Saturday. The day started well. I didn’t wake up until 7, Ariane made french toast for the kids, there was no need for me to go to the baker’s and I was glad to have a mini lie-in. After breakfast it was off to the recycling centre (not much stuff this week) and then to new shopping center in Böblingen to get some birthday presents and go to the supermarket. There was always a threat of cloud but for most of the morning the sun was out. I even toyed with the idea of having a cup of coffee on our terrace (it’s sheltered and faces south).
After lunch my younger daughter, Emma, went off to a party. My other daughter, Anna, wanted to deliver another birthday present to her friend in Grafenau – which is about 15km away. We decided we would go by bike. It was a lovely ride. We got lost a few times (I was navigating) but after 35km of mostly forest trails we were back home feeling pleased with ourselves. That’s about all there is to say about the actual bike ride. But while I was riding I was thinking about a trip I will be taking next weekend to my old stomping ground in the Allgäu. I’m really looking forward to it. I am going on a ski/fly weekend with Alan, a paragliding friend I have known for over 20 years. Our tolerant wives have given us both the weekend off so we can enjoy a guilt-free couple of days in the mountains.
Alan’s job is to book the accommodation. It shouldn’t be difficult because it is the weekend before the Easter holidays start and probably not too busy. We will probably end up in a small “Pension”, which is the German version of a Bed & Breakfast. True to form, these places are usually very clean, quite cosy and reasonably priced. I also like the Bavarian house style. They have relatively shallow-sloped roofs with a big overhang at the front and usually a balcony. The overhang makes sense – you then have a dry area around the house where you can stack firewood or put a bench to take your muddy boots off.
Usually the hostess (not being sexist here, but it is always a woman) will be friendly and efficient. Sometimes, though, they are a little bit more distant and suspicious of anyone who doesn’t come from their village. Lots of people have one or two guest rooms because it is tax efficient and the area is a favourite with tourists – and not because they are naturally guesthouse hosts. I used to live in a village called Schwangau, which is directly below Germany’s second-largest tourist destination: King Ludwig’s fairy-tale Castle Neuschwanstein. When my Dad came to visit me he would stay over the road from my flat in a small guest house. The hostess was courteous but not really friendly, and certainly not warm. The vacancy/no vacancy sign outside the place said “Fremdenzimmer”. Even though this is quite common, I always thought it strange. A “Fremde” is a stranger. So Fremdenzimmer is a stranger’s room. The more modern and friendly version is Gastzimmer, because Gast means guest. Anyway, back to my Dad’s guesthouse. He was usually the only guest and when he came down for breakfast the scary hostess would race upstairs and clean and hoover his room – clunking around in the room above as he had breakfast. It fits with the whole “Fremdenzimmer” attitude. “You can stay here, but we’d rather you made as little impact as possible. Goodbye”.
Wherever we end up, I am sure we will have a great time. The main bar in the village has it’s own brewery, usually with live music on a Saturday night and by about 10pm everyone is your friend anyway. Can’t wait.