Passau – Bavarian Forest
Dec 19, 2018
Following the morning walking tour of Passau, there was a quick lunch and by 1.00pm we were in coaches heading 30 minutes into the Bavarian countryside. We had made this trip in 2013, however decided that a ride in a covered wagon through a snowy countryside could be extra special.
Our guide was Eva, the same guide as in 2013. We knew who it was from her first utterance. She can’t help herself, she laughs as delivering corny punchlines and every second sentence, and to some she is irritating and to others just good exuberant fun. Unfortunately, she could be the cause of a major dispute. She told us at the end of the excursion when returning to the ship at around 11.30, that this was to be the last time Uniworld will include the excursion in their schedule. Later we were advised by some of the Uniworld people, that it or a similar excursion would be provided by a different “vendor”. It therefore could be that there were complaints about Eva and they have found someone else to do the excursions.
It would be a shame to remove the excursion because the glass museum and glass blowing demonstration at the Theresienthal crystal glass factory at Zwiesel in the middle of the Bavarian Forest and the wagon ride and fresh bread in the village were rated by many on this cruise as a highlight.
Some years ago, the owners of the glass factory decided that it was no longer profitable and decided to close it down, putting several hundred people out of work. A small core of workers just couldn’t let it go. The furnaces if switched off (Russian natural gas) would have been destroyed. They needed to have the heat slowly reduced over weeks, so they continued to work for a while and then generated publicity as they cooled them down. BMW were impressed by the workers staying on, so they investigated and discovered that the manufacturing would have been profitable but for poor management. They were looking to finance the business when one of the senior managers, Max Freiherr von Schnurbein decided to purchase 90% of the shares and left BMW to run the business and rebuild its marketing etc. Today it only employs around 30 or so, and they have 3 year apprenticeships and are quite profitable. Looking at the prices in their factory shop …. OMG!.
With the light fading we then went on to a nearby farming community. As I described the case in Austria, the local farms are small in Bavaria as well. Most of them now rent out apartments to the city people and bake sourdough bread for them as well. The only other income is tourism such as the farm where we take a 30 minute ride in a covered wagon drawn by two short stocky draft horses, return to the farm for mulled wine, freshly baked sourdough (left overs from bread baking, she smothers flat bread dough with sour cream and cheese and bakes in an outdoor stone oven. They also serve small pastries and Bavarian Gebirgsenzian or mountain gentian spirit. It’s a clear schnapps with 40 vol. % alcohol content, produced from the roots of the Alpine gentian plant. For those game enough, we uncapped our bottles of schnapps, followed her in saying a salutation and tossed it down. As good as the last time … tastes a little like celery, warming but not burning like some Eastern European schnapps.
As for the wagon ride, we were all given sheets of lyrics for Christmas carols and sang our hearts out driving through the snow. Across the fields and down through streams, the horses were occasionally put into a gallop. Unfortunately someone in the first cart dropped their phone over the side and when the driver pulled his team up, we in the third cart came within a half meter of our horses hopping into the back of the cart in front. It was that close that the people in the back of the cart could pat the horses on the nose.
All back on the buses for a 30 minute drive back to the ship which had moved up river. We had an hour to get ready to depart by bus again for another 30 min drive to have dinner in a barn in the Bavarian countryside. This was to be the 1st time Uniworld had included this excursion as part of any tour. The story goes that a chef was lured back to his father’s farm on the proviso that he could explore his culinary arts without interference. It had been billed as a Bavarian feast in a barn. The reality was that the barn was beautifully decorated … for a wedding. We’d been bumped.
We arrived to be welcomed outside the door by a Bavarian brass band. O.K. then the owner felt it the right thing to try to gee us up with an over the top welcome. It was 0 degrees and we were still outside being offered Gluehvein. We wanted beer as we had had enough of sweet hot mulled wine. We were then relegated to a rambling building with numerous rooms that ensured that we couldn’t sit with friends or acquaintances. The food was set out in bain-maries and wasn’t very interesting. They ran out of pork, they served one barrel (small) of beer, the waitresses didn’t know what was being served or even where the bathroom was. Very ordinary wines. Very ordinary night and on a midnight run back to the ship, most were amazed that Uniworld would consider removing the afternoon excursion and undertaking this new one.
I remembered attending a conference function at the Gundaroo Pub over 25 years ago. On the bus we were entertained by singers etc. At the pub we were welcomed inside with drinks and steaks straight off the BBQ, entertainment strolling from room to room. Great “Australian” atmosphere. Here we had a lame attempt at “Bavarian” atmosphere.
Many unhappy campers back on board at 12.30 am and questioning why we had put up with such a long day with a poor ending.