Friday, August 03, 2007

The Depths of the Bayerischer Wald

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A week ago today, we set out on a trip across Germany to the Bayerischer Wald (Bavarian Forest), the area that some of my ancestors came from (and where some of their other descendants still live). The trip was a two-night pit stop in Lam on the way to Prague, where we met up with Damon's brother and his wife for a three-night stay.

On the eight-hour trip we of course encountered all manner of fun Deustche Bahn experiences. I had to pee at the first layover in Frankfurt. The restroom reeked of pee and had no warm water or soap, but to get in I still had to pay 70 cents. I thought this was a lot, until I realized at the next layover in Nuernberg's hideous mall-like station that I had to pee again and found that the price there was 1.10! Hence I acquired the miraculous ability to hold it until Lam (peeing on the train - with the rank smell, water all over the floor, and powdered soap - is only for the truly desperate).

The trip included the full range of train environments. We reclined our wide comfy seats on the ICE, freezing in the air conditioning. We sat across from two loud people with marble-mouth accents that seemed grating. Only after they got out bottles of milk and mounds of dry cheese sandwiches and then continued to talk loudly with full mouths did we realize how lucky we had it when they were simply talking loudly without food. I couldn't wait to get off that train at Nuernberg. Then it was on to the Regional Express, where we sweated with a bunch of other smelly people, all carrying luggage the size of their own bodies, in the bike car, because there weren't any more seats available. The train was delayed, so it was a mad rush at Schwandorf to connect to the cute little Oberpfalzbahn, a shiny new yellow and green one-car train that ended out at the end of the world according to the Deutsche Bahn: Lam.

Lam & More Jul 07


Lam was our home base, but I wanted to visit several small towns in the area that are featured in my family history. We did some research online before going to Lam and saw that the area is well-networked with busses, so we figured we would just figure out the exact specifics when we got there. We probably should have researched more. We only had one day, Saturday, to see everything before hopping back on the train to continue to Prague. Then we realized that most of the buses only ran once a day, so really I could only see one other town besides Lam. Then we misread the schedule and missed the only buses that could have taken us anywhere else. Defeated, we asked at tourist information about just walking to the nearest one, which she said was only a half-hour walk. Okay, I would see two family towns. Not the five or so I was hoping for, but better than nothing. We had considered car rental when planning but couldn't find anything local online. We asked about this too, thinking there would be nothing, but she told us there was a possible place to rent a car - and it was right on the way that we would be walking to the next town anyway!

We ended up shelling out 75 hard-earned Euros for a car rental, but it was worth it. We visted several little towns from the family history, got photos to prove it, and even found some family graves, though not any direct ancestors. Thankfully Damon knows how to drive a manual, because I would have been toast. He did stall three times in the parking lot before figuring out the tiny difference between 1st and 3rd in the car, though ;) We then successfully drove from town to town. In one cute small-town interaction, we were having Kaffee und Kuchen in a resort cafe when a guy from Dresden decided to practice his English on us. He was adorable. He asked us if we were Americans "on a trip around the world." We wish, dude.

Arnbruck Jul 07

Oberried, Unterried, Schwarzenbach & More Jul 07


This also gave us the time and opportunity to visit the main area attraction, the Grosser Arber, the highest mountain in the Bayerischer Wald. On the way there we stopped at the Arbersee, a lake in the mountains, but it was cold and not too exciting. At the Grosser Arber, everything was ridiculously overpriced. I found out later it's owned by the Hohenzollern family! Yeah, they're still throwing some power around, eh? Anyway, we had to go for it anyway so we paid something like 9.50 each to ride the scary-ass Bergbahn hanging ski-lift thing up to near the summit. It rocked back and forth and the wind whistled through the doors. Also it stopped at one point and we just hung there. Could have used a drink before that! But we got up there fine and it was just a short, rainy, cold, windy walk to the summit. While we were up there it cleared up a bit and we could see quite a few little towns, including some in the Czech Republic only a few kilometers away.

Grosser Arber & Arbersee Jul 07


The next morning we returned the car and rode off on the Oberpfalzbahn to Cham, where we would catch the train to Prague - the same full, sweaty train we rode before between Nuernberg and Schwandorf. We decided to leave Lam early for a long layover in Cham, where we wandered around a bit. It was pretty quiet, full of churches, not very touristy, but with some potential. We grabbed some snacks in the train station, then it was off to Prague! More on that soon!

Cham Jul 07

5 comments:

  1. Austrian trains are not much better. I try to avoid the restrooms as much as possible. Using the ones on the train (early on the trip) there is a chance it's not completely disgusting. The ones on the trainstation are most times not the cleanest ones either - or you have to pay. I found out that it's never free for women. Guys sometimes only have to pay if they use a stall.

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  2. I have paid for the train station restrooms before, but never more than 50 cents! That was new to me! It seems that for a lot of these newer ones like in Nuernberg, there are for-profit companies whose whole business is to operate restrooms, so we pay the cost to clean the restroom, plus some money just for them to profit. I'm all for non-profit bathroom cleaning ;) It's a public health matter, after all ;)

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  3. i FINALLY caught up READING the blog -- now to catch up on the photos!!

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  4. Hey, actually I am from Schwandorf. I just found your blog and I'm catching up all your posts. :)

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