Maximilianstaße, Augsburg

So, Augsburg was founded by Emperor Augustus. It was where the name came from! I chirped to mum while I googled about the statue in Rathausplatz.

From our bench, we could see people sitting on the rims of the fountain and enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. We wondered how scorching hot the square could be when the sun was high during the summer.

It will be very very hot…

The cloud above the square was remnants of the rain we experienced earlier that day.

While we were driving from Rothenburg to the city, we were met with a torrential downpour on A7. The beating of the rain drops was so ferocious that my dusty VW looked like if it went through a car wash once the rain was over. I must say that it was rather a hairy drive because the spray of the water produced by the lorries’ wheels blinded us momentarily every time we passed by them. When the downpour came down its hardest, the only thing we could see through the window screen was tail lamps of the cars in front of us in the shape of very blurry red dots.

‘Shall we get some fruits at a supermarket?’ We walked down Maximilianstraße. The thoroughfare looked like a major high street of Augsburg and both sides of it were lined with large stores.

Let’s try here, we spotted a supermarket. Mum was very curious about German groceries, especially tinned vegetables. In Japan, the people used much less tinned foods for everyday cooking, therefore, she was fascinated by the wide variety of them lining the shelves in Germany. After inspecting every single aisle, mum’s curiosity was satisfied and we left the shop with a box of strawberries, a few flat peaches and a bag of dried apple slices.

Then, I spotted a pharmacy. ‘Can I check if they stock the sunscreen I am after?’

I had been looking for a particular sunscreen by La Roche-Posay, called UVIDEA XL Ultra-light Mist SPF50. I asked about it at every chemist in France but couldn’t find it. And I was wondering if I had any luck in Germany. The pharmacy was large and did stock La Roche-Posay. However, they didn’t have the specific one I was looking for and I had to leave empty-handed. Oh, c’estla vie!

We continued our stroll down Maximilianstraße and arrived at a junction with Moritzplatz…

A multiple tramway tracks merged and forked at the junction…

Drum roll, please! We will ride a tram in my next blog entry (at last)…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Following tramway @ Augsburg

After dumping our luggage in our room, we left the hotel to explore Augsburg. ‘How are we gonna get to the city centre?’ By taxi? By bus? We hadn’t seen any of them so far. It would have been mightily handy if we could hail a London black cab right now, we lamented…

Then, we saw tramway tracks on Frauentor straße. ‘Mum, there are trams!’

And here it came…

 

Maybe we can go to the city centre by tram!

We saw a tram stop ahead and passengers getting on. How can we get on it like them? Where can we buy tickets? Apart from a shelter and a map of the tram system, there was no ticketing machine…

And there was nobody around to answer our questions.

We learnt by then that most of  the middle-aged Germans we met on the road weren’t keen on speaking English unless they were working in tourist-friendly environments such as hotels or souvenir shops. On the contrary, most of the young Germans (like 20s to 30s), they spoke fluently and was very helpful. ‘Let’s ask her!’ We spotted a young German woman, who looked like a university student, walking towards us.

”Sprechen sie Englisch, bitte?’

She answered yes and told us where to find a ticketing machine. ‘There is a machine on Karolinenstraße.’ Oh, danke!

Even though I was worried about mum’s knee, there was no option except going on foot. We saw the trams going by but could not get on. How frustrating!

Then, we found it. Yay!

We bought a carnet of eleven tickets. Even though we wouldn’t need that many tickets but it would save us from the hassle of having to buy a ticket for each journey, I thought.

Then, we continued on Karolinenstraße and arrived at Rathausplatz…

The square which spread in front of the town hall was vast.

One thing really struck me was that the place was devoid of streetscape paraphernalia, such as raised pedestrian walkways, road markings, street plantation and street lamps which I would normally expect at any similar place in the U.K. Apart from the benches which were placed along the outer rim of the square and a fountain with a statue of Augustus on top , there was nothing to shield our view from the bench we sat for a break.

Even the trams, they had no platform to arrive to except a simple signpost. And their tracks were seamlessly embedded into the road surface…

People seemed to be not too concerned about coming and going of the trams…

 

 

Pedestrians, cyclists, cars and trams all existed in harmony…

Why can our London do the same? Let’s have a tram system in Central London like German cities, limit the transports using fossil fuel and let us breathe cleaner air!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Lost in translation @ Augsburg

Ok, Augsburg did defy our expectation. We were vaguely imagining the place to be crammed with medieval buildings, cobbled streets, gothic churches and so on. Instead, we found the city kind of modern and rather ordinary.

Sure, we shouldn’t have expected every town and city on Romantic Road to be “picture on a biscuit box” perfect, all pretty and picturesque. However, our first impression of the city was…, grey!

A distance between Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Augsburg, was about 186km (116mls) and Google map suggested the journey would take 1 hour 44 minutes. Don’t you agree that satnav always underestimates journey time? In fact, the route using A7 and A8 and then to the city centre using R2 took us almost 4 hours!

When we arrived at our hotel in Augsburg, it was almost 3:30 pm. Bizarrely, I was met by no one at the reception except a workman with a paint brush gesturing me to call a number on the wall, ‘Chef! Chef!’ You mean am I to call your boss??? I picked up the phone and dialled the number. A man’s voice answered and I explained that we were hotel guests and wanted to check in. The man on the line assured me that we would be with us shortly and also show me where to park our car. Sure enough, a middle-aged man arrived after 5 minutes and introduced himself as Albert. He owned the hotel and a beer garden nearby. He explained that he was away from the reception because the beer garden needed his attention before opening that evening.

The room we were to stay over night wasn’t that great. It was clean and the bathroom seemed to be redecorated recently, however, the bed was a bit saggy and the closet was full of tired-looking wire laundry hangers (the one you get from a dry-cleaner!) and shop hangers instead of proper wooden ones you would normally expect in hotel closets. Oh dear…

‘I don’t like English breakfast!’ I thought that was what Albert said when I went to the reception the second time for a password for their Wi-Fi. I was like ‘??? You don’t like English breakfast??’ First of all, I hadn’t come across anyone ever who didn’t like English-style fry up. And why is he telling me this? Is it because I live in London?? It was Albert’s turn to be startled, ‘Oh, I like English breakfast. I used to live in Britain!’

Then, it dawned on me. ‘Do you mean “Brexit”?’ ‘Yes, Brexit!’ His English with a heavy German accent made “Brexit” sounded like “breakfast”. Hahaha.

I told him that I was as gutted as him about the UK leaving Europe. We both agreed Brexit and Donald Trump were complete disasters…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Xmas shopping in June

Apart from their immaculately restored mediaeval townscape, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is famous for Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Village. This all-year Christmas store has two shops on Harrngrasse, off Marktplaz.

‘I think I’m gonna find some gifts for my close friends at Käthe Wohlfahrt.’, mum told me as we had our German breakfast.

By the way, we loved German-style breakfast – a buffet style breakfast consisted of various breads, cheeses, cold meats, jams, cereals, juice, yoghurt, salad and fruits – very much! I also introduced mum to blue cheese during a breakfast buffet at Strasbourg as the cheese was packed with gut-friendly bacteria. At first, she was not very keen on “cheese with mould”. However, she grew to like it by the end of our road trip. Our favourite way of eating the cheese was to have it with a thinly sliced German-style rye bread. They were delish!

After breakfast, we checked out of our room at 9:30. I asked at the reception if we could continue to park our car in their car park while we were sightseeing because we couldn’t see much of the town the previous day due to our late arrival. The receptionist replied, ‘Of course! You can park all day if you want.’ How nice! We liked the town even more.

The sunshine was beating the streets already. I had got a feeling that it was going to be another sizzling day…

Rothenburg was full of gift shops!

Mum loved a linen shop which was laden with house accessories such as cushions, pillow cases, tea towels, handkerchieves, Christmas ornaments, etc. All of them were beautifully hand embroidered and some of them were heavenly scented with locally produced lavender. ‘How do I look?’ Mum picked up one of the hand embroidered t-shirts and asked my opinion. She didn’t expect the weather to be this hot, therefore, she needed a few new tops. The t-shirt was made with organic cotton and looked very flattering on her. ‘Yeah mum, it’s a definite buy!’ So she bought it.

Marktplaz was filling up with tourists…

There was a fountain which we overlooked the previous day…

Mum with a cute company car of Käthe Wohlfahrt which reminded me of a Harrod’s delivery van…

Mum with their all year around Christmas tree…

No photography was allowed beyond this point, therefore, I have no image of this Aladdin’s Cave for Christmas lovers. Describing it in one word, the store was HUGE. Every available space, such as walls and shelves and even some floors were utilised to display everything “Christmas”. Despite it was in the middle of June and nearly 28°C outside, being on the comfortably air-conditioned shop floor with never ending Christmas tune ringing in our ears, we felt like the festive season was just around the corner, not six months away!

Mum pondered for a long time what to buy for her friends. ‘No chocolate because they’re gonna melt. No tree ornament because they’re too fragile and bulky…’ Oh, she was in trouble. Then, we came to a department selling advent calendars. ‘How about them?’ I suggested mum to get those fun calendars for her friends. Since advent calendars were a part of the German Christmas traditions, they would be most appropriate and space-saving souvenirs! She agreed and we picked altogether 15 sheets, including one for herself.

When we left the shop, it was nearly eleven and the sun was high…

Before leaving the town, mum wanted to visit the shop we came across last evening…

There were many small wooden toys and ornaments in their show windows. ‘Shall we go in?’

We found a woman at the till / worktop busy assembling one of her Christmas table ornaments. She explained that all the items in her shop were made by her and her husband. Mum and I agreed that we wanted a souvenir for ourselves which was truly “Made in Germany” since Rothenburg used to be a town well-known for their craftmen and artisans. We chose a Christmas table ornament with a Santa Claus, a reindeer and a tree arranged on a small rectangular dais. ‘This will remind me about the fun we had together.’ Mum smiled.

Now, we must get back to the car and head to our next destination!

Eww, I’ve got a feeling that our car will be scorching hot by now. How am I gonna touch the steering wheel with my naked hands…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Snowball in June

No, it was not a real snowball but a pastry named as Schneeball (snowball), which was the most famous sweet in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. And I forgot to taste it!

I blame the heat wave, which was upon us throughout our road trip, for making me to miss out on this local delicacy. It was simply too hot to have any appetite for a fist-size fat-fried donut with sugar. Instead, I craved for ice cream (and beer).

Awww, Scheebälle! I want you now…

Are they like Krispy Kreme?

The history of these pastries is very long – they have been known to exist for at least 300 years. They were meant to be served on special occasions such as weddings, however, they became famed local delicacies and started to be available throughout the year.

The main ingredients are flour, eggs, sugar, butter, cream and plum schnapps. In order to form a distinctive shape of Schneeball, the dough is first rolled out and cut into even strips with a special rake-like cutter. The dough is cut as such that the top and bottom are left intact. Then, partially cut dough is loosely assembled and placed in a “Scheeballeneisen” – metal tongs with hollowed globes on the both ends. Finally, the scheeballeneisen with the dough inside is inserted into a deep-fryer, and voila, a golden brown Schneeball is born! Obviously, it has to resemble the real thing, therefore, it is dusted with confectioner’s sugar while warm.

Nowadays, Schneeball comes in many varieties of flavour, such as dark chocolate, white chocolate, mocha, almond, marzipan, vanilla, etc.

When mum and I were peering into a show window of Cafe Walter Friedel, a man standing nearby turned and asked if we were Japanese.

‘They are Schneebälle, did you know?’ He smiled. He was a Japanese tourist and visiting the town which was a part of the package holiday. ‘We came by a tour bus. How did you two get here?’

He was very much surprised when I told him that I drove from London. His eyes twinkled with excitement. ‘Oh wow! Really? I’d love to drive on a world famous autobahn too!’, he gushed. Apparently, he loved fast cars and driving a car in general. He confided to us that a driving holiday in Europe, especially hiring a BMW in Germany and driving it on autobahn, was his lifelong dream.

Our conversation returned to the Schneebälle in the window, and we asked him if he tried them already. He replied yes and told us what he thought about them.

‘They were very sweet and rather greasy.’

Oh, I see. Mum and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing. Are they going to be as anticlimactic as Kendel Mint Cake or Grasmere Gingerbread?

Anyway, the man and we parted shortly afterward, wishing each other a safe journey home.

Next day, we did have a chance to explore the town, but we completely forgot about the pastries because our attention was all focused on the Rothenburg’s famed Christmas shops.

As I write this post, I have come across a German confectionary shop Walter Friedel, and they are happy to ship their Schneeball to anywhere in the world as long as the order is more than €18.00! I am going to ask Hubbie if he wants to try them. So watch this space…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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