As always in our business, after the story is over it’s time to roll the credits and give mention to all those who were so helpful in making our trip possible and pleasurable. But, before one more word is written, I want to address a question that will come up…especially from members of the AFN affinity group.
“What? You were in Munich in September and you never went to Oktoberfest?” Attending Oktoberfest was certainly on the bucket list of things to do, but frankly, after traveling for weeks on end, we just didn’t have the energy. Alex said, “I’ll take you but it is on a weekend, the lines will be long, the beer will be cold but so will the chicken and there is the drive home afterward.” We took the easy way out and watched it on TV…while drinking beer of course. I figured the AFN’ers have plenty of Oktoberfest stories to share and it will be just like having been there. OK, guys. That’s your cue.
Now, back to the credits. Our European experience began on 2 September at Los Angeles International airport when we boarded Flight #453 for an eleven hour 30 minute trip to Munich, Germany. We owe thanks to Oliver Maatsch, Lufthansa Duty Station Manger at LAX for handling ticket details and for making the boarding process and flight trouble-free.
We were met in Munich by our hosts for the next month, Astrid Fischer and Alexander Rudolph. We have known Alex since the 1980’s when he was high school exchange student with my cousin Sparky Brandt and his wife, Gaylene. Alex came to visit us for a week in Los Angeles and then again for a month the next year. We loved him then as we do now and have maintained our relationship as he attended college, medical school, dental school and through his studies to be a maxillofacial surgeon. He now has a practice in Munich and commutes some 50 miles daily to Schliersee.
They provided a beautiful, completely furnished apartment for us in their home but we do owe thanks to Astrid’s 19-year old son, Ludwig, for giving up this area for the whole month of September. We enjoyed our time with him but we’re sure he was glad to reclaim his man cave.
One of the major highlights of the trip was taking possession of a brand new, 2016 Audi Q5 SUV at their factory in Ingolstadt.
It all started with Kirstin Huey, Overseas Delivery Manager at The Auto Gallery in Woodland Hills. She made all the contacts with the factory and kept us informed from the day they started construction until the delivery in Ingolstadt. Thanks to Kirsten for staying on top of things.
On 7 September at 2:00PM exactly, they called our name and led us to the Audi Q5 that was to be the newest vehicle in our family. After one hour of careful instruction, the door was raised and we headed for the nearest autobahn.
To make sure our autobahn driving skills were cutting edge, we spent a half-day at Audi’s new Driving Experience Center on the Danube River.
Since I was the only English speaker in the class I was given my own instructor, Mark Allison, a native of South Africa. “I lived in Southern California once,” he said. We were almost knocked over when he said, “I sold time shares in Woodland Hills. Have you heard of it?”
While I was busily learning emergency techniques on the skid pad, Louise made friends with all the staff of the driving center and was able to fill me in on all the inside gossip.
That same evening we headed for Nidda, Germany, some four hours away. The event was a birthday party for Evi Stadler, wife of Michael…the couple that bought our MG four years ago. They wanted us to meet 100 of their closest friends. We didn’t check into our hotel until 1:30AM.
Ray had a chance to reprise a Sunday night tradition he took part in four years ago. Michael Stadler and his friends get together to talk about cars, food, drink, and politics in about that order. The evening is always capped off with schnapps.
We made it a point to introduce our first car to our latest car and to wish Evi and Michael good luck in their new business of restoring automobiles.
From there we began a marathon-type trip of northern Europe beginning with Leipzig where we toured the Stazi museum, a reminder of the cruelty and domination of the Communist state over East German citizens.
A major highlight was the time spent in Berlin. Thanks to Karin Berning, former American Forces Network staffer, we had a chance to see parts of her city that we might have missed.
Dresden was an outstanding example of a city rebuilt after the ravages of war but our lasting remembrance was the guy playing his grand piano in front of the statue of Martin Luther. Always wondered how he got it home at the end of the day.
Our time spent in Prague could be described as a lesson in architecture of the middle ages. Since it was not destroyed in WWII, the city is a perfect example of how structures evolved over time.
Especially impressive is the fortress that looms over central Prague. It is like a little city all its own and an obvious magnet for tourists…including us.
Medieval times must have been terrible since almost every major structure was designed for defense. It must have worked since the buildings in Çeský-Krumlov are still intact and a tremendous draw for the tourist trade in lower Czechoslovakia.
We offer a special thanks to Krista Rudolph, mother of Alex and Oliver, who not only showed us around her hometown of Vilshofen, Germany, but also fed us and put us up for the night. She is proud of her boys and made sure we knew it. Of course, she has a good reason.
After an epic tangle with our GPS, Schatzie, we still managed to eke out some time with old friend Charly Page in Romont, Switzerland. Our visits are never long enough so we re-extended our offer for him and Huguette to visit us in Los Angeles.
We have never spent time in the French Alps but that was remedied with our visit to Briançon, just miles from the Italian border.
While we enjoyed the scenery, the real purpose was to see the two-month-old baby of Estelle and Tim Young who were visiting her parents, Michelle and Alain Aymard. Alain already has a few cars in his collection in mind for little Marcel.
We spent the day at their mountain chalet high above Briançon
And enjoyed one of those typical three-hour noon meals for which the French are so famous. After the meal, the wine, and the 7,800’ altitude, a nap was a logical conclusion.
Unfortunately, on the day we spent in Varenna, on the shores of Lake Como, the weather was gloomy so we never enjoyed the special magic that sunshine brings. That gives us a good reason to plan a return trip.
The final stop in our “On the Road Again,” tour was Venice and it was a great capper to our adventure.
Piazza San Marco has been described as the most beautiful square in the world and I can’t deny that. It is also a wonderful place to view the world as it passes.
Another feature that no other city can offer is traveling the Grand Canal. It is alive with boats of all kinds and offers glimpses of how this major city lives in a grand style.
Our return to home base at Schliersee was no less grand as we drove through the Tyrolean Alps of Austria. We are still impressed with the grandeur of the mountains as they fairly leap from the ground without the assistance of the foothills we are so used to. We’ve started a new bucket list with a promise to return so we can really soak it in.
We spent our last day in Europe with our friends Astrid and Alex as they showed off the areas where they live and play. The mountains are everything here as they provide year-round recreation, clean air, great vistas, and outstanding Bavarian beer.
We’re now back home in Woodland Hills and savoring the memories of the past five weeks that just flew by. We want to thank all of you who chose to share these memories with us…not only for your patience, but also for your helpful comments. Now, does anyone have any suggestions on overcoming jet lag? We’re afraid it might be permanent this time.
Love from Louise and Ray