Our surveys indicate most of you travel by car. Still, a substantial number of Gemütlichkeit readers are dedicated to train travel. That's one of the reasons you'll be seeing a lot more in Gemütlichkeit of Bruce Woelfel, author of this month's lead story on Hallstatt and the scenic Austrian train story.
A former city planner, Bruce shares a home in Aptos, California, and a boat on Monterey Bay with his wife, Sally. Before moving to Aptos, he was an associate professor of environmental studies at Sonoma State College near Santa Rosa, California, and Sally, a published author with a PhD. in 19th century English literature, taught at Stanford. These days Sally writes and Bruce, who likes nothing better than a good long train ride where he doesn't have to dodge 125 mph BMWs, is a travel writer, photographer and rail buff. When planning a trip, we auto travelers bury our heads in maps. Bruce gets immersed in train timetables. That, plus nearly 40 years of European rail travel, sometimes visiting Europe more than once a year, make him a veritable savant of the rails.
Bruce brings a different style of both writing and travel than previously seen in these pages. It's a refreshing change. We'll still have plenty of auto touring-related stories, but overall our coverage will be better balanced.
• Lucy Izon of the Los Angeles Times writes that in summer - July 1 to early September - Geneva offers a unique information service called "The Car." Geared to travelers on a tight budget, it operates out of a large yellow bus in the center of town at Rue Mont-Blanc, outside the shopping gallery under the main rail station. The Car's staff helps visitors locate inexpensive accommodations, restaurants, transportation and entertainment. For example, a woman traveler seeking a cheap hotel might be referred to Home St. Pierre, at 4 cour St. Pierre, where clean, shared-room accommodations are about $11 per night.
• The New York Times recently ran an informative piece by J. S. Marcus on the new café culture that has sprung up in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg district (formerly in East Berlin).
Pasternak. Russian café on Knaackstrasse. From noon to 4 p.m. breakfast is served as well as salads, Russian appetizers such as pirogi and hard-boiled eggs with salmon caviar, and Russian cakes. In the evening there is an excellent menu that includes borscht, beef stroganoff, pelmeni (like pirogi) and blinis. Food is served to 11 p.m., after which the place turns into a bar until 2 a.m. Live Russian music on Tuesday nights. Visitors from 20 to 60 will feel comfortable. Pasternak, 22-24 Knaackstrasse, phone 441-3399, breakfast $6 to $9, dinner entrées $9 to $15. Underground station: Seenefelder Platz.
Anita Wronski. Attracts a younger, more fashionable crowd than Pasternak. Café during day but restaurant and bar at night. Dinner is served from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Among the menu offerings are good vegetarian dishes like whole wheat Pfannkuchen with fresh spinach and goat's cheese. Breakfast buffet on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Anita Wronski, 24-26 Knaackstrasse, phone 609-7589, breakfast $5 to $7, dinner entrées $6 to $8. Underground station: Seenefelder Platz.
Café November. Run by young East Germans and popular for excellent Italian coffee, imaginative food and unusual atmosphere created, in part, by the café's unique wax lamps made out of disarmed Soviet mortar shells and using halogen bulbs. Their effect, according to Marcus, is "fantastical - like candles turned inside out and then upside down." Food served until 1 a.m. Café November, 15 Husemannstrasse, phone 442-8425, breakfast $8, dinner $7 to $9. Underground station: Eberswaldstrasse.
Café Eckstein. Features small menu of omelets, baguettes and cakes with dishes like schnitzel ($8) in the evening. The Eckstein's front is seven 14-feet-tall windows and its interior mostly varnished pine. Serves four beers on tap. Food until midnight. Outdoor tables in warm weather where customers sometimes sit until 4 or 5 in the morning. Café Eckstein, 73 Pappelallee, no phone, entrées $4 to $8.
Weinstein. This wine bar's decor is dominated by several 25-liter distiller's bottles of fruit brandy and by a collection of 200 and 300-year old, delicately colored schnapps bottles. Wine sold is mostly from small, private vineyards and from less well-known regions like Southern Moravia in the Czech Republic, considered among the finest vineyards of the old Hapsburg Empire, and the Tokay region of Slovakia, which, in Soviet bloc days, was required to be sent to Hungary and sold as Hungarian Tokay. A quarter liter of Southern Moravian Grüner Veltliner is $2.50. Light appetizers served at night, including Topinsky, a strong Czech garlic toast. Weinstein, 33 Lychener Strasse, phone 441-1842. Open daily from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., appetizers ($4 to $6) served after 7 p.m.
Elsewhere in the Times, Paula Butturini reviews Berlin's hotels including:
Luisenhof. A "small, quietly elegant hotel recently refurbished from attic to cellar." In the heart of old East Berlin, it was once a training academy for the Communist Party. Double rooms are $130 to $185. The Märkisches Museum underground stop is a two-minute walk away and the ride to the Kurfürstendamm, the wests major shopping street, is 18 minutes. Two stops in the opposite direction is the east's main square, Alexanderplatz. The restaurant serves "sturdy German fare" and Ms. Butturini paid $14 for a fillet of beef. Luisenhof, 92 Köpenicker Strasse, phone 270-0543, fax 279-2983.
Hotel Ahorn. Just off the Ku-damm. Doubles are $120. Ms Butturini says rooms are simply furnished, the halls are narrow but the atmosphere is cheery. Hotel Ahorn, 40 Schülterstrasse, phone 881-4344, fax 881-6500.
Curator Hotel. One block from the Kurfürstendamm and not quite five years old. The hotel is quiet and attractive, rooms are cheerful, if somewhat nondescript, with broad, tall windows. Doubles are $170 to $185 with breakfast. On weekends the price drops to about $100. Curator Hotel, 41-43 Grolmanstrasse, phone 884-260, fax 884-26-500.
The Uncle John Report
(The following is from John K. Bestor, a Kansas City, Missouri, attorney, who was a U.S. Army artillery Captain in Germany during and after World War II. Since the early 1970s he has returned to Europe each year, spending much of his time in Germany. He is as knowledgeable about auto touring in Europe as anyone I know. RHB)
The most interesting 'first visit' city on this trip was Weimar, in the former East Germany. By all means it should be the subject of an article in Gemütlichkeit. There will be much additional reconstruction over the next few years as the city prepares for 1999, a year in which Weimar has been designated "Cultural Capital of Europe." Construction activity is already much in evidence and in the city center are a number of pedestrian-only streets whose buildings have new fronts.
Weimar has some extraordinary treasures for those with an interest in history and culture. It was here that the Weimar Republic was born after World War I. Goethe lived and worked in Weimar, and was joined here for some years by Schiller. On the music side, Bach and later Liszt spent some years in Weimar. The houses of Goethe, Schiller and Liszt are very interesting visits. I am not certain of this, but I believe it was in Weimar that Schiller wrote An Der Freude which we know as the Ode To Joy. The complete text as sung in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is an exhibit in the Schiller Museum.
Our hotel on the market place, the Flamber-Hotel Elephant, (Markt 19, D-99423 Weimar, phone 03643/61471, fax 03643/65310) was a completely new building finished in 1993 by a west German hotel company, but with an architectural style in harmony with other much older buildings on the square. The hotel company is also erecting two new buildings adjacent to the hotel. One, I believe is to be an office building and the other something like a convention center.
Much needs to be done in Weimar, but we had the clear impression that a small-size Vienna was developing.
P. S. According to the May issue of Schau Ins Land, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Russian President Boris Yeltsin will attend an August 31 ceremony in Weimar in observance of the departure of the last contingent of Russian soldiers from Germany. One week later, in another ceremony, they will recognize the departure of all allied troops (American, English and French) from Berlin.
In that same issue, Schau Ins Land noted that Weimar is just 10 kilometers from Buchenwald where "Nazis murdered some 50,000 people and where the Soviet secret service dispatched another 6,000 after the war." However, having seen a small concentration camp with a pile of dead bodies within a couple of day of V-E Day, and then years later Dachau, I was not inclined to spend the time to go to Buchenwald during our recent visit to Weimar.
(Ed. Note: Schau Ins Land is published 11 times a year for advanced students of the German language. Subscribers receive specially produced audio tapes and an accompanying transcript. Subject matter usually centers on travel, history, current events and popular German culture such as music and literature. Subscriptions are $118 for one year or $69 for five issues. Contact: Schau Ins Land, P. O. Box 158067, Nashville TN 37215-8067, phone 800-824-0829, fax 615-297-3138.)