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The search for authentic Germany

July 8th, 2009

The danger to sticking to a tour book (we relied heavily on the Lonely Planet’s “Central Europe”) is that it leads you to where everyone else goes. So yes, in Heidelberg we did visit the local castle, the Heidelberg Schloss. It is considered one of Germany’s most prominent examples of Gothic-Renaissance architecture and a place, as Mark Twain wrote in his “Tramp Through Europe,” that commands a sweeping view of the city and the river valley.

Jeanne found another view she liked. At the gift shop just outside the gate, Jeanne purchased a small cuckoo clock, which had been one of her missions of this trip. Now she could relax.

Then we started our day in earnest, not sure where we would go, except south toward the Black Forest. Somewhat randomly, we thought we would try for dinner at a town called Rotweil, and then for a campground alongside the Danube, deep in the forest of southern Germany.

Rotweil, which did not show up in our tour books, was a prize – a delightful town with all the architectural trimmings you   would expect, and with a view down its main street dissolving into a pasture and then the forest beyond. And, it turned out, it seems to be the home of the Rotweiler dog breed – if the statues of those dogs along the main thoroughfares were any hint.

Our goal was dinner, and we peeked into a few places. One was mostly a tavern, and so was the next. Then we found a restaurant that seemed authentic: no one inside spoke English. That would work just fine.

We asked to eat outside. The waitress brought us a menu that was printed in German, French and English, so there wasn’t much mystery in what we selected.  Jeanne chose veal and pork in white cream sauce, alongside spatzle (a  German noodle). Daughter favored pork with paprika cream sauce and spatzle, and I selected breaded veal stuffed with ham and cheese. It came with fries, and whether that’s a German traditional food, I don’t know.

Each came with a house salad of greens, German potato salad, sauerkraut, carrots and something white and thin. Hmmm, don’t know.  And beer.   It was all very good, for about $65.  Because we ate outside, we are probably responsible for diverting five other pedestrian groups into the restaurant for dinner after they passed us, stopped in their tracks, spied what we were eating and returned for dinner.

Just shy of 9 p.m. we made it to a campground promoted in the guidebook that came with our international camping card (called a “carnet” and which is given to the camp manager at night to vouch for us). This campground was situated alongside the Danube, shrouded in trees and at the bottom of a river valley framed by 500-foot-high walls of granite. We fell asleep thinking life was good.

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