Raj: It's nice to be relaxing again, this time based in the small rural village of Tiefenpolz, 20km outside Bamberg, Germany.
Yesterday morning we left Prague with the plan to stop in Plzen and do the tour of Pilsner Urquell Brewery. Disappointingly heavy traffic leaving Prague and over 30 mins to find a car park in Plzen meant I missed the tour by just 15 mins (other late arriving tourists were also disappointed). The best we could do was walk around the showcase factory. We then left the Czech Republic for Germany, unsure of the speed limits (which again contradicted what we'd read and kept changing). At one point I reckon an Audi passed us going 200kmph! I just sat on 130kmph. When we arrived at our accommodation we were greeted by our host Peter, and a complimentary bottle of champagne. Nice. The apartment is fantastic - probably the best we've had on the trip so far, with all mod cons including two coffee machines, an oven, toaster, cheese grater and washing machine (believe me these basic appliances are rare in Europe). All the appliances, fittings and furnishings are top quality German brands which I'm appreciating. Even the over-size feather and down pillows and duvet covers are luxury. Once we settled in and unpacked we did our usual supermarket stock up. However GPS led us astray and we ended up travelling far, including a mis-guided trip to the chemist and hardware store. We also found out non-European Mastercards are not accepted anywhere (in Germany). Unbelievable! Luckily I had enough cash on me to not be embarrassed at check out. To end the evening I had a Raj Factor moment (just to keep readers entertained) ... I'll let Vikki share that tale, and our outing today below!
Vikki: I find it amazing that with just a few kilometres and a country border the landscape can be so different. That was my sense as we left the Czech Republic and crossed into Germany, heading into the area of Bavaria. Green rolling hills and dark forested areas surround us here in a semi-rural village about 20km from Bamberg. Small villages are every few kilometres, usually featuring a handful of houses, a church and the local Gusthaus. It's fantastic, and cements for me that I much prefer being out of the big cities. So much more character and you get the feeling of the local culture.
Today we headed into Bamberg for a look around, again wandering the winding streets lined with an eclectic mix of old buildings, beautiful hanging baskets and window boxes blooming with summer flowers and beer bars & local food stalls all around. Tourists mill around sampling the brews (Raj joined in), the sun is shining but not too hot and really it doesn't get better than this.
We ended the day at a new park down by the river. One of the main features of the park is a fish pass which connects with the River Regnitz, and lots of stream planting. A great local project and given the number of fish present throughout the passage, obviously successful. With a fabulous play area for the kids which also makes use of the pass and the fact that Germany makes some of the best play equipment (it is what is used in many NZ play areas) the kids had a great time playing and I enjoyed wandering around checking out the local plants and taking a few photos for work.
Today on the Raj Factor: Raj locked our valuables in the safe and then couldn't get them out! Somehow after choosing a new combination number and then putting wallets and passports inside, he managed to lock the door, then change the combination without knowing what the new number was. After sitting down for quite a while and trying out different numbers he gave up and realised we (or should I say he) had a problem. We rang the local hotel who helps look after this apartment and they promised to look into it. This happened last night, so roll on this morning, there is Raj again sitting at the safe trying to crack the number. All you could hear again was the sound of the dials (3 in total) being turned then a clunk when it didn't open. This went on for quite a while, so I politely suggested he was wasting his time, I'm sure there is a way that they can get it opened and worst case I'm sure someone could cut it open. That just made him see more needlessly spent Euros (like the Road Tax fine) and his comment was thanks for being supportive and on he went number crunching. Needless to say once the local manager arrived, he got it open with a special access key (though it was really stiff and difficult, and I put that down to Raj's overuse from trying out so many different numbers). Raj complained for the rest of the day how sore his thumbs were from turning the dials, just like the blisters he received when he rowed us around Lake Bled a few weeks ago. Once again we have our valuables, now secured in my bag and we'll leave it there.