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Published: Friday, 3/27/2009

Travelers find bargains off the beaten path in Germany

BY DOUG OSTER
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

MAINTAL-HOCHSTADT, Germany Don t let an economic downturn stop you from traveling. By renting houses, shopping around for deals, and staying just outside the big cities, travelers can explore the world on a budget.

And staying outside urban centers will connect you with the local people and their culture.

Our family saves money by renting houses both domestically and abroad. There are five of us; the kids are grown, so that would entail two hotel rooms otherwise.

We rented a house in Germany last September, perched on the side of a mountain, for 40 euros (between $50-$60) a day. It was breathtaking, with easy walks to town, and an arduous journey back up to the rental.

Our first rental in Germany was in the hamlet of Maintal-Hochstadt, about a half-hour east of Frankfurt. We were there only four days, but it was a great place to get our bearings and learn about the locals.

We met our landlord, Michael Schoenemann, who explained that we shared the house with a couple who lived downstairs. Daniel Guggenheim is part of his family and an accomplished jazz saxophonist; his wife, Ute, is an artist. The house was filled with her wonderful paintings, and occasionally the sound of his captivating music would drift upstairs.

After arriving we sat on the balcony overlooking their charming little garden. They encouraged us to pick all we could eat.

We were able to walk to the market for groceries, and there was a wonderful German bakery right around the corner. To save money, we ate most meals in.

Our landlord recommended the Eppelwei-Schanke restaurant, which became our favorite. Connie, our waitress, spoke English well.

The restaurant served its own beer, Hochstadter Landbier, which was the best we tasted in Germany.

I asked her to give me a plate of a popular local dish. Halfway through the meal she asked if I wanted to know what I was eating. With a smile she said blood sausage, pig stomach, and schnitzel. My daughter seemed repulsed, but I couldn t get enough.

Hochstadt offers a scenic view of Frankfurt by hiking a mile or two on a paved hiking trail through the farms on the outskirts of town. Farmers picked apples, and the farm fields were open to hikers. Two beautiful white horses illuminated by the setting sun walked over to see us.

Partly because of the well-designed autobahn, traveling by car in Germany was a breeze. We rented a diesel Chevy, and it was so efficient I wondered if the gas gauge was working. Diesel fuel is cheap in Germany, and we drove around much of the country on just a few tanks.

We used the car to visit Hornberg in the Black Forest, where we found an inexpensive mountain rental home.

I learned after booking the house that this quaint town has Europe s largest toilet. The front of the Duravit Design Center sports a giant commode as an observation platform. It was a thrill to stand in the bowl for pictures.

This town also was filled with great local restaurants and shops. To save money, we shopped at the local grocery and did lots of hiking. Although English is much less common in these small towns, the Germans are very helpful and understanding. We communicated a lot through sign language.

Don t give up on traveling because of a slow economy; just figure out how to do it smarter and a little cheaper.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Doug Oster is a writer for the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: doster@post-gazette.com

For more information about the rental house in Maintal-Hochstadt, log onto www.fewo-frankfurt.de, and schwarzwalderlebnis.de will take you to the site of the house in Hornberg.



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