Halto Bahn

It rained all day Sunday, putting a damper on the Blumenfest in Rothenbach.  So we bid auf wiedersehen to the Schmieder family and set off for Penzberg, just south of Munich, for a visit with Helga’s friend Salvia.

I made good time most of the way to Munich, keeping it under 170 kph given the conditions, when suddenly about 40 or 50 kilometers from Munich the autobahn turned into a parking lot.  It took about two hours to go ten kilometers, so we got off at the next exit.  Owing to good signage, we made it to and through Munich, and arrived at Penzberg in time for an unexpected supper.

Salvia found us a nice hotel nearby.  When we awoke the next morning it was still raining, so we decided to skip th Ubergurgl ad heat straight for Val Gardena via the Brenner Pass.

On the way to Orizei.  Schloss below Brenner Pass.

On the way to Orizei. Schloss below Brenner Pass.

As you can see, things are looking up:  It stopped raining.


Fried Egg Cake

Apricot-topped cake

Apricot-topped cake

Saturday was Helga’s third birthday party.  It was a smash.  Her three sisters, brother, assortment of subsequent generations, and attendant companions (such as myself) feasted on German breakfast foods (bread, cheese, nd cold cuts), traditional Rebecca fare (tomato and cucumber salad; pasta salad), two cakes, and libations.

Helga, Roswidea, and Anna Marie

Helga, Roswidea, and Anna Marie

Rebecca suggested I entitle this post Schwarze Seele after cousin Roswidea’s boyfriend Klaus told a story about having a black soul.  I did not think it an appropriate name for such a joyous event, however.  I also found it an ironic characterization for Klaus, who did not seem dark at all.  He related numerous humorous anecdotes, including a scene from Animal House where the Germans were credited with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  He also sang verses from a few songs (contextual rather than performantory).  And he plays guitar and likes Alison Krauss.

Anther potential title would be My Friend Jack.  On a previous trip to Germany w stayed with cousin Hans Werner.  We gave him a bottle of Jack Daniels, at which time his yes lit up and he said, “My friend Jack.”  At the party we had a litre bottle of our friend Jack, which, between Klaus, Hans Werner and me (okay, among but it just doesn’t sound right) we just about killed.

Aunt Erika and cousin Hans Werner.

Aunt Erika and cousin Hans Werner.

Earlier in the day, we went looking for a short hike and discovered one of the trails we’d hiked onto he fortress ruins went right by our house.  We didn’t have time to hike all the way to the fortress, owing to the impending party, but in the short time we had we were able to cover more than a third of the distance.  There are well-marked trails to just about anywhere in Germany, it seems.

I’m going to take the easy way out an simply finish this entry with some pictures.



Picture Postcard Town


Following World War Two, Helga Schmieder and her family were among many Germans exported from Czechoslovakia to what was left of Germany.  Helga’s family were placed in Lauf an der Pegnitz.  The purpose of this trip was to accompany Helga (now Troutman) to visit her remaining siblings



for her birthday.

Lauf is an old town.  The castle in the middle of the river was built in 1360.  You won’t find much more than that about the town’s history on the internet.

We walked through the town today without Helga, who went with her brother and sister to Nurnberg.  It is a lovely town with stone pavement and lots of photo opportunities.  It seems to be a popular hangout for its populace.  You’ll have to see the album from my real camera to understand why I call it a postcard town.

Earlier in the day we went searching for a nearby castle ruin.  It turned out to be a fortress.  Rothenberg Fortress.  It’s the remains of an 18th century fort built on the site of a medieval fort on a hill high above Schnaittach.  You can see Lauf from the fort.

Vera at entrance to Rothenberg Fortress

Vera entering Rothenberg Fortress

We drove to Schneittach, found a parking lot with a hiking sign, and walked the 2 kilometers to the ruins.  Later we found a trail marker for the same trail at our apartment.  If we’d known about it and hiked all the way, it would probably have taken all day and we would have missed Lauf.

We paid 2.5 Euros for the tour, and despite some skepticism it was worth it. In addition to seeing the remains of the fort, which look a lot like U.S. Civil War era coastal forts (Macon, Pulaski), as well as stunning views, we were treated to several entertaining German-language anecdotes.  Fortunately, one of our fellow tourists was able to provide some translation.

The best of the stories involved one of many failed attempts to overtake the fortress.  The aggressors dug in a load of gunpowder at the base of the fortress walls, but when they set the powder off, instead of crumbling the walls, the blast resulted in debris being thrown back at the attackers, who were routed.

Rothenberg Fortress Ruins

Rothenberg Fortress Ruins

The tour concluded by traipsing within he wall, a cavernous, dark area that housed, in addition to he fort’s arsenal, 5,000 refugees during a siege by Napoleon’s army.  The refugees, who had fled their nearby homes, did not see the light of day for several months.

Walled Town



Today we traveled to two medieval cities, Bamberg and Sesslach.

Bamberg from Saint Michaels.

Bamberg from Saint Michaels.

We’d planned the trip to Bamberg, but Rebecca’s Cousin Volkart suggesged we also visit Sesslach since we’d be in the neighborhood.  Both of interesting old towns; Bamberg was bombed during the war, but Sesslach was spared.  It is very small and of no tactical significance,



The two towns are not similar.  The four of us in our party were obvious tourists noticed by all the residents of Sesslach,  We were just four more tourists in a big city (population 75,000) in Bamberg, although the eating establishments we visited likekly appreciated our business.  We had beer flavored with ham at Michaelsburg Abby, which is perched atop one of the city’s seven hills (the Rome of Franconia), with grand views of the city below.  You can’t go inside the church itself because the roof is caving in.  We also went to see the Dom, a four-spired cathedral atop another of the hills.

CORRECTIONS:  Many years back I bought a new Forester.  I told my friend Mike Siriano it was red.  I woke up in the middle of the night an sat bolt upright when I remembered the car was blue.  Which is to say, I was informed today the car I’ve been driving is a Skoda, not a Volkswagen.  Also, the town in which we are staying is Reighschwand.  And the fastest I’ve driven so far is 185 KPH, which converts to about 115 MPH.  Still, fast enough for Rebecca to wonder why I’m so reserved when driving in the states.  (It’s called a Speed Limit.)

Note to Robin Capps:  Notice human in first photo, for scale.

Error 99

I studied up on credit cards before crossing the pond, and learned about stripes and chips, signatures and pins.  Turns out it doesn’t seem to matter.  The local Gasthaus across the street from our flat doesn’t take credit cards at all; and in the tourist city of Nurnberg they take them all.

The Error 99 code didn’t show up on a credit card transaction.  It showed up on my camera.  We went into Nuremberg today expecting rain.  We got a pleasant partly-cloudy day in a beautiful old German city.

Nurnberg is a lot prettier than it was in 1945. Like most of the cities in Germany, the Allies bombed the hell out of the place.  But since Nurnberg was a major industrial center, it took an extra hard hit.  Too bad.  The city has a rich history dating back to close to the start of the previous millennium.  WP_20140827_042On the other hand, the city has been remarkably restored, and in the process modernized.  The old city looks a lot like it did before the war (the most recent war to rack Germany, or Bavaria, or Franconia), and the infrastructure has been modernized.

I drove into the city via a string of traffic lights (all red) from Lauf on the Piglet*, found a parking garage, and started taking pictures as soon as I hit the street.  Only after three clicks, I wasn’t taking pictures.  I was just clicking.WP_20140827_047

The camera registered Error 99 instead of the number of shots remaining.

I reformatted the disk.  Changed batteries.  Changed disks.  Once, I got three shots before Error 99.  Mostly, though, it just took one click to generate the error.

It was somewhat depressing.

Eventually I resigned myself to cell photography, and hoped to find a camera shop where maybe I could pick up a relatively cheap point-and-click, maybe a Canon Sure Shot, or perhaps a Nikon of some kind.

The little photo shop on the main square in Old Nurnberg I visited first thing had no EOS equipment and no advice.

After touring the city, especially the castle, the Albrecht Durer house (where there are no Durer prints or paintings), a bombed out church being reconstructed, and an ATM machine that spat out Euros, and having a nice lunch of little bity bratwursts, we tried to find the car.  On the way to the car, we found a busy commercial district on the fringe of the old city.  Miraculously, there was a camera shop, Seitz.  They had a Canon 70D, which I’m considering buying, but it was almost as much in Euros as it is in dollars on the Internet.

The clerk saw my second lens (a 70-300 that isn’t much use in landscape settings; it’s hard to capture a city, or a mountain range, with a lens that long), and asked if I’d tried changing lenses.  Why would I try that, when the problem was obviously with the camera?  But we swapped lenses, and clicked and clicked and clicked without generating the error code.  So the clerk offered me a used replacement lens, a Canon EOS 18-135 IS, that goes down to an F-stop of 3.5.  It wasn’t cheap, but after walking outside to try my longer lens against the nearest church, I decided it would probably be a prudent purchase.

It is an upgrade from the lens that malfunctioned, and I can still get a 70D when I get back and have a new lens for the price of a 70D at retail. WP_20140827_031

My apologies for the lack of proper integration of these photos (taken with my phone), but you may recall I’m using my Surface.

*It’s actually Lauf on der Pegnitz.