Monday, February 24, 2014

Hermann, MO on Valentines Day by Amtrak - 2/14/2014

For years, Sigrid has wanted to take a train ride to somewhere.  At times, we talked about St Louis but we knew that transportation was a challenge once you got there.  Besides, we have already seen about everything we want to see in St Louis.  Hermann, MO was always on the list of "Train Places" but we had the same issue with Hermann that we had with St do you get anywhere once you are off the train?

There were options for transport if you went to Hermann during one of the big festivals but you had to fight for space with the thousands of other people who were also there for the event.  We like to travel during the week to avoid the crowds.  Unfortunately, Hermann rolled up the carpets and locked the doors during the off days and seasons.  Taxi service was not always available as drivers went in and out of business.  The Trolleys, at one time, did nothing but wine tours during the big events and then closed down like everything else when business was slow.  Nobody answered their phones during slow times.  The good news is that things have changed.  Both the taxi company and the Trolley buses seem to have stable and aggressive owners who will take care of you even during slow business and good for Hermann.

So, Sigrid booked Amtrak tickets on-line for Valentines Day to Hermann for us and our friend Edel.  The cost of the tickets on Amtrak vary greatly based on the day of the week and any specials that they have going when you make your purchase.  Generally, the cost is about the same or better than driving if you start in the Kansas City area as we did.  We got on the Amtrak in Lee's Summit, MO.  There is also a stop in Independence for the train that originates at Union Station in Kansas City.  We were picked up at 8:50 am in Lee's Summit and made it to Hermann right on schedule at 12:03 pm.  The photos below are of the train stop in downtown Lee's Summit.

My father worked for 30 years on the old Missouri Pacific Railroad as a radio maintainer.  I am so familiar with the Mopac logo.  The Mopac was bought by Union Pacific RR which now travels over the old Mopac rails.  The caboose like the one in Lee's Summit is a thing of the past.

Lee's Summit is a train stop with only a small enclosure for waiting passengers.  It was Valentines Day and a Friday so the train was packed.  If you want to ride the train, make your reservations far in advance for weekend and holiday travel.  Seats are first come first served so if you are traveling with someone, be the first on the train to improve your chances of being able to sit guarantees.

The cars are clean and roomy with two seats on each side and a wide center isle.  There is considerable room in the overhead shelves for luggage.  The seats are far more comfortable than an airplane seat.

The train made stops in Warrensburg, Sedalia, and Jefferson City before getting to Hermann.  The Missouri River was still iced over and it was cold with sleet on this day.

The train got to Hermann right on time at 12:03 pm.  The Trolley pulled up to pick us up immediately as we got off the train.  Here is a little Hermann history from Wikipedia.

Hermann is a city designated in 1842 as the county seat of Gasconade County, Missouri, United States. It is near the center of the Missouri Rhineland and south of the Missouri River. The population was 2,431 at the 2010 census.

This was an area of vineyards and wineries established by German immigrants during the mid-19th century. After Prohibition shut down the industry, it was not until the 1960s that it began to be revived. Officially designated in 1983, the Hermann AVA (American Viticultural Area) was one of the earliest recognized by the federal government. The seven wineries in the AVA produce one-third of the state's annual total of wine.
Hermann holds a Maifest during the third weekend in May and an Oktoberfest the first four weekends in October. In addition to its wine industry, Hermann is called the sausage-making capital of Missouri.

The city was founded by the Deutsche Ansiedlungs-Gesellschaft zu Pennsylvania (German Settlement Society of Philadelphia) in the 1830s. It was promoted by the enthusiasm of Gottfried Duden, who wrote about the area in his Bericht über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nord Amerikas (Report of a Journey to the Western States of Northern America). An early part of settlers was led by George Bayer and Edward Hermann, who bought the land and is considered by many to be the founder of the town. The town was platted after the society sold shares in the 11,300 acres (4,600 ha) of Gasconade River valley land it had purchased.

The society had almost utopian goals of a "heart of German-America" where it could perpetuate traditional German culture and establish a self-supporting colony built around farming, commerce, and industry. The town is named after Hermann der Cherusker, a Germanic leader who defeated the Romans in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in the year 9. In 2009, the City of Hermann celebrated the 2000th anniversary of the battle, in which the Germanic warrior Hermann defeated three Roman legions and changed the course of history. A bronze statue of the city's namesake was dedicated, and has been standing since September 2009 in the Hermann Park.

In the 1960s people began to rebuild the wine industry in the Hermann area. The vineyards and wineries contribute both to the agricultural and heritage tourism economies, with wine tastings and visits related to the wineries increasingly popular.

The Hermann area is known for wineries: Stone Hill Winery, the largest wine making business in the state, and Hermannhof Winery are in the town. Two miles south of town off Missouri Highway 100 West is Adam Puchta Winery, the oldest continuously family-owned winery in the nation, under direct family ownership since 1855.  Bias Vineyards is less than eight miles (13 km) east near Berger on Missouri Highway 100. Also included in the Hermann AVA are Oakglenn Vineyards and Winery, 2½ miles east of Hermann; Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery; and Röbbler Vineyards and Winery near New Haven.

The Katy Trail, a 225-mile (362 km)-long bike path, passes through McKittrick, a town on the northern side of the Missouri River across from Hermann.

The Trolley took us from the train to the Stone Hill Winery so we could have lunch at the Vintage 1847 Restaurant.

Sigrid and Edel.

The restaurant was not crowded so we had a leisurely lunch.  We all got the German Specialty Plate which had three German classics - Sauerbraten (beef), Jager Schnitzel (pork tenderloin with gravy), and a locally made bratwurst.  The sides were German potato salad and red cabbage.  The schnitzel and bratwurst were the best.

We had to try the desserts since it was Valentines Day.

After lunch, we walked next door to the gift shop at the winery and purchased the wine cellar tour.

We can't pass this kind of fun up without a photo.  Edel is taller than Sigrid so she had to be the guy in the photo.

More Wikipedia information:

Stone Hill Winery is a Missouri winery located in Hermann, Missouri, along the Missouri River, in what is called the Missouri Rhineland of the Hermann AVA. It has additional facilities in Branson and New Florence. Established by German immigrants in 1847, it is the largest winery in the state

At the turn of the 20th century, Stone Hill Winery was the second-largest winery in the United States and the third-largest in the world; it produced 1,250,000 gallons in 1900. Its wine had won numerous awards in international fairs, including Vienna in 1873, Philadelphia in 1876, and St. Louis in 1904. Due to Prohibition, the winery was closed in 1920, along with virtually all others in the nation. During this time, the family earned money by using its wine cellars to grow mushrooms for sale until 1965.

In 1965 the Held family made Stone Hill Winery the first in Missouri to be re-established.

Its main building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Making Ice Wine (Eiswein in German).

After the tour we did an extensive wine tasting.  In years past, I did not care much for the Stone Hill wines.  They have a new wine master there now and I was surprised at how much better they taste.

We called the Trolley to pick us up from Stone Hill and he was there within 10 minutes.  He was taking care of a number of other tourists in town while we were there so his response time was excellent.

He would drop us off anywhere we wanted in town.  We stopped briefly at the Chocolate Box for treats to take home (they never made it).  The Trolley waited for us as we shopped.  After that we toured the downtown area and selected a place to be dropped off for walking/shopping.  The ladies shopped and I rode with the Trolley guy and discussed a future event that our retirement club is planning for October.

I got off the Trolley at the Hermann Wurst Haus which is downtown and only a block from the train stop.  I would meet the ladies here when they were done shopping.  We would wait here to stay as warm as we could before going to the train stop.  Since the train ride home is three hours, the Wurst Haus is a great place to get a little to eat before you get on the train or have them make a brown bag for you to take on the train.  The train has a diner car but I don't think they can match what the Wurst Haus has to offer.

It was a great day until it was time to go home.

The train was scheduled to arrive in Hermann at 5:34 pm.  We got to the stop at 5:15 pm to make sure we weren't late.  The train stop is a pretty awful plywood shack with no heat.  It barely provided a wind break.  After the train was 15 minutes late, we called the 1-800 number to see what was wrong.  We found that the train was going to be an hour late.  The train originates from St Louis which is less than an hour from Hermann so it was hard to understand how it could be so late.  I later discovered that Amtrak has to use the private railroad lines (Union Pacific in this case) and freight trains often throw Amtrak off schedule.  Passengers don't get priority I guess.  The good news is that they are building a new enclosure at the train stop so future trips will be more pleasant.

We danced around the shack trying to stay warm for an hour.  We even thought about setting the trash can inside the shack on fire to keep from getting frostbite.  The train did arrive after we had been waiting for 70 minutes and we had an uneventful ride back home.  Even with the train issue, it was a really nice day.