Subscriber's Germany Diary

The Postman Cometh

We open envelopes containing your letters with almost as much relish as those bearing your renewal checks. Over the years, your suggestions have been a valuable source of hotels to be visited and reviewed and off-the-beaten track places to investigate. And, of course, we are always anxious to hear your reaction, positive or negative, to what is written in Gemütlichkeit.

There are no established guidelines as to which letters get printed and which do not. All are read with great interest but when it comes to putting them in Gemütlichkeit, we lean toward short, to-the-point letters which recommend hotels and restaurants and include addresses and phone numbers. Equally welcome are how-to letters and letters about off-the-beaten track and little-known tourist attractions and things to do. Sometimes we can take a long, rambling letter and extract items we think will be of interest to the general readership.

But whether you write long and detailed, and print it on a laser printer, or scrawl a couple of lines on a paper napkin, we genuinely want to hear from you.

This month we have chosen a single letter. It is from Nelson and Sharon Helm, longtime subscribers from Grand Island, Nebraska. Though not short, it is to the point and deals with several issues of interest: the quality of hotels in the former East Germany; inexpensive German hotels; affordable lodgings for a week in Berlin and the answer to a question often posed to us - how does one rent a Porsche in Germany without taking a second mortgage on the house.

Germany Diary

We just returned from a month's independent tour to northern and eastern German areas and would like to share some of our experiences and hotel finds.

A good example of the friendly, helpful people we met was the owner of a small auto repair shop who helped us find our destination by photocopying a detailed local road map which he then marked with the route to our hotel. How many of us would have taken the time to offer such assistance in our home areas?

We began at a favorite stop, the Jagdhaus Heede (Hermannshäger Strasse 81, tel. 5541/2395, fax 5541/5133) on the edge of Hann. Münden. This is by a forest preserve on the outskirts of town and is extremely quiet. Cost was 110 DM ($73) double with breakfast buffet. Münden has much to offer without the normal crush of tourists.

For our visit to Hamburg we chose another quiet location about 20 km northeast of the city near the village of Lutjensee. The Fischerklause (Am See 1, tel. 4154/7165, fax 4154/75185) overlooks a small lake, has comfortable rooms and breakfast buffet for 150 DM ($100) double B&B. It is an easy commute into Hamburg to see the harbor and other sights.

It is well worth a morning to visit the city of Lübeck with its imposing Holstentor and historic old town. Its old residential quarter is inviting even by today's best planning standards. That evening we stayed on the Plonsee in the village of Dersau. The Zur Mühle am See (Dorfstrasse 47, tel. 4526/8345, fax. 4526/1403) has a quiet position on this lovely lake, delicious food and a breakfast buffet for 130 DM ($87) double.

Schleswig, between Kiel and Flensburg in the far north, is a charming small city off the normal tourist route. We stayed at Waldhotel am Schloss (tel. 4621/23288, fax. 462l/23289, doubles 150 DM/$100). This is a block from Schloss Gottorf and a simple drive into the heart of the city where there is no fee for parking.

From here we drove Flensburg by way of Kiel and spent half a day wandering this most interesting city. Hansen's Brauerei, on the main pedestrian street, brews excellent beers to have with a light lunch. Flensburg has a lively harbor and deserves more time than we gave it.

We're still not sure what everyone does on the east coast in this area but most holiday apartments in the area near Ockholm were occupied. We stayed at the Gaststätte Bongsiel (tel. 4674/1445, fax 4674/1458) in a rural location on a canal and didn't see a soul until evening. Our room was small, neat and tidy with full facilities and one of the better bargains on the trip at 90 DM ($60) double B&B. The crowd at the evening meal attested to the good reputation of the place.

In the historic city of Schwerin, our next stop, we chose Seehotel Frankenhorst (Frankenhorst 5, tel. 385/555071, fax 385/555073) located about 9 km north of the city on a quiet lake. We spent three nights here to see Schwerin, with its Schloss-lnsel, and Wismar, about 20 km to the north. The Frankenhorst gave us a large remodeled room and an excellent breakfast buffet. At dinner, there was a good choice of items and the food was very good. We paid 150 DM ($100) double B&B.

The seaside resort of Warnemünde was our next stop and we selected the Hotel Stolteraa (Strandweg 17, tel. 381/54320, fax 381/5432151) because of its location adjacent to the beach and promenade. The hotel could use some renovation and painting but the rooms were clean with all facilities and had parking. A very good breakfast buffet is offered and evening meals are delicious with several choices and daily specials. Cost was 120 DM ($80) double B&B.

We did not know the beach was swimwear optional and about half the bathers, regardless of age, were au natural.

After a couple days of eye strain we headed for the island of Rügen where we had read and heard much about the east coasts white cliffs. We selected the Villa Aegir (Sassnitz, D-18546, Mittelstr. 5, tel. 38392/33002, fax 38392/33046). It overlooks the small harbor but has a rear/side view of some industrial buildings so the best view is definitely long range out to sea. Buffet breakfast and evening meal was good and room cost was 170 DM ($113) double B&B. This is a Ring Hotel and very well kept.

Our next destination, Berlin, has quickly become our favorite city in Europe. This is partly because we lived as Berliners for a week in the city's Schöneberg neighborhood where Dr. L. Schnitzer (Belziger Strasse 21, tel./fax 49-30/787-4772) has two modern, clean, quiet and comfortable apartments she rents for 100 DM ($67) per night (minimum one week), a real bargain for Berlin. The neighborhood offers an abundance of small ethnic restaurants as well as grocers, bakeries and other shops. The Eisenacher U-bahn station is a 3-5 minute walk making all Berlin easily accessible (another bargain is the 7-day pass for 40 DM/$27) per person). Each apartment has a fully equipped kitchen, full bath and a generous bedroom/sitting room. Dr. Schnitzer led us to the car rental office to return our car and took us back again when we left town. We will certainly reserve one of her apartments for our next visit to Berlin.

The museums, shopping, diversity and energy of Berlin is fantastic. We only partly covered the sights in the Michelin Green Guide for Germany so I can foresee several more visits to this exciting city.

In Bautzen we stayed at the Hotel Husarenhof (Kathe-Kolwitz Platz 1, tel. 3591/530205, fax 3591/530330) for 120 DM ($80) double B&B. This city has a dramatic setting and is a jewel in the rough. It is east of Dresden on the road toward Gorlitz.

Almost on the German-Czech-Polish border is the Zum Hochwald Blick (Kamrnstrasse 13, tel. 35844/7160, fax. 35844/71651) about 12 km south of Zittau in the village of Luckendorf. This hotel has fine views over the area and charges 130 DM ($87) for a double room B&B.

A return to Landhotel zu Heidelberg (Hauptstrasse 196, tel. 37362/83227 fax. 37362/7201) in the woodcraft village of Seiffen was not a disappointment. Very comfortable rooms in a year-old facility and excellent food make a shopping trip to Seiffen irresistible. The Familie Krallert have done a great job with this small hotel and are rapidly gaining new customers.

Back in Berlin to return a rental car we stayed at the Rheinsberg am See (Finsterwalder Strasse 64, tel. 30/4021002, fax 30/4035057) for a night. We selected this hotel from the Michelin Red Guide seeing it had both an outdoor and indoor pool. It turned out to be a be a spa-type hotel with sauna, hot-tub, fitness room and the pools. No clothing is worn in these facilities except for a towel when going from place to place. A private outdoor sunning area is also available. The hotel has a quiet setting on a lake in the city for only 199 DM ($133) double B&B. This is also a place we will return to as the breakfast buffet and evening meals were wonderful plus there is free parking.

Still one of Germany's best bargains is Gasthof Zum Schwan (Hartershofen 34, tel. 9861/33 87) in the village of Hartershofen off Highway B25 about 5 km north of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, then turn east at Steinsfeld for 1.5 km. The price this year was up a whole 2 DM to 80 DM ($53) double B&B but they have added a delightful breakfast buffet. The friendly Familie Schaumann works hard to be sure your stay is a pleasant one. We have been here many times. This year we and other American couples staying at the hotel agreed that its dinners are among Germany's very best for taste and price.

To visit Bad Wimpfen and the Neckar River valley we stayed at the Hotel Wilder Mann (Hauptstrasse 22, Tel. 6261/62091, fax 6261/7803) in the village of Obrigheim near the town of Mosbach. This modern hotel has a sauna and heated indoor pool. The comfortable rooms are decorated with painted furniture of the old German style. The owner is obviously fond of hunting and the hotel is like a museum of mounted hunting trophies from around the world.

For the third year in a row we chose the Hotel Waldesruh (Am Bessunger Forst 28-uber Waldstrasse, tel. 6151/14087, fax 6151/144396, doubles 130 DM/$87) in the Darmstadt suburb of Mühltal-Trautheim for our final night stop. The food here is excellent and a very generous breakfast buffet is offered. They have a small heated indoor pool for relaxation before the flight home and the Frankfurt airport can be reached in about 45 minutes. There is an Autobahn stop between Darmstadt and the airport if you have to fill the gas tank of a rental car.

My last bit of information may not be of interest unless one is a "car nut" as I have been most of my life. I will probably never own a Porsche 911 but it has been a fantasy of mine to drive the autobahn and some of Germany's twisting back roads in this dream machine. While in Berlin we decided to see if there would be the chance of renting perhaps a used Porsche for some future trip. An inquiry at the Porsche Zentrum dealership resulted in the discovery that Porsche had just (June 1, 1996) entered into an agreement with Avis to rent NEW 911s. Vehicles must be returned to the point of origin and two credit cards are required for a contract. The price is 249 DM ($166) per day or 1249 DM ($833) per week plus 69 DM ($46) per day insurance. The one month rate is 4990 DM ($3,327) including insurance. We quickly rearranged our itinerary and had a beautiful, new, black 911 Carrera for a week - WUNDERBAR ! ! I couldn't quite keep the kilometers to the free 1200 allowed but they apparently did not charge for the extra 130 kms. The silly grin on my face may be permanent! ! ! !

Sharon & Nelson Helm

Grand Island NE

(U.S. Dollar prices quoted in this issue of Gemütlichkeit may be inaccurate for these reasons:

* Prices in local currency have not been updated since the date of publication of this newsletter, and...

* The dollar prices shown were obtained by using exchange rates in effect at the time of publication.)

July 1996