Note about photos: There are additional photos in the Trip Album. The photo captions are only visible if you follow the link and view the photos from the Flickr website.
Note about places: If you look at the "Schedule View," you will find more information about the specifc places we visited. Most of the listings include a description, contact information, and sometimes there is a hyperlink to the web site.
This is part two of a travelogue about a summer vacation I took with my parents. The first part of the vacation was a trip to Finland, from June 27 - July 7. The travelogue for that trip is called Eleven Days of Summer in Finland.
We arrived in Frankfurt an hour later than expected, due to a thunderstorm in Helsinki that delayed our departure. Lunch on the airplane consisted of penne pasta with tomato sauce, steamed broccoli, a roll with butter, a small chocolate bar, and a bottle of water. There was also complimentary beer and wine. We landed around 4:30 p.m. Luckily, we got through security very quicly. We didn't see our friend right away at the end of the terminal, so we turned on our cell phone. It was not receiving a strong signal, so I walked outside and our friend was standing with his car in the short term parking lane. He had kindly brought us some snacks and beverages, which were greatly appreciated.
We had a three hour drive from Frankfurt to Bad Berneck, mostly on the Autobahn. Our friend was very familiar with the route and drove quickly and confidently. A particularly large, modern wimdmill is at the turn to go in to town. There are no windmills like that in the Washington, D.C. area, so I am always amazed when I see one.
Bad Berneck reminded me of Harpers Ferry, WV, regarding the topography. The town is built into a hillside that is part of a mountain range known as the Fichtelgebirge. When I was searching for an English description of the town, I came across this in Google Books:
Handbook for Travellers in Southern Germany: Being a Guide to Wurtemberg, Bavaria, Austria, Tyrol, Salzburg, Styria, &c., The Austrian and Bavarian Alps, and the Danube from Ulm to the Black Sea.
10th Edition, Revised.
London: John Murray, Albemarle Street.
Paris: A. & W. Galgnani and Co.; A. Xavier. 1867. Page 120.
Berneck. -- Inn : Post. A village in a valley so narrow as barely to afford room for two rows of houses. On a cliff above tower the ruins of an old castle of the Knights of Wallenrode, destroyed in the Hussite War. One of the family built the little chapel on his return from the Holy Land in 1480.
The small stream, a tributary of the Main, which traverses Berneck, is famed for its trout, and for its pearls, obtained from a species of mussel. A Royal Pearl-fishery still exists here. The shell in which the pearls are found is the Unio sinuatus; they are not of fine colours, nor very large size. The time of collecting them is the months of June and July, and the number found in one season is about 150. The fishery is preserved as a royal monopoly. In former days a gallows was planted by the river-side, in terrorem. The little stream crossed near the end of this stage is the Perlenbach, above mentioned.
The pearl fishery is not there anymore, nor is the gallows. But, we saw plenty of trout in the creek going through town, which is much bigger than a "small stream."
The pictures above and on the left give you an idea of the view from the dining room of our friends' house.
Dinner was salad (what we call spring mix, or field greens), sauerbraten, dumplings, and an absolutely beautiful raspberry torte for dessert.
It was nice to be back in a place where it actually got dark at night! I slept very well.
We ate breakfast on the porch. I had some fruit, yogurt sprinkled with oat bran, and some bread with jelly. There was also brie and salami available.
After breakfast, we hiked up to Hohenberneck (also known as Neu Wallenrode or Neuwallenrode). Along the way, we stopped to try an arm "bath" that is an example of the hydrotherapy theories of Sebastian Kneipp. Basically, there is a stone basin filled with cold running water on the side of the hiking path. You submerge your forearms in really cold water, then you take your arms out of the water and shake them and swing them in large circles. The point is that your heart reacts to the cold and temporarily increases the blood flow out to your arms. After being in the cold water, then getting an influx of "fresh" blood, your arms feel oddly warm. There was also a wading pool/leg bath, but we only tried the arm bath.
The path up to the castle is wide at the beginning (left), but it becomes more narrow the closer you get to the castle. Parts of it are kind of steep rocky. It's not a difficult hiking path, but I do recommend that anyone who walks it should wear good shoes. The view of the city from the castle is great (right).
Here is a translation of the description of the castle found on the Bad Berneck web site:
Walpoten CastleOn the today's castle mountain around 1150 the Walpoten castle was established, whose entire outline is still clearly recognizable this very day. Around the steep rock slope in the south were two barrier ditches, which were planted with lilacs and transformed into terraces in the 19th century.
In 1478, the Amntmann Veit von Wallenrode received the order to establish for the Margrave Albrecht a homelike castle on the ridge where a front fortification once protected the Walpoten castle from the north. It was named New Wallenrode. The daughters of Amntmann Veit von Wallenrode sold the incomplete buiding in 1495 to Albrecht von Wirsberg. He finished the castle, which was then called Hohenberneck, and in 1501 it was given to Margrave Friedrich IV. Just 50 years later began the decay to the still very militarily well-fortified castle.
In 1480, the Veit von Wallenrode placed the foundation stone to construct the Marienkapelle (Mary's Chapel) below the castle. With the building of the castle chapel he fulfilled a Gelübde (a vow), which he made during his two trips to the holy land in Jerusalem. This Gelübde also included creating a Via Dolorosa, a crossroads with (perhaps better written as a walking path describing) the suffering stations of Jesus Christ. He fulfilled this committment in the year 1485. He measured the distance going from the chapel into the city, which he had measured in Jerusalem from the Judgement Hall until Golgatha. Afterwards he built columns at three stations, the first of them in front of the entrance into the Rimlastal (the Rimla valley). At all the stations today some plaques still remain. These can be seen at the former inn “Riedelbauch” on Kirchenring (a street in Bad Berneck), at the house in “Münchsgässchen,” and at the former “Hotel Bube”.
Besides the castle, there is a theater on the hiking path, with a small café. When I was looking for information about it, I came across the blog of an American who has been living in Germany since 1991. He sang in a performance there last summer and he wrote about it on June 9, 2006.
After the hike, we had lunch back at the house, out on the porch again. We had an appetizer of maultasche soup, then a variety of grilled sausages, plain sauerkraut that had been seasoned by the family, and rolls.
We spent the afternoon in Bayreuth (link to an English description of the town), which is about a 15 to 20 minute drive from Bad Berneck. It was a little tricky to find parking, because there was a festival going on in town. But, our friend knew the side streets well and we found a spot that wasn't too far from the center of town. We had lots to see, so we stepped in to the Old Castle just for a moment. There is a pretty garden, which is free to see, just inside, to the left.
Our next stop was the new opera house, where we saw the "light show." It was a slide show, supposedly narrated by Margravine Wilhelmine (daughter of the king of Prussia) and Voltaire, describing the different decorations within the opera house. It was in German, but it was still interesting to see drawings of the people and the clothes they wore, etc.
When we left, there was a dance performance going on immediately outside the opera house. The dancers were girls ranging in age from four years old up though 16 or 17. They were performing traditional dances from the medieval times.
Our next stop was a restaurant named Oskar. We ordered a snack plate, which came with several slices of multi-grain bread, obazter (a mix of brie or camembert, cream cheese, onions, and spices), and seasoned quark. We also got a large pretzel to share and a round of beers. There were so many people at the festival. It was fun to simply sit and watch the world go by. We went to look at the inside of the restaurant before we left. The door to the kitchen was open and we could see everything that was going on. There was one young man forming dumplings by rolling the dough in his hands. I had to wonder if that unfortunate guy had been standing there, doing the same thing for hours.
We returned to the house more tired than we expected. It was a quiet night with a very light dinner of bread, slices of meat, such as salami, cheese, fruit, and wine. I went to sleep early and left everyone else up to talk.
Another American friend came over to join us for breakfast. He was in Germany to take language and music classes. He was a really nice man from Florida. We discussed a wide range of topics, covering everything from carillons to politics.
Unfortunately, I did not feel 100% that day, so I made the decision to stay at the house while my parents went to see the nearby town of Waldsassen, which is about an hour away from Bad Berneck. I am sorry I missed it, but I did enjoy getting a chance to rest.
Waldsassen is a small town with a population of about 7,000. But, it has a papal basillica. The earliest documentation about the area is related to the original monastery, which was built in 1133. The Walsassen web page has a very good description in English. Note that there is a link at the bottom of the page to a six page document called "A Walking Tour Through Waldsassen." The library of the monastery is particularly incredible. The wood carvings took a team of artisans over 20 years to complete. The web site of the abby has several good photos of some of the fanciest pieces. Although the web site is in German, the photos speak for themselves.
Mom and Dad also went for a short hike on the outskirts of Bad Berneck. I did not take good notes regarding where they went. It was a skiing area, so they hiked up one of the ski slopes.
Back at the house, I had a lunch of leftover maultasche soup. One of our friends had to stay in Bad Berneck, as well, due to a previously scheduled appointment. So, it was nice that we could have lunch together.
In the early evening, I was very happy to be able to watch my friend begin cooking dinner. I helped when I could, with tasks such as setting the table and cleaning pots and pans as the cooking progressed. The menu was warm pear salad with coriander dressing and pieces of blue cheese, taffelspitz (a cut of beef similar to brisket, which is boiled) dumplings, cooked carrots, and chocolate mousse. As always, everything was excellent.
After our usual breakfast, my mom, our friend, and I walked back in to the town of Bad Berneck to do some gift shopping. First, we visited Holzkunst Alberecht. It is a shop that specializes in hand made wooden Christmas ornaments, toys, pottery, and lace. My mom and I each bought a "pyramid." These are wooden carvings that either have tiers or a propeller on top. When you put small candles or tea light on the base of the sculpture, the heat of the candle makes the tiers or the propeller turn. Next, we went to the watch shop in town so our friend could get the wristband of her watch replaced. Finally, we stopped by the grocery store. We bought the cookie/cake-like thing that is used to thicken the gravy for Franconian-style sauerbraten, a jar of Nutella (it tastes different in the U.S., because they use a different kind of sugar), and horseradish. While we were doing all this, my father and our other friend were walking to run an errand on the other side of town.
After resting at the house for a bit, we drove back over to Bayreuth. We first went to drive by the new opera house, just so we could say we had seen it. Then, we dropped off one of our friends so she could do some shopping. We went to tour the Maisel brewery. The web site is in German, but there is a link in the middle of the page to the "virtual museum." There are many photographs and a few QuickTime movies about exhibits in the museum. Our friend who had been shopping met us at the end of the tour, where there is a pub that is decorated to look like the 1920s. We had a beer, then went on our way.
There was a railroad strike going on, so we picked up a rental car, which we would take the the airport the next day. Next, we followed our friends to go to the Ermitage (sometimes written as the Hermitage).
The Eremitage (also known as the Old Castle) was completed in 1753 and used as the summer castle of Wilhelmine, sister of Frederick the Great of Prussia, and wife of Margrave Frederick of Bayreuth. It is definitely worth visiting.
There are several fountains that are turned on and off on a particular schedule. One seemed very popular with children, because it was possible to hide in spots underneath the sprays of water. Also, the mist from the spray of the fountains was creating rainbows, as seen on the left.
We just missed going on the last tour at 5:15, but just walking around the grounds was nice. It had begun to rain lightly, so we headed back to the house.
For dinner, we had leftover taffelspitz and fresh dumplings, then spent part of the evening packing our bags to prepare for our departure the next day.
We had an informal breakfast in the kitchen on our last day, so we could eat whenever we were ready.
The three hour drive to Frankfurt seemed to take a long time, but we were actually very lucky. There were lots of cars and trucks out there, but we didn't hit any traffic jams (it had taken our friends nearly six hours to make the trip recently). The signs at the airport were very good and we did not have any trouble finding the rental car return.
We checked our luggage right around lunch time and were lucky to get a vivacious attendant who spoke English really well. Our flight was leaving from a C gate, and she recommended that we NOT go there until it was closer to the time for our flight to leave. She said the C gates were being renovated, plus she had heard a rumor that there was going to be a security drill in the C gates at around 3 p.m. I asked her if she had a favorite restaurant in the airport and she pointed us towards Käfer's Bistro. It is in the main terminal, in between the entrance to the B and C gates. We thanked her and went to get lunch. It was one of the nicest airport restaurants I have been in. There is a good view of the airplanes outside and the interior is tastefully decorated with antiques. The prices are reasonable, as well. I didn't feel like we were paying inflated "airport prices." Mom got currywurst. Dad got spaghetti bolognese. I got a plate and had some of each. Just the spaghetti was enought to feed the three of us.
We went through security to get to our gate at 3:05 and there were only a few people in front of us! We went to our gate, only to find that it had been changed. So, I will repeat what I mentioned in my journal from the Finland trip.... Keep your eyes on the departure board, because departure gates change all the time.
The flight back to the U.S. was smooth. The movies I watched were 300, Blades of Glory, and In the Land of Women. The three films were so radically different from each other. I wish I had ended with the comedy, though.
We landed a little late, around 8 p.m. It took us a solid hour to go through the arrival process at Dulles airport. First, we had to wait for a while before the mobile lounge left to go to the international arrivals building. Then, the line to get our passport stamped was long. Then, it took a while for our luggage to arrive. Then, we had to go through an additional check-point when we left the luggage area. We finally got through and met my brother around 9 p.m. He had a parking space in the hourly parking area near the terminal, so we stopped at one of the yellow automated kiosks inside the terminal to pay for the parking.
It rained almost all the way back home, but we finally arrived around 10 p.m.