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Week Two: The Harz and the Black Forest

Thursday, Nov. 13

Wernigerode Wernigerode castle Wernigerode from Castle
There are actually 7 routers - 6 in the main building and 1 in the next door building where I am staying. I saw the one in this building; it is in a closet sized room. Apparently the walls have metal in them, and the door is metal, as well. I think that when the workmen put up the scaffold outside this building on Tuesday, they completely enclosed the router in metal, hence the drop in signal. The signal I get might be from the main building.

Today, I ventured for the first time in my life behind the iron curtain. What? You say the iron curtain isn't there any more. OK, then. I ventured into what would have been behind the iron curtain a few (almost 20) years ago. I visited Wernigerode, which is just north of the Harz and just over the border into the Land (state) of Sachsen-Anhalt, in what used to be East Germany.

Wernigerode is notable for a very high number of Fachwerk (open beamed) buildings and for a rather pretty castle perched on the hill over the town.

One thing I originally wanted to do was to go up to the top of the Brocken, which is the highest mountain in northern Germany. The top of the mountain is accessible by a steam-powered, narrow-gauge railroad. When I got down to detailing the trip, I couldn't find a regular winter schedule for the narrow-gauge railroad, just a view weekend excursions, so I thought I wouldn't be able to get to the top. I just discovered that there are daily scheduled trips, the schedule just hadn't been posted yet. There are trips from the nearby town of Schierke. So, tomorrow I go to the top of the mountain.

Friday, Nov 14.
Steam engine on top of the Brocken
The Brocken
(file photo)
View from the Brocken
Today, I saw the Brocken.

What can I say. The mountain is just so steeped in tradition. In the middle ages, people believed it was inhabited by witches. It was the scene for "Walpurgisnacht" in Faust. In the 1700s a hunting lodge was built on the top. Later, in the 1800s a hotel was there. The train was run to the top in the late 1890s. The old hotel burned a few years later. The new hotel was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1945. American forces occupied it briefly at the end of the war, but turned it over to the Soviet Union. During the cold war the Stasi built an early warning radar station there as well as an electronic "listening" station to intercept allied communications with Berlin.

I took the bus from Braunlage to nearby Scheirke, which is the last stop for the narrow gauge steam train that makes bi-hourly trips from Wernigerode to the top. I must lead a charmed life; the weather was actually clear when I got to the top, and I could see all the way to, for instance, Wernigerode. Within about an hour, it was so foggy I couldn't see from one building to another. Thank goodness I still remembered how to get back to the train station.

Thus ends my "expedition" to the Harz. I leave tomorrow for the Black Forest. I might be mostly offline until Tuesday evening, Nov. 18. I don't think the private home where I will be staying in Bad Herrenalb has Wifi (I asked them if they did, and they said, "What's Wifi?" I might be able to use the Wifi in the tourist information office, but they are only open limited hours, and I will be traveling.

In the meantime, my remaining schedule:
Saturday, Nov. 15, travel by bus, train, and streetcar to Bad Herrenalb.
Sunday, Nov. 16, and Monday, Nov. 17, in Bad Herrenalb.
Tuesday, Nov. 18, travel to Mainz by streetcar and train.
Wednesday, Nov. 19, return to Denver.

Saturday, Nov. 15
A part of the purpose of this trip was to answer some of the questions that posters on several websites have asked, such as how to use Dauer-Spezial-Tickets. So, I have now used them, and I am, therefore, somewhat of an expert on the subject. In fact, the Bahn graciously provided me with some additional experience as to what happens when things go wrong. I was supposed to take the regional train from Walkenried to Northeim and catch the Intercity train for Karlsruhe at Northeim. I had only 6 minutes to make that connection. The regional train was 8 minutes late and the conductor came on the loudspeaker to announce that the IC had not waited. My regional train was going on to Göttingen, a much bigger station than Northeim, with more connection possibilities, so I just stayed on to Göttingen. I went up to the DB window at Göttingen. The counter worker checked the schedule computer to see that my train was in fact late, then stamped my ticket and assigned me to the next express train to Karlsruhe, an ICE. I think that the ICE was an option when I purchased my ticket, but the €29 tickets were sold out, and I would have had to pay €39 for that connection. Or, maybe I didn't take it because the ICE got into Karlsruhe at 3:07, 5 minutes later than the IC, and that didn't seem like enough time to buy a ticket and get to the streetcar, which leaves from in front of the station at 3:17. The ICE got into Karlsruhe three minutes late, at 3:10, but I still had plenty of time to catch the streetcar.

I also asked him, Tim, about the vor-/nach-lauf provision. He explained that you can take any regional train on the day of your travel to get to the booked express train, and any regional train, up to 10 AM the following day, to get to your destination, but you can only take the booked express train(s) between the two stations for which it is booked.

Sunday, Nov. 16, Bad Herrenalb
Bad Herrenalb
Baden-Baden, Fußgangerzone
The internet connection at the tourist information office in Bad Herrenalb was not working this morning (Sunday), so I couldn't use it. I decided to go to Baden-Baden on the bus today, and I found an Internet Cafe here.

I had a bagel at the coffee shop in the Bahnhof. The sign said, "Everthing" (no 'y') Bagel. I told them that I was amused that the Germans try to use English, but don't use it correctly. The sign also showed "Sunried" Tomato Bagels. By the way, they were two young women about 20, and they never tried to speak English to me. A few minutes later, someone who only spoke English (a Brit, I assume) came in and wanted to use the toilet. They tried to explain that for non-customer use it was €0,50, but he couldn't understand them, so they had me translate for them.

BTW, I am not impressed with Baden-Baden. It's too big and lacks charm. I'm now in Hindenburgplatz. Maybe someplace else in town is better.

Note: after I loaded this update to my webpage and left the Internet Cafe, I walked a few blocks up the street and found the Fußgangerzone (pedestrian zone). Now I understand what some people like about Baden-Baden. I don't find it appealing, but some people might like the glitzy, touristy, shopping mall atmosphere of the Fußgangerzone.

I had a conversation this morning with my Gastgeberin (Hostess). She doesn't speak any English. We spoke German together for over an hour. This is why I come to Germany. My German is not that good. I need the practice. She certainly gave that to me.

BTW, she doesn't like Bush and hopes Obama will end the war in Iraq.

Monday, Nov. 17, Bad Herrenalb
Calw, home of Hermann Hesse
Peter Paul Monestary ruins, Hirsau
"Many a pretty town I have seen between Bremen and Naples, between Vienna and Singapore... But the prettiest town of all that I know is Calw on the Nagold, a little old Swabian town in the Black Forest." ----Hermann Hesse

I'm writting this from a little cafe in Calw (kaylf). I decided to come over here today. With my kurtax, I get a Schwarzwald Kronus card, which gives me free use of the buses and trains in the entire Schwarzwald area. I'm using the bus to Bad Wildbad, then the streetcar to Pforzheim, and from there the train to Calw - all covered, free with the Kronus card, as was Bad Herrenalb to Baden-Baden yesterday. Much as I was unimpressed with Baden-Baden, Calw was a pleasant surprise. It's a delightful little town, filled with Fachwerk buildings - and charm.

After Calw, I went with the train to Hirsau, just a few minutes down the Nagold from Calw. I had noticed the ruins of a church when I went through from Pforzheim. It's an old monestary called St. Peter and St. Paul, apparently founded originally as a catholic monestary over a thousand years ago and then converted to Lutheran, then destroyed my French soldiers during the Palatinate wars of succession in the 17th century. (Why do I keep reading that castles, churches, etc in Germany were destroyed by the French?).

The entire monestary was quite extensive. I only had time to see the church ruins I show in the picture.

I left Hirsau for Pforzheim, there to take the streetcar to Bad wildbad. I went up to the platform in Pforzheim, just before train time, only to notice that the display said that the "Zug" was delayed 20 minutes. OK, I have more time than that. A few minutes later the display shows "Zug fällt aus" (train cancelled).

Where did it go? This is a single track line up the Enz river to Bad Wildbad. It takes about 35 minutes up, and comes right back. The next train to leave Pforzheim was 40 minutes later and it came into the station at Pforzheim from Bad Wildbad full of people. Did it pass the first train? What happened to the people on the first train?

The train got to Calmbach, 10 minutes from Bad Wildbad. The conductor came on the loud speaker with something in German I could not under stand (usually he also makes the announcement in English and I still can't understand it). The display at the end of the car showed "Zug hält" (train stops). Everybody got up, but when we got to the front cars on the train, many of them got back on. Oh, I've seen this before. The back cars are going back to Pforzheim and only the front cars will go on to Bad Wildbad. But only 10 mniutes from the end of a 35 minute trip. That seems kind of pointless.

Tuesday, Nov 18, Bad Herrenalb to Mainz
I'm rapidly approaching the end of my odyssey. I go with the train today to Mainz, to be close to FRA and my flight home. In Mainz, I am to meet Jo, an American living and working in Frankfurt, and a frequent Grafitti wall poster. We will use my Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket to go down to Bacharach. I want to do two things in Bacharach - check out Im Malerwinkel (I've seen it from the outside, but I want to see it from inside before I recommend it to other posters. I also want to look at the destination shield on the ticket automat in Bacharach. It should show a number for Braubach. Someone says it doesn't. I can't believe that.

I met Jo at the hotel and we went to Bacharach using my Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket. We had an interesting time talking; I used more English than I had for almost 2 weeks. By the way, she won't say this on the Wall, but she runs a walking tour in Frankfurt.

Whoever said that the ticket automat in Bacharach doesn't show the Zielnummer (destination number)for Braubach was right. It doesn't! I found this same problem in Treis-Karden, where the automat did not show a number for Beilstein, but I found the number another way, input it, and the machine sold me a ticket. So, maybe if someone traveling on the Rhein, in Koblenz, maybe, and will look at the shield on the automat there and tell us the destination number, we will have a way to get a ticket.

If you look up the schedules for Bacharach to Braubach on the Bahn site, it only shows Bacharach to Koblenz to Braubach. The fastest way is the train to Koblenz and the bus to Braubach. The train fare is €8,10; add €3,70 for the bus - €11,80, one way. If you go by train to Koblenz by train and then take the train to Braubach, it takes longer, but the fare is only €9,90. At this point you would be better off to get a Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket.

However, if you stay in St. Goar, instead of Bacharach, you will be inside the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Mosel (VRM, The VRM fare from St. Goar to Braubach is €7,50; €14,70 for a Tageskarte; €20,- for a Gruppetageskarte, good for up to 5 people for unlimited travel between St. Goar and Braubach via several routes. The fare from Bacharach to St. Goar is €3,- per person, one way. There is an advantage to using the VRM ticket. In addition to the long trip through Koblenz, it is also valid for the much faster trip by ferry (Fähre) across the Rhein from St. Goar to St. Goarshausen and the train on the right bank from St. Goarshausen to Braubach.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 9:09 CET, Mainz
In a minute I will turn off my computer, upload this file to the GoDaddy server, and go across the street to the Bahnhof and from there to FRA for my flight home. "See you then." Tschuß.