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Just returned from our Bavarian holiday

Returning home is always good, however we will savor our experiences in the Bavarian Alp country. Fussen was a particular highlight, with tremendous accomodations, (hotel Hirsch), and sunny days to explore the charming city. And of course the castles... Salzburg was generally un crowded with the Christmas markets just ramping up many locals out and about. Dinner at the castle, with a view of Salzburg at dusk was outstanding! Our time is Schliersee was good, however aside from many hiking opportunities, not much to do... The Christmas markets in Munich were nice as well. I did want to ask for anyone who may know, a couple of questions. 1) We observed children on the trains at all hours of the day. Does anyone know how school hours are structured? 2) Beside the rail line at each station there were several little houses of garden sheds with a small plot of land. What are these? 3) Why the lack of ice in drinks?

Posted by
485 posts

I can comment about the little gardens.

They are called 'schraebergarten' and are small plots of land that are typically leased for long-term by people who live in high rise apartments or anywhere where they may not have their own garden. People, particularly older people will spend an entire day in their garden, bringing a picnic lunch, a good book, etc... The sheds often have small cots or beds inside where they can take an afternoon nap.

Regarding the ice-in-the-drinks: I don't know why they don't believe in ice cubes. A German aunt of mine chided me many years ago for wanted lots of ice cubes in my drink, saying it wasn't healthy for the stomach to have something that cold sitting in there. Hence the sodas that are basically room temperature. I know when I travel to Germany and eat in a restaurant to ask for a my drink and then a separate glass filled with ice cubes (if you just ask for ice in your drink they'll give you 3 tiny cubes). They'll look at you funny, then smile (realizing you're American, and then accomodate you).

Posted by
9038 posts

1.)Most schools let out anywhere between 12 and 1400, with 1300 being about average. Sometimes there are breaks between classes, so kids just come home, or their classes may start at different times on different days. Some days, my daughter starts at 0730 and then comes home for 2 hours and then goes back til 1500. Other days, she starts at 0815 or 0930. It is always varied. Kids do go to school on the trains by themselves at an early age. By 6, they want to walk to school by themselves and it is common to see 1st graders on the trains or buses by themselves. 2.)The gardens are there for the people of the city to be able to get out in the fresh air and plant veggies and have a spot for the kids to play. One rents these plots, but they can also be "inherited" along with their sheds. These can sometimes be quite nice. You are not supposed to sleep in them over night, but people do sometimes. When you rent this space, you also join the "garden organization" They decide what percent veg or flowers may be grown or chastise you if your neglect your space. 3.) Ice is left out of drinks because many Germans feel this is extremely unhealthy. Cold drinks should be avoided all the time. There seems to be the thought that this causes stomach cancer. When my son was in daycare, they would take the milk out of the fridge in the morning so that it would be room temperature by lunch. Needless to say, he found this disgusting. They also dislike drafts and will shut the windows or will put on a jacket when they begin to sweat so they won't get chilled. Should I go on?

Posted by
19169 posts

They use the trains and buses to transport kids to and from schools.
I think they "rent" small plots of otherwise unused land for people to garden. Remember, few people in Germany have a single occupancy home on a plot of land.
Tradition. They probably ask why we put ice in drinks. Actually, I think that ice in drinks is a ploy by American business to make more profit. Ice is cheaper than Cola.

Posted by
70 posts

Thank you. I had noticed these garden plots on my prior travels and figured they were set aside for apartment dwellers. I had never noticed the lack of ice in my past travels, mainly because I was on a steady diet of beer. My wife suffered wihtout ice in her coke light... This is somewhat off topic however I feel compelled to note here to avoid the Hofbrauhaus in Munich. Loaded with dumb tourists... I speak enough German to get by ordereing meals, asking directions, securing a room etecetera and I almost always remain silent or reply in German when approached by a loud American. I wanted my wife to see the Hofbrauhaus because this was her first trip to Germany. Almost as soon as we walked through the door, a very drunk middle aged woman fell out of her chair, vomited and began screaming at her table mate, (a younger woman), to help her to the wc. Her dentures came out on the floor and she put them back in right in front of us. It was quite alarming... It was early afternoon. In any event, we fled and njoyed a nice lunch across the way @ Augistiner, a welcomed relief from the throngs sloshing about @ Hofbrauhaus.

Posted by
9038 posts

Yep, this is why I have never wanted to go to the Oktoberfest. I am sorry you had to experience something like this. Some folks just do not know when they have had enough.

Posted by
70 posts

Well, we got a good laugh out of it and it really drove my point home. I had warned my wife to expect bad tourist behavior somewhere along the way and there it was on full display... We had a similar experiece with some folks in Schliersee. Out of their mind drunk and blasting American rap music @ midnight. It was a strange sight. I agree with you on the Oktoberfest. It always perplexes me when I hear of someone over 30 planning a trip to Munich around the Oktoberfest.

Posted by
531 posts

I have to stick up for Oktoberfest! We went in 2006 and could not have had a better time. And here is the kicker - everyone was so well behaved. Happy and most certainly intoxicated - but there were no fights, no rudeness, nothing exceptionally crazy. We chatted up people from all over and everyone was just normal and fun-loving. It absolutely amazed me that in a tent packed to the max - everyone was just having a good time....and singing as loud as they could to Bob Denver. With a German accent, that was a new experience. LOVE LOVE LOVED it! Can't wait to go back and experience it again. If you don't like crowds of any kind - sure this is not for you. But me, I love to see masses of people intermingling and just enjoying each other. Warms the heart.

Posted by
123 posts

Steve, Would you recommend staying the morning, afternoon, and evening in Füssen and exploring or just go for the castles and spend more time in Münich? What else is there to due in Füssen, what do you recommend?

Posted by
2297 posts

you've got already a lot of good answers to your questions so I add only a few pointers.

1) The school system is changing but traditionally schoo's out for most kids between 12 and 2 pm. Newer changes include more afternoon classes for older kids attending G8 Gymnasium, or more all-day-schools that don't let the kids out till 4 or 5 pm. Using public transit to go to school is very common. In the afternoons kids might also use the train to attend extracurricular activities (sport practice, music lessons ...) or visit friends. My feeling is that German kids are much more independent in that regard as you'd find it in Northamerica.

2) that Spiegel article is excellent and I highly recommend reading it to understand the Schrebergarten Culture. I have lots of childhood memories associated with my mom's Schrebergarten where we kids got our own tiny plots. And my uncle's Schrebergarten in Leipzig that he often took me on the back of his motorbike. I have another uncle that I do visit on very trip to Europe and we always meet up in his Schrebergarten. He also used his plot to start making honey. These days it's not always easy to find a plot to rent in a Schrebergarten. My uncle was on a wait list for a long time and only got in through a friend who share the plot with him. They are just very popular.

3) I belong to the group of Germans who feel putting tons of ice into a drink is a rip-off. The more ice you put into a glass the less room remains for the beverage of your choice. And if you don't drink it fast enough the ice melts and waters down your beverage. Yuck! Just a different perspective ...

Posted by
2297 posts

grrrr, for some reason my edits don't go through. so excuse the typos in my previous post.

If you get free refills it's a different story but that is truly not a custom you'd find in Germany (well, at least I've never encountered it there). Bottles are served often, but equally as often you just get a glass. And if you get a single glass then ice cubes are a cheap filler. I'm with Lee on that one.

For restaurants that usually serve a local crowd it may also be an issue that they simply don't have much ice on hand. Why would they if hardly anybody demands it? So if a guest comes in making this special request they probably try to accommodate it but it's not a simple thing to do.

Tap water as a drink is indeed not common in Germany either. But that's a different issue as most Germans simple prefer the taste of carbonated/fizzy water and don't like the "still" version. So they either buy bottled water or at home add a contraption to the kitchen sink that carbonates water for drinks.

Posted by
2297 posts

Ahem, forgive me that I've never entered a KFC or Subway in Germany. I've never seen one (I checked their websites and they are none in a 100 km radius of my family's hometown) and I doubt I would enter one should I come accross an outlet. They do not really represent German restaurant culture to me.

I'm sure you're right that even Germans love free refills. At least on pop and such. They actually don't like the free refills on coffee you get in Northamerica as it usually means the quality suffers to support the quantity served.

Posted by
671 posts

If you are raised without ice in drinks, you are used to it. My American raised husband will NOT drink a room temperature pop, while I have no problem at all with it. I like ice from time to time, but if you don't have free refills, it is a cheap filler! Nothing like getting a huge drink that is done in a few sips, because it was mostly ice.

Posted by
17 posts

About Oktoberfest, it was a long time for me.
True everyone is out to have a good time and are usually well behaved in the tents. On the banks walking up to the fest grounds and on the banks in the fest grounds you see a lot of people on the ground that have had too much to drink. Also the men's room at the Oktoberfest has a special porcelain
tub (better word but I don't know what they call it in Germany) that is for throwing-up (up-chucking). Don't get me wrong, I love Oktoberfest and am going next year. This will give you an idea of how old I am. There was a time when you could get up on the tables and dance. But no more. Canstatter Volkfest in Stuttgart is also good. Everyone is against the bank taking so many breaks (pause). Now they have a band that plays until 6 and then a fresh one comes on. The first one might be rock and roll and not the usual oom-pah and German marcing sons. I'd go every year if I could afford it. Use to be able to drink 3 or 4 Mass but now my wife and I share one. Here's to Bier drinking, oom-pah, and Salz Stangers.

Posted by
17 posts

Sorry for the spelling errors. Porcelain tub I was talking about is in the Hofbrauhaus. Also substitute marching songs for my misspelling. It's time for me to have my Pino-Grigio.
Good traveling!

Posted by
345 posts

Ah! I see Harry is being his usual annoying, undiplomatic, opinionated, judgemental, egotistical, unyielding, unpleasant, and general pain in the a$$ self again.

It makes one wonder why some people have to make a spectacle of themselves in such a public manner. I guess Freud would have an explanation for it, although I can't think of any reason why a travel forum would elicit issues regarding lack of breast feeding, penis-envy, inferiority or Oedipus complexes or the like. But, what do I know.

Posted by
70 posts

Although we only ate there once, I was impressed with Nordsee. While I am weary of chains and loathe the homogeneous experience here in the U.S. Nordsee was quite good compared to a Long John Silvers. From an aasthetic persepctive, so many of America's towns are littered with the same chain restaurants all with their massive signs that reach hundreds of feet into the sky... In my view, we have allowed the coporations to dictate how our city's will look and feel. I have traveled from the Outer Herbrides to Cairo and have found that most European towns and villages are asthetically pleasing. Also, with respect to recycling, the use of public transport, walking and cycling, the U.S. is was behind compared to Germany. It's no wonder that we have very high obesity rates...

Posted by
2297 posts

As I mentioned in my first post Germany like every other country is of course changing with the times. It's visible right now with the educational system and school times. And yes, it's also visible in eating/drinking culture.

While still water is becoming more and more popular (that's the change) carbonated water is still the norm for the vast majority of Germans. Of course, Evian etc are making huge profits as even a small market share in a populated country like German still translates into loads of sales.

When I ask for water when visiting my friends the change I see is that they still serve bottled carbonated water but the level of carbonation is going down. "Medium" is the new buzz word for that. Personally, the only house I know that has still bottled water is my grandma's: her house is served by well water which has been deemed non-potable for the past few years.

Nordsee is indeed the German version of the subway kind of sandwiches. My Canadian born husband still can't stand the idea of a fish sandwich though ... I grew up with them and still love them. Their outlets are everywhere. But while the American companies you mentioned are on the move they are still few and far between. Close to none in the Eastern Laender and none in Westphalia where I'm from. "McDoof" and Burger King are seen much more. But I don't think you can get free refills there.

Posted by
70 posts

I prefer ice in my cola. It keeps the drink cool and takes away some of that cloying sweetness. I'm not offended by the lack of ice, but do find it curious. We ended up going to the market anyway and buying fruit juice to keep us hydrated.

Posted by
5 posts

We always wondered also about the little sheds with the gardens. According to German friends that we met, these are actually summer cottages for city dwellers to enjoy the country side. It is different for us because we would not pick a spot by a railway track. When land space is an issue, as it is in Europe that is better than nothing.