Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 35

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Wednesday June 11, 2008 (diary, travel)

Hotel zum Hechten, Breakfast room, Füssen It is overcast this morning but I pack up the car and leave. After some showers early on along the road, the weather clears up and stays dry. The countryside is beautiful all the way, some villages I pass through less so.
But many of the roads are totally inadequate for the enormous traffic. Trucks are literally everywhere. At one point over a short stretch of autobahn I overtake 40 trucks within about 20 minutes driving. On the narrow 2-lane roads all it takes is one truck and a long cue of traffic is the result going along at snails pace of 60 kph. The whole trip of 275 km takes me a good 4 hours. This very much spoils the enjoyment of driving.
I am getting a strong notion that it is much better to do Europe by public transport, rather than by car. There are good train or bus services to everywhere and many Hotels have no parking space or charge € 6 - 10 extra per day.

I arrive in Füssen at about 3pm, but it takes me another hour to find a good hotel. Two of the ones recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide I don't like, but the third one, right in the middle of the old town is a real winner, Gasthof Zum Hechten. They have free and safe parking at the back, the room is very modern and well appointed and the Bar and Bistro is open for meals all day. The breakfast and dining rooms are kept in their original old style and are a sheer delight to the eye.
After a shower and a quick browse around the old town I go back to my room to watch Spain win 2-1 against the Check Republic. The Check look dangerous though and will probably end up second in their group and get into the quarter finals.   After a quick meal in the Bistro it is back to bed for me, I am rather tired after the drive, watching a few love soapies. They have lots of these on German TV, plus many old movies.

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Thursday June 12, 2008 (diary, travel)

Alpsee, Schloss Hohenschwangau, Schwansee Off and on drizzle this morning, but as the sun comes through around midday I decide to do my tourist bit and drive to King Ludwig II's two castles. An absolute sea of cars, busses, tourists awaits me when I arrive. I decide that one castle close up will be enough, so Neuschwanstein here I come. From the tourist center below it is a 30 minute walk up, a 20 minutes horse cart ride, or a 5 minutes drive in a buss (with another 10 minutes walk), so I take the bus.
From a distance the castle looks quite nice, but close up it looks as if it has been newly recast in concrete. On very close inspections the rocks of the wall are actually crystalline rocks, so probably original, but I still don't like the look of it. I bought a ticket for a guided tour inside, but a waiting period of at least 1 hour plus the hordes of tourists really put me off. So I give the tour a miss and walk down the mountain back to the car park. Been there done that. Frankly the old city walls surrounding Avignon and Orange, and the Medieval castle at Bernkastel appealed to me much much more.

Shock result with the soccer ! Croatia beats Germany 2-1, it could easily have been more. From about 10 minutes into the match the Croats clearly looked the much better side with their superior passing and ball control. A real wake up call for the Germans as during the preceding weeks the media had talked them up as the likely champions. Now they have to beat Austria to get through to the Quarter finals.

In between both matches I have a meal in the Bistro downstair and get to talk with some holidaying Chinese, while three cars draped in Croatian flags, their horns blaring continuously, ride victory laps round and round the old town, passing us three times. The Germans are stone faced and pretend not to notice, but it clearly hurts a lot.
In the second match of the day Austria and Poland have a draw : 1-1. The Austrians don't look bad at all, but they have had no luck so far and lost their key goal scorer with a knee injury early in their first match.

Late at night I watch another German TV soapy. Interestingly the villain in yesterday's film is the hero who gets the girl today. A bit like the soccer really, but in the reverse. The German heroes of last week are the useless villains tonight. The poor coach is extensively being harassed by interviewers and tries to make the best of it, but what can he do ?   (Yes, yes I know, what about ........ ? Of course I think of her !)

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Friday June 13, 2008 (diary, travel)

It is dry and overcast, but I feel the cold as soon as I step outside in the morning. I immediately decide not to go into the Austrian Alps, it is higher and therefore probably colder than here. I will instead go North up the Romantische Strasse tomorrow, to Nördlingen and perhaps Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
I am rather surprised at the sharp boundary here between the gently curved Bavarian hills and the steep rugged mountains of the Alps. I am sure the two must be divided by a significant Geological fault zone. Interestingly Schloss Neuschwanstein lies exactly on it.

My former Professor de Sitter became world famous when he proposed his breathtaking (then) new interpretation for the Alps, being formed by overlying "dekbladen" (huge plates of rocks stacked on top of each other).
The same situation proved to exist in Spain where De Sitter got me and a fellow student to map out one of such plates in Asturias. He had drawn the boundary of our area of field mapping exactly along the bottom edge the plate (probably spotted through aerial photography), so that we had no idea of what was going on until we presented our maps and findings to him back in Holland. He had a great laugh about that I remember.

Indoor Marktplatz, Füssen There is nobody sitting on the outside terraces this morning, but how these Europeans can still eat ice creams in this cold weather I just can't understand. There is a delightful small indoor market place in the old town. There are stands with breads, cold meats, vegetables an fruits, fish, beers, wine. In amongst it are stools, chairs and tables where one can consume the produce there and then. The place is wonderfully decorated with all sorts of knickknacks, including old instruments and contemporary paintings. I make a photo shoot of it to work on later.
Back at the hotel I work on some photos of the Hotel breakfast and dining room which is also lovely.

In the evening again two matches. Italy against Rumania first, where the Italians can only just manage a draw, 1-1. Then the block buster match Holland - France. Holland shoots the first goal within 9 minutes and remains dominant the entire first half. The second half France really starts to put the pressure on, but Holland still scores a second goal. The French finally break through, 2-1. But instead of strengthening the Dutch defence, the coach (Marco van Basten) takes two defenders off and replaces them with to forwards (Robben and van Persie), end of story : 4-1 and some of the most brilliant goals I have ever seen.
The Dutch have now defeated both the Champions and runners up of the 2006 World Championships. They are top of their group now and (with 6 points) through to the Quarter finals with one match still in hand. The French and Italians (yet to play each other) are at the bottom of the Table with only 1 point each, while Rumania is placed second with 2 points, but faces Holland next week.

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Saturday June 14, 2008 (diary, travel)

Kaiserhof Hotel Sonne, Nördlingen I have an easy drive today with 130 kms of the 190 km distance to Nördlingen via the A7 autobahn. Heidi is doing a good job again and even manages to get me around the daily "Umleitung". Only in Nördlingen itself she becomes confused as it is Market day today and some roads in town are temporarily blocked. I eventually put her out off her misery, park the car and find my Hotel, Kaiserhof Hotel Sonne on foot.
It is the oldest Hotel in town and since the late 15th Century four German Emperors, three Kings and even the famous writer and poet Wolfgang Goethe have stayed here. For a mere € 40, including breakfast and free parking, I have the same pleasure, but, although clean and quite comfortable, I don't think that any Royalty would be satisfied with the place today.

I walk around town and after a short siesta watch the first soccer match of the day in my room. Spain just manages to beat Sweden 2-1, but I find neither side impressive. The Swedes after equalising 1-1 focus only on defending and in the last minute pay dearly for that negative tactic. Equally Spain, although attacking all night only manage a second goal in injury time.
I walk outside and after a short stroll find a good local Pub, Cafe Radlos ("Cafe Desolate" or "Cafe without a Bike", take your pick), favoured by many locals young and old alike. I have a meal here, soak up the atmosphere and watch part of the second match. The youngest side of the tournament, Russia, coached by Guus Hiddink, plays with full enthusiasm and manage to beat the Greeks 1-0. If they win next match against Sweden they will get into the Quarter finals. I hope they do.   But all day my mind is elsewhere again, and I feel very restless.

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Sunday June 15, 2008 (diary, travel)

Cafe Radlos The Lonely Planet Guide provided me with two reasons to visit Nördlingen. One was the relative modest number of tourist that come here, the other Nördlingen's location within the largest known meteorite crater in Europe (if not the World). I experience both today.
It is Sunday morning and the streets are empty and quiet as I step outside after breakfast. Still very restless, full of emotions, I decide to do the traditional (about 2 hours long) tour around town. It is shown on a small tourist handout map and sign posted all the way around town.

These still empty streets with cute Medieval houses, tiny Eger Creek running through it (which provided vital water and grinding power to the former inhabitants), the surrounding city wall with covered sentry walkway and several towers on top, the moat, now dry and converted into a shady Botanical park, they all breath tranquility, and my mind gradually calms down. "Alles zal rech kom" ("All will resolve well" in Dutch Achterhoek dialect) goes through my mind.

Curiously mixed with these emotions my mind travels through four entirely different worlds today.

  1. On the surface I live in the hear and now of Nördlingen, a dry pleasant day, some sun, some overcast, one short shower, tranquil beauty all around as I walk around the town.

  2. The second is the 30 Years War in Germany, when back in 1634 a great battle was fought between Bavarians and Swedes right here (as I learn in the museum in one of the Town Wall Towers).

  3. Then, some 15 million years ago the impact of a large meteorite upon this region (as documented in the Ries Crater Museum located in an ancient barn in town). Its effects have formed the very rocks with which Nördlingen's mighty Cathedral was built.
    NASA astronauts practised here for their moon landing back in the 60s. As a "thank you" to Nördlingen they have given the museum a Moon rock sample on permanent loan.

  4. The fourth is the atmosphere Irèrene Némirovsky describes in her "Suite Française" of the flood of people leaving Paris, by car, train or on foot in fear of the approaching enemy.
    As I read this, sitting on a terrace sipping my coffee, my mind is taken back to my own experiences in WW2. I can still vividly recall the waves of refugees from Estland, Letland, Litauen, Polen, in carts containing their barest necessities, driven on by fear of the approaching Russians, resting for a night or so on the market square in Wismar, then moving on again. After the War had ended, I and my family too became refugees, staying in camps before finally returning to Holland.
After an evening meal in Cafe Radlos, I watch the one soccer match televised of the day. The Turks, trail by 0-2 for most of the match, but manage to score three goals within the last 10 minutes. They beat the Checks 3-2 and are through to the Quarter finals, to meet Croatia in their next match. Cars with Turk supporters, horns hooting continuously, drive around Nördlingen for the rest of the night.
Tomorow I will go on to Dinkelsbühl, my next stop on the Romantische Strasse.

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