The Schwarzwald

Not quite the Cotwolds but sounding a little similar, this refers to a forest. Where? Why in the southwestern corner of Germany! Today we are reminiscing our road trip to this verdant part of the country. One which we had sped all the way from Amsterdam in order to make the most time out of.

Black forest.

They have a cake named after it. But was it really black? Or perhaps a dark shade of green? Walking or hiking in the woods seem to be a very popular pastime for quite many German people. And here folks from around the world that share the same will find paradise. But it did not mean that for us non hiking folks there would be nothing to see and do.

For one thing, booking a stay in the forested mountains with its crisp cool and clean air was not only refreshing for the body, but also for the mind. Besides, some places offer you the chance to unwind and disconnect from the virtual world if only for a few days. Away from the humdrum of a busy city life, one can truly contemplate its true meaning. ommm… heheh.

For yourself that is, for to each their own. No two persons would be exactly the same no?

Yes it was a philosopical trip as much as it was a touristic journey. We went cuckoo for a few days. Wanna know why? Why not read about it here? Do you enjoy walking in the forests?

Visiting Suan’s castles

Yeah. The name sounds like her castle. Because Neuschwanstein literally means the New Swan stone castle. Or will someone correct us?

Castles.

There is a saying about ‘building castles in the air’. And in this part of Germany where there once was a Kingdom called Bavaria, a certain King in the 19th century certainly built more than that. For his dreams actually turned reality, though it cost the country a lot of money. Some say he had lost his mind. Others believe he had passion (made possible) heheh… take that STPB!

Of course there is more than this one inspiration for Walt Disney. For the same King also commissioned works on quite a few others too. Bavaria and its capital Munich is literally dotted with beautiful palatial castles that one needs to more than visit. We say that because it was truly a pleasure to do so. Read here all about what we found.

And it is also in Bavaria that Suan met with her long time penpal. Imagine that. Writing and sending written letters in an age of the internet. She might be one of the few these days since our postal service ‘complains’ about falling mail volume and having to look for alternate revenue streams. And so that we can continue to receive dividends too… which btw has been falling…

An old saying goes: the pen is mightier than the sword. Really?

Do you still write on paper or is it all typing away as you read this post now? Do you even remember how to use a pen?

Little towns of North Germany

If you were to read our story (here), some might find it a little controversial. Becasue the initial section of that story suggests a connection. Which might not be something some accept.

Got you to click on the link yet? No?

Ok, let us try again.

There was a time when we lived in the city of Amsterdam. And across the border was its larger cousin. They have wonderful roads called ‘autobahns’. No. Not barns where they kept cars instead of horses (yeah we know it’s a sick joke). We are sure you know these are the highways where the rule is : there are no rules! there is no speed limit. Along most stretches anyway.

Hence the actual motivation (for Mel at least) in visiting this lesss travelled area of Germany was the drive. For you see, as soon as we crossed over to Deutchland, it is open season as hunters call it. Put all your meetle on the peedal and let it fly baby! Of course that was limited by the fact that we drove an MPV, so topping out at ~230km/hr was about where we got before the steering got a little ‘light’. And we were considered slow. So we ate dust…

Anyhow.

There are actually places to go and sights to see in lower Saxony, niedersachsen as the locals call it fondly. In fact, the Romans were there! Not the modern day Italian tourists but the armour wearing ones we refer to as legionnaires. There were settlements here and one can still see vestiges of their once presence.

But the drive was still the biggest draw. What was the fastest speed you drove at? Find out where we ‘speed demons’ went here.

Paying your dues on the Rhine

The Rhine river is famous not only because of the beautiful scenic views, but also for the numerous castles along it. Why did they build the castles? Collect money lah! Some red dotter might say. Like the gantries of our electronic road pricing system, these castles seemed to have sprung up all over along the river.

Ok, so these castles are no mere gantries with scanners that deduct a fee from your cash card. They are formidable and they tower over you as you cruise along the river. This was how we felt as we drove along the Rhine in the hunt for yet more castles…

So how far off was our red dotter response to why the castles were built?

Unfortunately, it is a spot on answer. For in medieval times the river was a main highway. And along it flowed goods and people. Trade and commerce. Too easy a prey to give up on for the powerful. Look, it was easy money. Wanna pass through? Well pony up a couple of gold coins buddy. Otherwise expect a shower – of arrows coming your way…

Today we don’t have to cough up precious coins for the opportunity to drive through. And that helps us in our hunt for yet more castles to be put under our belt.

Read all about our road trip here, as we share with you how many “gantries” we visited. Today we have the equivalent of the river Rhine in many places. Yes they are not exactly the same – but since someone built them, they have to recoup the costs no? So it seems not much have changed… don’t know what we are referring to? Wanna find out?

Did Hamburg invent Hamburgers?

We certainly hope this piqued the interest of foodies. Because this is a venus flytrap to draw you to read our little story (here) of being a burgher in the city of Hamburg… for a couple of hours bordering to a night.

So, did they?

We mean : was the iconic hamburger invented in the city of Hamburg?

Well this would really depend on who you ask. For some folks contend that while the inspiration did come from Hamburg, the burger was ‘invented’ in the US. You see, they say that the steak of minced beef with garlic, onions, salt and pepper were presented as the “Hamburg steak” in the 1800s. And it made its way to the Americas, ironically on the ‘Hamburg-Amerika’ shipping line… eventually served between two pieces of bread.

Fact or fiction? We will leave you to do the research and debate the origins.

Today the burger has become basic fare for a lot of people around the world and not just in America. From luxurious creations to simpler diner versions, folks from all over the world tuck into this creation that has simply wandered across the world.

But today we are just reminiscing the times when we were temporary burghers of the city of Hamburg. Nope, we did not turn into pieces of meat. For the word ‘burgher’ in German means something. Do you know what that is?

Curious now to see what we were up to in Hamburg? Read it here! So starts our handprint stories on Germany!

Be ahead of time!

Recall that we shared how the Swiss have clock-like efficiency when it comes to their trains (read here)? Well, seems like the Germans are upping  the ante with an even more stringent schedule. If you are intent on a train journey in Germany, then be aware that train doors will close 30 seconds earlier (read post here), before the scheduled departure time.

No more last minute jumping into the train seconds before departure!

Indeed it is incredible how the folks in countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Japan can maintain train schedules down to the minute – or in this case down to the last 30 seconds! What are they obsessed about? Perhaps the old saying time is money? Yeah, we’re digressing yet again.

train-rotation-algorithm
Example of train rotation algorithm. Wow.

Ok, back to the train schedule. Did you know if you were to google for “train scheduling in Germany”, you will find numerous scholarly articles describing how the scicence of using algorithms can ensure trains arrive and depart – literally on the dot! We’ve come to realize perhaps the common denominator of the abovementioned three countries lies in their focus on precision!

So the next time you are taking a train in Germany, remember not to be on time, be ahead of time! Now isn’t that an interesting thing to know, how your journeys are actually dictated in many ways that you cannot imagine?

It seems now that time, tide and the trains waits for no man (or woman).

Don’t be late!