By Patrick Loftus
This article was originally published May 14, 2018.
On April 10, we began our day with a hearty meal at the Bed and Breakfast, rushed to the S-Bahn station to catch the 9:24am train to Munich and then to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, with a transfer to Mittenwald. The scenery was stunning. Majestic snow-capped mountains including the highest Zugspitze and Alpspitze, Bavarian farms approaching planting season, dairy and beef cattle, horses and small well-preserved villages. I spent my first Christmas away from home in Garmisch, meeting lifelong friends Rowaldt Fillinger and Peter Roth at the Naturfreundehaus with their schoolmates.
Harry and Shirley Roskoski, Nancy and I arrived at the train station on time at 12:23pm and proceeded to find the Alpenrose. To our pleasant surprise, it lived up to our expectations. The Zunterer family owns and operates this picturesque establishment and helped us with our luggage. Soon afterwards we went to St. Peter and Paul church. It was less than a minute from our Inn and is blessed with a huge golden pipe organ, typical Catholic tradition stained-glass windows depicting the Stations of the Cross, wooden pews with the names of parishioners who bought their plaques to sit, sing and worship.
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After window shopping and a bit more sightseeing, it was time to sit down at an outdoor restaurant and try Alpine cuisine and local beverages on a bright, 65 degree afternoon. We were all pretty worn down from our time in Cologne, long train ride to Salzburg, Munich and now deep in the heart of the Karwendel Range. There was a brochure to take a horse-drawn carriage to a lake nearby, but the horses were getting new shoes. Nancy and I went to find the Mittenwald brewery, a sight I found on 2 previous trips. It only takes under 30 minutes to go from 1 extreme to the other here. We bought souvenirs and headed back. I broke the news to my wife that I wanted to watch the Champions League QF match between Manchester City and Liverpool that evening at a small Kneipe (bar) right across from the Alpenrose. Nancy feared for my safety and came along as I watched Liverpool win and proceed to the SF against Roma. It was great to watch a night match at night on a 120 inch HD screen surrounded by German fans who have great respect for coach Jürgen Klopp.
The original plan on Wednesday was to see King Ludwig’s castles in Füssen but even though the distance is less than 100 miles, it is a roundtrip of more than 6 hours, Innsbruck became a much more appealing option just 57 minutes away. Although our seats on the train were prime, we stood to take captivating photos on 4 cell phones. Another picture perfect morning. As sometimes people have to do, we looked for the restroom at the train station in Innsbruck, had to pay 60 cent EURO coin, walk through a turn-style. At least these places are crystal clean, but an annoying expense.
Our original plan for Thursday was to take a quick excursion to Rothenburg ob der Tauber or Eisenach to start around 8am and carefully execute several train connections, not necessarily an easy thing for a group like us, and make it to Burgdorf by 7:00 in the evening. Our first stop was in Munich, but the train we needed was cancelled. I made a quick decision and we all agreed to get to Hannover as quickly as possible. I was in awe as we progressed from the states of Bavaria, Hesse and to Lower Sachseny. Many beautiful historic towns; Nürnberg, Würzburg, Fulda to name a few. From mountains to the lower Alpine region, to rolling hills, forests and then very productive agricultural regions.
We arrived in Burgdorf over 2 hours early, not exactly as arranged with my banker friend Heiko Nebel, a German exchange student who is now 52 years old from Bielefeld. No one gave me advice, so I decided to call him and he and his daughter Inga came and drove us to their home. What a genuine friendly family they are! Kerstin, Heiko’s wife greeted us with a happy smile. They did not show any displeasure at our early arrival. They live in a 3-story house, a big modern kitchen, comfortable man-cave room big screen television, a screened-in sitting area, with beach-style love seat, a guest room, furnished spacy basement and upstairs bedrooms. Inga was an exchange student in Vancouver and Karen, will travel for her exchange student experience this summer to New Zealand. We had dinner by 8pm, a traditional meal of lunch meat, cheeses, breads, fresh fruit and drinks. The evening ended with regional beer favorites, wine and drink from S. Europe. A great time was had by all. Heiko only had to work a half day the next morning and he planned a fun afternoon and evening for us.
To our slight dissatisfaction, Friday morning brought light rain showers and cooler temperatures. Harry, Shirley, Nancy and I took a hike after breakfast to the village of Burgdorf. The houses were traditional to this locale mostly 2-3 story dwellings, small yards, infrequent small garages and small yards. They must have very strict building codes and ordinances throughout Germany with the uniformity. We saw young Kindergartners, learning the proper way of safely crossing the street. There was plenty of time just to roam around with no particular hurry. Heiko expected our visit to the bank and gave us a grand tour, his office and boardroom were inviting. It seems to be a very happy and productive workplace. German workers honor, in general, the 39 hour work week. After that, we sat at an Eiscafe and had yummy ice cream treats. Heiko took us on a specialized tour of Hannover. It was the first time for the Roskoskis and Nancy on the Autobahn. 120-125 mph on our 30 minute ride downtown! Our stroll took us past museums, the police station and an outdoor fair. I decided to enter the Hannover 96 Bundesliga store at the HDI Arena. Please forgive me FC Koeln fans, but I bought a jersey. We stopped at a market, had fresh pastries and coffee and then went to brewhouse and had a local favorite of Heiko, when his thirst is right. When we returned to the Nebel home, we had pumpkin Soup, breads and cheeses, prior to a few more drinks as we planned to leave early in the morning. We were certainly grateful for this hospitality.[/mks_one_half]
We woke up early Saturday morning to take the train from Burgdorf to Hannover. As we approached the train station, we heard over the loudspeaker, the train is cancelled. This meant another ride on the Autobahn! Heiko helped us to the track as we bid farewell land now having 45 minutes to spare. On the way to Amsterdam, we reminisced about our fun times in Germany and watched the farmland and villages fade away. This was deeply nostalgic for me. My fellow travelers reinsured me that they felt very satisfied with decisions I made. As we approached the Netherlands, we had explained to the conductor, the need to purchase rail from their border to Amsterdam. Nobody ever checked and we saved about 50 Euros each. We took the hotel shuttle to the Airport Hampton as the friendly driver with a positive attitude helped us with our luggage. He was given a gracious tip from us!
At about 3pm, we made connections to Amsterdam’s main train station where all the zaniness begins. We purchased a 75 minute boat tour and ventured through various canals which was incredible, the stylish architecture, stories of Rembrandt, Heineken, the boats, the people watchers. The crowds were enormous. We then walked through narrow streets, a dangerous task as bicyclists race by on designated paths and rights superior to pedestrians. After some shopping in this widely ethnic travel favorite, it was time to have an authentic Greek meal. Everyone loved the service, food and atmosphere. It was time to wrap up this last full day and prepare for departure the next day.
April 15 arrived as we enjoyed our generous buffet and luckily had the same driver escort us to the airport. It was crazy busy there so we decided to stay at the airport all day as we bid farewell to Harry and Shirley who had an earlier flight. After checking our luggage and going through all the security, we found a huge area filled with various stores and restaurants. We had a great lunch, found lounge couches and just chilled until our flight. Our plane landed in Toronto on a dangerous, icy runway and then remained on board for 2 hours and finally were allowed to a gate and then waited in a chaotic airport, finally receiving our luggage to hours later, finally home bound on the slippery road from Mississauga to the Bluewater Bridge, sharing driving responsibilities arriving in Port Huron at 3:15 am. I was so lucky to have my wife and best friend, Nancy and Harry and Shirley our friends we have known for over 35 years to share a trip of a lifetime. Auf Wiederseh’n.
To read An Adventurous Return to Europe – Part One, click here.
Patrick J. Loftus, a native from Mount Clemens and a 1976 graduate of L‘Anse Creuse High School, has lived in Port Huron since his marriage to Nancy in 1988. He graduated from Western Michigan University and earned teaching certification in 1984 in German and History. His profession took him to Carlyle, Illinois and East Detroit. Besides instruction, he coached soccer, tennis, Quiz Bowl, German Quiz Bowl, and Debate. Patrick had an enthusiastic German Club and took students to Germany in 1985, one of 5 trips he made mostly to German speaking lands. Mr. Loftus closely follows state and national politics. In his spare time, he follows and watches sports. He follows FC Köln and looks forward to his 30th Wedding Anniversary in April of 2018 to Cologne, Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Patrick places international exchange students at CETUSA (non-profit) in St. Clair, Macomb, Sanilac and Lapeer Counties as a Local Coordinator.