On day three, we decided to drive to the Czech border. My son-in-law first took us on post to gas up their Jeep. It’s cheaper for them to fill up on post and pay American prices of dollars per gallon than the more inflated (if you can believe that!) Euros per liter they’d have to pay on the German economy.
To get on post, our names had to be on a list. My son-in-law had to show his military ID. My daughter had to show her spouse ID, and we had to show our passports. The gate is patrolled by private German security officers and military MP’s. It’s nice knowing such security measures are in place to protect our soldiers living on foreign soil.
|The tower at Grafenwoehr
Grafenwoehr is a beautiful town known for it’s American military installations and training areas. It’s also the post where Elvis was briefly stationed during the Korean War. And during WWII, Hitler used to watch his troops from the tower at Graf.
After fueling up, we headed to The Czech Republic.
I’ve heard Prague in The Czech Republic is beautiful. My daughter has been twice and loves it. The Saint Charles Bridge with it’s statues of the saints is reportedly amazing, as are the restaurants and unique shops. But we didn’t have time to make the 4 hour drive to Prague, as we were scheduled to catch a bus from Graf to Amsterdam at 9:00 that night. So, my daughter and her husband decided to take us to Pilsen, Czech, just across the German border and only an hour and a half drive.
My husband and I wanted to see as much of the world as possible. And my daughter tried to accomodate us. She even had brochures from Pilsen, advertising brewery tours and great restaurants. But, the trip to Czech came with a warning. Americans and/or anyone with foreign tags should only park in a secure parking garage or gated hotel parking lot. Czech has a high rate of automobile thefts and car-stripping and as a soldier, my son-in-law did not want to take the chance of getting stranded in another country. But the Pilsen brochure said there was a parking garage near the brewery. So, off to Czech we went.
As we drove away from Germany, the landscape became more flat and the mountains gave way to low, rolling hills. Then, just across the Czech border, we stopped at a truck stop to use the restroom and buy some water.
The bathroom at the Czech truck stop was free, as opposed to the German rest areas and truck stops. On the autobahn in Germany, it costs about .50 Euro cents to use the restrooms, but you get a .50 Euro cent voucher to use toward any purchase inside the store. But the bathrooms are immaculate! When you flush, an arm comes down, sprays disinfectant, the toilet seat rotates 360 degrees , and a sponge inside the arm cleans the seats. Color me impressed. It was worth paying to pee!
In Czech, there were no fancy toilets and the bathrooms weren’t all that clean. Kind of like in American truck stops. But what really got me was when we left the truck stop and drove by the underpass. Parked just beneath the bridge was a Sprinter van with two prostitutes on either side. Even before we looped around to get back on the autobahn, both ladies had customers. And one of them was pregnant!
Call me naive, but that’s the first time I’d ever seen anything like it. I still find it disturbing. And once we got into Pilsen, the strange didn’t stop. There were quite a few strange stores, including one that sold fire-fighting supplies. Whether one had to be a firefighter or not was unclear, but I found it odd.
There were also random shacks sprouting up in various locations around the railroad tracks.
And the buildings downtown were painted loud, unmatching colors.
There were new and old buildings, just like in Germany, but in Czech, the beautiful old architecture was blighted by giant billboards plastered on the sides of those glorious old buildings. And to top it off, we couldn’t park because the only secure garage was closed for construction and the hotel parking areas were for guests only. So, the only time I got out of the car while in The Czech Republic was to use the restroom at the truck stop. Pilsen is by no means Prague. Next time, it’s Prague or I’ll skip the trip to Czech altogether.
But, the day wasn’t a total loss. After our misguided adventures across the Czech border, we went back to my daughter’s house, changed clothes, grabbed their two dogs, and drove about four miles or so to Roucher Klum, the small mountain visible from the upstairs window of my daughter’s house.
We parked at the bottom of the mountain in a parking area outside a small rest area/snack bar. Then we followed the long winding trail up the mountain.
I love the trees in Germany. I don’t know what kind of pines they are, but they’re tall, majestic, and beautiful.
And the mountains near Eschenbach are basalt and part of an ancient stream of lava rock.
About mid way up the mountain, was the remains of an ancient fortress.
|deep gully near the old fortress.
Views along the trail were spectacularly beautiful.
Toward the top, the trail became rocky and more difficult to navigate.
Until we reached the tower.
|My son in law’s camera has an awesome zoom.
Climbing to the top of the tower was like climbing to the top of a lighthouse. The view was breathtaking from every direction, and I felt humbled by the vast expanse of beauty God created for our pleasure.
Going down the mountain was a bit trickier. We took a narrow, rocky path.
|We spotted a lizard along the trail.
And along a narrow ledge, I met a local woman going up. I don’t speak German, but I’d been getting my daughter to teach me a few words and phrases in German. Things like please (bitte) and thank you (dankeschön.) I’d also asked my daughter how to say excuse me. The German word is entschuldigen, which translates apology or apologize. My daughter taught me to pronounce it as “en-choot-ee-gun.” I remembered the pronunciation because it sounded sort of like, “I shoot a gun.”
So, as I passed the German woman on the narrow trail, I tried to say excuse me in German. But when the words left my mouth, they came out the way I taught myself to remember them. I opened my mouth and said, “I shoot a gun.”
the German woman understood English a lot better than I speak German. Her eyes bulged and her jaw dropped. Then she moved quickly away as if she feared I’d push her over the edge.
After I got over the initial shock of my own stupidity, I couldn’t stop laughing. I thought my daughter and son-in-law would roll down the mountain laughing at me.
It wasn’t my finest moment, but at least I got some great pictures!