2004 Bavarian Vacation

Germany/Switzerland/Austria vacation, October 2004

I've been planning to return to Germany ever since I left there in 1978. I spent two years in the Air Force there, and stayed another year after I got out, acting as the Ramstein Auto Hobby Shop's night and weekend manager. Had I not come back to the US to marry my first wife, I'd planned on living there for several more years, and might have stayed forever.

When we started planning this trip, we were pointed to Rick Steves' "Germany, Austria, and Switzerland" guide, similar to his "Backdoor Europe" books. This thing was fantastic, allowing us to plan the whole trip, make hotel reservations in advance over the web, and feel completely under control as we headed across the pond. It's made for those who'd rather feel the real pulse of the place, rather than hit the tourist spots. This twenty dollar book made our trip twice as enjoyable as it would have been otherwise.

The links below are provided as shortcuts in case you run out of RAM (start seeing red X's in the place of pictures, otherwise, just continue on past them ( Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5)...

Here we go. Don't these guys look like experienced world travelers?

Heidelberg was the very first stop. Claire was pooped after climbing all those steps up from the town, and the long flight over didn't help either.

Here's just one of many gargoyles at Heidelberg Castle.

Us. This is one of the few pictures that I have of me on this trip! Jordan's auditioning for a Mad Magazine cover.

Here you can see the stone floor supports for the wooden floor joists that are now long gone.

Another view of the bridge.

Germany has some entirely different stuff growing there.


If I remember correctly, this tower was the "powder room" and was blown up by an opposing army.

What can I say? We're not entirely sure what this was all about.

You don't see many Farrari 512s in the states, especially in a parking garage! It's not that this guy's an idiot, but here people are considerate of other's cars, so he doesn't have to worry about the next guy dinging his door.

Next stop was Bacharach, on the Rhine. We had dinner at this restaurant, right around the corner from Lettie's place.

We got to Bacharach late in the day. Jeanie and the kids were beat, and ready to crawl into bed, but I'd had a few hours of sleep on the plane, and was ready to try out my German on some locals. Jeanie said "I know you're dying to have a beer and see if you can still remember any German, so we'll be here sleeping when you get back". I discovered there was a sort of mini-winefest going on, celebrating the crop of new wine. New wine is only about 3-5% alcohol, and awfully sweet, but it tasted great. More on that later...

It'd be hard to get lost in this small town, but the wall of signs guarantees it's not gonna happen!

These vineyards overlook the town.

A path led up to a youth hostel Stahleck overlooking the town and the Rhine.

Claire learns why shortcuts are not always the easiest way.

This is a recycling machine. This encourages you to return your bottles on the spot, so they don't show up in the landfill, or even worse, on the side of the road. You put your bottle in, it figures out what it is and how much to return, and it gives you an instant refund. Germany is by far the cleanest country I've ever seen. It's simply not in their formulation to throw things on the ground rather than in the trash.

Even better is how the Germans do their beer bottles. Rather than everybody having different throwaway bottles, the Germans all use one of either two brown beer bottles, the .5 liter (my personal favorite) or the .33 liter. You buy your beer by the case and and swap out the empties when you buy the next case, just as Americans used to do it thirty years ago. If you show up missing one or two, they look at you a little funny and wonder if maybe you got a little too tipsy...and they charge you 20 cents deposit on the ones you're missing. All breweries (and there's almost at least one brewery in every town) use the same bottles...they just steam the labels off of your old bottles (wherever they came from), blast out the inside with boiling soapy water, and lightly glue on their own label. These same bottles go through the system hundreds, if not thousands of times, saving money and energy, not to mention trash on the side of the road. I don't know this for sure, but suspect that beer in aluminum cans is outlawed entirely. If it's not, it's certainly not popular or widely available. Unlike the U.S., this is not a "throwaway society".

When Europeans go to the store, they bring their own bags, or have to buy new ones...so there aren't a bunch of plastic bags blowing around on the side of the road, or in the landfills. Hence, there's an incentive to use them over and over. Once again, they've got it right!

And speaking of "tipsy", legal drinking age in Germany is 18, not 21. And there is no limit at all if accompanied by an adult. What this means is that under parental guidance, kids grow up exposed to alcohol use in moderation. In most states in America, legal drinking age is 21, period. And anybody that gives them a sip is in trouble too. So kids grow up being forbidden to touch the stuff. Of course we all know that they find a way, and when they do, there's no parental supervision in sight. This often leads to a carload of teenagers (which is bad news in itself) driving around with an illicit case of beer or a bottle of liquor, and you can guess where this ends up. We lost one of our most beautiful and vibrant girls in our high school class this way. Germany's laws foster learning how to drink responsibly.

These steps have been here for a while! You can imagine somebody cutting these out of pure stone several centuries ago, and you'd probably be right.

More interesting plant life.

The Rhine river in the background.

Jeanie and Claire check the Steves book for more options.

The tapered window has obvious benefits if somebody on the outside is shooting arrows at you.

Here you can see one of many cruise ships that do the Rhine tours.

This shop has the usual stuff.

This is the place I landed the night we got here. I had a blast talking to several of the locals, but they didn't let me speak much German (in self defense, I'm sure). Here's the same band I'd seen the night before, but they looked a little more lucid this time around. Or maybe it was ME that was a little more lucid...

This big wine keg looked vaguely familiar too!

Here's the courtyard. This was probably a sort of barnyard centuries ago when it was constructed. It was an entirely different scene last night.

One more look at Bacharach, with Jugendburg Stahleck above.

We couldn't resist taking a cruise up the Rhine to see a few more castles.

These are the cliffs of Loreley, the stuff that legends of lovers and sirens are made of.

Here we head off on another castle adventure. The kids were already getting tired of walking to castles, I might add.

Even Germany has its share of pot heads.

I took this to show "rolladen", a kind of rollup blind for the outside of your window. They pretty much isolate you from the outside world when you lower them, and reduce sound considerably, not to mention improving thermal efficiency and security. When they are almost closed, there are small slots (visible in the photo above) that allow ventilation, but when totally closed, it's a solid wall.

These window boxes were everywhere in Germany. People really like for their homes to look nice, and don't mind working their fingers to the bone to prove it!

Even the cemeteries look great!

If this were the US, these farm implements would be in a museum.


Here are some original Austin Morris Minis. As you can see, the original was considerably smaller than the new "retro" Mini.

This was where we caved in and fed the kids something they would eat. It went downhill from here...

They even make their tunnels look nice.

Claire took this rare photo of me and Jeanie.

Who would've guessed the Unibomber drinks Sprite!

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This may seem like an odd photo, but it's where I lived for two years, upstairs from the Bakery. The town is "Spesbach", pronounced "space bock", which is fairly appropriate. Actually, the "backerei" is out back...this was the store. There was a bank on the lower left, but apparently it has moved since I was there. The vault was right under my bathroom.

"Huburtushof" is "Huburt's Place". It's the main gastatte in town (we'll just call it a "bar"). This place is always full of singing regulars, mostly old men. Great place to live, really...

Burg Lichtenburg, which we called "Kusel Castle", one of my favorite haunts.

This is the inside of a "new" tower that's been built since I once haunted these walls. The first floor or so was here then, but they've rebuilt the tower back to its former state...

....complete with a lookout area at the top.

Here you can see another part that's been rebuilt (towards the right), and at the very far end, they are now rebuilding the wall. It's a neat trend that the Europeans are now discovering that these old castles need to be preserved. They are now in the process of restoring many of these castles. For example, one part of Lichtenberg is now a 4 star restaurant, the church has been restored and is being used, and another part is a youth hostel. The rest of the grounds is slowly being restored for other purposes. Although the ruins are interesting and provide a little insight into the structure, I'd much rather see the place restored to a condition similar to the way it was in medieval times. Maybe next time we come back, the whole place will be finished!

This is a German Bundespost "mail truck".

Ever see a tractor with a dump bed on the front? I didn't think so...

Seeing this plaque shocked me into realizing that I've been living through a little history myself!

There are a lot of these windmills in Deutschland. They are far more energy conscious than we are, as are most Europeans.

Here's where one of the Concordes went.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber was the next stop.

It's a small medieval walled city, overlooking the Taube river.

Here's the wall. It has a walkway all around the top. In the olden days, night watchmen patroled up here by night, as well as down in the city.

Our diesel Passat TDI rental car again, and the ever-smiling Claire.

This is our room at Fuchs Mill, just down the hill from Rothenburg.

The bathroom was first class, recently remodeled by the owner. One thing we noticed about public restrooms everywhere (besides the fact that you could eat off the floor) is they always have a toilet brush nearby, and that they are a standard size and shape. Why have twenty different kinds of toilet brush on display in the store, if one will do? And people actually clean up after themselves, just like at home, rather than expect somebody else to do it for them!

Here's the ancient water wheel, taken from the window in our room.

This is a rechargeable flashlight that he let us borrow for the trip up to town to hear "the night watchmen's story". A study in design simplicity.

These are early design drawings of the mill.

This post and beam barn is next door, on the way up to Rothenburg. Probably kinda old...

...as is this covered bridge. Just about everything is hundreds of years old, and built to last.

Here's the sport version of the "smart". It's light, quick, fuel efficient, and small, and I sure wish I had one.

These little trash cans are all the Germans need, because they recycle most of their trash, and don't have to buy a bunch of extraneous packaging every time they go to the store. I hope they maintain this stance, despite American influence.

Schneeballen ("snowballs") are a local specialty.

This is a well at the center of town that was in constant use a few hundred years ago.

This is the "medieval times criminal museum". Jordan and I weren't real wild about even going in this place, and when we left it was none too soon! The photos below don't show the really nasty stuff, because I didn't even want to think about that kind of stuff, much less photograph it...

These headless guys hang out at the main town square, the Marien Platz.

Claire wanted to pet every dog she met, and she finally got double her wish with these two critters.

Jeanie was impressed that this tree could survive with no apparent means of being watered.

Next, we headed to Munich, by way of autobahn. I shouldn't even admit that I took this picture, because 209 km/h is about 130 mph. Later I had it up to 225 (over 140 mph)! This Passat was a diesel that had some unbelievable bottom end torque. This was in sixth gear, not even stretched out yet! Although I felt perfectly at ease going 125-140 in that car, I never felt compelled to just "floor it" for a few miles to find out where the top was. Neither Jeanie or the kids hardly noticed, because it was obvious that the other drivers knew exactly how to act, and that it was pefectly safe here. Despite the high speeds on the autobahn, Germany has about HALF the death rate per mile driven as we have in the US. Training and lane discipline are the main reasons why. Maybe I should mention here that I spent three years driving on the autobahn back in the late 70's, and have a european driver's license to prove it. But all you need today is your US license to rent a car.

Germans are required to undergo something like 120 hours of instruction at a "Fahreshule" before they get their license, and they have to pay for it themselves. This curriculum ensures that everybody knows how to act, what to expect, and what's expected of them. If everybody acts the same way on the highway, the chances of accidents are greatly reduced. Driving on the autobahn, you must stay to the right unless you are passing, and if you don't, you'll get a ticket. And you don't pull out to pass without a long gaze into your rearview mirror first for fast moving traffic from behind.

Drunk driving simply isn't tolerated, period. First offense, you lose your license for a year. If you get caught driving without a license, you go to jail. End of problem. Unlike in the US where it's not uncommon to hear of drunks with 10 or 12 DUI convictions finally killing a family of four! It wouldn't have happened in Germany...

Speed limits are strictly enforced though, where there ARE speed limits, so people obey them religiously. Camoflaged radar cameras on the side of the autobahn see to it that enforcement is uniform and absolute, so the polizei can devote their time to REAL crime. I believe the cameras are set to 20km over the limit, judging by the flash I saw when the guy I was following got nabbed, so the limits are known and understood. Speed zones are clearly marked and give plenty of warning. When the "end of restrictions" sign appears, it's usually a smooth "pedal to the metal" for most Germans, without the jockeying for position that you see on American highways before and after a construction area. About 2/3's of the autobahn has no speed limit at all. I love this place!

This is a "smart", by Daimler Chrysler. You could park four of these sideways in a typical American parking space. There's also a very sporty version that I'd love to own, shown further down in Rothenburg. Taxes on German cars are assessed by engine size, so the smaller the engine, the cheaper the taxes, the less you have to pay for fuel, and the easier it is to get around in the narrow streets of ancient towns.

Another thing that struck me was how clean the cars are. And you simply don't see cars with dents, damage, or rust on them. They are too proud for that. I saw ONE car that had been damaged, and I'm willing to bet that he was on his way to the body shop to have it fixed.

My German buddy Manfred pointed out that German cars don't leak oil, or at least the Germans don't LET them leak oil. The parking spaces are spotless! My basement is the same way. I'd challenge you to figure out where we park our Audi A-4 and VW GTI in the basement, because there is simply no oily evidence.

This same attitude also goes for the rest of German countryside. You simply don't see trash on the side of the road, on the streets, or anywhere else. It's a whole different mindset.

One other difference is pickup trucks. There simply are none. We saw two pickups during the 12 days we were there, and both were probably American GI's. When Europeans need something big from the store, they hook up a little trailer to their car and go get it, rather than driving a big truck around 100% of the time. This is exactly what I do, so it was nice to see the validation of my rationale.

Soapbox Alert!. If U.S. drivers had to pay another dollar of tax on each gallon of gasoline they guzzled, they'd probably drive something smaller, curbing our dependence on foreign oil. And if that dollar per gallon tax went into alternative fuel research, we would lead the world in new solutions to the global energy crisis. I guess that blows my cover and exposes me as a tree-hugger.

In December I flew back to Germany on business, and talked to a German sea captain from Bremen. He explained to me that Europeans see Americans as being wasteful of their resources. As an example, he explained how he collects rain water and uses it to flush his toilets, in an effort to conserve water. Although he could certainly afford to squander all the water he wanted, he's going to the trouble of doing his part to conserve the earth's resources.

On that same trip in December, I found myself having a few beers with a mechanical engineer in downtown Bremen. When we called it a night, we walked outside and he hopped on his mountain bike, and off on a 12 km ride home. He thought nothing of this, but in America he'd be branded both crazy and suicidal. But what we are missing is that he gets free exercise every day, and saves money on driving a car. He doesn't have to be worried about being flattened by a drunk (they're all in jail), and there are bike lanes and trails everywhere. And more importantly, drivers are always aware of what's going on around them, including bicylists.

First stop in Munchen (Munich) was the Deutches Museum, the German equivalent of the Smithsonian.

This is one of the very first internal combustion engines that was available for sale.

Would you believe "the FIRST diesel"? They don't have one of THESE in the Smithsonian!

A sectioned radial aircraft engine. Sorry, but I'm a total motorhead...

This engine is from a diesel VW Rabbit. When I worked at a VW dealership in Las Vegas, I personally tore 9 of these down in a row to replace the engine blocks. They were brand new engines, and looked exactly like this one, except the cool cutaways show some details that I've never seen before. I had to have a picture...

How about a little catalytic converter art?

Here's the connecting rod and crank out of a ship!

Ever wondered what the inside of a rotary engine looks like? I didn't think so, but here it is anyway...

This was a real disappointment, but I saw it thirty years ago, so I guess I'm ok. We'll have to come back again to show it to the kids!

This giant pendulum demonstrates the earth's rotation about it's axis, somehow.

Sorry, but as a mechanical engineer eaten up with engines, I can't help myself.

Upon sighting of this copper brew kettle, I realized I was getting closer to the good stuff. It reminded me of my 1979 tour of the Heineken factory in Amsterdam...

A 6 cylinder aircraft engine.

This is a 1700cc Limbach Type 1 Volkswagen engine for aircraft use. I couldn't pry myself away for 10 minutes. The wife and kids took the opportunity to put some distance between us...

A V-2 in the space exhibit.

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After Munich, the next stop was a youth hostel in Austria named Jugengastehaus Graben Hostel.

The next morning, we were off to Neuschwanstein and this palace down the hill, Hohenschwangau.

Neuschawanstein was close by.

This is the only picture I was allowed to take inside. All photos are "proprietary". Funny it wasn't that way 30 years ago when I was here...

Here's a view of Hohenschwangau from Neuschwanstein.

Claire, Jeanie, and Jordan.

A veiw over the wall, towards the waterfall and swinging bridge that we'll visit later.

Again, no photos inside. I don't know why though. If I could throw 40 pictures of the inside of this place out there, I'll bet more people would be compelled to come visit. Come to think of it, I shot about two rolls in there back in 1977. Maybe I'll dig those up...

Audi A2. Like all the neat stuff, they don't sell this one in the US.

Everywhere you turn, there's a great picture!

This green water is full of minerals from glaciers, so a geologist told me that we met later on the trip. Interlaken has a similar hue.

Here's the explanation, if you're up on your Deutsch. Let me know what it says...

We had a little time on the way back to take a different scenic route.

Back near the youth hostel, we climbed up to a mountain that overlooks it, in search of the Ehrenberg castle ruins.

This trail looked like it had been here for centuries. The wall looks like a deliberate attempt to keep the hapless from falling off the mountain.

Although it doesn't look like there's much left of this place, I predict that next time we come it'll be under reconstruction.

This is a bit of a shock, but it's a standard 220v German power outlet. Note how it's recessed, which prevents you from being shocked, no matter how hard you try. By the time the pins are connected, the hole is shielded from all attempts to electrocute yourself. And as my German electrical engineer buddy Manfred explained, the greatest benefit of these outlets is the ground prong (at the bottom), which engages about 5mm before the rest of the plug gets any juice, enhancing safety even more. These folks are just plain smarter than us!

Back at the hostel, this firewood pile is a clue of what's to come in a few months. Even their barns and firewood piles are in perfect order!

Here's Ehrenberg castle on the left, with a more intact castle above it on the right. We ran out of steam before we could climb the rest of the way to that one! The kids were totally burnt out on castles (or maybe it was the walking) at this point, and slept in the car while we were gone.

Your basic Peugeot dressed up as Swiss cheese, I presume...

Hey, I know a good picture when I see one!

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Our next destination was Gimmelwald in Switzerland, by way of the Schilthorn gondolabahn (cable car).

Here's the roadmap for where we're about to spend two days. Note the black cable car lines and red hiking trails, for the serious hiker (summertime only). This is an awesome place!

Here we go, leaving Stechelberg, almost straight up the side of the mountain, headed for Gimmelwald.

Our first taste of Gimmelwald.

That night at dinner (at the Hotel Mittaghorn), we talked to some folks who'd been up to the top of mountain, where the rotating restaurant Schiltorn. Although it cost about 70 swiss francs each, we decided we had to do it. As you can see from the photos below, it was a wise decision, as it definitely a "high point" of the trip!

This struck me as being the dawn of time. I took several hundred pictures up there. Fortunately for you, I only posted a few of them.

Here's the rotating restaurant up top. The outside doesn't rotate, but the floor inside does, up to a core (the kitchen and utilities) that's about 40 feet in diameter. So all the tables rotate continuously, taking about a half hour for one full rotation. One of the James Bond movies had a scene up here where the "blew it up".

"No slippers". This sign pointed the way to a serious hiking trail!

The temperature dropped about 30 degrees between Gimmelwald and Schilthorn, and wind was howling up there.

I'm perfectly serious when I say that I'd eat off of this floor, as well as just about every other bathroom floor that I saw in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Having had the "cheap" breakfast (included with your gondola ticket), we headed back down.

The next stop was Murren, down the hill...

In Murren, we walked around the local trails for a while. It's a town of about 600, between Gimmelwald and the top, Schilthorn Restaurant. This scenery is to die for!

When these folks build a house, it's forever. They use high quality materials and construction techniques that ensure that this building will still be here in hundreds of years, just like everything else around here.

Firewood is a necessity here. In the southern US we have detached garages...here they have detached firewood houses.

This is the largest vehicle I saw up here. Although I suspect you could call it a "pickup truck", it's only slightly bigger than a Gator. This one is used as a work truck for a small business, and looks to be far more versatile than your typical pickup truck, complete with fold-down sides.

A little cable trivia for the engineers among us. One of the operators told me how much power the electric motors require. I forget now, but it was an astounding number, like 45,000 kw or something. No wonder it costs so much to ride the cable car to the top.

The train consists of this passenger car and a flat car. I suspect that just about everything here arrives this way.

Claire couldn't resist thrashing Jordan in a game of chess, despite his 99.9% academic scores.

Here's Walter's Hotel Mittaghorn, where we stayed for two nights.

I walked up to Murren again later using the road, and it was a real treat.

Here's our hotel, the Mittaghorn. It's only open April to the the end of October. I suspect snow and heating is a problem after that. There's a little bar downstairs where some of the locals gather at night.

Don't bother bringing a hair dryer, because anything bigger than about 150 watts will blow the fuse! The black box on the right is to a coin operated water heater for the shower. One Swiss franc will get you five minutes. It's like a car wash....when it quits, it QUITS!

We met some great folks at dinner that night. In fact, that was the thing that made us stay another night.

The trip down was a little less scenic than the trip up, but no less exciting.

Back in Stechelberg, we were treated to some interesting rock formations! I guess the natives have a lot of time on their hands...

Shannon and Brad Cobb from New Orleans were some of the interesting folks we met up at Mittaghorn. Brad should be back from Iraq by now, we hope.

Another example of how smart the europeans are is this radio controlled traffic-sensing light setup for construction areas. No flagman required, and it works 24 hours a day. I'll bet this thing costs a lot less than paying somebody to risk their life trying to stop oncoming traffic with a little flag.

This sign is informing you that the autobahn is 150 meters down the road. When you're on autobahn already, and you have an exit coming up, you get an informative sign at 1000M, then three more signs at 300m, 200m, and 100m, so you have accurate information to change lanes, and no excuse for missing your exit.

Headed for Baden Baden, we pulled off the autobahn for lunch, and found this ancient covered bridge.

Here's another bridge built to last forever.

The europeans also make good use of the FM signals to present a scrolling banner on the radio, detailing the name of a song and artist, or whatever else they want to show you.

Here's a carbon copy of my Volkswagen GTI, but with Swiss plates. This foggy morning reminded me of the difference between the way Europeans use fog lights, as oppposed to Americans. Europeans only use them when they need them. Since fog lights are designed for use in FOG, the theory (and practice) is to turn on the fog lights, turn out your head lights, and drive slower to compensate for the limited forward vision. Fog lights are deliberately aimed close to the ground, illuminating the road itself and the nearby shoulders, giving you a clue as to where the road is, and leaving the area out in front of the vehicle unlit (since you'd just be blinded anyway), so you can see tail lights (and brake lights) of vehicles in front of you. And of course, you drive slower, out of necessity. The American way of using fog lights is that you simply turn them on all the time, and since they are usually never actually aimed by anybody (from factory to end user), you blind all oncoming traffic with them. And then you get bent out of shape when somebody flashes you to remind you to turn them out, and you hit 'em with the brights!

In an effort to promote recycling (not that they have to), there's a recycling station at every rastplatz (rest stop) on the autobahn, which is about every 5 or 10 miles, rather than every 50 miles as in the US.


The bath at Baden Baden, although it was a little cold outside for my taste. Jeanie and the kids tried it, and report that the whole thing was quite an interesting experience in German efficiency.

One thing we noticed immediately upon arrival in Germany is the lack of overweight people. They are few and far between. It's such a dramatic difference that it's immediately noticeable and startling. Their lifestyle simply doesn't allow it to happen. Lots of folks make a point of walking or riding bikes, and there are public trails and walkways everywhere for that reason.

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The next 20 or 30 pictures are probably boring to most, but are here to show my old air force buddies our "old stompin' ground" around Ramstein Airbase, which is just below and to the right of the town of Ramstein (although it appears as a mere forest in this mapquest map. This area is between Saarbrucken and Mainz, just a few miles from France. If some of the roads on this map don't look familiar, there's a reason....there are a lot of new ones! There are lots more nice photos below, so don't give up on me yet...

Katzenbach and Glan Munchweiler to the right, Bruchmuhlback and Hutschenhausen ahead. Sorry, but I have no umlauts.

This is a new roundabout between Ramstein and Spesbach (the autobahn is right behind you here). There are a LOT of new roundabouts, and even new roads, in the area now (check the map above, and see the new bypass around the bottom of Ramstein).

Another trip to the old homestead.

This is Rolland Bauer, the landlady's son. I caught him out in the field feeding his cows. I walked up to the tractor and asked "Rolland, do you remember me?". After a long pause he said "Mark Langford, I remember you!". We stood around and talked about everything from the local economy, mad cow disease, and the Iraqi war...

This is where Smitty and I used to live in Schrollbach. The thing sticking out of the wall means is that the new wine is here! They are usually quite colorful, but this one's pretty faded.

The view towards the autobahn and Ramstein.

This sign is just another neat thing about Germany. When you leave town there's always a sign on the left side of the road that tells you that you are leaving town, and how far the next town is. The other side of the sign says "Schrollbach", telling you that you have arrived in Schrollbach.

This is the intersection in Spesbach.

This is the same new roundabout from the other side, coming from Spesbach, about to cross the autobahn (Ski might remember the night we slid across the autobahn overpass on black ice in his BMW 2002), and headed toward Ramstein.

And here's ANOTHER new roundabout between the previous one and Ramstein. I took a right, thinking U16 or U19 would get me back to the base...

...to find yet ANOTHER roundabout. Notice that there is no mention of the Flugplatz anywhere here! In fact, this whole road is brand new, a kind of bypass around to the south of Ramstein.

And here's Ramstein Airbase. It's quite a gauntlet now, consisting of two different gates and a huge visitor badging place on the far right. That place is just a little shy of where I suspect the missile shop road used to be, but they wouldn't let me any further than that building. Oh well, I didn't want to see it anyway, but it would have been neat to take a picture of the old missile shop and zulu, and to see if our old "picnic hut" was still out there.

Here's another road that heads off to Machenbach, on the way to Weilerbach and Rodenbach. Notice the "machs nix" posts (begrenzungpfahl) on the sides of the road. They have reflectors on them and stick up high enough to see in deep snow, so you'll have some idea of where the road is. On the right side of the road they have rectangular reflectors, and on the left side they have two round reflectors (keeps you oriented in IFR conditions). These posts are located on every road in Germany. I had to buy a couple of these once...

This is a shot in Rodenbach, as I looked for Ski and Michele's house. I just knew I'd be able to drive right to it, but I took every turn that was located in a corner and followed it, but didn't see anything familiar. Sorry about that. I know you'll recognize the building on the left as a sort out-of-place modern store, back when were there. I think is was a Sparkasse or something like that. Correct me if you remember.

I could have sworn it was right around the corner on the right, but no dice.

I took this the morning we left. We were headed for rush hour traffic on the way to the Frankfurt airport. This sign means "no truck passing", which really isn't much of a problem anyway, as they pretty much remain in the right lane because of a strictly enforced 80 km/h (50mph) speed limit. Because of the enforcement, they have no reason to pass each other, and stay out of the fast traffic's way. From 11pm Saturday to 11pm Sunday, they are banned from the autobahn entirely, except for food trucks, which are still scarce.

There are 420 pictures above (I took almost 2000), and I've already reduced and compressed them by a factor of about 40, so the original photos are considerably better. Other than that, I didn't bother to fine-tune any of them for contrast, content, or otherwise. They are just like I snapped them. Some are not bad, if I say so myself. These photos were made with a "Canon EOS Digital Rebel", also known as the 300D. It's a fantastic camera, but it helps to have the kind of incredible scenery that we had in front of us!

Some folks will read some sort of political agenda into my comments about conservation of resources, and how the Germans seem to "get it", compared to Americans. I'm not much of a political animial, but that's my opinion, and I'm entitled to it. If you don't understand it, I recommend you hop on a plane, visit the place, and see it for yourself.

If you have some more time to kill, you can check out my homebuilt airplane website.

Auf Wiedersehen...

Address comments to ML "at" N56ML.com.