A great day out.

I woke up in my rather lovely hotel on the morning of the 26th of May, hugely happy about the previous day’s events (if you do not know the full story I would urge you to have a quick wade through the very many previous entries in this journal if you think you can stand it) but to summarise briefly I was in Kempten im Allgau for what I though was to be the last of the Virtual Tourist meets, given birth to by the eponymous website. They were an annual and very well attended event and I was hoping they could continue with TravBuddy friends joining in and that is a theme I shall return to later. TravBuddy was the site that many of us had jumped to when VT was shut down but it has sadly also closed now as well.

Regrettably, I could not stay where I had been as it was completely booked out for that night (a Friday) which I believe was due to it being a holiday weekend and, to a lesser extent, the presence of a decent number of us VT members being in town. Still, that was not a problem as I had managed to secure myself a bed online in a little village about fifteen miles from Kempten (which turned out to be an excellent result) and I am well used to living out of a smallish kitbag so a nice shower, five minutes to pack and I was back on the road, trailing my newish suitcase with a now half broken handle (you get what you pay for) and off to the meet point where the hugely friendly driver opened the cargo hold and told me to throw my kit in there. No problem, well no problem then but we’ll come back to that.

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Our lovely coach later in the day.

Christian (the organiser), despite all the fairly massive obstacles that were thrown in his way, had got everything perfectly arranged and we all met up at the appointed place to embus on a rather spectacular coach. Hell, we were all there and damned if any self-serving, egotistical corporate charlatan who pays himself $39 million (US) a year was going to stop us.

On the bus and Christian was acting as tour guide as he did so very well. I know that it was probably a money-saving measure (very rightly so) in not employing a qualified tour guide which would have been a fairly pointless exercise anyway. As I have mentioned previously, trying to organise VT i.e. independent travellers is like trying to herd cats and I did not envy him his job at all. We were all big boys and girls so just dump us off somewhere interesting and let us go. That is what VT members were like and I was to discover on my brief acquaintance that TravBuddy members were like as well. We were all fairly independently minded travellers irrespective of which website we chose to use.

First stop of the day was the utterly delightful town of Wangen which, although being reached by a decent autobahn still managed to take in some pretty decent scenery. Our ultimate destination was Lindau where I had had my little “interaction” with the local polizei on the bus from France.

In truth, lovely as Lindau later proved to be in daylight and me not being turned over by the local constabulary, I think I marginally preferred Wangen. It is a beautiful mediaeval town and I was right back into “Memmingen mode” (see previous journal entries for an explanation of this) where I could not walk round a corner without my jaw dropping yet again at the stunning, pristine beauty of the place. It is yet another of those little beauties that Bayern (Bavaria) seems to specialise in and which really makes me want to go back and explore that region more.

Again, I shall let the images (amateur as they are) speak for themselves and would point the reader to the work of some of my fellow travellers who are far handier with a camera than I am and who have contributed tremendous images of this most photogenic town. Perhaps the highlight for me was the Spitalkirche (church) dating to 1447 which was stunning outside and in. I have mentioned before that I am a man of no religious faith and yet places of worship are like magnets to me, I love them.

Removing headgear (bandanna in my case) as Christian etiquette demands, I wandered in there and spent quite a bit of time wondering at the outstanding architecture and artefacts. Without looking it up, I could not tell you if this place was Roman Catholic, Lutheran (which is a popular faith in this region) or whatever. Frankly, I feel I am better off not knowing. I was brought up in Northern Ireland in the 60’s through to the 80’s and I have seen far, far too much of what religious intolerance does. Yes, I fully appreciate that this is a bit heavy on a predominantly travel website and I apologise but I only know one way to write whatever rubbish it is I contribute here and that is the truth and what I feel at any given time.

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These little piggies went to market and became bratwurst,,,,,,,
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…..but this little piggy had the sense to run away!

Of course, it was not all heavy (I didn’t feel any negative influence at all in that beautiful church) but the more secular attractions of the town were going to have to be investigated, namely the bars which Bavaria is famous for and rightly so. A few of those were duly researched against writing future reviews for the website I was then contributing to, no other reason obviously!

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It was always going to happen.

I can’t remember if it was 1300 or 1400 we had to be back at the coach but we all made it on time (we were all pretty experienced travellers as mentioned above) and I even had time to stop off at a nearby supermarket where I was amazed to find that they had easily 100 types of beer but nothing in a can, it was all bottles. Not a huge problem as I can open bottles with a cigarette lighter, belt buckle, door jamb or just about anything solid. I have even been known to do it with my teeth but I have given that up as I don’t have so many left at my time of life and it seems to make women squeamish. No problem as my Scandinavian mate (ex- Special Forces and always well kitted up) had the necessaries on his keyring so that eased the admittedly short journey to Lindau which will be dealt with in the next paragraphs.

Before we get to Lindau, here are a few more images of the absolute gem that is Wangen.  Apologies if there are any “doubles” in the images but I hacve so many images of that day.

It is not a long drive from Wangen to Lindau which was the “main objective” of our excursion although, in truth, I could have happily spent the whole day in the former town. Bayern just seems to be packed to the gunwales with the most amazing little places that I had never even heard of prior to this trip. The whole region just oozes charm but I suppose it is like everything else and the eternal lament of the traveller of “so many places, so little time” much as I would love to re-visit.

As mentioned in a previous entry in this journal / blog my first exposure to Lindau had hardly been great as I was having my passport examined by an armed police officer at about 0600 in the morning after a long and fairly uncomfortable night on a long distance coach with pretty unsanitary “facilities” and a bunch of raucous children. None of this is a problem to me and the officers were obviously looking for one person whom they removed from the coach, a pretty young Macedonian girl who was undoubtedly being trafficked for some purpose that probably doesn’t bear thinking about. I do hope that they found some way of “saving” her.

As my religious discourse above, I know this is pretty heavy stuff for a mainly travel website but I have news for those that don’t already get it, travel is not all pretty castles and lakes and mountains and white sand beaches and Disneyland. Bad things happen in the world and the more you travel then the more likely you are to encounter them. Open your eyes and live with it, perhaps even try to help a little if you can.

Anyway, enough pontificating from me and back to Lindau. We rolled into town, past the place where I had been stopped before which raised a slightly rueful smile with me and were dropped off in a sizeable car park just out of the centre and told what time to be back. Christian, in his totally brilliantly organised way, had obtained timetables for boat trips on Bodensee aka Lake Constance which is a rather large body of water and, indeed, the harbour would do justice to a small coastal town anywhere. It even boasts a lighthouse although whether this is operational or not I could not say. I am not sure whether or not any of our party availed themselves of the maritime exploits on offer but I had decided on a wander round and, yes, obviously a beer or ten.

My quest for a beer was never going to be a problem as the place is stuffed to the gills with restaurants and bars. This was obviously getting into high season and many places were full at the al fresco tables eating what looked to be delightful food. However, Fergy does not work like that. After a small shutterfest (with the fairly average results attached here) on my compact camera I let the “nose” take over again.

For those who have come upon this page by some strange twist of fate (your karma must be awful!) I shall explain briefly so as not to further bore whatever regular readers I may have. I seem to have an innate ability to seek out great little bars in the strangest of places even if I have never visited them before. Well, the “nose” rarely lets me down and so it was to prove in Lindau. No, I didn’t just hit any bar and sit there all day, I had travelled far enough to see this place and I did. Lindau was stunning and I do recommend it as it is utterly gorgeous. Again, Christian had picked well.

I had seen a small restaurant called Mediterraneo which gives something of a clue to the cuisine offered. I perched myself at the bar, which is my preferred position and called for a beer which was promptly served by the charming lady behind the bar. My German is even more appalling than my schoolboy French, which I can just about get away with but, by dint of a whole lot of miming, we managed to carry on some sort of “conversation”. When I was at school I often wondered why we were made to mime, I know now as it is so fantastically useful and I thank Zandra Magennis and the late Joan MacPherson from the bottom of my heart for that as it has carried me round the world!

From my “perch” I could see straight into the kitchen and watched the chef knocking up a number of dishes for the patrons who came and went and it was a joy. Whilst I have the appetite of a sparrow, I can watch chefs, or indeed cook myself, all day. I would certainly have been tempted by some of the offerings but one meal a day is quite enough for me and I knew I was set up for a feed that night so I restricted myself to a few beers before heading off to the bus at the appointed hour.

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Before you ask, no, this wonderful ice cream cup was not for me but I could not resist a photo as it looked so beautifully presented. Chef had all the stations covered by himself, he was completely a one man band and obviously very good at it.

Back on the bus then for the return journey and, again, nobody went MIA.  A couple more beers and a small dozette made the time fly.

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The hills are alive with the sound of Fergy (Heaven help us!).

On the way back to Kempten we did stop for a bit of a photo stop which really did bring home to me how delightful this part of the world is and what utterly superb company I was in.  I really was so glad I came.

We arrived back in Kempten in good order although there was a slight piece of drama after we alighted right in the centre of town. The driver, who had been an utter delight all day (I had had a few chats with him albeit we had hardly ten words of a common language) was quite rightly and properly in “daytrip” mode and wasn’t expecting to offload baggage. Sorry, I was effectively homeless at this point with far too little kit and most of my wordly goods and possessions in that bag in the belly of the bus.

I was standing by the cargo hold door waiting for him to open it and he jumped up into the interior of the bus. No problem, I thought it was some sort of electronic opening from inside, it really was a flash coach and I wish we had had one like it on my sub-Arctic trip to Scandinavia where I played a lot of gigs and nearly died of hypothermia when the heater failed! Next thing I knew, he had pulled out into the traffic and was off. I do not blame the guy at all, he was in one mode and I, as is my way, was messing up his nice schedule. There ensued then something that would have done justice to the Keystone Cops with Christian and I chasing a very smart coach down a main road in central Kempten screaming and shouting. Fortunately it was rush hour and we ran him down by the second set of traffic lights (I could not have gone much further at my time of life and with my lifestyle as I am not that fit any more) and he was terribly apologetic although he really had no need to be. So, I was re-united with my four-day bag and ready to go (I was to go an awful lot further later so wait for that).

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I do like German beer.  OK, I just like beer!

Back to where we had been dropped and some of the group headed home to freshen up whilst others adjourned to a nearby bar. You can guess what camp I was in. I was actually staying that night in a little village about fifteen miles away and although several friends offered me use of a shower, spare bed for a doze etc. I was on a roll. More of the village and wonderful hotel to come.

I knew that the evening meal that night was to be in a “rooftop” restaurant which immediately presented problems for me as I really do no like heights. I am sorry, they just freak me out. I feel physically ill some times and yet other times I can stand quite happily, well, without blind panic anyway, in a high place.

I was enveigled by friends into an external lift so beloved of high-rise places. I swear I was hanging onto anything which didn’t appear to be hurtling upwards at a very disagreeable rate of knots. I include in that several of my friends and yet again I can only apologise and do hope the nail marks eventually faded. It was only on the way home that I found out there was a “real” internal lift (elevator) with proper walls and the like and wasn’t going to make me pass out in fear and so I used that to make my exit!

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No mistaking who was in that night.

Into the restaurant and a beer was immediately required if only to calm my heart rate from that Apollo liftoff ride up there. As always, Christian had picked brilliantly. I genuinely don’t know how he managed a meet of that size with the rug literally pulled out from under his feet. Rather ludicrously, I didn’t manage to take a single image of what I ate, nor do I remember what it was after all this time, but I work on the principle that it must have been pretty good as I always remember a bad meal. Perversely, the fact that I cannot remember it is no adverse comment on the kitchen.

I even braved the outside terrace for a smoke (I was not going to risk that external lift again to go downstairs for one) and got some beautiful views of Kempten at dusk which I hope I have managed to convey here.

Of course the main purpose of being there (last-minute as it was) was to meet my VT mates and it was a great night with many old friends. Yes, there was an element of sadness at what we had lost but the mood was overwhelmingly positive and there was an uge desire to keep the whole thing going even if the website had been taken away from us.

Getting not particularly late in the evening I knew I had to make a move. As mentioned previously, I had had to take a room in a village some miles away (what a good move that turned out to be) and was still wandering round with my complete worldly goods in a tiny case with my computer in another. I asked Christian if he knew a reliable taxi firm in town. I was quite happy to pay for it but did not want to leave it too late. Not at all. He would not hear of it and offered to drive me. What? A cab would probably have been €30 or €40 and I was set up for that (I think it was about €35 on the return next day) but no chance, he was going to drive me home. What a man and what a positive affirmation of what I have always said about travellers. As a man approaching old age when I will not be able to travel and when I will look back on these things, I know exactly what I think.

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Christian dropped me off in the charming little village of Wiggensbach at the Hotel Goldenes Kreuz (Golden Cross if my appalling German serves) and even came into the reception to make sure everything went smoothly (he knows I speak minimal German but that was no problem as the charming lady had perfect English anyway). I would include a hyperlink here but they do not appear to have their own site.  Upstairs to a most delightful “garret” room which suited me down to the ground (no witticism intended) and back to the bar, obviously. Despite my complete lack of facility in German (I find it a really difficult language) I managed to ascertain that the bar was open just about as long as I, as a resident, was there and did not fall off the perch. As is the way in such places I think the night porter doubled as the barman.

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Happy days but dangerous for me as I had another day of the VT meet to go. Let’s see how far we can go. As usual for me, somewhere vaguely out the far side of madness! A couple of beers and a chat with the barman and I thought a relatively early night was called for as I had to get back into Kempten for the last day of the weekend. Off to my lovely room where I slept the sleep of the just, albeit that that is far from my moral state.

The weekend was not over yet, I was thoroughly enjoying it despite my initial misgivings and there was another day to go so I was not going to blow that on what was effectively to be the last day of the last proper VT meet ever after all those years, as I believed. Even writing about it months later in my home in London it still provoked very mixed reactions. I had debated just taking off and not going as I knew it was going to be hard and so I thought I would wait for the morning with a relatively clear head to make a decision.

To find out what I did decide, stay tuned and spread the word..

I got there at last.

If you have been following this blog from the outset then, firstly, I thank you (not to mention sympathise with you for my inane ramblings) and secondly I will give a very brief explanation for anyone who has stumbled upon this page in search of information about Memmingen or Kempten.  I had started off in very early April on what was meant to be a four day trip to visit a friend in the Netherlands and here I was nearly two months later in Bavaria and heading to meet a whole bunch of other dear friends.  That is the potted version, the rest is fully explained in earlier blog entries here (and later ones hopefully) if you care to wade through sixty plus of them. Yes, it had gone on that long!

I awoke in my lovely room in the Park Hotel (it was brilliant, I loved it there) and, much as I would have loved to stay there as both hotel and town were stunning, I knew that I needed to move the short distance to Kempten to see my friends.  Damn, I had humped myself from South central France to get here and I wasn’t going to blow it out of the water for a few more miles. On top of this I had told my dear friend Sarah (toonsarah on the Virtual Tourist and TravBuddy websites as she was, and a superb travel writer) that I was coming but I had asked her to keep it quiet.  Having told everyone I wasn’t coming, I fancied making a bit of a drama queen entrance and, yes, I am that much of a tart.

I think breakfast was included in my room but it is a meal I rarely take unless it is in a glass and I do not mean fruit juice! Thanking the staff most heartily and genuinely for the wonderful hospitality I had received there provoked large smiles all round which made me feel as good as they obviously did. Lest the reader, new to my idiotic ramblings, think that I am writing this as an advertisement for the hotel, I am not. I have nothing to do with them and am most certainly not getting paid for writing this. There are enough people on other websites who have “officially” vouched for me and will undoubtedly do so in a less formal way if required. I merely write as I find.

I knew from my wanders of the previous day exactly where the train station was, about 15 minutes of another Disney wonderland through cobbled streets (not so good for a wheel along bag but utterly gorgeous) and past buildings that belonged in a child’s fantasy book.

Well, it was almost inevitable. It was time for a Fergy breakfast i.e. a beer. I came upon a small place which I had somehow missed the day before to be met by some pretty loud rock music (suits me) and a fairly heavily tattooed barmaid who I asked in German if the premises were open. She looked a tad surprised although whether that was because of the hour or my appalling German I could not possibly say. Yet another language I do not speak but insist on trying out.  Suffice it to say that we ended up comparing tattoos (I have four and she had me beaten by a country mile without even taking her T-shirt off!) and chatting about rock music. Great time.

I know I am probably preaching to the choir a bit here as people who are reading this website are mostly known to me and are undoubtedly fairly independently minded and think for themselves.  Please, I beg you, do not judge people, especially young people, on their appearance. Talk to them and find out what they are about, it might just surprise you and here endeth the lesson!

Anyway, I knew I had loads of time but I didn’t want to leave anything to chance, reliable as DB (German railways) are so I headed to Memmingen station which was merely a few hundred yards away. No problem and in I went to check the train times. Unusually for me I had not used the facilities in the bar with the tattooed barmaid before I left.  They were immaculate from previous experience, and so I went to use those in the station. What an obscenity. I have been in public toilets on several continents and this was amongst the worst I have ever encountered. The stench was overpowering, there were used and bloody hypodermic needles on the floor and the place looked like it had not been cleaned since the day it was built. It looked like a field hospital in Scutari, it was abominable which surprised me as I know how highly Germans prize their efficiency. DB take note.

Still, I wasn’t there merely to use the “facilities”. I thought a quick beer may be in order so I went to the station cafe / bar and bought a well over-priced bottle which I brought to sit outside with on a now reasonably decent day.  I had to sit outside because of the Federal States of E (aka EU) fascism about smoking. Nightmare. It appears they make no attempt to stop the street dwellers and their apparently uncontrolled yappy little dogs just sitting there all day and drinking their shop bought alcohol. I was glad I seemed to be upwind.

OK, sod that and it actually hurts me to write that because I loved Memmingen so much on an admittedly brief trip but I always attempt to write honestly and this was just a step too far. Surely there must be a real bar nearby. I knew there were plenty of trains so I was not going to be stranded. Out the front of the station and the Fergy “nose” took over. For those that do not know (I apologise to those that do and are getting bored by it) it has been said that I can sniff out alcohol at about 600 yards through concrete. I don’t know how true that is but I always seem to manage to get a beer wherever I am. Standing waiting on the pedestrian phase of the traffic lights, I had a bit of a scan. There were two options both within 100 yards. I scanned them both and the one on the right just felt wrong whilst the one on the left was calling to me. I know this sounds utterly ridiculous written down in the cold light of day but I swear it is the truth. Ask anyone who has ever been on a pub crawl with me in a place I have never been before.

 

Anyway, the “nose” had it absolutely spot on as always and I lugged my bag into a most beautiful and utterly crazy bar. Yes, I was right back in my element, this is where I belong.  A beer was quickly ordered and swiftly supplied so I took a look around. Well that took about an hour, I have never seen a place like it and I have been in a lot of crazy bars. There were old radios, old records, old posters, cutlery sets, I could go on but it would take forever. Hopefully the images will give an idea.

A few people came in for lunch which was cooked to order (I could see into the kitchen from where I sat) and it looked delicious but still way too early for me to eat.  There was a slightly rotund gentleman who came in and consumed, in no time flat and accompanied by a couple of beers, what I would have described as two main courses. This may well explain his waistline and I would love to be his cardiologist, I’d make a fortune.

I asked for permission to take a few pictures which was granted instantly and most charmingly. I know that in a public place you can effectively fire off your camera wherever you want, especially in these days of ‘phones with cams but I still like to ask. Damn, I could have taken 300 or more pics in there, it was that quaint. I hope the attached images do it justice.

Time was moving on and it was a very regretful Fergy that left this little locals bar but Kempten awaited.

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I made the arduous trek of, oh, perhaps 100 yards across the main road to the station, found my platform and hopped onboard my absolutely punctual train, settled down in a comfy and spotlessly clean carriage and began what was not a particularly long journey.

 

I am quite content to just sit and look out the window on a train journey and so I did not even break out my book although in truth there was nothing spectacular, certainly not in comparison to the scenery we were to see in the region over the next few days. We pulled into Kempten im Allgau (hereinafter referred to as Kempten to save my poor fingers from more typing) bang on time. A decent station and I knew it was walking distance so off I took, thankfully downhill, towards where I needed to be. I only managed to get lost the once in what should have been a fifteen minute walk. Honestly, I do not know what has happened to me, I used to have an inbuilt compass that never failed and now I get lost two times out of three. Old age I suppose.

 

Anyway, eventually to the Art Hotel, which I had scored online and cheaply judging by my subsequent research)  and checked in quickly and efficiently to what turned out to be a charming room. All the usual amenities like a flat screen TV and a safe etc. and I was in a room with a double and a single for which I was being charged single occupancy. The “features” were a beautiful monochrome print of a boat on a placid lake and the etched stylised map of the region on the shower doors which I thought was a nice touch.

I didn’t actually need one as it was still only about 1330 but I had a shower just for the Hell of it and to freshen up and headed out.

I had worked out it was a fairly short distance to the meet point and a thankfully fairly straight shot so navigation should not be a problem later on as I know these things can get a bit messy dependent on which lunatics I meet.  I made it to the grandly named Brauereigaststätte Zum Stift and into the bar which was just about empty but a quick look in the beer garden (should I say Biergarten?) and I saw why. It was a more than decent day and everyone had very sensibly decided to sit outside albeit the indoor area was very comfortable.

 

Well, that was it and I knew I had done absolutely the right thing in coming. It was just like it had always been despite the catastrophe that had affected us communally. Those who have waded through the many long pages of this blog will know that Sarah  was the only person I had told of my change of heart about attending and she, true to her word, had kept it entirely secret. I am not ashamed to say that the reception I received was close to reducing me to tears. I was having my hand shaken left and right, being embraced, slapped on the back and so on.

I saw so many familiar faces there, either people I had met before or people who I recognised from profile images on VT. After so many years of speaking online I finally got to meet Victor from the Ukraine which was a particular thrill although I would not like to single him out particularly, and nor would he wish to be singled out thus as he is a very humble and lovely man. I would say that there were probably 15% of people I did not “know” there, spouses, partners, friends or whatever but they were charming to a man and woman and I suppose it makes sense as if you “hang about” with a traveller you must be inclined that way as well.

After all the almost tearful introductions were made, it was time to get down to business. I have mentioned before that the guy organising the whole thing was a German friend called Christian and he must have been in a world of worry when VT was murdered. He had already laid down deposits for restaurants, coaches, had hotel rooms set aside and whatever else and stood to lose out badly. I sincerely hope he didn’t lose a cent as that would be wrong but I believe that is not the case. Anyway, I went to see him and paid for all the activities I had booked up for (i.e. everything, what’s the point otherwise?) and I still worry about the amount of cash he walked to the bank with. I have a little training in such matters and offered to accompany him but he assured me he would be OK. Nice one, mate.

Afternoon rolled into evening and soon it was the time for the first official function, the welcoming dinner. I know there had been a pre-meet elsewhere as there always is and there would be one or more post-meets, again organised totally by members but this was the start of the weekend “proper”. We were eventually assembled in a delightful and very typical Bavarian dining room and I was reminded of a saying that used to have a bit of currency on VT that trying to organise VT members was like trying to herd cats which is undoubtedly true. A blessedly short speech from Christian which certainly touched a few raw nerves, as it would under the circumstances, and it was time to eat.

We had all pre-ordered from a menu to assist the kitchen as we were such a large party and I must confess I had chosen my main as much for the accompaniments as for the “main event” which was pork in my case. I know people say I am mad and, whilst I’ll munch my way through a good fillet steak quite happily, I am equally happy with a well-grilled double pork chop. I do like a bit of dead pig, sorry veggies and vegans. As an aside I should mention that Christian had arranged veggie options everywhere we ate which is not perhaps standard practice in this very carnivore part of the world.

The dish arrived with the pork cooked to a turn and obviously carved off a large joint with the accompaniments I mentioned which were red cabbage and dumpling. When I am in eating mode in that part of the world they are two of my absolute favourites. Service was a bit slow but we were a fairly huge party and the food, when it arrived was certainly warm enough and very, very tasty.

A few more beers, well more than a few but this is Fergy, and it was off to the very decent hotel for the night against a reasonably early rising the next day. Early for me anyway. I slept like a baby which was another blessing as, just to add insult to injury, I suffer from sleep disorder as well as eating disorder. On all levels, it was a very content man that drifted off to sleep the sleep of the righteous, even if I am not.

Stay tuned and spread the word.

I’m getting closer and find a little gem.

I finally alighted from the bus very early on the morning of the 24th and thankfully it left us in a fairly central location which is not always the case as their pick up and drop off points tend to be public carparks on the edge of town which I suppose saves time with traffic on day runs and no doubt keeps prices down by cutting costs for bays in “proper” bus stations. With my huge distrust of technology, which the reader is probably sick of hearing of by now but which fairly much defines my travelling and subsequent writing, I had taken the precaution of writing down directions to my hotel. I like old technology like a map or pen and paper and even have my own shorthand for directions. I’ll teach you it, if you like!

I had had to sit up for the last few hours of the journey and be annoyed beyond belief by a gang of teenagers making the most abominable racket and with even a few of my hard stares, which normally tend to work, failing to silence them and so it was a fairly bleary-eyed, stiff (my bad old back really was protesting) and exhausted Fergy that took off. No problem, and I found the street I was looking for quickly and in good order, there definitely is something to be said for travelling this light.

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How did I miss this?

This is where the problems began and I have to say they were entirely of my own making. If I can align the images correctly you will see an image of the Park Hotel, Memmingen which, as you can see, is hardly tucked down a back alley nor some tiny little unmarked door and yet I managed to walk straight past it somehow and kept walking. I had a mental image of it in my head but it just did not register in my exhausted brain or maybe I was looking at the far side of the street or whatever. As is my way I walked and walked and then walked some more until it became apparent I was at the edge of town and not where I wanted to be so I turned round and headed back.

The day was starting to warm up and I was a bit parched so I headed into a delightful little cafe / restaurant apparently attached to a local garage where a coffee and a bottle of mineral water was called for and promptly served by a charming young fraulein. Yes folks, you read that correctly, Fergy was on coffee and water in a place where beer was available! Damned welcome it was too if totally out of character. I asked the young lady where the Park Hotel was and she directed me back down the road I had just slogged up indicating it was on the right. I settled the bill, thanked her and took off again. By now I was pretty knackered but I knew it couldn’t be that far as I knew where the road began.

When I saw the place I could not belive how I had actually walked past it and not seen it. I knew that check-in was not until 1400 or 1500 or whatever industry standard is here but I thought I’d chance my luck and ask if I could drop my kit in the luggage room until the appointed hour. The utterly charming young lady on reception bade me wait a moment whilst she checked her computer and told me she would change a few things (i.e. reshuffle rooms) and I could check in there and then. This was almost spot on 0900 and I could not believe my luck. I would have kissed her there and then had I not thought that she, not to mention the local polizei, may have taken a dim view. I believe the Park Hotel is only ranked three star but that is what I call service, proper service and I thank them for it.

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Straight up to the room, bag on the shelf provided for the purpose, planxty stripped off (sorry, I know it is an appalling thought) and asleep just about as soon as his head hit the pillow. I didn’t even set my alarm but I was up before 1400, showered, dressed and off to savour the delights of Memmingen which were to prove to be many.

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I had vaguely noticed on my rather extended walk to the hotel that the town was attractively medieval but in the state I was in and in the early morning light it had barely permeated my exhausted brain. Albeit the day was overcast with me having gone North again from my Southerly search for the sun it was nothing short of a wonderland. I had taken six images in the hundred yards to the bottom of the street and could easily have taken more, I was on a complete shutterfest. In Memmingen you literally cannot turn a corner without seeing something else amazing and worthy of a few Mb. of your flashcard. It really is like something from a Disney theme park to the point that it is almost a caricature of itself. If someone had told me that the German government had built this place on a greenfield site as a tourist attraction in the 1960’s it would be believable but this is all for real.

I can only guess that either Memmingen was mostly spared the ravages of the Second World War or else it has been very sympathetically restored. If it is the former I am happy and if it is the latter they have done an utterly amazing job. On the principle that a picture paints a thousand words I have a rather large volume here which I shall let speak for itself.  This was only the first day and I have more for the next instalment.

I fully appreciate that I have had a very charmed life in all senses of the word and I have been lucky enough to have visited some extremely beaurtiful places and I have to say that Memmingen must be up with any of them.  Judge for yourself if my feeble attempts with a cheap compact camera do the town any kind of justice.

Naturally, all this walking was making Fergy a thirsty boy and so a few “pit stops” were called for along the way but nothing major as I was still a bit shattered from the previous night’s trek (see previous journal entry for details) but I did “mark” a few decent bars for future reference. Frankly, I didn’t find one that I would not have described as decent, the standard is consistently high, it is just a matter of what type of place you want to drink in.

What is perhaps more remarkable is that I actually got a bit hungry and ate at about 1900 in the evening. Those that know me will understand that that is not my normal M.O. On my meanderings around town I had noticed a restaurant, in a very central location called Ha Noi which indicated to me that it was Vietnamese run, and so it appeared to be although the menu is very much pan-Asian. I mention it’s location as it was ludicrously cheap by European standards despite being “prime real estate”. I had a wonderful hot and sour soup ( a favourite of mine and which, with the prawn crackers would have filled me by itself) and then an excellent main dish which I could not finish, needless to say.  I should mention that Ha Noi seems permanently busy, which is always a good sign but turnover is quick (I was not rushed, I hasten to add) and it is quite large so you should not struggle for a table unless you are a particularly large party. They even served very decent beer in there, well it is Germany I suppose.

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A quick night image for which I apologise as I did not have my tripod and my little compact isn’t too good without it and then I was back in my pit before midnight which is another rarity but I knew I had to travel on the morrow. Having come this far I was determined to stay the course and get to Kempten to meet my friends although I would definitely want to return to Memmingen some day for a more extensive exploration and I do highly recommend it to other travellers. It is utterly enchanting.

Stay tuned and spread the word.