Travel Blog – South Germany

20 10 2009

After leaving Maastricht we finished the days drive to Frankfurt where we were going to be staying with Alyona’s friends Barbara and Rafael. They are both really nice people and amazing hosts and cooked a delicious dinner for us although Rafael had to pop out at one point as he is a volunteer fire fighter and had to go for a final interview in his new district (so altruistic too ;-).

After dinner we had a few drinks including some excellent polish vodka and Rafael even treated us to an authentic Chinese tea ceremony as he travels there for business…

Barbara & Rafael (f4.0 1/10 24mm)

Barbara & Rafael (f4.0 1/10 24mm)

Later we took the train into town to check out a ‘night at the museum’ style event where all the museums along the river got together and put on music and beer tents to drum up local interest. We managed to catch the tail end of the event and had fun threading our way through the crowd, drinking beer, and listening to a variety of music styles. Once that shut down we walked around the city center a bit and eventually got tired and took the night bus home.

We slept the night at Barbara and Rafael’s and enjoyed a lazy morning relaxing and talking more.

Later in the morning we drove further south to Heidelberg to meet up with Vivi, the same friend we met up with in Singapore. Heidelberg is the very picture of a Southern German University town with a large river passing through the middle, an old medieval town center with a castle on a hill and a university that dates back 600 something years.

Vivi took us up Philosopher’s Way which winds its way up the hill opposite the town before breaking open into a magnificent view of the city across the valley. Turns out that the research facility Vivi works at is actually located in the forest behind the castle which seems like a ridiculously picturesque location to work.

We then made our way down to the river and crossed the bridge into the town proper buzzing with people enjoying the sun (including the obligatory beach bar with imported sand). The town is quite an experience as it is a completely car free zone and while Alyona will hassle me for going on about the old stones it really did make it feel more like an old medieval city, just with ice cream and Christmas ornament stores instead.

Downtown Heidelberg (f4.0 1/2000 50mm)

Downtown Heidelberg (f4.0 1/2000 50mm)

And teaming with tourists like ourselves…

We then walked up the other side of the valley and around the back of the castle into the grounds. It turns out that while it may cost for entry into the castle proper during the day it is completely free after 6pm so we bided our time till that rolled around.

Vivi took this shot of us on the path up to the castle gardens and I really do like the perspective:

The castle on the hill (f8.0 1/160 35mm)

The castle on the hill (f8.0 1/160 35mm)

On the way up we ate wild strawberries on the side of the road and strolled through the forest. The castle grounds seemed less expansive than in other places (read: France) but that is probably due to its location on the side of a hill and that it did serve the purpose of proper fortifications in its own time..

Wild Strawberries (f8.0 1/60 24mm)

Wild Strawberries (f8.0 1/60 24mm)

Despite the ground’s size there were still the normal accompaniment of fountains, manicured grass and gardens. One in particular looked rather god-like in its repose so warranted a bit of a parody.

A god-like repose (f8.0 1/50 24mm)

A god-like repose (f8.0 1/50 24mm)

On the way into the castle proper we came across a columned arch engraved with vines and woodland animals. The story goes that the master of the castle made the columns for his wife when he went away and she had to find all the carved animals before his return.

Searching for the animals (f5.6 1/15 24mm)

Searching for the animals (f5.6 1/15 24mm)

The castle was one of the most impressive and large I’ve seen and probably the oldest as, while it has been destroyed and reconstructed over time, it originally dates from the 1200’s (the town itself from the 500’s). It wasn’t possible to go inside the buildings themselves but is still impressive to walk around the grounds and the view over the city is amazing.

When we got back down to the city we walked around a little more and did some souvenir shopping. Vivi left early to start preparing dinner while Alyona and I walked around the university grounds and past her old apartment from when she worked here. On the way back to Vivi’s we bought cake by the slice for dessert (they do that here) and saw how the walls of the castle turn pink in the setting sun.

The pink castle walls (f5.6 1/250 55mm)

The pink castle walls (f5.6 1/250 55mm)

We had a very pleasant (and delicious) dinner and evening hanging out at Vivi’s place and even went to the next town over to go Salsa dancing. Have to admit I was feeling a bit too tired for a dance-off but we had a lot of fun nonetheless!

In the morning we had an early start but somehow Vivi still managed to get up earlier and put on a wonderful breakfast of pancakes and fruit. After which we started the very long drive to Berlin. We had to drop the car off by 6pm which made it a hard deadline for the 500km journey and, through the magic of driving 190 whenever possible, managed to get there just in time. Although not without stopping at a sex shop on the old border between east and west Germany which I was told exists at every border crossing up and down the country.

I think the final drive through Berlin city was by far the most stressful part of the trip for me and I was glad to finally end up at the hotel.

Travel Route




One response

22 10 2009

Not sure I could have done all that driving okay. But I guess you do if you have to!!!

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