"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Germany trip: Black Forest - 30/5

Germany trip: 30/5 Black Forest

This day I set out for the Black Forest, and took the train to Titisee, a village in the middle of it.

I had some asparagus cream soup while waiting for the train to Titisee, and I noticed a hair on the bowl. I wondered if I could pull off the "waiter, there's a hair in my soup" routine, till I realised that not only did I not know what to say in German, the hair was mine.

A 24 hour transport card in Freiburg cost me €9,60. This was cheap considering that it also let me travel by train up to Titisee/Hinterzarten (for the Black Forest). However, buying it incensed me because it's the first time a machine has given me 5 cent coins for change!

The dispenser at Freiburg Hbf had 500ml pet bottles for €1,30 (including the €0,15 deposit) and Ritter Sport for €0,80. My joy was spoilt on opening the Sprite bottle and having it spurt all over my hands though.

At Titisee, I felt as cold as in early February in Utrecht.My hands and ears were freezing again, and the precipitation swung between cold rain and sleet (yes, sleet in late May, albeit 843m above sea level).

I saw some €5 belts on sale, and noticed that after only a month, the €3 belt I got in Heraklion was showing signs of wear. I contemplated getting another belt, since the Germans were probably not as scummy, but decided that they were probably lemons, what with the low price and placement to attract tourists who had no way of seeking compensation.

I saw a sign about "Nordic Walking" near the tourist lodge, and the illustrations had people walking with poles. So that's what it's called.


Lake Titisee. Unfortunately in most of the shots you will notice some precipitation fell on my camera lens.

I'd visited the Tourist Information Centre, and I'd asked the girl to suggest a walk of medium difficulty - I hadn't brought any hiking equipment, yet I had a few hours to burn. She suggested I make for Hochfirst, which was between 3-4km from Titisee (I forget the exact distance) and would take me about 2 hours either way. She also cautioned me that it was very steep.


The starting of the path up to Hochfirst. My advanced photographic skills have made the path seem very gentle (ironically a painting could've captured the enormity of this endavour better), but I must stress that the path was HELLUVA STEEP. Luckily there were benches scattered at various points along the trail. My breath was also visible in the air at the time - shit.


Walking in the Black Forest brings to mind what a fellow Slave once told me - "I like going outfield, just not with SAF"




After this, Bukit Timah just can't cut it anymore (then again, the weather alone was already enough)


You feel literally in a cloud


Field


Moss




Trees

Around this time, it started snowing. I was at least 1km above sea level, but still, it was end May and it was snowing [Someone: so was it white]





At the rate I'm going, I'm going to see snow in Rome in July.

When I finally reached Hochfirst (1190m) it was still snowing and I was hungry, so I went into the restaurant (which surprisingly had normal prices for food) and ordered some Wurstsalat mit Brot (sausage salad with bread). Luckily, at the last minute I changed it to Wurstsalat mit Bratkartoffeln (sausage salad with fried potatoes), so I had something hot to eat - at only €2-€3 more.



Even in Germany, though they dub their movies and TV, they listen to music in English (unlike in a certain country to their West). I heard Eye of the Tiger coming up - it was a nice juxtaposition to the snow outside.


Tower at Hochfirst. I'd have climbed it, but visibility would've been near nil.


Way down


Weird plant pods that reminded me of cockroach egg sacs.

After lunch I took the route down to Neustadt. I didn't enjoy it despite it being downhill or level most of the way because there were no benches; the path was lousier (either grass covered the centre of the road so it was like a tractor trail, or it was narrow and filled with undergrowth) the snow/sleet had melted leaving the ground wet, muddy and disgusting (with consequent effects for my footwear and feet) and there was no more mist in the air after the precipitation resulting in the loss of the former dreamy and unreal atmosphere, replaced by a depressingly clear and humid damp.

Neustadt was a miserable sleepy town, and the trains went back to Freiburg only every hour, so I had to wait 37 minutes, just having missed the bus as well (the wise guy who planned the schedule made the hourly bus depart on the 40th minute, less than 10 minutes after the hourly train departing on the 31st). I bet most people who take the hike go back to Titisee - that's why I saw so many people on the way up, but no one on the way down (a solitary car zooming past me notwithstanding).


There was an interesting toilet concept in the toilet beside the Neustadt (Schwartz) train station. The sink and urinals were free, but the cubicle cost €0,50 (note the contraption on the handle). I peeked through the translucent door to the female toilet next door and saw a similar contraption on the cubicle door. These smart Germans have figured out the optimal way of keeping the streets clean while maximising profits. Basically you provide urinals for free, since men can and will pee all over the place, but charge for the cubicles; men are willing to pay to use those. As for women, even the few who have mastered the art of peeing standing up will be leery of peeing in public. So you get clean(er) streets while still making money.

Arriving back in Titisee, I did the boring and cliched thing at Pizzeria-Kaffeehaus Pasarella, which was very proud of their cakes: "Unsere Kuchenasuwahl wechselt TAGLICH FRISCH. Bitte orientieren Sie sich an der Kuchentheke" (I wanted to go somewhere else, but there was a fierce looking dog which looked unchained, and I didn't see anyone in the seating area); I'm not particularly fond of the flavour, but it's fun to be cheesy once in a while:



The cake was very light, but there was too much cream for my liking (I remove whipped cream before consuming sweets). It was hard to cut a slice down so I could eat a cross-section. Overall, the cake tasted more raw than the versions in Singapore, with fewer and purer flavours - I prefer a more complex layering to overwhelm my palette. The cherry taste was also too intense for my liking though. Jiekai would of course claim that this was the cake with which all such cakes must be benchmarked. Bah.

I saw an "Oriental grill" that had nothing Oriental. Rather, it had Turkish food, pizza and pasta. Bah.


Cute bags


Silly Kebap ad. I can't imagine anyone going ga-ga over a kebap.


Miniatures

The DB ticket machines in and around Freiburg have language options for German, English, French, Italian, Spanish and Turkish. Amazing. Meanwhile the message on the trams about being fined if you lack a ticket also comes in Dutch (deliberately placed after German and before English), Greek and Russian.

I was very surprised to see Sinalco in Germany - I'd always thought it was something a Malaysian had conjured up in his bathtub. But then again, most people think the same of Kickapoo (that's a damn good bathtub, though).


Luggage locker rules
I was surprised to read them, but on reflection people have certainly tried to keep "living animals" in lockers before. I like the "advice" about not putting valuables in the safe, and later the legally binding line about what happens if you put stuff worth >€250 inside. But how do they enforce the bit about destruction at the customer's expense? If a customer knows something will be destroyed he won't show up to pay the bill. And what happens if he refuses to pay for the destruction of his property?


Muslims in Germany must be very very sad since they can't eat Pork or drink Beer (but maybe they're Hanafis).

It was 12 degrees in the morning in Freiburg, 5 when I arrived at Neustadt and doubtless lower when it was snowing.

A semester ticket for travel in the vicinity of Freiburg (S-bahn, trains, buses) costs about €60 for around 6 months. Even an adult monthly pass is €31,50. The latter is just over half the price for a bus pass here to travel a measly 2 zones (a half hour bus ride at most).

They have these machines at Berlin which take your photo and put them on a postcard (with famous sights behind you). If you only want to take pictures with yourself in them, this is the logical outcome since the result will be literally postcard perfect.
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