About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.

Regensburg, Germany

Instead of the Danube River Cruise, I am now calling this tour Die Wanderung von der Holle (The Walking Tour from Hell.) Today we saw Regensburg with yet another walking tour. Regensburg is another of Germany’s oldest towns founded by the Romans in 179 AD. Its Medieval Old Town is a world heritage site and tourist mecca. Many of the landmarks were from the Middle Ages.

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Arch and tower are from Roman times.

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Planners decided to divide people into groups according to ability, so I was in the “Turtle Group.” It was a slower pace and 100% better than before. We probably did not see as much as the Road Runners, but we saw enough. We also were issued radio receptors and head phones that made it possible to actually hear what the local guide was saying. There were a lot of interesting buildings, but the beautiful gothic church was the main thing to see there.

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Germany has a lot of small villages with narrow streets. The houses are similar, made of stucco-looking concrete painted white or pastel colors with steep roofs, mostly red. These are clustered around a large church with a tall steeple. Germany is mostly Catholic.

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We skipped the optional tour to a monastery where monks made beer as it would be more money and more walking. Apparently beer-making was an acceptable activity and does not have the stigma that it does in the States. Those who went on the tour said the stained-glass windows were exceptionally beautiful.

It took us two hours on a bus to get to Regensburg and two to get back to the boat. The riverboat could not dock nearby as the water in the river was too low, a condition that would continue to plague us for the rest of the trip.

On the way back to the boat, we stopped at a large restaurant for a local meal. It was a bit strange — baked chicken pieces, noodle stuff sort of like mac and cheese, and purple cabbage sauerkraut (?) that was sweet and had cinnamon in it. The dessert was a plum pudding moose thing. Fortunately, I like plums.

That night we had an “Oktoberfest” dinner on the ship with polka music on the PA and waiters wearing funny hats. After the real Oktoberfest in Munich, several ladies had come back to the bus wearing similar silly hats purchased after drinking a bit too much beer, no doubt.

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A preserved tower from the Middle Ages can be send extending from the newer structure.

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Passau, Germany

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We boarded the riverboat named MS Amadeus Queen. It was a brand new floating hotel that holds 162 passengers. It was clean and luxurious, had a large restaurant on one floor and a bar on another. There were large windows to take advantage of the views.

I was surprised to find that the Danube River is not blue at all. The river is actually green and was said to be shallow enough to walk across. I had high hope that things were going to get better. But, next day was yet another day of disaster.

We went to the little village of Passau, one of Germany’s oldest cities with a history dating back 2,000 years. It had primarily two major things to see: St. Mark’s Cathedral and another large pink-steeple church with a clock and bell tower. Unfortunately, the streets were all very rough cobblestones.  I could not walk on them and had hard time trying not to fall.

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Our local guide was a Chinese-American guy with a soft voice. We could not hear what he was saying about half the time. Upon request, he did walk slower at first and only ran off and left me once. He totally blew the walking tour at the end, though, by giving his big ending speech at noon while every bell in town was tolling and echoing through the streets.

Geez, anyone with any sense would know to wait until the noise stops and then talk. I raised my hand and said, “We can’t hear you,” but I guess he couldn’t hear me either with all the commotion. If he worked for me, I would fire him. We also had not been able to hear the local guide in Munich when not on the bus. The problems were getting as old as Passau.

After that was over, we had free time or time “at your own pace” as they called it. The tour herd went charging off to a restaurant recommended by the guide, who by coincidence, was in the restaurant business. I had eaten a large breakfast on the boat and was not hungry, so we decided to take our time getting down the mountain and back to the bus. I had already tripped at least 3 times during the tour and only kept from falling by holding onto Morris’ arm.

Back at the river, we saw an ad for cuckoo clocks. I really wanted a Black Forest German Cuckoo Clock and had looked up various types before we left home. We figured out where the clock shop was, but I did not feel like climbing back up the hill on the cobblestones. I asked Morris if he would go back up there and see what they had. I already knew exactly what I wanted: a cuckoo, music and dancers, a moving woodchopper, and an 8 day movement. He found a clock and bought it on the spot without consulting me again. Fortunately for him, I really liked what he picked out, so I did not have to kill him.

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On the boat that evening, we had assigned tables and sat with two couples we had not met previously. We talked, laughed and had a really good time — the most fun on the trip at that point. Some people came with groups and sat only with people they already knew. I couldn’t help but think it would have been better to break them up and have them sit  with others so they could meet new people.

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(Left) Morris & Sheila – Steve & Glenda (right) – (back) Tammy & Todd

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Oktoberfest

Next on the agenda was Oktoberfest, a famous 18 day fair that began as a celebration of Crown Prince Ludwig’s wedding in 1810 (yes). People liked it so much that it continued every year right into current times.

We lost so much time at the slow beer hall dinner that we had only an hour instead of the 3 hours promised by the travel brochure. Some people were not happy and complained that it was the reason they came on the trip. Eventually, those in charge decided to pay the bus driver overtime and extend the time by an hour. Then we received the wonderful news that the bus could not get anywhere close to the fair grounds to drop us off and we would walk 30 minutes there and 30 back to the bus parking area. It was a  Geh aus der Holle (Walk from Hell) Leaders walked as fast as possible so the complainers could have more time to drink beer.

I was half dead by the time I dragged my sore leg up the hill to get there. I saw some stairs and decided to sit there and wait as I was too exhausted to do anything else. Oktoberfest, by the way, is the Wilson County Fair with beer — lots of beer. There was a parade earlier with fancy horses and beer wagons, but we came at the end of the fair and missed it, of course. I saw one stray beer wagon with horses, which gave me an idea of what we missed and aggravated me even more.

The main event at Oktoberfest is beer and drinking. Each major brewery in Munich has a large wooden structure for serving called (appropriately) a “bier hall.” In addition, there are bier tents belonging to other breweries as the bier halls are always full.

Believe it or not, there was one thing I really liked. It was that many Germans at the festival dressed in traditional dress. The guys wear leather shorts called laden hosier. The ladies wear what we would call a square-dancing dress, full skirt with peasant blouse, apron and tight vest. I also liked the kettle corn, but didn’t need to go to Germany to get that.

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Ein zu viel Bier

A German man sat down on the steps nearby. He tried to talk to me in German. I hadn’t the faintest idea what he was saying. Probably, “May I sit here?” Germans are very polite. When I didn’t reply, he sat down, passed out and went to sleep, laden hosier and all. Germans drink a lot of beer, which it is cheaper than water, but do not condone intoxication. Unfortunately, a few folks over indulge and he was not the only one drunk. 

I must admit that German beer is very good with a taste different than American beer. I like the wheat beer best. I asked someone why they did not export beer and was told, “Because they drink it.” When you order a small beer, it is served in a glass that looks like about a liter. 

We decided to leave and try to get back to the bus without leaving another trail of tears. By the time we got down the hill and drove an hour back to the hotel, everyone was half dead. Why didn’t we skip the pork, go to the Oktoberfest and let people eat there, we wondered? 

Since complaining seemed to be the only way to get anything, I complained to the tour director about the walk up the hill at 90 mph and asked him to slow it down to a stroll from now on. Most of the peeps were old and many of us could not walk so fast. It seems that river tours appeal more to older people than young folks.

As long as I’m complaining, the hotel was new and nice, but way too far out of Munich. It was supposed to be closer to the river, but the extra hour we had to drive might as well be on the day we leave Munich as on the day we were there. 

Munich, Germany

Where to begin? Germany is very modern and at the same time very traditional. The people are friendly and cultured. Much of Munich was destroyed in World War II, but has been restored.

We are divided into three groups by the tour director, blue, red and orange. Our blue group was first to leave early in the morning so we were supposed to eat and be ready. However, this didn’t go over well, so the tour director, with the soon to become familiar lack of planning, told everyone to go ahead and eat early if they wanted. This meant the groups leaving hours later crowded the lines at the buffet almost preventing us from meeting the deadline to leave.

After breakfast, we went on another hour-long bus ride getting back to Munich. Then we toured the city by bus. The local tour guide was knowledgeable and pointed out sites, most of which were behind a tree, another building, or a bus. There were no photo ops except what you could grab through the window as the bus whizzed by. We saw only a small sample of the architectural treasures and historic sites.

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We left the bus at the New Town Hall and waited for the glockenspiel to chime.  The glockenspiel is a chiming German clock with life-sized wooden figures that dance around in the clock tower while music plays, a giant-sized cuckoo clock without the bird. The plaza was crowded with tourists waiting to gawk at this silly clock, us included. The New Town Hall building was beautiful, however. It had elaborate architecture and resembled a baroque church. In fact, almost all the historic buildings in Europe seemed to resemble churches.

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Next, we went to eat at a local restaurant which was a “famous beer house.” It might be famous for beer but not for food and especially not for service. Someone (wonder who?)decided to make it easy for those of us who had difficulty climbing stairs and let us use an elevator. We had to go outside and through a storage area to a freight elevator. We all packed on but the elevator wouldn’t work. And so they walked us through the entire beer hall packed with people to use a different freight elevator. By the time we got to the table, everyone else on our tour was already seated and had beer. Being late didn’t matter, though, as we soon found out.

We waited for the food, and waited and waited some more. Finally at last, the food came out a few dishes at the time — three servers for 160 people. When we finally had food, it was pork roast and a tennis ball. Okay, the ball was supposed to be a dumpling, but not what Americans expect dumplings to look or taste like. No one could eat it. I didn’t try, but I’m sure if I had thrown it on the floor, it would have bounced. The pork tasted good, though, and most people had thick slices. Mine, of course, looked like the pork butt and was two big hunks of meat covered with tough skin — lucky me. If I complained I would probably never eat, so I just did my best to consume some of it. There were no sides or veggies at all and the drink was your choice of beer, water, or nothing.

As soon as my Jewish partner saw the pork he went numb. When they had asked about special dietary needs ahead of time, he had specifically told them no pork or shellfish. Anyhow, he sent it back and they gave him a dish of mac and cheese that actually looked better than the greasy meat I had to eat.

The only good thing about this place was the bathroom, which you had to stand in line to use but didn’t have to pay. Most restrooms in Germany are pay toilets and you must have a Euro coin to use it.  You get a coupon when you pay, and you can use that to buy something, a twist on “restrooms for customers only.” If you didn’t have change, you could buy something to get it, then pay and get the coupon. Two purchases to pee? What a place. I became very good at holding it. I though they made pay toilets illegal in the U.S. but we stopped at a truck stop on the Interstate the other day, and guess what? Apparently, they are illegal some places, but a few are still around.

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The blue spot is not a flying saucer. It is a reflection on the bus window. Sorry.

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These are some of the buildings of interest that we saw on our bus tour. I wish I could remember what they are, but I was too busy looking to listen, much less take notes.

 

 

The Arrival

We arrived in Munich. I met the tour guide and we were transported by bus to a hotel in Timbuktu. We are out in the German countryside in a new hotel an hour from Munich. I don’t know how much they pay the travel company to come here, but it must be a very good deal for someone. It doesn’t look like the promised Bavarian village to me, just some shops built for tourists.

For some reason, I already think this is not very well planned. We cannot get in our rooms until 4 a.m., so we leave suitcases in a meeting room. We are now supposed to go eat on our own. Some people have no Euros and the hotel restaurant doesn’t take credit cards. They can’t get Euros as it is a holiday and banks are closed. Thank goodness, I thought about currency ahead of time. But, I’m not hungry — I’m tired. Besides, I can’t get up steps with no banister to get to the pizza restaurant where the tourist herd is going.

Oh, wait! I see Morris who came yesterday. Good news! He already has a room, so I retrieved my suitcase and checked in. I wanted to sleep, but he is hungry, so we decided to eat. It is cool and windy, but we walked about a block or two to a German restaurant. I figured I could eat pizza at home. I had Cordon Bleu and he had steak and potatoes. The food was delicious and not much more expensive than a moderate priced chain restaurant at home.

Tomorrow, we will go on a walking tour of Munich. The capital city of Munich is located in Bavaria a state in Germany with picturesque villages and medieval towns. We will begin with a Munich City Tour and see the glockenspiel, a famous clock thingy in the town hall with life-sized wooden figures that dance around. The New Town Hall is supposed to have cool architecture.

After that, we will spend about 3 hours experiencing Oktoberfest. Not sure 3 hours is much of an experience — but, oh well, I didn’t come to drink beer anyhow. However, the wine at dinner was very good and I had a taste of Mo’s beer. I don’t like beer, but it was not bad. Guess I’ll try one tomorrow as beer is what the festival is about, that and King Ludwig’s wedding a few hundred years ago.

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On the bus we had passed a lot of fields with strange posts and wire cages. We found out it was where “hops” for beer is grown on vines that love to climb. The hops have already been harvested for this year, however. The little villages we passed were interesting — clusters of red-roof houses and always a church with a tall steeple, like a Christmas snow globe. Bavaria is what most people think of when they think of Germany.

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These photos were taken later, but are so typical of the scenery that I wanted you to see them.

 

Getting There

The plane arrived in Atlanta on time. The airport is HUGH! We had to ride an “air train” to get from one concourse to another. I have found a new way to travel — wheelchairs. Mobility staff takes you through the airport at breakneck speed. It’s the only way to fly. If I had to walk, I would never make it, and that’s not to even mention the trouble I might have finding my way. I did not go through customs and decided you must do it at the arrival port. It had been so long since I had traveled that I couldn’t remember.

I was traveling alone from Nashville to Munich. I had flown solo before, but not internationally, so I was a bit apprehensive about it. I did a curbside luggage check-in at Nashville and they got me a wheelchair so that worked out well. I had a long wait as the ride got me there early.

After boarding, I sat in the wrong seat as I didn’t know which one was “C”. The guy it belonged to insisted that I move because he was a pilot and needed a window seat. I wondered if he was a backseat driver. Anyhow, moving was fine with me as I like the aisle seat better anyhow. There is more leg room. His wife sat next to me and coughed the entire trip. I hope she did not give me anything contagious.

After taking off for the long flight to Munich, the plane ride became a roller coaster. The pilot said, “We have to fly around a storm.” I hoped it was not that hurricane developing in the Atlantic. Writing became a little rough due to the bouncy ride. We received a bottle of water to “keep us from getting dehydrated.” The flight is 8 ½ hours. We are 33,000 feet per the pilot. Just as long as we are higher than the ocean, it’s okay with me. The flight attendants had to stop food service until we got around the weather and I had to stop writing as it was too bumpy.

I got some salt down my throat from the snacks they gave out earlier and it made me cough. Geez, I hoped I would not become as annoying as the lady on the way to Atlanta. It was dark outside now and the map showed we were over New York State. They turned off the lights in the cabin and made it warm while the passengers pretended to sleep.

The plane ride is definitely the worst part of trying to travel.

The Journey Begins

Status

I am going on a river cruise! It had been planned for nearly a year, charges paid, arrangements made. According to the travel brochure from Premier World Discovery, it is “Munich’s Oktoberfest & Danube River Cruise,” featuring 2 nights in a Bavarian Village and 7 nights aboard the Amadeus Queen, a riverboat. We were already planning a trip to Germany when the brochure was posted at the local senior center. Perfect! They were marketing to an older population, so it would be less strenuous and easier for me to keep up with the group. I forgot about the other trips we had been looking at with AAA and signed on the dotted line.