Friday, October 6, 2017

Germany Days 1-3

Day 1

For once we did not have to be at the airport at 4 a.m. to leave on vacation.  Our flight wasn’t  until 11 a.m., so we actually had time to get up and get some last minute packing taken care of before we had to leave for the airport. 

We used Lyft to get to the airport (only the second time we have used Lyft).  It is pretty handy and much cheaper than a taxi.  Thankfully we were traveling light (baggage wise) this trip as well.  There is a lot less luggage with a non-dive trip.  We only had one checked bag and after getting that checked in, we made our way to security.  Luckily we both had TSA precheck, so the security line didn’t take long at all.  However, they did pull my backpack aside and took the items out, as my nuts apparently looked suspicious.  I had a bag of cashews, which are apparently too dense for them to see through.   After my nuts got the all-clear, we headed to the United Club to hang out until it was time to board our flight.

Obviously, it wasn’t a full flight to LA and we got upgraded to first class.  The flight to LA was smooth and once we arrived there we tested the information Eric had found on how to make it to the International Brady Terminal without leaving the secured area.  It is quite a walk, depending on what terminal you arrive at, but it is possible to get to the International terminal without having to go back through security—a big plus!

We made it to the International terminal and made our way to the Star Alliance lounge.  It is probably one of the nicest lounges we have been to in the U.S.  We had a few snacks there, Eric took care of some work-related business, and then we headed to our gate.  We were flying from LA to Frankfurt on Lufthansa.  Eric had booked us seats in premium economy.  They were very nice seats.  We even managed to board early with Eric’s Star Gold, but by the time we got to our seats the overhead space was already taken.  Luckily we managed to squeeze our stuff into the bin in the row in front of us. 

We took off on time and the flight appeared to be going smoothly until part way through when the crew made an announcement that they had a passenger that was not feeling well and if there was a physician on board to please let one of the crew know.  Apparently there was a physician on board and later on in the flight we were informed that we would be making an emergency landing in Manchester, England so that the passenger could receive urgent medical attention.

The crew hastily prepared for the landing in England.  Immediately after landing, the plane was directed to an area just off the taxi-way and the steps were brought up to the door of the plane.  The emergency crew was already on the ground waiting and quickly boarded the plane.  Just before we had landed, we saw the crew racing around with the first-aid kit, oxygen, and what appeared to be an AED.  The woman in front of us said she had seen them doing chest compressions.  It took the EMTs a bit of time, but they finally removed the passenger, a woman who appeared to be in her 40s-50s.  She was on oxygen and may have been unconscious.  They rushed her off to the hospital—we are hoping she was okay.

It then took a little while longer before we could take off.  They had to receive the new flight plan, refuel the plane, perform their inspections, etc.  We finally took off again and headed for our original destination, Frankfurt, Germany.  It was only about an hour and we were preparing to land in Frankfurt.  Because it was such a short flight, we did not receive what would have been our second meal (breakfast), but I don’t think anyone was too upset.

After deplaning, we made our way through passport control and then collected up our bag.  We stood at the baggage claim area for quite a while before our bag slid onto the carousel.  We were beginning to wonder what had happened to it.  Thankfully it did arrive and it was in one piece—always a bonus. 

After retrieving our bag, we wandered around the airport a bit trying to find an information booth to ask what the best way was to get to our hotel we had booked.  We finally found the information desk and of course the person working the desk had no idea where our hotel was—it is a brand new hotel near the city center area.  We had the address, so he suggested a route via the train that would bring us near the hotel. 

So we made our way to the train.  We lined up at the ticket kiosk to buy our tickets.  When it was our turn, Eric inserted his credit card and of course then it wanted a PIN—which we didn’t have.  Europe uses a chip and PIN credit card system and the U.S. uses a chip and signature card system.  Luckily we had some Euros on us so we used those to get our tickets. 

The train arrived shortly after that and we boarded and rode it for about seven stops where the man at the information desk suggested we get off.  We didn’t think it would be far to walk from there, but it ended up being a bit of a walk—especially when you are dragging a 50-pound bag.  Good thing we had new bags with new wheels that were in good shape. 

We finally made it to the hotel and got checked in around 1-2 in the afternoon.  We had intentions of going out and wandering around a bit, but we were so tired all we could manage to do was go downstairs to the hotel bar and order something to eat.  We then came back upstairs and had a “little nap” before we crawled into bed for good for the night.

Day 2

We got up around 5:30 so we could get cleaned up and head out to look for some breakfast.  We wandered down the street a ways and found a bakery and got something to eat and something to take with us for our train ride to Füssen.  We made it back to the hotel and packed everything up and headed down the street a short bit to buy a tram ticket.  We found out after we made it to the hotel that the tram that runs right in front of the hotel goes all the way to the train station (which if we had known that yesterday would have saved us a long walk)—oh well!  We bought our tram tickets and made our way to the main train terminal in Frankfurt. 

We had purchased rail passes before we left home, which we needed to get validated.  We made it to the train station early just for this purpose.  After our tickets were validated we bought a juice and waited near our track for our train to arrive.  The trains don’t sit around long once they arrive.  They arrive, you have maybe a few minutes, if you are lucky, to get on, and then it leaves.  We had wanted to take a later train that only had one stop/transfer on the way to Füssen, but it was already booked up for reservations.  So we took an earlier train which had about four transfers.  We made to make all our transfers without incident and completed our approximately 5-hour journey and arrived in Füssen around 1:30 in the afternoon. 

The countryside is so beautiful with lush rolling green pastures and a multitude of crops being grown or in the process of being harvested.  Füssen is in the end of the train line and is right on the border with Austria. 

We made our way off the train with everyone else and stopped just outside the front door of the train station to figure out where we needed to go to get to our bed and breakfast.  It ended up being just a short walk from the train station.  The owner was waiting for us and gave a quick orientation and handed over the keys to our room.  The weather today was beautiful and was almost warm compared to Frankfurt (which seemed strange because Füssen is in the alps region with high mountains).  She suggested if we wanted to see the castles we do it today because the storms were supposed to move in later in the day and begin raining. 

We quickly got our stuff put into our backpacks to hike our way to the castles.  It was supposed to be approximately a 1 hour and 20-minute hike to the castles from where we were staying.  It was a beautiful hike, though a bit steep at times.  We made our way through the woods and down a mountainside to a lake.  We hiked around that lake, with views of the castles in the background, and then around another lake with more great views.  We were making our way closer and closer to the castles—as the clouds overhead became thicker and thicker. 

We finally made it to the parking area/tourist shop/visitor center for the castles.  Then it was another steep hike up to Neuschwanstein castle (the castle that the Disney castle is modeled after).  We made it to the castle and then made our way around to the back side where the trail to Mary’s bridge was to be found.  The bridge has probably the best vantage point for castle photos.  It was nearly 6 p.m. by the time we made it to the bridge.  We got some photos and then decided to wait for it to get dark and try and get some night shots. 

A few stragglers came hiking up after sunset but by the time it got dark we were the only ones around.  It was VERY windy and getting colder and colder, but we persevered and braved the bridge in the dark to get a few good night photos of the castle.  It then began to mist so we decided we had better start making our way down the mountain.  We stopped along the way and took a few other photos before it began to really rain. 

Luckily we had our large umbrella with us, so the two of us made the probably 4 mile walk back to our hotel huddled under our umbrella in the dark and the rain.  By the time we got to the bottom of the hill there were obviously no buses running and pretty much no one around.  It was kind of like a ghost town—very different from when we came through earlier.  Luckily we had brought our headlamps so we trudged onward in the rain and finally made it back to our room around 10 pm at night.  It was very quiet walking through town at that hour of the night as well.  We had no trouble passing out and going to sleep after we got back.  I would say we probably walked close to 10 miles yesterday, some of it was very steep.      

Day 3

This morning we slept in until around 7:30 and then got up to go across to the other building to get breakfast which was from 7:30-9:30. It had been raining off and on all night and was probably in the 30s-40s.  After breakfast, we decided to wander around town a bit and take Rick Steve’s self-guided tour of some of the sights in town.  While we were out, we noticed the peaks of the mountains all around town had accumulated quite a bit of snow buildup overnight.  Yesterday there hadn’t been any snow on them whatsoever.  Toward the end of our tour it began to drizzle again, so we decided to get something to eat at a bakery and take it back to our room to eat it.

Our room, by the way is very nice.  It is basically half an old house.  We have a bedroom, a sitting/dining room, and a very large bathroom—not bad for the price.  It also includes breakfast every morning with a very nice spread of freshly baked breads, cereals, fruits, jams, cheeses, yogurt, juices, etc., etc.

This afternoon, after I typed up the blog, we had a nice long nap while it drizzled away outside and likely snowed some more on the mountain tops.  We finally dredged ourselves out of the nice warm bed around 7 p.m. to see if we could go find some food in town.  Most places were closed, but the little shop where we bought slices of pizza for lunch yesterday was still open.  So we went in and ordered one serving of spaghetti Napoli to go. 

We took our pasta back to our room to eat at our little table.  Oh my gosh, was it some good pasta and for only 7 euros was a really good deal for two people.  I had a piece of Mediterranean focaccia I bought at the bakery for lunch left over, so we split that as well.  It made for the perfect dinner.   

We are hoping for a bit of better weather tomorrow so maybe we can get out and do a little more hiking or exploring.  We might try taking the Tegelberg gondola if the weather isn’t too bad. 

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