Fall 2020 Vacation — Part 3: Schwarzwald

After a four-hour drive down Germany’s western border with France and a hop through the Schwarzwald towards Bonndorf…im Schwarzwald, we arrived at the final Ferienwohnung destination for this trip. The arrival was not without its complications, however; TWO of the little towns off through which we were supposed to drive on the last leg of the drive were closed to through traffic, causing us to scramble and miss our predicted arrival time by an hour. Fortunately, we kept the landlady in the loop and she was accommodating. Ha.

Bonndorf is a little town on the eastern edge of the Black Forest way down south, not too far from Switzerland. It is

  • a two-hour drive to Reutlingen to visit some dear ex-Regensburg friends (so nice to catch up with them)
  • a one-and-a-half drive to Friedrichshafen to visit the Zeppelin museum
  • a one-hour drive to Freiburg to do some on-foot exploration

The town is laid out over a bowl in the foothills with a quirky little parky-zen-garden thing down in the center and wide swaths of hilly farmland to the south. Foot- and bike paths crisscross these, and lead through the wooded area to the east of town. We took several long walks, soaking up the sun at every opportunity: rain was in the forecast many of our 8 days there and overcast skies on for the rest. And besides, after all that time in the car getting there and driving up and down the Rhine on the previous leg of this vacation, it felt good to move around a bit under our own power.

Notes for next time in the area:

  • Those little towns are serious about their speed limits. I don’t think I got any tickets via radar camera, but they were sure to be found in every little town (thanks Waze!).
  • Call ahead and reserve for dinner at those highly-rated-on-Trip-Advisor little restaurants that are open in the off-season. More than once we rolled up to find that they are still full-to-bursting and taking tables only by prior reservation.
  • Consider the public transportation options attached to your FeWo carefully. We were pleased to find a Konus Karte came attached to our stay, but having to learn the local bus system in order to make use of it was daunting. And getting to Freiburg, for example, would have taken twice as long as with our car. So maybe next time we’ll get a place in a town with a train station.
  • Speaking of driving: we opted to drive the B-roads most of the way back, through all those little towns. But they were adorable and we got the best fuel economy ever and despite catchin’ a draft out many a trucker’s backdoor [breaker breaker one niner] and taking 20% longer than otherwise, it was a much more enjoyable drive. And we had the time for it, so why not?

Travel Kitchen

We like to combine two of our passions — cooking and traveling. Since we bought a car a little over a year ago, we’ve been planning on making use of it on weekend getaways, in the region and into neighboring regions, at self-catering cottages, or Ferienwohnungen, where possible.

But what are the bare necessities for that happen? Here are some things we’d rather not cook without, and/or experiences thus far have told us not to expect. We’ve assembled a kit we can throw into the trunk of our car. It’s mostly multi-use items, avoiding our most-prized kitchen implements where possible. Having a check list like this helps avoid leaving little treasures for the host or next guest. Continue reading Travel Kitchen

Volksboutique Microresidence

Some friends in Berlin passed on an ad they’d seen for a rental apartment in Prenzlauerberg — a part of town that intrigued us and we’d liked before in November 2005, when we stayed near Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. The landlady was helpful and informative via email as we were finalizing our plans, and we were pretty worn out when we arrived in Berlin, so we were thankful that her directions from Tegel Airport to the apartment were spot-on.

The first impression the apartment makes is a good one — just like the pictures she’d sent us via email upon our request. But that’s about where the satisfaction stopped.

We saw short and curlies in the tub greeting us upon our arrival (so they couldn’t have been ours…). The WLAN connection was extremely weak — so unreliable that it really shouldn’t be counted as an amenity. The bed — something typical from IKEA — would have been fine, had it had a normal mattress. I suspect it was Jaren. This was the hardest surface I have ever paid to sleep on.

Speaking of paying — when you book accommodations somewhere, do you expect to pay by day or by night? The Volksboutique Microresidence charged us by the day:

  1. arrival late Thursday night (as planned and communicated well in advance)
  2. Friday
  3. Saturday
  4. check out Sunday

…at 40€ per day, not per night, that meant 160€. Well, the price was still pretty good (by normal accouting it would work out to 53€ per night for Thursday night to Sunday morning), so we didn’t complain about that part.

When I found the door to the “tea kitchen” padlocked shut though, I managed to send her an email inquiring and the response was

I’m sorry for the misunderstanding…and that I forgot that was still listed in the Berlin Scholars posting. A small kitchenette is planned, but we’ve had so many guests that I haven’t been able to install it! I had been making interested parties aware of this fact, but in reviewing our correspondence, I realize I forgot to address it with you both. My apologies. I hope your stay is enjoyable all the same.

A place to eat donuts or something and have coffee in morning and — especially during the heat wave they’d been having in Northern Germany at the time — keep some cool bottled water at the ready was a big part of the reason we opted for a vacation apartment instead of a hotel stay.

Unfortunately, that’s not all that was wrong. The tub didn’t drain properly, so soap and shampoo scum (and aforementioned hairs) always await the next user. The bathroom had some bare wiring in place of a lamp over the mirror.

The price would have been great had it not been for all the the above points. The area is trendy and there is good access via the M2 tram line.

But I will be looking elsewhere for our next Berlin trip.

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