You may have your cologne but consume it 

The Severe Australian Custom Regulations according to the Qatar check in person.

I knew instantly and instinctively that the check in process with the Qatar clerk was heading towards a mildly irritating interaction. Given I am flying Business Class there was minimal queue – I approached carrying my rucksack in front and luggage on my back (backpack style and about 15kg). Curtly she requested that she needed my passport and please put my luggage on the weigh belt. 

Now that is a quite reasonable request but it was asked abruptly and in such a manner as to imply that both tasks needed to done not only rapidly but simultaneously. Such a feat wouid be impossible even for the winner of the Gold medal in the clean snatch and grab event at Sydney olympics – a weight lifting event which has nothing to do with what ever else you may be thinking!

Having completed the process and confirming that my luggage had been booked through to Adelaide, she then said “Sir, I must warn you that due to Australian Border and Custom Regulations any duty free goods that you purchase in Frankfurt will be confiscated in Doha as you are not permitted to take them through to Australia “. 

 I was totally dumbfounded. Not that I had any intention of buying duty free goods anyway! Was this, I pondered, the influence of bloody Barnaby Joyce. For final good measure she clarified the ruling by emphasising that any expensive perfumes would not only be confiscated but she said breathlessly, destroyed! So it seemed that any Chanel No 5 I might purchase would be drained away into the Suez Canal.

The statement was delivered with a complex combination of severity and schadenfreude: don’t blame me or Qatar, blame Australia. She saw my quivering bottom lip, how could any country that has just voted back in Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, be so authoritarian! Then perhaps realising that she had been rostered on the Businesses Class check in desk this morning rather than Economy, she back tracked a little and reassured me that of course nothing would stop me from buying a couple of hundred dollars of duty free chocolates…. So long as I ate them before landing in Doha. 

She was I am convinced a retrenched member of the former East German STASI police force.

In a brain fog I rambled through the avenues of duty free shops with the realisation that like Johnny Deep’s dogs, I had been effectively neutered. Bugger Barnaby Joyce I seethed! I shall buy clothing – wear it on and off the plane AND a bottle of  a 100ml bottle of Tom Forde Neroli at $289… Which I shall drink before landing! Skip the Moet. 

a little something that I am thinking of ordering for my music room

to remind me of the tranquillity of my trek as I sit in the Doha transit lounge and a 7 hour delay


Two unexpected extra nights 

Somehow or other I screwed up with my plans at the end of the Trail of the Red Deer. I suddenly calculated that I had 2 extra nights – unplanned, no accommodation booked, nothing!  So enjoyable were the hotels and Wellness centres on the hike that I requested an extra night in Freudenstadt at the end of the trek! Perfect, now the second night was still up for grabs. I had a train ticket from Freudenstadt to Frankfurt via Stuttgart. So I decided to break the train journey in Stuttgart and stay overnight then travel onwards. 

Some of you may recall that 2 years ago I visited Turin, Italy and found it quite charming with a well maintained historical part. But the number 1 tourist attraction of Turin was a tour of  the Alfa Romeo car factory, followed in second place by a visit to the famous soccer club of Turin, so famous that it’s name escapes me! A distant third was a pilgrimage to the chapel containing the eponymous “shroud”- revealing in the crumbling cotton, a sort of death mask of Jesus.

Stuttgart, according I presume, to the mainly male contributors of TripAdvisor,  ranks tours of the Mercedes Benz factory as number 1   Almost equally attractive being a tour of the Porshe museum at number 2. I am not at clear of whether there is a third. Stuttgart sadly appears to lack religious relics.  I suppose that a mausoleum containing Aryton Senna’s remains, would fit the bill?  In summary, Stuttgart is very much a motorist’s Mecca.

Despite my dim recollection of a classical music history  – Mozart having lived or passed through Stuttgart, I found little remaining in terms of monuments. There  was a “Mozartenplatz,” but every village in Germany and Austria has one. 

This is strikingly similar to the  multitude of  Australian country towns that boast  of the “actual cottage”  where Don Bradman was “actually born”. How this came to pass, God only knows. However to carry on with this analogy, quite appropriate given Don Bradman is God to a significant proportion of our population, I  suspect that Mrs Bradman  heavily pregnant, travelled the outback of south western NSW with Mr Bradman Snr. in a horse and buggy looking for emergency accommodation. 

If the poor woman was progressively dilating from 2cm in Gidginbung to 12cm in Coolamon, finally breaking her waters at Stockinbingal, then who would quibble over a couple of centimetres when it comes to keeping the peace of these small community historical society!
So next time I shall bypass the pitstop at Stuttgart but Frankfurt is worth a stay and with the River Main coursing through the city it had a slight Melbournian feel, here are a few pictures at dusk. 

the main railway station . these are invariably architectural wonders in European cities

I am sure you agree this looks a little like Melbourne from south bank

a pleasure cruise having all the characteristics of a similar event on the Yarra River – loud music and volatile intoxicated Gen Y

The last day of the Red Deer

A great and fantastic hiking trail beautiful weather, stunning scenery , each hotel was just decadent with their Wellness Centres and great restaurants- basically I had variations of local trout or pork or deer ( as one delightful German waiter struggled to explain the menu in english he resorted to “Bambi”!
So I have had 8 days of walking followed by spa, sauna, steam and swimming! 

“Bambi” in redcurrant sauce

So what happened by 9pm?

Sadly the evening had deteriorated. The music had increased by a factor of several hundred decibels, so had the ambience,  if that is the correct description, of a melding between the local RSL club and a gay disco….. Not that I have been inside either establishments, I won’t say “never”.  I would say that at least one difference of the Saturday night dance at the Waldhotel Sommerberg, was a fair amount of thigh slapping as opposed to buttock slapping in a gay disco. I have no idea what would be slapped in a RSL club.

However there were redeeming features of the German music – it was amplified through high quality Bose speakers, hence without distortion and the music in general had a recognisable melody! 

Both of these characteristics of course would immediately disqualify a potential gay  disco DJ who must play distorted deafening sound of a genre to which  my daughter is unashamedly attracted, its known as “beat, bass and bang” I think? Why she is drawn to such a cacophony is beyound me – thank god it is either autosomal recessive  or passed on via maternal mitochondrial DNA. 

this hund slept contently oblivious to the constant stream of waiting staff who adroitly side stepped the whole night.

the poodle checks out

delightful! the breakfast tables are set up for families with a reindeer for the children !

 The Buckingham Arms in the Schwarzwald!

I am seated for dinner at the Waldhotel Sommerberg, altitude about 800m. Here is the view from the restaurant.

 Hotel Restaurants in the Schwarzwald at least seem to open from 6:30 to 8 pm. By 6:45 the place is seething, a white poodle saunters past… It is much more family oriented : grandparents, grandchildren, (millions of children) , crying neonates. 

Then music starts at one end of the room –   a man is playing a keyboard. Its not intrusive and rather foot tapping! No cow bells in sight or leadenhose. I ask the waitress about these happenings and she explains that there is always a party and music on Saturday nights! I have lost track of time and forgot it is Saturday. So there is a smorgasbord, several generations of German families and “Das hund” – the music is gentle and appropriate: the waltz from Die Flerdemaus,  I am seriously thinking of hanging around ( most out of character) as I am convinced that by 9 pm there will be young men dancing in lederhosen to Edelweiss!..or the von Trapp Singers will perform.

The elderly couple with the toy poodle in tow wander to their table. Fabulous! The keyboard man has started to croon…and at a decibel level that does not drown out conversation. It’s all very civilised… If only the Germans had won the war.

The walk was another 25km through pine forests and passing a large settlement which was a centre for skiing in winter with ski lifts ( idle) and ski jumps etc. I descended today from the heights of yesterday, lost the trail 5km from the finish… Yes! 5 bloody kilometres!  Mostly I hiked along a cool mountain stream.  As it was Saturday and sunny, there were hoardes of Germans hiking so no chance of not being found when lost!
Tomorrow is the penultimate day of walking and in retrospect the trek has a similar feeling to my bike ride along the Camino. It was on the Camino that I decided to learn to play music whilst contemplating my sins …

Yes – Lost in the “Wellness Centre”

So it appears that these large hotels nestled in the small valleys of the Schwarzwald – and these establishments are the only apparent buildings of the village- exist for those Germans seeking wellness, of which there are obviously millions! 

As I sauntered through each of these centres, all by the way have a heated 25 metre pool as well as the listed spa,  saunas, massage and  aromatherapy, I pondered the cost of running  them in terms of water and power! It must be astronomical. 

The accommodation on the trail has been brilliant and given the facilities, food and rooms, some of the best places I have stayed and at a price which defies economics! I am paying about 70 euro a night including access to wellness centres and full breakfast included! 

I am by no means a young man – it is all relative and I am at the younger end of the spectrum of the clientele  at the Wellness Centres. Nakedness is the norm. So large and complex are these centres that like on the Red Deer Trail, becoming a little confused could be a real dilemma, especially after 20 minutes in the Steam Room or even less time in the Finnish Dry Sauna. 

So it was rather delightful so see here that with your Wellness package on the bed were slippers, thick cotton robe, towels and…… a badge with your room number suitable to pin to the robe so that the ripped male masseur could safely escort you back to your room! ….


Yes…lost on Day 4

How could this happen? Here is the clear signage that marks the trail. It would seem impossible to lose one’s way! But I did.

This is a screen grab of the 2 occasions where I wandered off track ( magnified –  of the offending wayward track!

twice ! and i back tracked on each occasion! it may look trivial to you but it added 7km to the day’

This whole day was rather traumatic mentally as it was hot, involved an altitude  gain of 830 m theoretically but in reality probably about 1100m (adding in the unintended disoriented diversions) . The iPhone app calculated I had climbed 145 storeys! But the main anxiety provoking aspect was that on the most confusing and longest sidetrack, I consumed almost all of my water! This magnified my sense of dehydration suddenly my mouth was very very dry! 

If it were not for the potential for impending death by dehydration and kidney failure, I would have been more relaxed. But here are photos of the alpine lake along the way.

Eventually I backtracked, found the trail and my sense of  doomed dessication dissipated. After another 8km I followed a stream of cool clear water – my potential life saver then around a corner the forest cleared and before me appeared the Hotel Forsthaus Auerhahn a 5 star hotel in a beautiful valley with the now anticipated “wellness centre ” ! I disrobed and headed for the spa, steam sauna, dry sauna, foot soaking tubs and plunge pool!!  In sequence of course.

I had wild boar for dinner and sparkling mineral water! Does you good to have a fling occasionally 

Rest Day – Schwarzenberg

A day of rest much anticipated as my right foot has become sore and early blisters on metatarsal pad. Not another decadent German “wellness centre”! You bet and an aromatherapy massage… Its only money! I stayed at the Hotel  Sackmann! Fabulous and decadent – I did not expect anything less.

So a relaxed day from pool to spa to steam room to finnish sauna to foot spa to Himalayan salt sauna to reading couch, then back to pool… And to hell with routine lets do things in reverse.

 As well finished reading  “Love in the Time of Cholera ” by Gabriel  Garcia Marquez. S Columbian novelist about whom I was not aware until now! Indeed he received the Nobel prize for literature in 1982 and after devouring the  book, I am not surprised. 

I also of course managed some Recorder practice then sauntered  out at dusk for some photography.

Mr and Mrs Schaefer of Schwarzwald 

The Hotel Schwarzwald

This hotel is remarkable on many levels. It is almost impossible to know where to begin. The hostlier is Herr Schafer. As an adolescent at the end of the war, he witnessed British soldiers dancing- not in the streets but what I guess we would call Ballroom Dancing in the clubs of Berlin. He was mesmerised by the fluid graceful movements of the couples , so at odds with the stiff precise routines of a German dance! He promptly enrolled in a summer dance academy in London over the next three years. 

Somewhere along the way he met his German Wife – his partner in life and dance! He hosted a national TV programme on Ballroom Dancing for many years. 

He took up teaching and in 1964 built the hotel with the aim of setting up a dance academy with live in accommodation. He rose up the ranks of professional dance teachers and was admitted as a Fellow of the Academy of International Dance Teachers! 

His hotel and dance studio situated in the Schwarzwald became just as famous as a stopping point on the walking trails and he then added to his CV by his active participation in the regions tourist organisation. 

I think the best way to indicate this man’ achievements, are by photos and the fact that on his 80th birthday he received a personal greeting from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel! He and his wife are so unassuming!

whilst I abhor senseless killing, I offered to take a pictute of his hunting trophies. From the 1960’s – deer!

Max the Red Deer Bull in s reserve that Herr Schafer has adopted almost like a pet and which he takes all the walkers to see!

Some pictures along the trail day 3 and 24 km