It Was a Very Good Year?

For the past dozen or so years—almost as long as this newsletter has been published, in fact—our Ohio-based contributors, Claudia Fischer and Roger Holliday have been scouring Gemütlichkeit territory for stories. Their reports have come from cities as diverse as Ljubljana and Lübeck, Salzburg and Stuttgart, Vienna, Tübingen, Prague, Dresden, Heidelberg, Weimar and Würzburg. In the late 80s, they graphically described the travails of cold war tourism in Eastern Europe.

They've hiked for us in the Swiss and Austrian Alps; driven us through Bavaria and Baden Würtemburg; searched for roots in Bremerhaven; and never given up on their attempt to turn us all into railroad buffs and one-bag packers.

Along with several million other revelers, they were at the Brandenburg Gate for the momentous fall-of-the-wall celebration on December 31, 1989.

1999, however, was to have been their "Annus Mirabilis". Their shining year.

For after leading tours to London, Florence, Rome and Australia...all over—they were to finally came back to the Gemütlichkeit fold with a story about a cruise up the Rhine.

That cruise was followed immediately with two personal millennium challenges: Claudia went off to a two-week intensive Italian language course in Arezzo near Florence; and Roger, the native Londoner, started and finished an 18-day, 180-mile solo walk along the recently completed Thames River Trail.

Missions accomplished, they returned home in late October only to discover their Ohio home had been reduced to a virtual shell of smoke and soot. They were thus forced to spend the last two months of 1999 closeted in a motel with only their loud-snoring black lab, 'Scrumpy', for company.

They wanted us to pass this on to you in case their Rhine report should sound a bit curmudgeonly. If so, they hope you will take their 'Annus Horibilis' into consideration.

When to Buy Air Tix

"In order to get the lowest price, when should I buy airline tickets for my summer trip to Europe?," is an oft-heard reader question. When is always the tricky part. Wait too long and the prices get high. Buy too early and you may find you could have gotten a better price by waiting for a spring fare sale.

Right now, in late January, our airline sources are reporting strong bookings for travel to Europe, thus reducing the likelihood of spring sales. There will, of course, be excellent fares through March 31, and possibly some good deals for travel through May, but for the high season—June through September—it's probably prudent to find the best price you can right now. Since Gemütlichkeit subscribers are eligible for reduced fares on Swissair flights across the Atlantic to most major European cities, that is a good place to begin your search.

Web Site of the Month

If European auto travel is in your future, there's an absolutely essential free Internet service now available at bing.com/maps.

Many readers have probably already used free online interactive mapping services where the user types in a trips starting point and destination and in a few seconds the computer screen displays a rough route map, step-by-step driving directions, trip mileage and estimated driving time. Recently friends driving from Alameda, CA, to visit us here in Ashland used such a service to plot their trip. When they arrived, the elapsed mileage (375) on their car's odometer was within a half mile of the computer-generated maps estimate. Quite amazing.

Now Mapblast is the first to extend its online mapping capabilities to 12 European countries - including Germany, Austria, Switzerland.

Since I was at the time working on this month's Murten story when I heard of this new service, I first asked Mapblast for directions from Murten to Grandson, the site of the battle that preceded the Murten siege (see page 4). No problem. In short order I had a readable map, an estimated driving time of 63 minutes in a distance of 54.22 kilometers, and 32-step directions (Step 1 - Begin at Murten on Ryf and go Northeast for about 500 m [elapsed distance: 0.6 km]; Step 2 - Turn right on Raffor and go Southeast for about 100 m [elapsed distance: 0.7 km]; Step 3 - Bear right on Bernstrasse and go Northeast for about 500 m [elapsed distance: 1.2 km]; and so on).

Unfortunately, neither the map nor the text of directions mentions the names of towns along the route.

Mapblast won't yet replace detailed road maps such as Michelin, Mairs or ADAC, but what a great trip planning tool. Just the ability to locate small towns and to quickly determine approximate driving times and distances between towns is fantastic. RHB

January 2000