Hello from Hochenheim!

April 10, 2009 15:33 – 15:33

We’re in Hochenheim, Germany tonight. We picked up the rental car at 10 this morning, then drove straight to Germany. End of story.

If it were only that simple.

For starters, I couldn’t find my international driver’s license this morning. I don’t need it for most of western Europe, but I’m told that I will need it for the Czech Republic. After an exhaustive search, we concluded that it was left at home. Karen then proceeded to call and cancel our reservations in Prague—since they wouldn’t be of any use to us if we could not enter the country.

About two thirds of the way through trying to cancel the reservation, however, Karen found my license—right where I thought it was, but in an envelope we thought we’d left at home. Karen was told that we were past the deadline for canceling—but that wasn’t really true, although they certainly proceeded as if it were true. At the moment, however, things are a bit up in the air, and Karen’s trying to verify that our reservation still stands. This just in… our reservation is still good. So, hopefully, we’re all set for Prague.

Meanwhile, it was 9:35 and the cab we ordered for 9:30 was outside waiting. When you order a cab in Paris, they turn the meter on the moment the cab starts for wherever you are. So, when we got down to the cab at 9:45, it already said about 20€. By the time we got to the EuropCar office—at Place Charles de Gaulle-Etoile—it was 40€—something north of $50.

We’re in line for our car at 10:02, but the Americans in front of us (who already had their car) took forever. By 10:15, however, we had the papers for our car, and were told that it would show up in front of the office momentarily.

Momentarily apparently means 35 minutes. It finally materialized at about 10 til 11. Only… it was much much smaller than what I had reserved. Ultimately, we took it, but the trunk holds only two pieces of luggage, not the “4 or 5” advertised. It then took until almost 11:30 to get everything squared away.

Only, everything wasn’t squared away. It turns out that there’s a problem with the antilock brakes, and the yellow warning light stays on all the time. I did not realize there was a problem, however, until over an hour later, as we were stuck in traffic on the Péripherique—the Paris Beltway. We ultimately decided to live with the problem and hope that it doesn’t rain or snow (little danger of the latter… it was 78 today). But, I don’t have ABS on the car I normally drive at home, so it’s probably not a big deal. Moreover, since only certain cars can be taken into eastern Europe, I didn’t want to risk trading for one that can’t go there. So, we’ll hold off letting them know about the warning light until after we leave the Czech Republic… if then.

The car is a small Audi whose manual is in Spanish. That’s right. We rented a German car in France, and its manual is in Spanish. The car’s electronic equipment and warning messages are all in Spanish, too.

In any case, we finally escaped the gravitational pull of Paris by around 1 pm. We stopped at a rest stop and shared a ham and Swiss on baguette. The baguette had seen better days. But, it was sustenance. About two hours later, we detoured to a Monoprix to look for ice and an ice chest. We found the Monoprix, but it was an urban one with exceedingly ambiguous parking. So, we stopped at a regular grocery store instead, in Verdun. Verdun is a cute little village, apparently the scene of some pretty nasty battles during the last century. We bought some fruit, and then got back onto the road.

When traveling in Spain, we’ve found inexpensive ice chests and ice. In France, we’ve never found either. We haven’t looked in Germany, yet, but might tomorrow. They’re not really 100% essential, except that I like English-style tea. And cream without refrigeration is not good. Maybe I’ll see if I can tolerate the powdered stuff sometime.

Fruit in hand, we bundled back into our tiny Audi and hit the road again. We got into Germany at about 6 pm local time, and to the Achat Hotel in Hochenheim at about 6:30 (1830h). As we checked in, we asked the desk frauline about restaurants, and she recommended the Brauhaus. It’s a local brew-house that makes its own delicious beer. We each had half a liter of the amber, and shared and appetizer of mixed sausages (cold) and green salad (which was very good). For main courses, we’d independently decided on the wiener schnitzel “Hunter” style. It came with a dark gravy and mushrooms. It wasn’t the best veal dish I’ve ever had, but it was good… and it was cheap. That huge dinner came to about 33€—about a third of a much less substantial feed at the L’Ourcine in Paris.

After dinner, we strolled around the church next to the Brauhaus. It was begun in 1905 and finished in 1907. It’s in a sort of nouveau-eastern-orthodox style. But, instead of being Catholic, which was my guess, it is evangelical. Go figure. Here are a couple of pictures I snapped before dinner (it was getting dark).

Unlike what was specified in the hotels.com listing for this hotel, there is no free internet in the rooms. So, we “bought” two hours of overpriced access time apiece. To conserve, I’m composing this offline, and will not do much chatting tonight. I am going to log on shortly, however, to post this blog.

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