Joined at the Typewriter

We assigned this month's lead story on the beautiful Baroque city of Würzburg to contributing editors Claudia Fischer and Roger Holliday, who spent several days there last month. We're in good hands. The duo has flawless credentials, both as travelers and journalists. Ms. Fischer, a crackerjack cook and former speech pathologist, started traveling to Europe in 1973 and has returned every year since—sometimes more than once. In 1993, for example, she'll trot out her well-worn passport for no less than four sojourns to faraway places. With Holliday, she co-authors their weekly column World of Travel in the Toledo Blade, and for ten years the pair has taught a popular travel class at Bowling Green University.

Britisher Holliday made his first visits to the continent in the mid-1950s with his father who is one England's best-known motorsports journalists. Holliday the elder has authored several books on motorcycle racing and is the retired editor of Motorcycling Magazine.

The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree and in 1960, young Roger hopped his motorscooter and batted his way from London to Stuttgart, mostly in a freezing rain. (The rented Opel Corsa Holliday reports on in this issue has slightly more power than his old scooter and does a much better job at keeping out the rain.) Later on he returned to Stuttgart to work for four years in public relations at the Porsche factory. After that he headed for the U. S. and found work with Owens-Corning Fiberglas overseeing the company's motor racing activities on such circuits as Daytona, Watkins Glen and Sebring. Then came a tour of duty at Owens-Corning's Brussels office. Holliday speaks fluent German and passable French.

Somewhere in this continent to continent frenzy Holliday and Fischer hooked up as a travel writing team. He needed someone who knew about food and she welcomed an interpreter.

You'll be hearing more from Claudia and Roger in the next few months because on this assignment for us they also covered Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Stuttgart.

Down on the Farm

For a couple of years I've been promising to report on "farm vacations." The idea sounds great: You send for the tourist office brochure and from it pick a likely looking farm at which to stay for a few days. All those listed are supposed to be genuine, operating farms, complete with animals, farm equipment and real live farmers. It's inexpensive, far from the tourist crowd and one expects the food to be hearty and plentiful. The big payoff, of course, is that the traveler will find the "real" Austria (or Germany, or Switzerland, or France, etc.).

We chose a farm in Kramsach, Austria, just off the autobahn about halfway between Kufstein and Innsbruck. We paid about $40 for room and breakfast. My mother's side of the family are all Nebraska farmers and as a youngster I spent a fair amount of time on farms and around farmers and farm animals. But after one day in Kramsach I became acutely aware of how much I had forgotten about life on the farm. I had forgotten, for example, how hard farmers, especially their wives, work. Poor Mrs. Kramsach Farmer had to help with the chores, raise several small children (I recollect five) and be concierge, upstairs maid, waitress, desk clerk, cashier and cook for some 20 guests. For all I know she had an egg route on the side. Nobody should have to work that hard. Through it all she was pleasant, though harried and obviously tired. She aged before our very eyes.

Two other aspects of farm living that my childhood memories had repressed were bugs and smells. It was very hot and humid in Kramsach, weather conditions which foster healthy, vigorous bugs and raise the odor of fresh, rich manure to a point beyond the threshold of pain. The smells I can handle, there is nothing like them to revive a memory. In fact, the sharp farm whiffs that one constantly encounters driving through the countryside in Germany, Austria and Switzerland take me instantly back 40 years to my Uncle Robert's feedlot in Syracuse, Nebraska or to my Uncle Victor's dairy barn in Bennington, Nebraska.

But bugs and flies are a different matter. Having no socially redeeming value, they fit the definition of pornography. At bedtime I left a window open and stupidly turned on my bedside light to read. I was deep into my book, lost to the world when soft, scurrying noises caught my attention. Completely covering about a nine square-foot section of the ceiling above my light were what had to have been hundred of thousands maybe millions of tiny green bugs. A few hundred of them buzzed around my light and a few dozen more landed on various exposed portions of my anatomy. For them it was mid-night snack time. All I could do was what I did: kill as many as possible and turn out the light.

We left early the next morning with a better awareness of our ability to tolerate real country living. Our advice to you is to understand yourself and what you're willing put up with. City folk should approach farm stays with caution.

Clearing the Desk

• Last month's issue was printed on white paper rather than our usual off-white. An unfortunate error for which we apologize.

• The Eurotunnel under the English Channel between Folkstone, England, and Calais, France, will open in December. You will drive your car onto a train called Le Shuttle which will depart every 15 minutes for the 35-minute trip. Prices have not been announced.

• Subscriber Mary Schwichtenberg of Lake San Marcos, California, writes that she enjoys Gemütlichkeit but asks us to indicate hotels and restaurants that are wheel chair accessible. I'm embarrassed that doing so simply never occurred to us and promise to note wheelchair accessible places in the future. However, since some data has already been collected, for the next few months not all our listings will carry this essential information. Thanks, Mrs. Schwichtenberg, for spurring us to do something we should have done years ago.

• Finally, a little luck. Good friends and subscribers Mick and Jane Cummins of San Rafael, California, report being upgraded by Sixt/Budget in Germany from an Audi 80 to a Mercedes 300 SC. Sixt/Budget didn't have a car with automatic transmission in the category the Cumminses had reserved. They term the Sixt/Budget people "wonderful." Who wouldn't? RHB

May 1993