Inaugural Pilkguns ‘Shooting Tour of Germany’
by Michael Ray
This is my journal of the inaugural Pilkguns Shooting Tour of Germany, which took place 5-14 OCT 2001. The tour was organized by Scott and Rhonda Pilkington of Pilkington Competition Equipment, LLC in Monteagle, TN. Scott had been wanting to do an activity like this for several years and was able to pull it together because of the various contacts he had formed in Germany. The tour was announced initially in mid-February on Target Talk, the internet BBS Pilkguns operates, and I included it on my email list as well. Surprisingly, one member of the tour did not have net access and heard about it at the Crosman Gran Prix. The final group consisted of 25 people, including all four members of the Pilkington family. There was one couple who withdrew from the tour as a result of the September terrorist attacks. Rifle shooters were in the majority for the group (of those that were shooters) and I am one of those so I’ll likely be slanted more to the rifle side of things. I should note the itenerary was not biased toward either discipline, and neither were the plant tours. So come along and enjoy yourselves on a shooter’s dream vacation!
October 5th, 2001
Merrie and I awoke at 0430 Friday morning and drove to the Indianapolis airport. I had arranged to get an earlier flight than planned since I was concerned about the short layover in Detroit to get our connecting flight to Newark. The original flight from Detroit direct to Amsterdam had been cancelled. Once we arrived, we were offered an even earlier flight that was about to leave so we decided to wait around in the Detroit airport rather than at home. Security for us was a breeze; the lines were not long and they were hand scanning about every third person so it was only about 15 minutes in line. We learned later we were probably one of the luckiest ones as some in the group had to endure having every piece of luggage searched and lines miles long. The flight was packed but short so we arrived about 0725 local time. We ate a light breakfast and then sat around the gate reading books. About an hour before the flight, they hadn’t updated the gate display yet so we checked the departure board and discovered our gate had been changed. We were still the first of Target Talk group that was meeting in Detroit to make it to the gate, but most of the others arrived soon afterward. We were concerned because we were missing one person that was supposed to meet us there so were we hoping she had made arrangements to Newark somehow. The flight to Newark was also nearly full. As we landed, people crowded over to the east side of the plane to try to see the “new” Manhattan skyline. I’m not sure how much you could see since we were on the other side. We were still missing the 12th person for our portion of the group as we boarded the KLM flight for Amsterdam. We had to wait a short while on the ground because we would arrive before 0600, violating a noise ordinance. After our takeoff toward the south that we circled back over NJ to head north so then I could see Manhattan and the empty space where the WTC once stood. It was too far away and hazy to see much clearly. I was also surprised to see commercial jets flying up the Hudson like they always have.
It was a nice, long flight of 7 and a half hours. When a program wasn’t showing on the screens, they would display the flight map and statistics. We landed just after 0600. The Schiphol airport terminal is the nicest and cleanest I’ve ever seen. It seemed almost deserted, which I assume was because of the early hour, so we zipped right through the customs line for our passport stamps. We made our way to the gate where the group that had flown out of Minneapolis was already waiting. Fortunately our 12th person had managed to join up with them so we were all together now except for the 3 people meeting up with us in Munich
October 6th, 2001
We landed in Munich at 0920 and it was a bit chilly and overcast. Those who had brought firearms with them had to go through customs, which basically involved proving the serial numbers matched up with those on the form that Scott had faxed ahead. Our “guide”, Annette ‘Netty’ von Weech, and our driver, Lothar Straßberger, were waiting for us with a tour bus. Because the airport was so far north of the city and our hotel for the night was even further north, we departed straight for the Oktoberfest to maximize our time there since it was the last day of shooting. We exchanged $100 for DM on the bus (Netty had gone to the bank and made up envelopes for each of us) so we would have some spending money. The southbound traffic was fairly heavy with people travelling to the Alps and it took a while to maneuver into and around Munich because of traffic and construction. We drove right past the Olympic Stadium. We learned very quickly that our driver was a pro as he deftly took the bus within inches of cars and buildings. We finally got to the south side of what I would call a fairgrounds, which looked about a square mile in size, to the bus parking area. We walked to the Bavarian Shooting Federation “tent”, which was basically a real building and more appropriately named a “beer hall” IMHO with lots of eating, drinking, singing and smoking. The food was great; I had some beer sausage and Merrie had a pork plate and we shared a huge pretzel, which was a very popular item there (after the beer, of course). I didn’t want to partake of beer yet since I was likely dehydrated as it was from the flight so I had coke with lemon and orange juices in it – quite tasty and I had three of them. No wonder something similar has been introduced to the US now! The sun broke out shortly after we arrived and it warmed up into the 70s so it was very pleasant walking around and taking in the sights of the festival. It did seem like a state fair sort of atmosphere with lots of vendors, game booths and rides. However, the large amount of beer makes it a bit livelier and the attendees are more varied with young and old alike in their traditional dress. Unlike our fairs though, they had some major roller coaster rides that seemed permanent and many of their smaller rides were much more thrilling than what we have here. I was surprised how cheap; while the major rides were $4-5, I purchased a T-shirt for $7 and 2 shirts for our boys for less than $3 each. Back at the “tent” we were in they had 90 air rifle and 25 air pistol firing points available, but the range was not too busy while we were there since it was the last day of shooting (shooting isn’t allowed on Sundays officially). Several members of our group did elect to participate in some of the contests for an entry fee of 30 DM (~$14). One of our group fired the very last shot of the Oktoberfest and was presented a special award for this feat. They had several different match formats you could shoot, which I didn’t understand, but the normal 40 shot match for air rifle was led by Debevec, Horneber and Pfeilschifter with perfect scores in the master class. The whole Oktoberfest experience was quite thrilling to me, but I think it caught most of by surprise when the entire hall sang along to several American songs as well, including John Denver’s “Country Road”. We left at 1700 for the guest house, which was back near the airport. It turned out the hotel, Gastof Nagerl in Marzling, had its own 22-point 10m range though we didn’t shoot on it. As we later learned, it’s quite popular to have ranges within guest houses or restaurants. It turns out this one was only 13 years old, but it kept the traditional architecture of its small, quaint village of a few hundred people. You’ll note in the picture the blue and white pole that indicates for what crafts and services the village was known. The food and beer was excellent. We quickly learned not to order just water though as they prefer to drink carbonated spring water. You had to specify you wanted water “without gas”.
October 7th, 2001
We got up late so we could adjust to the time better and had breakfast. This was unusual to me at least because it mainly consisted of rolls and bread with “lunch meat” and cheeses. They also had some fruit and boiled eggs. We left at 1000 for Oberschließheim to see a castle and the neighboring Luftwaffe airfield and aviation museum. This is not your stereotypical castle from the outside but has a visually stunning interior. There aren’t any spires, parapets, drawbridges or the like, but appears to be simply a large, stately mansion, intended to imitate the palace at Versailles.
Since it was heavily damaged during WWII, it had been closed for 10 years for renovations and had recently reopened. They were able to faithfully reproduce the original look because of the extensive photographs taken by the Third Reich of the important cultural items and landmarks. The castle was built (1701-1726) during the Baroque period and featured ceiling murals, paintings, the second largest marble staircase in Germany, and very intricate and exquisite stucco/plaster ornamentation.
We ate lunch at the Poseidon Greek restaurant in the village. This was the restaurant where the idea of a tour first came about on one of Scott’s trips to Germany. I had a lamb filet and apple beer. Even Merrie, who doesn’t like lamb at all, thought it was really good. The air museum was a history of the airfield, which was the oldest in Germany, as well as German military, experimental and specialty aviation. They had some interesting STOL/VTOL aircraft; the one in the picture has 4 engines oriented vertically in each wingtip pod. We left in light rain and traveled about 120km north to Allersberg where we stayed at Gastehaus Sperling.Allersberg is a small town with buildings dating back to the 14th century. Residential area is very compact with narrow, winding roads. The houses and lawns were very well-kept. It struck us odd that there were no “for sale” signs anywhere. The land is so precious that homes are spoken for in advance. We learned that evening that the “War on Terrorism” had begun.
October 8th, 2001
Breakfast was at 0700 and was very similar to the first morning except we learned soft boiled eggs are far more common than the hard boiled ones we got the day before. We left for the RWS plant at 0745. It was about a 30km drive to Furth. The Engineering Manager, Hubertus Dowidat, gave us a tour of the facility, which covers 35 hectares. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to use cameras inside the facility. They have an apprentice program for their machine techs and engineers that involves 2 years in the machine shop and a year and a half in other departments. They take an exam at the end of their time covering all 3 and a half years. Their pay ranges from 1000DM/month to begin with to 1400DM near the end. While most techs and engineers are men, the majority of production personnel are women. RWS has indoor proof ranges of up to 500m to insure their ammo is safe and accurate. They have a separate 50m test range that includes a freeze chamber to -21C for biathlon for their top grades of rimfire. We then saw their shotshell process, which at one time included a shot tower but they purchase the shot they use now. They start with unprimed cases from Fiocchi or other European suppliers and add their own primer. All components are kept in separate locations and fed through the floor to the machines below. The powder room is anti-static and only small quantities are kept in the feeders or transported at a time. Downstairs they have 1 high-speed loader with 10 stations and 8 loaders from Vasini, the only European supplier of shotgun loading equipment. They run lots of 120000 rounds, which is usually 1 day of 3 shifts. It takes nearly a day to setup a machine to run a different load. Next we saw some rimfire manufacture but visitors aren’t allowed to see R50/R100 production (or pellets). They were producing Target Rifle while we were there. The priming compound is a green liquid that is poured into the cases, which are shaken until it solidifies into a “pill”, which then gets pressed so it squeezes out into the rim. The cases then run through a sorter machine to load them into pallets for the powder/bullet loader. It was too difficult to hear specifics, but the bullets get formed from a long coil of lead wire. They can make 25000 bullets from one wire and this constitutes a lot for R50, but the lower grades have a lot size of 4-5 times that so the bullets are not from the same wire. After being loaded they are lubed by passing pallets through a trough of hot “wax” for about a minute. Then it routes over to the packaging machine where they are placed into the plastic tray and passed over a mirror for a visual inspection before being placed into the carton. We then saw some centerfire cases being made (they manufacture 43 different centerfire cases), from the initial brass strip rolls through several drawing operations and then turning the belts/rims, primer pockets, etc to machines that checked min/max on critical dimensions. They make all the components except for the powder. Something that I found interesting are that they are not so safety conscious as the US as they don’t require safety glasses or hearing protection on the production floor. It was also peculiar to me to see smoking and drinking (including beer) on the floor.
Then we left to tour nearby Nurnberg. We saw the Palace Of Justice where the famous trials were held and the original walled city, some of which dated to the 11th century. We passed by a Jewish cemetery that was very plain and drab and then went to a Catholic cemetery that was quite colorful; it was interesting how the different faiths remembered their dead. It was also unusual to me that they recycle their burial plots because land is so scarce. A family rents a stone for at least 30 years, but at some time they remove the “body” to a “bone house” in the corner of the cemetary and another family can rent that stone. The building in the right picture to the left of the tower is part of a children’s home today; the ceiling heights are too low to house today’s adults.
We also visited St. Sebald’s Church where a large, ornate grave in the front holds Sebaldus, an 11th century Christian missionary. We then went to the market square to do some shopping and make a wish on the gold ring of the Beautiful Fountain. It started to rain but it was soon time to leave. That evening we had dinner and shot at the club RWS sponsors. Germany has 12000 clubs and 1.4 million members in the shooting federations. This club had 600 members and most were not RWS employees. It had 10 50m points with carriers and 16 10m points. Michael Moritz was a former national air rifle champion and the current coach for the adults. Unfortunately, it is normally closed Mondays so there were few people and we were not able to borrow equipment so only those who had brought their own could shoot. We also had some trouble getting rimfire ammo from RWS because of some misunderstandings I guess. We all had a great time though and the food and beer was very good. We had an excellent spicy goulash that was popular in the area.
October 9th, 2001
We awoke to a beautiful day. After breakfast we traveled about an hour and a half, arriving at Rothenburg at 1000. We walked into the town to the market square to meet the tour guide.A fountain with a statue of St. George slaying a dragon is in the southwest corner of the square. Over 40 fountains were built to ensure the water supply since the city was built on a plateau above the Tauber River. The St. George fountain is the largest at 8 meters deep; it’s decorations date to 1608. The original portion of the town hall was built in 1250-1400 with additional parts being added in the late 1500s. Next to the town hall is one of the most famous buildings, the City Councilors’ Tavern. When the Catholics overtook the Protestant town in 1631, the Catholic general promised to spare the town if a councilor could empty a 3.25 liter tankard of wine in one draught. The mayor of the town was able to accomplish this feat and save his town. The windows next to the clock open on certain hours to display the feat of the “Master Draught”. The town was geared for tourists since it was “authentic-looking” with a complete wall around the city, cobblestone streets, authentic architecture design and large church in the middle. Even modern conveniences like McDonalds had to blend into the scenery as you can see in the picture on the right. St. Jacob’s Church was the centerpiece of the town and because most people couldn’t read or write, they had to use images to convey meanings, which is why the statue of Jesus has grapes coming from his wounds rather than blood. The church was the largest of its time and took over 170 years to complete with construction starting in 1311 and being consecrated in 1485. The city became one of the largest in the Roman Empire after King Konrad III erected his castle in 1142. Unfortunately, his 2 sons died young so the castle itself didn’t retain much importance but it became the foundation for the city. When an earthquake destroyed most of the castle in 1365, the ruins were used to build much of the defense wall around the city. All that remains of the castle is its front gate. You can see in the picture where the drawbridge chains used to pass and the mask from whose mouth hot pitch was poured onto attackers. I ate roast venison for lunch at the Golden Griffin (next to McDonald’s) and then we got to window shop for a while. We left at 1400 for Oberndorf. The scenery is similar to some parts of the US with lush fields intermixed with stands of woods on rolling hills. The only difference to me was the density of villages and the prominence of the churches, their steeples looking like peaks rising above the plains of the villages skyline. I even saw a covered bridge, which is big thing where we live. We checked into our guest houses (one couldn’t hold us all) at Oberndorf and then went to Schutzengesellschaft Oberndorf, one of the oldest clubs in Germany (formed in 1558). Their current building was only 104 years old but it had a great view of the town from its tower. They were not too big of a club but had a nice space saving design, which included points at 10, 25, 50 and 100m with carriers at 10 and 50m. We ate a traditional local dinner – fried spaetzel in a broth, potato salad and what I would liken to a wurst streudel – and then shot against their members. Of course, we lost (something about shooting after beer and a full meal – go figure) but it was great fun. Even Merrie took a few shots (her first ever!) with a borrowed FWB300 air rifle and kept them all in the black. They had an awards ceremony afterwards and their president, Uwe Richter, presented local gifts to the top 3 air rifle and air pistol competitors from our group.
The front door to their club. (Left)
The range view from their tower. If you look closely you can see the 1 25m airgun point on the right (the 2 100m points shoot underneath it) and the 25m smallbore range is beyond the 50m points (the 100m points run alongside it). (Right)
The view of Oberndorf from their tower. The long row of buildings in the middle of the picture is the Mauser factory. (Left)
Herr Richter presenting the awards. (Right).
October 10th, 2001
The guest house we were in had some “normal” items for breakfast along with the traditional rolls with meat and cheese. We toured Feinwerkbau at 0900. FWB started in 1948 with non-firearm items and began producing air rifles in 1958 and air pistols in 1965. It is still a family owned business that has 165 employees.
Reiner Altenburger, son of one of the founders, was the one who greeted us at the plant. It was surprising to me how much work is still done by hand even though they do have many CNC machines. They produce approximately 60 air rifles and 25 air pistols per day. They didn’t show us smallbore rifle production but did mention they hammer forge the barrels and some of the processes they go through are contracted out. Their airgun barrels are purchased though they wouldn’t reveal the supplier. All barrels are checked for straightness and adjusted by hand as necessary. The wood stocks are also contracted out, but they mill their own aluminum stocks. Many of the milled parts are then vibrated in large hoppers with pyramidal polishing rocks to remove the sharp edges. The air cylinders are machined from a solid piece of aluminum alloy and are tested to 300 bar. We found out later that they are one of just a few in Germany who are licensed to make pressure cylinders. They do have some parts cast like sights and they also still do some prototype work for outside businesses like Bosch and Mercedes. Most of us got to shoot some of the air rifles on their test range where they do a final adjustment of the velocity. FWB was similar to RWS in that there was smoking and drinking on the production floor and it was uncommon to see eye/ear protection in use.
We left at 1100 for Hohenzollern Castle near Hechingen. This was more like a castle than the first one we saw.What an intimidating presence and view it had from the top of a small, conical mountain over 500m above the surrounding land. The pictures show the courtyard and a statue of King Wilhelm IV. The first castle was built in the 11th century. It was sieged in 1423. The second castle was built 31 years later but was left for ruins by the mid 17th century. The majority of St. Michael’s chapel (the largest of the three) remains from that time. The third and current version of the castle was built in 1850-1867. It suffered no damage from the war but 4 earthquakes have caused some cosmetic damage. We had to wear fabric “slippers” as we took the short tour they provided. One room had the entire family tree painted on all the walls and ceiling. We ate lunch at the castle and then we were off to Ulm. As we drove toward Ulm, we came around a pass in the hills and you could see the city in the valley below, with the steeple of Ulmer Meunster, the largest in the world at 528 feet (161m), towering above the horizon. What an impressive sight!
We stopped at ahg-Anschutz, which is run by Dieter’s son, Uwe. Even though they are not really a showroom setup (similar to Champion’s Choice), many of us were like kids in a candy store, pouring over the brochures, catalogs, and the displays they did have out. The store really isn’t very big but sure makes you drool if you’re a rifle shooter. We couldn’t stay too long since they had already officially closed by the time we arrived. Several people spent a fair amount of money. I purchased a few items for my team that weren’t available in the US yet. We then drove on to our hotel and went to a club in Burlafingen for dinner. It had 200 members and was founded in 1952. It had a newer building built in 1990 so it was really nice with 19 10m (plus a silhouette), 4 25m airgun (for what?), 2 25m rapid fire bays, 6 50m and 2 100m. The restaurant there was very nice as well. It was fairly late so we didn’t shoot but came back the following night for a competition.
This picture is the only one I have that shows most of the group. From the left: Brock Tokach, Curt Ingersoll, Dave Anderson, Cheryl Ingersoll, Walt Fairbanks, Tammy Fairbanks, Dave Tokach, Mary Kay Tokach, Michael Frahm, Nicole Hamilton, Perry McFarland, Michael Slipper, Eliot Tarlin, Bill McCaughey, Matt Hilgendorf, Michael Ray, Richard Ortlepp, Merrie Ray and Don Williams. Missing are Scott Pilkington, Rhonda Pilkington, Emily Pilkington, Forrest Pilkington, Charles Meyer and Elise Meyer.
October 11th, 2001
This morning we toured the Anschutz factory, which was founded in 1856. Even though their facilities are larger than FWB, they only have 155 employees. They have indoor ranges for 10, 50 and 100m including a freeze box for biathlon. In fact, the Russian national biathlon team was their testing rifles. They manufacturer nearly everything they need, including some of the machines and their own dies for pressed and stamped parts. Oddly, they purchase the air cylinders from outside (tested to 300bar) rather than get the certification to build them. Barrel steel comes from Belgium. The barrels are air-gauged to .001mm and are straightened by hand. Hunting barrels are choked by lapping while match barrels are choked by the profile. Stainless .22 barrels are very hard to work so they have a pretty high scrap rate.
Critical parts are 100% inspected since the government inspects every rifle. An interesting thing I learned was the threads for the sight adjustment screws are rolled onto the bolt rather than machined because it’s more precise. Stocks are made outside and they have found in their experience that cast is stronger than milled because of the heat treating and no machining stress (though I still don’t agree with that). They fire for accuracy as a barreled action first and fix it if possible if it doesn’t meet specs and then put it into the stock and fire again to verify. The test targets you get with the rifle are from the first firing. They do 4 groups from 2 lots of one brand and 4 groups from 2 lots of another, usually Eley and RWS though they have pretty much any match ammo available to test. They do hold back the best rifles for the top shooters who come in. They also chronograph the air rifles in addition to doing groups. They make about 2500 rifles a month with 2 shifts in most areas. I noted I didn’t see any beer on the floor or in the café either as I had at RWS and FWB.
We then went into downtown Ulm to the Walther factory. Ulm has many parts that could pass for an American city in terms of architecture, including where our hotel was. Walther was founded in 1889 and has 130 employees. It was in what looked like a normal office building from the outside. It was 8 stories and fairly compact with a fair amount of product movement taking place between floors. They test their defense pistols to 5 shots at 25m within about 4″ and their match rifles with 10 shots at 50m within 16mm (and they normally use R100 for that though they mentioned they get a rare flier). Their smallbore barrels are glued and then pinned. It takes 300C to break the seal. Pistol barrel blanks start at least 2″ in diameter and get turned in several operations. Aside from the defense and sport pistol barrels, they purchase the airgun and smallbore rifle barrels from Lothar Walther.
Pistols meant for police use must go through 20000 rounds without a significant amount of wear or malfunction while consumer pistols go through half that. They take a sample of 5 pistols every 3 months to determine these standards. We learned the F within the pentagon you see stamped on the airguns is the government stamp to show it is safe to sell to 18 year olds who are not in a club. It means the airgun shoots at less than 175m/s. The airguns must shoot within 1m/s during the test groups and must group within 6.5mm for air rifle and 7.5mm for air pistol for them to approve it. They first test just the barrel, then they test again with the sleeve in placed but not glued, and then they glue the sleeve and put it into a stock to test again. They also purchase their air cylinders from outside though their’s are thicker and are tested to 450bar. They make about 6000 air rifles a year. They sold 50000 P99 handguns in the US consumer market last year. I didn’t see any beer in their plant either.
We then walked around Ulm for a while, first going to Ulmer Meunster and then window shopping and looking for presents. The entire area surrounding the church was like a mall so there were tons of shops to visit and we purchased many of our gifts there. Again, Merrie and I thought the prices were pretty cheap compared to the US at the current exchange rate ($1=2.23DM was what we got the first day; Merrie exchanged some more at a bank for 2.14). The sparrow has special meaning for Ulm because legend has it that a sparrow unwittingly showed the city engineers how to bring the large timbers in through the narrow gate of the city wall so they have lots of sparrow figures throughout the city decorated in various themes; the one in the picture has a USA theme. We met back at the hotel at 1700 and drove back to Burlafingen to shoot and have dinner. I shot my first live air pistol match with a borrowed LPM-1 and came in 4th for us with a 332. They presented awards to the top 4 in our group for each discipline so I got a club beer mug. Woohoo! Naturally we lost again, but I don’t think any of us have had such a good time getting beaten that badly! Since I’m a collegiate coach, it was shocking to learn that they really don’t have any collegiate shooting programs here. It all seems to stay in local clubs.
October 12th, 2001
It was very foggy driving back to Munich the next morning, but it had burned off by the time we arrived 2 hours later. We stopped at Herr Kustermann’s house which doubles as their factory for those who wanted to get fitted for clothing. They were very gracious and have a beautiful house, including a small outdoor pool. As we passed through a suburb on the west side, I noticed we passed by a huge cemetery set in a forest (or perhaps the forest grew up within the cemetery) that would rival the largest in the US (we have the third largest in Indianapolis and this was definitely larger). Then it was off to the Olympic ranges and the hotel right there between the 10m and 50m halls. It had 44 guestrooms (and used real keys) and the bottom floor also housed the Bavarian Shooting Federation offices as well as the doping and equipment control areas for competitions. 100 50m points with about 40 that can go to 300m and 100 10m points.
October 13th, 2001
We awoke to yet another beautiful day and drove 2 hours south to Hohenschwangau with most of the group sleeping because of the late night we just had. We could see Neuschwanstein castle from several miles away as we approached, and I was surprised how close to the mountain base it was. It also didn’t look anything like the pictures you see from the side that faced us. His parent’s castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau located on a hill just to the west, was originally the seat of the Knights of Schwangau in the 12th century. It fell into ruins after the Napoleanic wars of 1800 and 1809. Maximilian II rebuilt it in 1832-36 and in 1848 he became king of Bavaria. He and his wife had 2 sons, Ludwig and Otto. The family felt a close bond to the former Knights of Schwangau and the swan became the favorite animal of the family as you can see in the picture on the right. This castle had electric lights and an elevator installed in 1910. The last family inhabitant, Prince Regent Luitpold, died in 1912 and that castle became a museum the following year.
Prince Ludwig became king in 1864 at age 18. His lonely childhood had not prepared him to rule a country and he withdrew into a world where he could live out his dreams. He started construction on the first of his three castles just east of his parent’s in 1869 on the ruins of Vorderhohenschwangau castle. He was a great friend of Richard Wagner and intended the castle to be a temple to Wagner so most rooms in the castle were made especially to honor of his friend, including one that looks just like a grotto (cave) that represents a scene from Wagner’s Lohengrin opera. It’s said that the woodwork of his bedroom and its furnishings took 14 carvers over 4 years to complete. The smaller rooms had ceramic heaters and the larger rooms used central heating from a furnace in the lower level. Ludwig died under dubious circumstances in 1886. He was declared mentally ill and was arrested. Though a good swimmer, he was found drowned along with the doctor that committed him. Six months later his castle was turned into a museum, still unfinished in many areas. The entire second floor is still unfinished brickwork and holds the gift shop and cafe today.
We drove to a nearby village for lunch and then went on to the residence of Annette von Weech, our tour organizer, for some snacks and drinks. We presented her and our driver with cards and gifts and also presented the Pilkingtons a print of Neuschwanstein signed by all the participants. We then ate at a local restaurant so we could avoid the flood of ski traffic returning from the Alps before heading back to Munich to get packed up. We got into bed shortly after 2200.
October 14th, 2001
It was time for our fun and excitement to end. We were up at 0430 and on the bus for the airport at 0600. There we finally ran into a major snag as the airline personnel at the counter claimed their airline no longer accepted firearms. After a couple hours of lots of phone calls and nervous waiting by those in our group who brought firearms, they managed to get things cleared up, but it caused one couple in our group to miss a flight and get home a day later than scheduled. I went to the duty free store to spend our last few marks and then we waited a couple hours at the gate playing euchre.
The flight back to the US from Amsterdam had an interrogation of a few minutes where they asked some fairly specific questions about stuff we had in luggage and they were doing random searches as well. That delayed our flight about an hour to process everyone through since it was a full load. Our last connecting flight home was the only one of the whole trip that was not at least three-quarters full. We landed slightly late at 1950 and Merrie’s mom and sister met us with our car so we could drive straight home from there.
Some things I found “peculiar” during the tour:
- Munich airport had nearly half the “gates” on the tarmac
- All but 3 houses and smaller buildings I saw had tiled roofs
- Germans are very environmentally conscious people yet are avid smokers and fast drivers
- There were no hotel/restaurant concentrations at highway interchanges
- They have quirky, little cars including Mercedes (see below)
- Semi trucks are 12-wheelers and box trailers are usually softsided
- Traditional building architecture throughout the country
- Narrow roads in villages and cities
- I saw very few Porsche cars
- Their love for carbonated drinking water
- Guest houses use skeleton keys and don’t have washcloths
- Toilet design is different
- They don’t have screens in the windows or doors, which they often leave wide open since AC is not very popular
- Metal roll-down shutters to keep out noise
- The rooms in a given guest house varied considerably. It was a crapshoot whether a given room in a guest house would have a phone, TV, or shower (vs. tub)
- Very few vending machines except for cigarettes, which were everywhere
- Coke bottles caps are screw-offs, like the old glass quart bottles from the 70s and there is no Diet Coke since it’s called Coke Light
- Restaurant waitstaff does not keep track of who ordered what
- Price you see is the price you pay