lady started turning off lights. We left and I looked at my watch. 5:30. Strange… Followed the GPS up over the hills through Lauterbach to Hornberg, then on to Triberg. Triberg was very touristy but Lin wanted to look there in the morning for a cuckoo clock so we didn’t want to drive beyond it.

HohenschrambergWe decided to backtrack to choose one of the places we’d seen on the road between Schramberg and Hornberg. Unfortunately, we saw nothing great and started back towards Hornberg once again. Lin mentioned that she’d seen a small sign indicating Hohenschramberg and that it had a bed and crossed knife and fork on it. I turned off onto a small road that twisted up onto the mountain. At times it was pretty frightening as the road was narrow, winding and had a drop on one side and went up on the other. Eventually, however, we came to the ruins of a castle perched on the mountaintop and a small gasthaus next to it, the Gasthof-Pension Burgstüble. Fortunately, they had a room available so we took it, deposited the bags and had dinner. Lin had veal in a cream sauce and I zwiebelrostbraten. Both were great! For dessert we both had Schwarzwalder Kirchbecker with Kirshwasser and cream. (Marinated black cherries with kirsch over vanilla ice cream) That was even better! I looked at the clock on the wall and noticed it was one hour later than my watch. I asked about it and it turns out that they go on daylight savings time a week before we do in the US so for this week only, there's a 7 hour time difference rather than the normal 6 for which I'd set my watch. Since my arrival, my watch had been reading an hour early than reality!

We took a brief walk outside after dinner. The castle is lit with spotlights from below so it must look great from the city. The lighting made the walking tricky, though, so we retreated to bed.

Saturday, April 6, 2002 – Gisela’s Birthday!

Both of us slept poorly so we were up just before 8:00 and had breakfast at 8:30. Linda returned to the room while I took a walk around the ruins of the castle. What a place! It's difficult to believe anyone could have built it, especially given the “technology” of the time. Even harder to believe anyone could attack it successfully but that was done, too. We checked out of the gasthaus and made the trek down the road without incident and took some additional pictures from the valley.

Near HornbergHaving done that, we headed back towards Triberg for a clock. We'd noticed an attractive place on the road between Hornberg and Triberg, the House of Black Forest Clocks. We’d agreed in advance that we’d do a lot of shopping before buying something. So, of course, we walked into this first shop, fell in love with a clock and bought a clock for us and one for each of the kids! We felt good about the place, though, especially after a tour of the shop upstairs where the clocks are assembled. The lady who waited on us ran the shop and claimed it had been in the family for generations. As it later turned out, we never saw a clock we liked better or a shop that didn’t impress us as 100% tourist trap.

Having accomplished one of the major goals for the trip, we headed north to Hornberg once again, then turned westward towards France. For the first part of the trip, the views were breathtaking. As we neared France, however, the towns were considerably less appealing. I called Karl on the cell phone and he said we should plan on joining them for a wine tasting at 2:00.

IllhaeusernWe got to the Hôtel les Hirondelles in Illhaeusern at 1:15 and checked in. We found the hotel to be basic but clean. They don’t serve lunch and we were starved so I told the lady who runs the hotel to tell Karl where we’d be, then we walked up the street to Restaurant La Truite. The waitress there assured us we could eat quickly but she lied; it took forever to get some quiche Lorraine. Karl came in at 1:40 and said he’d pick up Alice at the hotel and return. I was having a fit since the tasting was scheduled for 2:00 in Ribeauvillé but Karl was calm about it and he and Alice had a drink while we wolfed down the (pretty good) quiche.

We rode to Ribeauvillé with Karl and Alice in Neils’ car and found the others still walking towards the winery. Present were Sophia and Tassos from Greece, Sandy and Kay from Chicago, Gisela, and Niels. Together, we walked the short distance to the Trimbach winery where Karl had arranged a private tour and tasting led by one of the Trimbach brothers. He said his was the 12th generation in the business!! We first visited the caves, then had a very pleasant tasting. It was a really nice experience and I’m glad we made it to town on time. We all had to fit into two cars for the ride back to Illhaeusern, Niels driving one car and Tassos the other. Several of of us had a drink at La Truite, then Lin had a little nap while I walked around town taking pictures, then returned to the lobby to write. Eventually, I woke Lin to get ready for dinner.

Gisela's PartyThe evening was a fairy tale and one I'll never forget! Because the inn is only a few doors from our hotel, it was a short and pleasant walk. On the way, we met the last people to join the group, Florindo & Sylvana from Italy. The initial impression of L’Auberge de l’Ill starts on the outside with an impressive building and grounds along the river Ill. There is extensive use of glass on the side facing the gardens and river and, inside, all is done in excellent taste. As might be expected in a restaurant of this caliber, we were greeted warmly and efficiently by a large staff. Chef Marc Haeberlin was on hand, of course, to assure perfection. We were directed to our seats at the long table by our host, Karl, and the festivities started officially with a toast with an excellent Cremant d’Alsace. For many hours, we enjoyed course after excellent course, each accompanied by an appropriate wine and each wine served in its own unique glass. The meal was beyond words and each course was wonderful. Remarkably, I think the highlight for me was the potatoes that accompanied the main course. They were a tart of au gratin potatoes and truffles. Lots of truffles! Magnifique!

When the dinner eventually ended we started on the eaux de vie and at some time after 12:00 left the table. Most of us thought the evening was about to close but Karl thought otherwise and disappeared to the bar. Gisela wanted to return to the room so I told her I’d get her key from Karl and she could walk back with us. Karl is very persuasive so I ended up sitting down in the bar while Karl went for the others, at least those who had not already left. Eventually, the ladies revolted and left at about 1:30 but a few men remained. In the end, it was Karl, Tassos and I who staggered home at 2:30. The door to the hotel was locked and, though we'd each been told the numerical code to unlock it, none of us could remember what it was. After some hilarious confusion, we got it right and got to bed. What a fantastic evening!

Sunday, April 7, 2002

I slept like a stone but, unfortunately, Linda was not as fortunate. I’d set the alarm for 8:00 and woke slightly earlier. As Lin was getting ready, I took a walk in town and along the river where I discovered a manually-operated lock and, walking near it, a stork! All but Sandy and Kay had breakfast together at the hotel. At breakfast, I broke out the laptop and showed everyone the pictures Linda took of Karl and me jumping out of a plane in ‘98.

Karl had wanted to charter a small van to take us to a number of places in Alsace. He couldn’t get one so he chartered a full-sized tour bus… for 12 people!! It picked us up at 10:30 and the first stop was for a wine tasting at Bott Frères in Ribeauvillé. At this winery, they believe the flavor of the wine should not pick up the flavor of the cask so they use mostly stainless and glass-lined cement casks. Even their few wooded casks are lined with the mineral deposit from earlier batches. Of course, they also said there are no more coopers…

Fois Gras de LieselLeaving there, we visited “Fois Gras de Liesel”, also in Ribeauvillé. This is a tiny shop run by a man and his wife, Marco and Marianne Willmann. They were both delightful! We were given a detailed explanation of the history of pâté de fois gras and an explanation of how it’s made. We had a tasting of both goose and duck pâté. The duck was excellent but the goose was absolutely phenomenal! Certainly a world apart from anything I’ve had here in the States. We were tempted to stay forever but, as it was, we stayed too long so our next stops were rushed.

Next stop was the winery of Paul Blanck et fils in Kientzheim. The owner of this winery is a friend of Tassos. He was away but had arranged to have his nephew host us. He spoke excellent English and could even apply several regional accents! He was also quite humorous. They normally like to spend two hours for a tasting but we had only 30 minutes. As a result we skipped directly to the very good wines, then moved quickly to the excellent ones. Very good, indeed!

RiquewihrFrom there, we rushed of to an also-foreshortened visit to Riquewihr where Karl had arranged for a guided walking tour of this walled medieval city. It being Sunday, the town was overrun by tourists, however. Also, our tour was rushed as we had to get Sandy and Kay to their hotel by 4:30 for a pickup for their flight to Paris and Alice had to get to the train station in Colmar for a 5:19 train to Zurich. Florindo, Sylvana, and Niels also had to head towards home.

Those who were not leaving town adjourned for a short nap and met again for what we thought would be a simple evening. Dress code was casual. Karl suggested we start with drinks in the garden at l’Auberge de l’Ill and then move to La Truite across the street for dinner. We had our drinks on the terrace but than moved to the dining room at l’Auberge de l’Ill. I was surprised they let us in since only Karl had worn a tie. Dinner was once again superb but much more limited than Saturday night’s. Present were Gisela, Karl, Sophia, Tassos, Linda and I. While it was not as magnificent as the pervious one, it was a wonderful evening.

Monday, April 8, 2002

We both slept well but I woke up at 6:00 with the sudden realization that I hadn’t checked voicemail all weekend. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I dressed, went to the car and got the cell phone. I had to walk to the church to get a cell signal but had nothing on voicemail. Climbed back into bed and slept until 9:30. I dressed and went downstairs while Linda got ready. Karl and Gisela were having breakfast so I sat with them until they left at 10:00. Linda came down a few minutes later and we were joined for breakfast by Tassos and Sophia. We had a delightful conversation over a long and leisurely breakfast, then went up to finish packing. When I tried to pay for the room, I discovered that Karl had already settled the bill. We said goodbye to Tassos and Sophia and headed to Riquewihr as they headed for Strasbourg.

Hubert BannwarthWe had a great time in Riquewihr as it was not crowded and we had lots of time. This is a very nice town. There's almost nowhere you can aim your camera without getting a nice picture and we found the people to be almost universally friendly. We enjoyed Flammkuchen and Riesling at a street café. Flammkuchen, also known as Tarte Flambeé, is rather like a thin pizza with cream and onions as the topping. It's a bit different and quite tasty. After lunch, we found a rather strange gentleman playing a clarinet in front of a store and learned that his name was Hubert Bannwarth. He’s made a number of CD’s and was selling them from the store. I planned on buying one but ended up buying two with a third thrown in. Neat guy and great salesman!

We’d walked enough so we decided to leave Riquewihr to find a hotel in Ribeauvillé. This was definitely a mistake! We found nothing we liked in Ribeauvillé, so we searched for two from the “Passport” book. This is a small book we've had for years. It's now out of print but we've done well with it. We found that both were isolated and had restaurants that were closed so we ended up back at Riquewihr at Hotel Le Schoenenbourg, just outside the city wall. We booked a nice room for two nights, then walked into town and, after some selection, chose Le Grappe d’Or for dinner. This was a simple Alsacian meal of onion soup, chicken and chocolate mousse for Lin and escargot, choucroute garni and Munster cheese for me, accompanied by 1-1/2 bottles of Riesling. Seated at the table next to us was a couple from Antwerp and we had a nice conversation with them. We eventually left and returned to the hotel.

Tuesday, April 9

StorkWe woke at about 7:30 to another beautiful day! After breakfast in the hotel, we started driving north, stopping first at the Stork and Otter Park in Hunawihr. St. Jacques' Church, HunawihrThere are a LOT of storks there, many completely free to come and go. Apparently, they were nearly extinct and have been brought back. Magnificent birds... and they're BIG. I guess they need to be in order to carry babies!! Leaving there, we spotted a large church overlooking the town so we drove up for a closer look. It’s a fortified church, originally founded in the tenth century! The church itself was locked but we walked around the graveyard marveling at the many small ceramic plaques put there in lieu of flowers. The town itself looked like WWII occurred yesterday; the buildings drab and the streets in deplorable condition. There were also what looked like bullet holes in many buildings. Interesting. We drove through and around the outside of town to take pictures before leaving.

Haut-KoenigsbourgHeading further north, we drove through Ribeauvillé once again, then on to Bergheim where we turned left to drive through Thannenkirch and on to Haut-Koenigsbourg, a huge castle perched on top of a mountain. It’s a pretty popular tourist place but was not unbearably crowded. Linda hung around the small gift shop while I walked up to and through the castle. This is a magnificent place and I was glad I took the time to see it.

We left the castle and continued north to Obernai, stopping along the way at Restaurant Kirmann in Epfig for a lunch of tourte and some white wine. The tourte is a meat pie and it was delicious. Reaching Obernai, we parked and walked around town. The first thing we found was a hardware store so we bought a 220v night light and extension cord. We also bought a dozen champagne flutes and a dozen white wine glasses from a lady who was speaking Alsatian to her assistant. I commented to her (in French, not Alsatian!) that I’d not heard that language and she launched into a long and spirited dissertation on the loss of this historic language. She was obviously passionate about the subject and I had difficulty getting away.

For the first time in several days, we got on the autoroute to return “home” to Riquewihr. On the way, I decided to pop back over into Germany to check out a steam train ride in Riegel that Linda had read about. We wandered around Riegel until we found what passes as a train station but I couldn’t find any information. Eventually a train came in and I stopped a passenger who, after consulting his schedule, said the next steam train was on June 17th. We decided not to wait!

Maginot line bunkerOn the way back to Riquewihr, we passed through Illhaeusern and I stopped to take photos of the menu in the window at l’Auberge de l’Ill and then of a bunker from the Maginot Line.

After dumping our purchases in the room, we headed out for dinner in Riquewihr. This time, we selected the Relais de Riquewihr. I had rabbit stew and Lin had Baekoffe. Both were quite good.

Back in the room, I called the office, transferred some pictures and some of my journal to the laptop and hit the sack.

Wednesday, April 10

ColmarI heard church bells at 8:00, then rolled over and slept ‘til 9:45! We hurried down to breakfast, then packed and checked out. We drove to Kientzheim to buy wine at Paul Blanck but the streets were blocked with construction. We eventually gave up and headed for Colmar. We parked at a free lot and walked a short distance to the old town. We did a little shopping, then bought some Flammkuchen at a café on the water. We were planning a boat ride but learned we’d have to wait an hour; we should have booked before eating. Blowing off the boat ride, we walked to le Banque de France to exchange the 200 French francs that were left over from previous trips. This is the only place you can do that now. They had apparently made up “starter packs” to introduce the new money. Each starter pack was 100FF and contained 15 Euros in coins! Many were pennies! Yuck!

TitiseeLeaving Colmar, we headed back to Germany and got horribly tied up in traffic in and to the east of Freiberg. It seems as if all of Germany is under construction but this was by far the worst. At my friend Theo’s suggestion, we stopped in the tourist town of Titisee and walked a bit but we found it much too touristy for a prolonged visit. I did, however, buy a very nice brown leather cap to match my jacket for the amazing price of 10 Euros!

I set the GPS for Schluchsee but stopped along the way at Seehof Windgfällweither in Feldberg-Altglashütten for the night. I had trout and Lin had schnitzel with Camembert and some excellent fried potatoes. Lin went to the room while I walked on a small path along a railroad track to the far end of the lake and back. No sense being in the Black Forest if you can’t experience it close-up! Back at the hotel, I tried to check voicemail but the cell phone needed to be "recharged" with money. There was no phone in the room and none in the phone booth by the front door. Read a bit before giving up for the night.

Thursday, April 11

Bad SäckingenBoth of us slept poorly again and were up by 7:00 and down for breakfast at 8:00.We drove southward to Todtmoos and walked around the small town where I bought a 30 Euro phone card for the cell phone in the post office. The woman there was kind enough to install it for me. We continued southward over some spectacular roads to Bad Säckingen, parked the car and walked over the longest wooden covered bridge in Europe to Switzerland where we had an excellent if simple meal of chopped beef and fried potatoes. The bridge is beautiful and not controlled by customs. While Switzerland is not part of the EC and therefore still uses Swiss Francs as currency, the folks in the restaurant were astute enough to accept Euros as well. We still had some Swiss Franks left-over from a previous trip, however, so we used those.

Black ForestLeaving there, we programmed the GPS for fastest way to Triberg, stopping at Hotel Dorer in Schönwald. We’d identified it from the Gast im Schloß book. The hotel was nice but the woman there was not especially so. She explained rather sternly that we could only have the fixed menu for dinner; there was no á la carte. We didn’t feel at all welcome so we headed to Oberkirch where we’d identified a hotel from the “passport” book. Somehow, however, I apparently switched the GPS from “fastest” to “shortest”. As I was heading west on the A33, the GPS told me to turn off and it directed me onto a tiny road. This road was barely wider than the car and it went twisting up the side of a mountain. On the left I had a bank going upward and on the right a terrible drop-off. Of course, there was no guard rail! We kept hoping we’d crest and eventually we leveled out just as Lin saw a town appear on the edge of the moving map display. Unfortunately, a few minutes later, the road became a dirt track! There we found an old man and a small boy sitting in front of a house. The old man said it was simply necessary to turn around and go back down through the obstacle course!

In Oberkirch, we found the Hotel Oberen Linde to be fantastic! We had a great room for 120 Euros and a delicious meal in their restaurant. This hotel is part of Romantik Hotels and Restaurants and that chain has never failed us. Nice evening all around!

Friday, April 12

Burghotel auf SchönburgWe set the GPS on fastest way to Bingen, then followed route 9 to Oberwesel. We knew from prior experience that this road has a beautiful view of what is probably the most magnificent part of the Rhine river. On the off chance that they’d have a room available, we stopped at Burghotel auf Schönburg where we'd stayed in 1989. This time, we wanted to stay for two nights. It being the weekend, we figured the odds were pretty low. Learning that they had a large room (#20) for tonight but only a tiny one (#15) for tomorrow, we agreed to take the large one, then move. The owner assured us he’d make a reservation for dinner in the restaurant.

Number 20 is fantastic. It’s a corner room with one side looking over the town and down river and the other looking up river to the Pfalz castle which sits on a tiny island in the middle of the Rhine.

Getting into this hotel is a treat. First, you wind your way up the mountain. Next, you carefully drive over a narrow wooden bridge over a gorge. My guess is that there was once a drawbridge here. Then you park your car with your front bumper over a steep drop-off and take a very long walk up over slippery stones into the castle and the hotel. Schlepping bags would be horrible so a porter hauls them in a wagon attached to a small tractor. The porter was unavailable until 3:00 so we left the bags in the car and set off for lunch. The LoreleiWe initially headed west away from the river but, finding nothing, we returned to town and again found nothing we liked. Eventually we took route 9 north to St. Goar and had lunch at Hotel-Restaurant Keutmann on a terrace overlooking the Rhine and the famous Lorelei.

We dressed for dinner only to find that our reservation had not been made. After some consternation, and a little persistence, we were given a nice table by a window. Dinner was great but Linda didn’t feel well afterward.

Saturday, April 13

Pfalz CastleWe were up at 7:00, had a quick breakfast at 8:00 and drove down to Bingen for a trip on the river on a KD Line boat. I misjudged where we were going and parked too far from the boat so we had to walk a bit. After buying our tickets, we waited with a busload of Germans for the boat to arrive. When it did, we were less than excited to see that this boat, with a capacity of about 400, already had on board 350 Japanese! That’s not an imaginary figure; I got it from one of the crew. The few available tables were reserved for the German tour group so we were jammed onto the end of a table in the center of the boat, away from the windows. The noise level was deafening and you couldn’t move. On deck, it was cold and damp so one couldn’t remain there for long. Visibility was terrible; it was the one lousy day of the trip. We’d bought tickets for Boppard but thought we might bail out at St. Goar and take the train back to the car. I asked our waitress where the large group was going and she said St. Goar and St. Goarhausen! We stayed on board and had a very pleasant 45 minutes to Boppard. To think the entire trip might have been like that!

After disembarking, we walked in town just a bit, then found the bahnhof and, after some confusion, boarded a train for Bingen. Underway, we learned that this train stopped in Bingen but not at the station we wanted. As it turned out, however, this one was just as close to my car as the other was. We drove up route 9 once again to Bacharach where we had a nice but simple meal of Wienerschnitzel for Lin and Zwiebelschnitzel for me. Leaving there, we continued on through Oberwesel to St. Goar to do some shopping since, as usual, we’d left it go too late. Finished the shopping and returned for a nap.

Library in Burghotel auf SchönburgWe ate in the castle once again and this time they had our reservation. They reserve the tables by writing your name on ceramic tablets with a paint pen or something. The nicest part is that here in Germany, they spell my name correctly! Lin had sole for an appetizer, followed by pork in Dijon sauce. I had quail followed by rabbit. For desert, I had some phenomenal goat cheese, then had some calvados in the library. We walked around a bit, then reluctantly gave up and went to bed.

Sunday, April 14

We woke about 8:00, packed, dressed, and had breakfast, then headed west to the Mosel, picking it up at Brodenbach and following it upstream. We stopped along the way for lunch, then continued to just short of Trier where I set the set the GPS for the fastest way to the Frankfurt airport. The trip to the airport took about 1:45. Karl had made a reservation for us at the Hotel Esprix right at the gate to the Frankfurt am Main US air station. We found it without problem, checked in and then went for gas and to wash the car. Found the gas but the car wash was out of service so we were able only to vacuum the inside. Damn.

Back at the hotel, we started the re-packing for the trip back, then went down to the JU52 pub for a hamburger for Lin and a pizza for me. The trouble with this place is that it’s full of Americans and all the staff speaks English! I love America and Americans but in Europe I want to be surrounded by Europeans! Definitely feels like vacation is over. We went back up and waited for Karl to arrive to pick up his car. While I’d argued with him that I could easily drive to Düsseldorf to pick him up, Karl insisted on taking the train to Frankfurt, then a taxi to the hotel. He arrived on schedule at 8:20 and the three of us went to the J-52 for a drink and to talk. Eventually, we said farewell to Karl, he left and we went up to finish packing and hit the rack.

Monday, April 15

I woke in the wee hours with the fear that, given security measures, we’d probably not be allowed to carry the glasses we’d bought onto the plane! I slept poorly from then on and when Lin woke, told her my thoughts. She agreed and we set out to put all of he glasses into the checked luggage. We had four boxes of glasses, two in my carry-on duffel and two in a shopping bag. We painstakingly wrapped glasses in clothing and packed them in the luggage, hoping that at least most of them would survive the trip. (Every last one arrived intact!)

We’d planned on taking the 8:00 shuttle to the airport but there was a heck of a crowd and there were taxis waiting so we took one of those for the short trip. There was a huge line for check-in but only one person in line for Envoy class so we got through quickly. Had breakfast at McDonalds, of all things, and went through security. There was a second security checkpoint that looked as if it might be for planes going to the US and there we had to put our shoes through the scanner and walk through without them. Best not to have holes in the socks! We’d been given a pass for the business class club and we’d been told it was across from the gate inside security but that was bad info; it was between the two checkpoints. We elected not to run that gauntlet again and just waited with the mob.

We got off the gate late but made the time up enroute. The flight was long but uneventful and we arrived to a beautiful warm day in Philadelphia. When we eventually got home, we didn’t have the energy to even go out to dinner so we had a bowl of soup for dinner and that was the end of the trip.

I was so much looking forward to this trip that I was concerned that it might not live up to expectations. I needn’t have worried, this was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken; it was very nearly perfect in every way. Alsace and the Black Forest are both beautiful but I must admit I liked the Black Forest a bit more; might be my German heritage. That said, Illhaeusern will always have a special place in our hearts!

We are very grateful to Karl & Gisela for inviting us and for being such wonderful people.