Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Best way to Get Around Economically in Germany

First off let me start by saying this is only my opinion and my reasons for using this mode of transportation. I’m going to start off by touting the train service although it is not my preference.

Germany has an excellent rail system which can take you to most parts of the country but it can’t take you everywhere you might want to go. It is one of the world’s best and most efficient railway systems and can get you to almost every city of the country including most of the smaller towns. It’s an easy to use system, comfortable, fast, reliable, and reasonably priced. It has many ticket options that allow for lower priced travel over multiple days.

The problem I have with using the train system is if you have a wife like mine that travels with multiple bags you have to tote them on and off the train and then you still have to get a taxi to the hotel. If you plan on seeing attractions that are not within walking distance you will still need a car. If you’re just traveling by yourself or two of you it is a viable option. If you are there with more than two you might want to consider a car.

My favorite mode of transportation is a car. As you drive through the countryside you’re not limited to what you can see out the window of a fast moving train. If you see something that looks interesting it is easy to just stop the car and take your time to see it.

One of the first things we do after renting the car is find a grocery store. My wife loves her diet coke so we get two cases of coke and a case of water that we can keep in the trunk of the car for our travels. This has a two- fold purpose. One is that cokes are very expensive (you can get more beer at a cheaper price) and my wife will go through two of them during the night and the other reason is that when you get water in Germany it is usually mineral water and we like plain water which is hard to find in a restaurant. If you want non carbonated water in a restaurant order” stilles wasser”.

Our first trip we had rented a car and was on our way to Triberg (which is in the Black forest region and famous for cuckoo clocks) and noticed about 4 tour busses to our right. We figured that there must be something worth seeing there so we turned around and went back. It was an area built to look like an old German village with signs in English of the history of why everything was built and designed the way it was. If we had been in a train this would have been missed along with a pleasurable experience.  

Another reason we like to travel by auto is that we like to stay in the small towns in either a Gasthof (which is a restaurant that usually has rooms also) or Pension (Bed and Breakfast) where the stay is about half the price ($60 to $100) of the large cities. In a city like Stutgart you could expect to pay much more and not get anything better. They are clean and the food is great. It has the advantage of meeting the locals. We like to stop around 3 to 4 pm and walk around the village and then after you can usually meet some of the locals at the restaurant over good food and great beer.

Travel in Germany is incredibility easy. The German roads are excellent and using a car can be a great way to tour the country. You can Google some fantastic driving tours.

One drawback I should mention if you want to go into one of the larger cities is that almost all bigger cities have a severe parking problem. One way I avoid this is by staying outside the city and leaving the car at a train station and taking the train or subway into town. Most of the larger cities have these extending out up to 25 miles around the city. It is economical to use and you don’t have to worry about the city driving and maybe have some brews while there.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 5 and 6 of our Germany Visit

I guess I already talked about the start of day 5 at the end of day 4 so I’ll continue it here.

We made our way up the Autobahn towards Hoehr-Grenzhausen and Hillscheid. Like the other autobahns on our trip this one had construction on it also reducing traffic down to one lane in many places. We arrived there a little after two and checked into our room at the Burghotel Grenzau which lies in the heart of the beautiful Westerwald at the foot of the 800 year old castle Grenzau.  As usually we were told our room was on the first floor which of course meant the first floor above the lobby up a flight of stairs. Europe is definitely handicap friendly. It was a very nice hotel and the restaurant was just about a 50 yard walk at the 

After unpacking we decided to look around especially to see where the factories were for the next day’s visits since the restaurant didn’t open till 5pm. The area was beautiful and we found everything easily.
We then came back to the hotel and rested till the restaurant opened and had a very nice meal with good beer to wash it down. We went to bed early since the trip in all the traffic wore us out.
The next morning we had breakfast there in the hotel which was the typical breakfast found in most Gasthauses, probably a little better than most. We had our first factory visit at King-Werks scheduled for 9am. I had been communicating with Johannes Gueenster via email and had already made an inventory purchase with him but he was at Oktoberfest in Munchen that week so we met with his sister Magda who is an owner along with her brother. She spoke English quite well which was lucky for us and gave a great informative tour. I thought we might have gotten out to a bad start because at the front door my wife had stepped in some dogs business unknowingly and tracked it in the office area, but all was forgiven I guess.
It’s very impressive seeing in person all that is required to put out a genuine handcrafted, hand painted stein. Check out our article on the manufacturing process to see how they are made. . My wife was amazed and thought steins weren’t expensive enough after seeing how they were made. When I made my initial order my wife had seen one stein she thought was ugly but when she seen that same stein in person the commented how cute it was. Someone else I had shown some steins to that had never seen then except in a picture commented how pictures don’t do them justice. That gave me an idea so I will some have videos on my site of the various steins in my inventory.

Our next stop was in Hillscheid just two miles away and the home of Zoller & born. The tour there was like the one we received from King-Werks and just as impressive. The manufacturing process is the same with the factory just laid out with slight difference in floor plans.

That left us the afternoon to go drive down the banks of the Rhine to look for the numerous castles in the area. The weather was a little misty but still a nice day to see the sites. We went back to the hotel early to eat dinner and get rest for the next day since we would have to leave the Hotel by 4am to get to the Frankfort airport by 5:30 am for our trip back to London.