Summer in Europe: Germany
Well, I have clearly fallen off the bandwagon. It’s been over a month since I last posted and the funny part is that I had promised to do a better job with blogging during the summer. As it turns out, I have failed. So, since leaving Saudi Arabia in June, we have visited Germany, Switzerland, Strasbourg, Colmar, DC, Parkersburg, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, St. Albans, Canaan, Annapolis, and DC again. So yeah, I have a whole lot of things to talk about, and not enough time to figure out where to even start. I’m not completely ready to write about it all, but I do want to talk a little bit about the German part of our European trip since that’s a pretty logical place to start…
We arrived in Frankfurt on June 17th. It was early afternoon and the first thing we did was pick up our car, which happened to be a new Mercedes Benz (that’s how you roll in Germany), and drive it to our crappy hotel. I say crappy because it kind of was a sh*t. Didn’t leave the best review on expedia or tripadvisor….let that be known. We couldn’t check in until 4pm which meant we had the chance to venture out to downtown Frankfurt (Altstadt, aka Old Town) and fill our starving bellies. We did a lot of walking and sightseeing…mainly walking. We came across this deli-looking restaurant that had outdoor seating and of course I was excited about boiled potatoes and sauerkraut. Never had it before, and it’s authentic stuff so just had to try it. D obviously got sausages and pasta salad…and German beer. Excellent filling meal. Vegan for me, not so vegan for him. We also happened to spend about 2 hours in Mango because they had this amazing sale going on and I really needed to buy a coat and rain jacket because I had 0 idea that it would be ridiculously cold in late June..in Germany. David bought more clothes than me, that needs to be mentioned for future reference.
We arrived at our hotel (finally) and had no assistance what-so-ever with our baggage. Hilarious. At least they had an elevator. The first thing I did was pass out on the bed…which we figured out was the best invention ever. The way beds are set up in Germany and Switzerland is to have a queen/king size bed be two separate twin beds that are just side-by-side to give the illusion of a master bed but allows an individual the comfort of being on a single mattress. Look, I love sleeping on the same bed as my husband but it’s a pain in the butt. He moves and twitches insane amounts, and I hog the covers so we obviously never sleep soundly. I don’t know if we were just THAT tired, but we loved the idea of two separate twin mattresses. This paragraph is too long – but really it was a life(style) altering experience.
David did tons of research on “authentic German restaurants frequented by locals”. We learned from our trip to Cyprus that this is how it’s done. You find out where all the locals go…and you go there. Off-the-beaten path rinky dink restaurants are basically the best ones food-wise. We walked across the bridge over the Main river until we reached Apfelwein Wagner. It was packed. Long farm tables were set up in the outdoor sun-room and tables were shared by diners. We were seated. I ordered a big salad, and vegetarian patties (which were fried and delicious). David had a plate of sausage and sauerkraut and something that I no longer recall now. We really liked this place and for a single night spent in Frankfurt – it was a great find. We ended the evening by taking a stroll back through Altstadt where we found Romerberg (the plaza with old midieval halftimber buildings). It is a main attraction in a modern city like Frankfurt. It’s nice to see that they preserved this area that represents so many of the old towns we will see later on during the rest of our trip.
Rüdesheim am Rhein
This beautiful town is one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen. It is situated on the river Rhein, and is a hilly town with narrow cobblestone streets, boutiques and cafes. It’s also famous for its wineries and castles. We walked the famous Drosselgasse street where we had lunch of salads and picked cabbage. I bought a few Christmas ornaments from their Christmas store and David bought what turned out to be a Germany umbrella. Also got a few Nutcracker ornaments and display for Pam. David tried a sweet shot of we don’t really know what and walked around in the rain for a few hours until we were ready to head to our next destination: Heidelberg.
Of course on our journey the gps told us “caution, ferry on route”, which we totally did not understand until after driving 30 minutes in the wrong direction and finally understanding that we actually have to get the car on a ferry to cross the river. Awesome! So that’s what we did…and we drove and drove until we finally reached Leimen which is a few minutes’ drive from Heidelberg (and cheaper accommodation too). The hotel we stayed at is a cute set of Italian-style buildings that make up what is the Villa Toskana. Each section represents a different area in Italy and the decor is super cute and classy. The restaurant and bar were very elegant and we definitely spent some time in the bar watching one of the soccer matches (before I got irritated with David for moving furniture around).
Anyway, during our stay we actually did go to Heidelberg. We walked along Main street in the old town which interestingly enough, is the longest pedestrian zone in Europe. The street starts off with a church and takes you through a long stretch of lined cafes, restaurants, local stores and popular shopping stores. We strolled through old town for three hours in search of a quaint-looking unpopular restaurant. We finally gave up and settled for an Italian restaurant on our way back to the car. It ended up being exactly what we were looking for. We had a great evening except it got a little emotional which was somewhat unnecessary.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber & Heidelberg
Woke up in our villa, I ate an apple or two…and then we quickly were on our way to Rothenburg ob der Tauber in northern Bavaria. Look, you see what I wrote about Rudesheim being the most picturesque? Well…I lied. Rothenburg is the most beautiful village town I have ever seen. It cannot even be explained in words how adorable, coquette and extraordinarily gorgeous this town is. Also, it’s known as Germany’s “fairy tale town”. Its medieval architecture, pastel colored stone houses, flower pots on cobblestone streets and European outdoor cafes are a few of the things that made this town so special. So much shopping to do over there, and so many restaurant options which all seemed to serve the yummiest foods. We had pizza there – obviously I had a garlic/marinara bread (no cheese) and David had a real pizza. We also had to try all the famous treats there so we both bought two of those snowballs that everyone seemed obsessed with (I think they are called Schneebälle). I had a dark chocolate one and David got a milk chocolate one. Disappointing. I guess we just over-hyped it in our heads, however, we did find a country store with vegan treats. I ended up with two baggies of amaretto/almond cookies and vegan chocolate/almond cookies. Incredible. I’m not just saying that because they were vegan; even David was addicted to those amaretto ones. So yeah, that made up for the bla Schneeball.
I guess we didn’t take that many photos in Heidelberg so really this section highlights Rothenburg quite a bit…but here are some of the few phoos we took.
Moving on to City #3…
Mid-morning departure to Freiburg. One of Germany’s most popular university cities. It’s pretty bad that we sort of drove right through pedestrian old town past Munsterplatz. We got all kinds of looks being like “are you insane?”. We didn’t know where GPS lady was taking us! At least we found parking and were able to get out and walk the streets like the rest of the people. Our stroll through the historic center began at Munsterplatz where food vendors were set up in front of the church selling sausage sandwiches, black forest honey, fruits, and date/nut/seed sweets and treats. It was a perfect way to start our Freiburg tour. You could easily tell the difference between this city and Heidelberg. It’s a pretty heavily populated city and the center is full of life. It’s easy to notice that most of the folks walking the streets are young. Even the shops cater to the younger crowd – stationery stores, Starbucks, H&M, cutesy bookstores and accessories shops. I was in heaven. For two reasons – shopping and the pretzel. First time trying an authentic German pretzel, loved. We strolled along Kaiser-Joseph-Straße (which is the primary pedestrian path in Altstadt Freiburg). Obviously spent half an hour in Starbucks sitting at the bar and people watching from the window. As the clock neared 4 pm, we began our search for the rep who will be taking us up to our apartment (Deluxe Appartements am Münster in Freiburg). Finally found her after an hour of being lost. The apartment was incredible, really did not expect it. If we ever end up in Freiburg again, we are staying there for sure.
We spent the rest of that first day jogging for an hour along the canal, and preparing dinner in our new kitchen. We woke up early the next day (I had a nice big bowl of berries and a cup of coffee)…and were ready for our next adventure…
Black Forest Hike & Baden-Baden
I have been thinking about this day ever since we landed in Frankfurt – hiking the black forest. The plan was to walk a trail for a minimum of 2 hours and then drive to Baden-Baden. Initially we drove to the Waldcafe Hotel which we found would be a good starting place that can actually be located on google maps. There are dozens of trails surrounding this particular hotel and we chose to trek the Wanderung Trail. It was a surreal experience, and we had to constantly remind ourselves that we are actually in the black forest. Sadly though, we did not end up tasting any black forest cake in the region where it had originated.
To complete our day-trip, we drove towards Baden-Baden, and enjoyed a few-hours’ stroll in its old town. You could feel the difference in Baden-Baden’s downtown area, it’s more posh and upscale here. Not to mention this city is famous for its classy spas. We didn’t spa it up. Eventually, we found ourselves back in Freiburg enjoying our supermarket dinners…and that’s how we ended our last day in Germany.