Saturday, August 22, 2015

Augsburg, Germany: much to see and do

 A Quick Stop in Augsburg, Germany

I only had a half day to explore Augsburg on my Off the Beaten Track tour, but thanks to my wonderful guide Ms. Regina Thieme with Augsburg Tourism, I was able to see a great deal in a few hours.

Arriving at the Augsburg train station, a quick stop at the information counter to pick up a map for the easy walk into the center of town.  There are taxis, buses and trams outside the station but the walk to Hotel Ticket was not far and I could see the wonderful architecture that makes Germany towns and cities so charming.  And without knowing how to ask what tram or where to get off, walking is quicker for me.

                                    View from the town hall of the roof tops of Augsburg.

City Hall:
With so much to learn and see I barley had time for the wonderful photos of rooftops, squares and churches.   Our first stop was  City Hall.  You will think you are in Italy when you enter the Golden Hall and try to admire the endless paintings, gold covered ornate ceiling and wall murals.   You could spend hours learning the history behind the building, how it was used when Maximilian von Hapsburg visited.

The main square on a Saturday was busy with shoppers and a gathering place for young people.
We took a quick stop across the square at a 'secret' place my guide suggested when I asked what her favorite places were.   The cafe in the gift shop was quiet and a good place to take a break from siteseeing,  The glass covered courtyard is used during the winter market each year.    A good place for a solo traveler.

Augsburg is a great waling city.   There are wide avenues lined with shops and serviced by the tram system.   After a quick stop to see a street market we were off to see a one of a kind housing project.

Fuggerei: The wealthy Fugger family established and built the oldest social welfare settlement in the world (Regio Augsburg Tourismus)  in 1521.   There is one 3 room apartment you can visit.  There are now modern updates in the other apartments but you can view this original apartment during visiting hours.     The rent is only 1 eruo.


There are 78 houses and a total of 142 apartments as well as a church in the 

Interested in places solo travelers might enjoy beyond the many museums and wonderful churches I asked about any craftsmen (or women) in town.  Regina immediately suggested we visit a bookbinder in a part of town near a canal.

A side street took us to a neighborhood where there had been factories years ago:   machines run by water power.

The bookbinder was closed on Saturday but we had the great fortune to find Mr. Klaus Wengenmayr in his cafe next door.      The cafe/bar is also a music venue and an art studio.

Klaus makes hand made paper with a water mark.   He was kind enough to give me a short interview on his 'paper' history.      Today he was drying paper that was infused with flower seeds, I believe they were daisy seeds.    After the paper is used and discarded it will bio degrade and the seeds can germinate.   He kindly gave me a sample and I shall try 'planting' my paper and look for the results.

                                                      Klaus and my tour guide Regina

Can you see the watermark?

                                                            The paper pulp resembled oatmeal
A finished page of hand made paper.
                                      For more information:

Augsburg has many places for a solo traveler to visit and enjoy.  Regina suggested a solo friendly restaurant in the large 'department' store in town.  A perfect solo friendly restaurant and also a fresh fish restaurant.

Before we left the department store I had to ask about the enormous display of jams and preserves.
I had never seen such a wide variety and some fruits I had never heard of.  

I was able to try German spatzle at Zeughausstuben as the guest of Augsburg Tourism.
This is an enormous restaurant with a lovely out door patio for warmer weather.  
During dinner Ms. Thieme was kind to answer all the questions you never find in a travel book!

On Sunday, before I left for the train station I stopped in at the Dom.      Most stores in Germany are closed on Sunday so the streets were quiet but I did notice several other international 'travelers'.

Before I reached the church I found this humorous artwork

One of the rare times I have captured sun rays in a photo.

This is a beautiful, massive church.  However services were going on and they asked for no 'visitors'.
I was only able to take a quick look at the older part of the building.

I want to thank Augsburg Touruism who hosted my visit.   The photos (except where noted) and the opinions are my own.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Oberwesel Germany: Home of the Wine Witch

Oberwesel, Germany and the Wine Witch

A short stop on my Off the Beaten Track tour 
in Germany, but one I am so glad I did

The trip from Koblez to Oberwesel went too quickly.  Although I love train travel in Europe, I would trade a train for a boat on a German river anytime!
photo from
The boat stopped at most of the towns we passed picking up local residents and at one stop a large group of tourists.   

I almost missed viewing the Lorelei since my stop was next and the boat does not linger.  

We had just passed the famous Lorelei and in a few minutes were docking at Oberwesel.  A hike and tour of the Lorelei, overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage designated part of the Rhine river, is on my list for another visit.  Our captain was not distracted by any 'siren calls'  and we arrived safely.  

Disembarking from the White Boat I was only a few steps from the main square when I arrived.     The well kept half timbered houses tucked between larger stone or brick buildings were just as I imagined a German town should be, or an impression left over from a movie set.   I was completely charmed.

Every town I visited on my Off the Beaten Track adventure was steeped in history.   Far more events, invaders, treaties and wars than I could fit into my head on my short day trips.   But it was not difficult to absorb the feel of a town, meet some of the locals and understand a little of their traditions.

Oberwesel was a walled city in the middle ages with more than the surviving 16 watch towers that protected the town from all foes.    The renovated sections of the walls are a perfect vantage point to view the city and the surrounding vineyards or enjoy a 'city' hike.

If you look up you will see row upon row of grape vines ascending the hill to the imposing Schonburg Castle.  The original building dates from the 12th century.  Today the castle houses a luxury hotel as well as a youth hostel. 

The castle complex.  Photo from

A short walk from the central square where many festivals and events are celebrated each year, you pass shops, restaurants and private homes on your way to the Stadtmuseum, a perfect start to your understanding of Oberwesel and the surrounding area.

The Stadtmuseum is the first stop on my tour.   This interactive museum takes you through the history of the Upper Rhine river area via a 'time machine', large screens that react to a single touch.  Visitors and choose what interests them from a virtual tour of the town, use the
remote controlled camera on the river bank to see, even hear the river as well as have a radar view!

You could spend hours trying all the innovated systems within each section of the museum.  But do not miss the cinema in the vaulted cellar to see a film of the history of Rhine shipping, the old steamboats, toll booths and the need for icebreakers when the river sends ice.  

The Minorite Monastery is a former Franciscan monastery, church, garden, cloister and sacristy covers over 800 years of history.  The ruins are privately owned now.  After a fire destroyed the monastery in 1836 private homes were built in the area and it is still a residential area.
Contact the museum for details on how to arrange/book a tour.  em

 With only a short time remaining before my train leaves I took a fast paced tour of one of the highlights of Gothic architecture in Oberwesel:  Liebfrauen Church know for it's golden alter.
The building was started in 1308.  

Entering from a side door it takes a few moments to appreciate the soaring ceilings and massive size of the church.    The gold altar is the most prominent part of the church but do not miss the larger than life painting on the walls that were intended to educated the masses who perhaps did not read and own books. 
                                                        Liebfrauen Church, Church of Our Lady

Gold Altar   from

The Wine Witch:   Each year the town celebrates Weinhexennacht,  the crowning of the new wine witch for the coming year.   Other wine areas may crown a wine queen but Oberwesel selects their wine witch.   And she is a good witch, representing and helping promote the area wines for the year following her election.

The townspeople vote for the next year's witch and on the night of April 30th the former witch is burned in a straw effigy and the newly elected witch escapes from a wine keg in the middle of market square!   The festival continues!


Carl Haags Tower where the painter lived and worked.   Originally called the red tower, Mr Haag bought and rebuilt the tower.  It is privately owned and not open to tourists

A short walk to the train station for my journey to Wiesbaden and another adventure.

So much to see and only half a day!  I shall return for a river trip and stop overnight in Oberwesel.
Schonburg Castle/Hotel and youth hostel
Medieval City Walls
St. Martin Church
Biking along the river
Hiking above the town
and around Lorelei
Wine Experience & Wine tasting
are all on my list for another visit.

I was the guest of Oberwesel marketing who arranged my great tour of historic Oberwesel.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

KyBoot, what are they?

I had never heard of KyBoot before I walked down the cobbled street in Koblenz, foot sore from walking on the uneven pavement for 8 hrs a day and saw their store.   My American ‘sneekers’ were inadequate for this adventure and there were 59 more days of walking 8+ hrs a day.              

The advertisement claimed to be ‘revolutionary’, in my mind you would be walking on ‘clouds’ of some type of foam or gel filled soles. 
Photo from the KyBoot web site, My pair is a similar style

I did not find the extensive web site information until I returned to the USA and did more Internet searches.  There were very few stores in the countries I planned to visit and the lure of having an unknown product to write about and a solution to the thin soles of my current shoes, I returned when the store was finally open.  

Sticker Shock  I had no idea what the shoes cost but expected them to be over $100.   I could do nothing but laugh when I saw they were priced higher than a Niki Air Max or an I phone 5!

Trying on a pair I felt as if I had space shoes on with 3 inch soles on my feet.    Even worse I kept falling off center.  The sensation was strange.    But to give them credit I could NOT FEEL THE COBBLESTONES!

Off I went trying to learn to walk.  People may have thought I had, had wine over lunch as I lunged down the lanes practicing ‘walking’.   Each step was similar to a ‘bounce’.   

Over the next 6 weeks the shoes performed as advertised:
"Nothing like other conventional shoes"
"Your feet will not be exhausted after a day of walking"

But and there is always a but, I developed blisters.
Any traveler and tourist too, knows that you can not afford to have blisters when you have to travel between points of interest, down lanes where buses do not travel and plan to drag you suitcase the ½ mile to the train station.      After years of travel I do NOT get blisters.
KyBoot gave me several.

Thinking they were too ‘roomy’ I doubled up on my socks.    This did not solve the problem.
After 2 weeks your feet adapt to abrasive points of contact and the trip continues.   

In summary
I was disappointed with the results of wearing KyBoots for two months.  
Yes they solved the problem of cobblestones felt through conventional soles, but the fit caused blisters that were painful.
They are also very heavy so I wore them on days I took the train or had to handle a suitcase.
Maybe the sandal style Kyboot offers, are an alternative for the hot summer months.

If you have KyBoot, what has your experience been?