Arriving at Frankfurt, Hahn airport very late, we merely had to walk across the street to check in at the B&B Hotel. The location couldnâ€™t have been more convenient â€“ and the price was right.
After an airport cafÃ© breakfast the next morning (the one at the hotel is overpriced), we hopped on a shuttle bus that took us into Frankfurt Main. During that 90-minute bus ride, I caught my first glimpse of German vineyards.
We spent our second night in Frankfurt at the wonderful budget hotel, the Hotel Europa. The bathrooms arenâ€™t worth mentioning but the free wifi and the super comfy bed are â€“ along with the fabulously friendly staff and the huge buffet breakfast (also free).
Our evening was spent in a smoky bar that was filled with kitschy blinking lights and a Finding Nemo nautical theme, drinking wine and eating the only thing on the menu â€“ sausage!
Curtis left the hotel early the next morning to pick up our rental car while I lingered over my big German breakfast of coffee, cereal, yoghurt and sliced cheeses.
After picking me up in our brand new Audi, we set off for the airport, only to discover that the GPS was in German, we didnâ€™t have a map and we had no idea what the German word for â€œairportâ€ was. We took a wild guess as to the right direction, got to a dead end, turned around and randomly chose another route. We soon stopped at a hotel and asked the Indian doorman for directions â€“ and thatâ€™s who taught us the German word for airport. Itâ€™s flughaven. Which doesnâ€™t look or sound anything like airport or aeroporto or aeroport â€“ not an obvious translation.
Once we found the flughaven, we also found Curtisâ€™s mom Dagmar and her friend Jackie â€“ whom we would be traveling with for the next month.
With her German, Dagmar changed the GPS setting to English, we programmed our first destination and were soon on the autobahn â€“ on our way to Bacharach.
Bacharach is a quaint town that you enter through an ancient archway. It is surrounded by vineyards and filled with very German looking buildings and shops that sell typical German beer steins and bottles of Rieslings. The Rhine runs next to the town and you can hike up to an old castle (which is now a hotel) or up to an ancient tower set on the sloping vineyards.
We spent three nights in Bacharach, the highlight of which was a boat ride along the Rhine. Cruising by castle after majestic castle, surrounded by hillsides bursting with the bright colors of autumn, feeling the sun warm our faces while the breeze tousled our hair, we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon.
After three days of living in Riesling territory and eating the huge German breakfasts provided by our guesthouse, we set off for Niedenstein – the town Dagmar was born in â€“ on a quest decreed by Oma (Curtisâ€™s grandmother).
Oma had written down extremely detailed, specific instructions for us to visit six different people, either to deliver little gifts that she had sent along or just to chat and learn something about some distant relatives.
Out of our six quests, only three were successful â€“ one to deliver a little bell to a six year old girl (the daughter of some distant cousin), one to visit an elderly aunt and one to deliver a super tiny beer glass to the friend of a friend of some guy (now deceased) who gave Oma a deal on cabbage once (or something like that).
Niedenstein is a very small town and while Dagmar and Jackie settled in at Dagmarâ€™s auntâ€™s house, Curtis and I stayed in the only guest house in town, Zum Falkenstein, run by Norbert, a very friendly fellow and amazing cook. Every morning he prepared gourmet breakfasts of our choice consisting of fresh rolls with jam, sliced meat and cheeses and scrambled eggs or omelets with roast potato â€œhashbrownsâ€. The breakfasts were included in our 40 euros per night and we looked forward to stuffing ourselves with them everyday. They were also the only â€œaloneâ€ time we had amongst lots of family visits.
We were trying to have another kind of â€œaloneâ€ time late one morning when we were interrupted by a very enthusiastic knock at the door – Curtisâ€™s mom coming to collect us for the day. Traveling with family puts a bit of damper on the romanceâ€¦.
After three days in Niedenstein and more delicious little cakes than Iâ€™ve eaten in my entire life (every visit with every new relative ensured more cake â€“ always more than one kind), it was time to hop back into Lucy (as we dubbed the Audi since she was constantly talking to us) and set off for Salzburg, Austria.