Eric's Germany Journal, Alex in Germany

Friday, June 13, 2003

Alex arrived late due to weather and plane delays, and we did not get to do much this evening.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Albert Einstein design on streetcar Agathe Streicher design on streetcar
Straßenbahn customizations.
We spent the day shopping and seeing Ulm. We tracked the new Straßenbahnen to their barn and took some pictures. The new streetcars are named after prominent Ulmers. The customized decorations on Albert Einstein and Agathe Streicher (a doctor in the 1500s) are shown to the left.

ICE pantograph and electrical equipment
ICE pantograph and electrical equipment.
At the Hauptbahnhof, I got a good photograph of the top of an ICE train, so you can see the pantograph and the electrical equipment connected to it.

You already know from my earlier journal entries most of what is in Ulm, so there is not much new to report. We visited the model train stores in town. One new sight for me was a trip to the Wiblingen monastery.

Sparrow of a sparrow with a plunger and tools sitting on a toilet
Plumber sparrow.
We might have gone to the mall after the monastery, but the mall closes at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. I still think that is strange. Instead, we went to check out the Ulm tent festival. Not much was happening there. On the way, I spotted another sparrow and shot it for you.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

In Ulm, we bought a Schönes Wochenende Fahrscheine (Beautiful Weekend Ticket) for €28. The Schönes Wochenende Fahrescheine lets up to five people travel together throughout Germany for the day on local trains. We went to Stuttgart, which is about an hour and twenty minutes away by a local train.


Strassenbahnmuseum sign
Streetcar museum sign.
Our first stop in Stuttgart was the Straßenbahnmuseum, which we got to by streetcar. It was closed today, but there was a sign with information about the special "action day," which is why we came on this Sunday. Historic streetcars are running on some of the current city tracks today. The sign listed the stations where the historic streetcars were stopping, which were back toward the center of the city.

Before going back, we walked a few blocks to the Porsche museum, next to the factory. On the way to the Porsche museum, some folks in a car pulled over and asked me directions. I could not help them. You have got to give me at least a few hours in a city first.

There is not much at the Porsche museum—some cars on display, a few parts, some history of the company, and trinkets to buy. There is nothing about the engineering or manufacture of the cars.

Car engine Two cars One car
Porsche engine. Two Porsche 356s. Porsche 911.

Inside of an old streetcar
Historic Straßenbahn.
From the Porsche museum, we walked back to the Straßenbahnmuseum and took a regular Straßenbahn to the Nordbahnhof and transferred to a historic Straßenbahn. The historic Straßenbahn looks a lot like the Straßenbahn currently in use. Alex does not think it does, but two people got on thinking it was the regular Straßenbahn and were taken farther than they wanted because the historic Straßenbahn was making only limited stops. Once you get on, you can see the Straßenbahn is different, largely because of the wood floor and old furnishings.

A street in Stuttgart
A Stuttgart street.
The Stuttgart Straßenbahnen and U-Bahnen have narrow table-ledges between the seats. They are just wide and long enough for a couple of drinks. You can see one on the right in the picture above.

A random Stuttgart street we saw from the historic Straßenbahn is shown to the right.

We rode the historic Straßenbahn to the Hauptbahnhof and then took an S-Bahn to the Daimler stadium stop. From there, we walked around the stadium and sports fields to a place where a shuttle takes you to the Mercedes-Benz museum. It is a fairly long walk to the shuttle stop, so I do not know why the shuttle does not pick people up at the S-Bahn stop. I suppose many people arrive by car, unlike most other places in Europe.

Grey aerodynamic car
Mercedes-Benz Type W 125.
The Mercedes-Benz museum was better than the Porsche museum, but not much. The Mercedes-Benz museum is bigger and shows more of the history of their cars but again has nothing about the engineering or manufacture of their cars. There are factory tours on weekdays.

The car shown here was made in 1938. Rudolf Caracciola drove it on the Autobahn between Frankfurt and Darmstadt and reached 432.7 kilometers per hour, the highest speed ever reached on a public highway. Can you imagine you're moving along at whatever the usual speed was in 1938, and somebody comes up behind you at 432.7 kilometers per hour (268.9 miles per hour)?

We finished the Mercedes-Benz museum, took the shuttle, walked to the S-Bahn station, and just missed a train. The next one was in half an hour, and there were no U-Bahn stations quickly accessible. One was nearby just across the tracks, but there was no nearby passage or crossing to it. So we waited.

Old castle and statue Castle courtyard and statue
Altes Schloß and statue of poet Friedrich Schiller. Altes Schloß courtyard and statue of Württemberg's first duke, Eberhard.
Back downtown, we walked south, and Alex looked for a model train store near Marktplatz. Being Sunday, it was closed. Then we walked to Altes Schloß (Old Castle) and visited the Württembergisches Landesmuseum Stuttgart in the castle.

Ancient clay urn
7000-year-old urn.

The museum covers the history of people in this area. They have some ancient artifacts that appear to be whole, such as this 7000-year-old urn. There is a map that shows dots where artifacts have been recovered in the region, and it is dotted all over—people have been living here, and leaving their stuff, for a long time. Then the Romans came and ordered everybody around for a while. The museum has some sculptures and art from that time (around 2000 years ago), including mummy portraits.

The portraits show people with nearly correct perspective, which makes me wonder why the portraits in the Ulmer Museum are flat. The Ulmer Museum displays portraits of various guild members in town several hundred years ago. Except for the more recent paintings, the Ulmers are shown flat, without correct perspective, which looks naïve. The mummy portraits show that correct perspective was known, and known in this region, 2000 years ago. So why were much later paintings done so amateurishly? Did they lose the knowledge for a while?

Old rifles Old pistols
Rifles and pistols from 1500s and 1600s.
Firearms have been around longer than I realized. The pistols on the right date from about 1580. One of the two bottom rifles was made in 1599.

Another room in the castle museum contains a dead king, a dead queen, two dead dukes, and a dead duchess. They died between 1875 and 1912 and were put into sarcophagi.

City park with water, fountain, and trees
Walking north from the Altes Schloß took us to the Schloßgarten (Castle Garden). The scene to the left is just a small part of it. The park extends through a large part of the city, and there are also other green areas throughout Stuttgart.

Numerous train tracks
Train tracks approaching Hauptbahnhof.
We went back to the Hauptbahnhof, and Alex looked for another model train store which listed an address in the station, but it was nowhere to be found. With some time before our train back to Ulm, we visited the observation platform on top of the train station.


Back in Ulm, we finished the day with dessert at the Café-Restaurant im Stadthaus. The dessert I remembered as a marzipan torte is not a torte at all, just ice cream, fruit and fruit sauce, and a marzipan sparrow.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Monday morning, we bought a Bayern-Ticket for €21. The Bayern-Ticket lets up to five people travel together in Bayern for the day on local trains. Interestingly, we used the ticket in Ulm, which is in Baden-Württemberg and not in Bayern, and we used it on an Intercity train, which is not a local train. Ulm is allowed with the Bayern-Ticket as a special case, because it is a main city and transfer point right on the border. Using the ticket on an Intercity train is not normal, but that story comes later. In the morning, we went to Nürnberg.


It takes longer to get to Nürnberg from Ulm than it does to get to Stuttgart. With the weekday Bayern-Ticket, you can only start after 9 a.m., and the earliest you can get to Nürnberg using local trains is 12:17 p.m., so we arrived at lunch time. The Nürnberg train station is a decent place for food, including Mr. Clou, a fast-food place with some reasonable vegetarian offerings.

Stairs going down from street, surrounded by plants
U-Bahn access.
Alex's first business in Nürnberg was to visit to model train stores. Unfortunately, neither had the N-scale Straßenbahn he was looking for. The stores were in a retail area of the city south of the Hauptbahnhof. We went back and north into the old city. It is actually a new old city, because Nürnberg was reduced to rubble in World War II. Almost all the main buildings, including the castle, were rebuilt using the original stone.

River, bridge, building over river
Pegnitz River.
We entered the old city from the south and walked to the main market near the center, where a walking tour in my guidebook starts. On the way, we passed a stairwell (above right) that goes to the U-Bahn, which is one of nicer transit accessways I have seen. We also crossed the Pegnitz River (left).

Market in town square
The Hauptmarkt is the site of a daily market, mostly for produce. Also in the square is the Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain), a replica of the 14th-century original.

Beautiful fountain Golden ring in iron grill
Schöner Brunnen. Golden ring.
The right image of the two pictures of the fountain shows the grill. If you look at the large version of the picture (click on the small picture to see it), you can see a golden ring. It is seamless and spins freely in the grill, so somebody made up a legend about spinning the ring and wishes, and tourists come and spin the ring.

The walk goes north through the old city, pointing out this and that, including a four-story-deep warren dug in the 14th century to house a brewery and beer cellar and another bunker where the city's art treasures were sheltered during the war. Both were closed. A little farther north is the Imperial Castle. Pictures from that are below.

Tunnel Walkway Garden in former moat
Tunnel around side of castle. Beyond the tunnel. In the former moat.
Bridge Building seen through archway A castle building
Bridge to main entrance. Part of the castle. A building in the castle.
Castle buildings above a wall Castle tower Castle
Some castle buildings. Castle tower. Castle seen from outside.

City skyscape
Nürnberg from castle.
City street
Nürnberg near castle.

After the castle, the walking tour backtracks south. There are photographs from and near the castle on the right and below.

Spiced cooties without flour
Good place to get cooties.
Just a block or two from the castle, I noticed the sign to the left above a shop.

Whimsical mechanism on wall above Toy Museum
Toy Museum art.
The walking tour goes by the Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum), but it was also closed on Mondays. All we could see was the kinetic sculpture above the door (left) and a few things in the windows.

Then the walking tour goes to an island in the Pegnitz, and the guide book says it is a particularly scenic part of the river, but I think our first crossing was prettier.

River with combination bridge and buildings over it Interior of covered bridge
Pegnitz River. Covered bridge.
The tour peters out, and we headed generally back to the vicinity of the train station. The Germanisches Nationalmuseum and the Deutsche Bahn Museum are in the area, but they are also closed on Mondays. We were left with only Handwerkhof, a recreation of a crafts quarter of old Nürnberg. The guide book accurately describes it as "quaint as a hammer on your thumbnail."

After walking around Nürnberg, we were hungry and thirsty and ate again in the Hauptbahnhof while waiting for a train out. Several of the fast-food stores in the Nürnberg Hauptbahnhof have large, cold drinks at reasonable prices (for Europe). If you're in Germany and thirsty after a long day of walking in the heat, I recommend going to the Nürnberg Hauptbahnhof.

The first train dropped us in Treuchtlingen, where we learned the second train was not going to show up. I did not follow the German announcements well enough to find out why but did get enough to figure out we were supposed to wait for something else, and all the other passengers on that platform were waiting around too. The station attendant asked various people were they were going and counted them, and then she made some phone calls. She arranged for a couple of Intercity trains that normally do not stop in Treuchtlingen to stop there. Some of the other passengers asked, in German, if their tickets would be good, including one person who asked about a Bayern-Ticket, and the attendant said the tickets would be good. So, we got to use a local-train Bayern-Ticket on an Intercity train.


The Intercity train dropped us in Augsburg with around 40 minutes until our final train to Ulm. We just had time to walk a bit in the city and take a few pictures. To make them count, the one on the left has a little of everything: people sitting, people walking, people bicycling, people riding a streetcar, a van, police, a fountain, a public building, a private building, and part of a city square.
City square Shopping street Main street
A little of everything. A shopping street. Some building.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Going to Schloß Neuschwanstein (Neuschwanstein Castle) is all about getting pictures and saying you have been there, so that part of my trip report will be largely pictures.

First, I will say that if you were passing through Füssen on your way somewhere, stopping to see Neuschwanstein would be worthwhile. However, Füssen is not on the way to anywhere. It is the end of the line, literally. The castle tour is okay, but it is not worth the six or more hours it takes on a train to get there from Ulm and back. (From München, the round-trip can be only four hours.) I think the castle may look better in the best picture I took than it actually looked when I took the picture, so you do not really need to be there to see it. That leaves the only reason to go is to say you have been. Several sources told me Neuschwanstein was the castle to see. However, Heidelberg Castle was fine and had more stories about it, and Heidelberg is more fun. So I think nobody's life will be lacking anything if they skip Neuschwanstein. If you want to consider it, here is some information.

For the benefit of those who do go to Neuschwanstein, here are quick directions.
  • Take a train to Füssen.
  • Go into the train station and buy a round-trip bus ticket to the castles.
  • Go out the other side of the station and get on the bus, asking the driver if the bus goes to the castles (Schloßes).
  • Get out at the stop by the tourist information center in Hohenschwangau. (It may be the first stop, but I am not sure.)
  • Turn left exiting the bus and follow the road up to the right.
  • Pass a few buildings and see the ticket center on the right.
  • Buy a ticket for the Neuschwanstein tour in English. Do not bother with the Hohenschwangau tour.
  • Find the signs pointing to Neuschwanstein. They have pictures, not words, and you have to distinguish Neuschwanstein from Hohenschwangau.
  • Wander the area if you have time, allowing thirty minutes to get to Neuschwanstein if you are fit.
  • Walk to Neuschwanstein (or buy a ride).
  • When your number is shown, insert your ticket into the machine at the gate and go in.
  • After the tour, go back to the bus stop and get on the bus going in the reverse direction.

Deutsche Bahn's computer gave me a route to Füssen that takes three hours, but the schedule left only four minutes between trains. Since trains have been late with some frequency and a missed transfer could ruin the day, I asked the web server for another route that allowed at least 15 minutes between trains. It gave me one that took four hours.

Off we went to Füssen.

Füssen, Hohenschwangau, and Castles

Neuschwanstein Castle, on a mountain
Schloß Neuschwanstein.
After a long train trip, we arrived in Füssen. Almost everybody getting off the train in Füssen is going to the castles, but they have not put up a sign that says, even in German, "Hey, you folks going to the castles, go into the station, buy a round-trip bus ticket, and get on the 9713 bus." I think you could figure that out after reading all the signs and maps in sight, but it would take a long time to read them all, and it is not easy to figure out which ones have relevant information.

The poor attendant is obviously tired of answering questions about this. There is a sign saying he does not give change or tourist information. That shows they know people want change and tourist information. The sign does not solve that problem; it is just a roadblock.

(Why does the bus number have four digits? I doubt there are enough routes there to require even two digits.)

The bus takes people to the adjacent town, Hohenschwangau, and lets them off next to a tourist information center. Again, almost every person getting off the bus is going to the castles, but they have not put up a sign that says, "Hey, you folks going to the castles, first pick up your tickets at the ticket center, which is left, around the corner to the right, and up the street." Actually, it is perfectly obvious once you see it and must be blindingly obvious to residents, but tourists cannot see through trees and buildings, so they do not know. There are lots of signs, and the information may be there, but it does not make sense until you already understand or study for a while. One big sign, that's all they need.

Two days before our trip, I ordered tickets for both castles. Preordering is recommended to avoid a long wait, and that was necessary since Alex and I were trying to fit the journey there and back into a single day, leaving us not a great deal of time in the Füssen area. The email I got back from the ticket center and the signs when we got there made the operators seem very inflexible, but they were flexible about giving us earlier tickets, so that worked out well.

Even so, everything about the castle tours is set up for the convenience of the operators, not the tourists. You get there on your own, via public transit or private tour. The ticket center is located at the bottom of the hills and you must buy tickets there, guessing how long it will take you to traverse unfamiliar terrain. The English tour of Hohenschwangau Castle is via audio player, so it is low labor for the operators. And so on. It feels more like a Disneyland thing than a historic site.

We picked up our tickets, got some food, and waited for the Hohenschwangau Castle tour.

Photographs inside are not permitted inside the castles. I do not know why. I think more people would be inspired to come by photographs than would be deterred. So all I have to show you is outdoor photographs.

The Hohenschwangau Castle tour is sterile. They show you the usual artifacts of wealth and royalty, and that's about it. One item of interest is an original loaf of gift bread for the prince regent's 70th birthday in 1891. If you go, I recommend skipping the Hohenschwangau Castle tour and buying only tickets for Neuschwanstein Castle.

From Hohenschwangau, we walked up to Neuschwanstein Castle. If you make this trip, buy beverages at the bottom. Most of the way up, where people with a sedentary lifestyle are fatigued and may be thirsty and suffering in the heat, there is a concession stand that sells 0.3 liters of soda for €2.20. That may be the highest price I have seen.

We arrived with time to spare and went to see the nearby bridge and waterfall. Pictures are below, in a group with the others from the day.

The Neuschwanstein tour is better, although I think they would do well to hire a good dramatic writer to do some research and design an entertaining tour. The throne room (which never had a throne because King Ludwig II died shortly after the castle was partially ready) has a 2000-pound crown-shaped chandelier and a mosaic floor made of about a million tiles. Another room is made, with plaster, to look like a cave out of a Wagner opera. The room is well done; the cave is reasonably convincing.

Neuschwanstein means "new swan stone." The castle is new because it replaced a Middle Ages castle that was on the same site and was destroyed to build Neuschwanstein. The castle has a swan theme because Ludwig II was fond of swans.

I did not get a great sense of being in a castle while I was actually inside the castles. Sure, the rooms are large and connect to other large rooms and have expensive things, but they could be rooms in a modern palace or even a fancy hotel.

Another example of how everything is arranged for the tour operators is the gift shops on the way out. Of course, a gift shop at the exit is obligatory at every major attraction in the world, but Neuschwanstein Castle has two, and you must pass through each separately to get out. I bought a nice mousepad in one of them.

Pictures from our day at the castles follow.

A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip
Alps seen from train approaching Füssen. First view of Neuschwanstein Castle. Neuschwanstein Castle seen from Hohenschwangau.
A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip
Hohenschwangau Castle. Schwangau. Alps.
A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip
Hohenschwangau Castle garden with Alex. Hohenschwangau Castle garden. Neuschwanstein Castle seen from Hohenschwangau Castle.
A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip
Alpsee. Stream on approach to Neuschwanstein Castle. Neuschwanstein Castle seen from approach road.
A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip
Alps. Neuschwanstein Castle seen through nearby trees. Waterfall.
A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip
Alps. Neuschwanstein Castle seen from bridge. Neuschwanstein Castle seen from bridge.
A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip
Neuschwanstein Castle seen from bridge. Neuschwanstein Castle. Waterfall.
A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip
Neuschwanstein Castle courtyard. Part of castle seen from other part. Schwangau.
A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip A picture from the Neuschwanstein trip
Marienbrücke seen from castle. Part of castle seen from higher part. Marienbrücke seen from castle.

The bridge (Marienbrücke) looks quite far from the castles in the photographs, but it is only an eight-minute walk, if you can get up a steep paved hill without trouble.

On the way out of Füssen, we stopped by a small bakery in the foyer of a grocery store near the train station. They had a good almond pastry with a dab of fruit purée. Then we got on the train for the three-hour trip back to Ulm.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Wednesday was rest and chore day. We did laundry and visited the mall, and I wrote up the travelogue for previous days. At the mall, I saw a sparrow sculpture that was not there before, but I did not have my camera with me. I wanted to go back that day in case it was just a temporary display, but we did not have time before going to the Hauptbahnhof to catch the night train to Roma.

⇐ To journal.Go to Italy with Alex. ⇒

© Copyright 2003 by Eric Postpischil.