As promised, here is the next part of my trip to Germany last weekend. Some of you also know it was my 23rd birthday yesterday…woo hoo!!! I didn’t have school, but I did go to my private lessons, got drinks with a few teachers, and then met with another teacher for dinner & drinks in Santiago, where I again ate “pulpo” (octopus) and let me tell you…it’s possibly my favorite Galician food! Trust me on this one. Anyways, on to my 23rd year of life…we’ll see what it brings!
Frankfurt (the first night):
After arriving in Frankfurt and having our first awkward, “I don’t speak German” moment on the bus, we reached our hostel and found out we had a room to ourselves! We were quite excited and were getting all settled in when suddenly the blinds between the panes of glass started magically lowering! I freaked out, thinking we were somehow triggering it. Finally it stopped and we laughed about it…then they moved again and snapped open horizontally, causing us to freeze again. haha. We later concluded they were triggered automatically by the sun shining in because in about ten minutes once the sunset passed, they went up again. Oh Germany, your advances never cease to amaze me!
I had read about a Thursday evening Farmer’s Market in a main square along the Zeil (the biggest shopping avenue; apparently comparable to 5th Avenue in NY, though I considered it to be more clothing stores in a mid-price range…there was another street with all the high-end designer shops). The market was so neat! Basically tons of Germans everywhere drinking beer (or other alcoholic beverages) and plenty of options of bratwursts and other typical foods. You could stay there and eat (which we ended up doing for dinner), or there was also the actual ‘market’ portion with produce stands, cheeses, meats, breads, etc. Similar to Spain, there were plenty of sausages hanging everywhere, but sure enough, I didn’t see one pig leg for jamón! I will say this for Germany…they have some of the most amazing different breads that I’ve ever had in my life. I swear Christine and I each ate our weight in bread that weekend and then some. Another thing I noticed while we walked around at the market…I felt so short! In Spain, most people are smaller and especially the women. My height of 5’2”, which is fairly short in the US, is normal in Spain. But now in Germany, I was short once again! Everyone was towering over us and we definitely stood out like a sore thumb.
We spent the evening wandering the area and also checking out what is left of the “Altstadt” or “Old Town” of Frankfurt, which is mostly a metropolitan city now. It’s also interesting to note that everything was pretty deserted by 11pm. Granted, it was a Thursday night, but in Spain, everyone would still be out for tapas and drinks including the children! Over the course of my time in Germany, it was fascinating to compare their culture to Spain and the USA. Many times, I did feel like I was back home in the states because it’s similar in a few ways. On our way back to the hostel that night, we missed our stop on the metro because we couldn’t get the darned doors open! So we had to go down one stop, then backtrack on the next train…a police officer approached us and tried to ask what we were doing. I don’t think he really understood our explanation as he just waved us away.
On Friday, we headed to Heidelberg which feels very much like a German Bloomington (obviously I loved it). It was a beautiful city, with an incredible Old Town, more bikes than you’ve ever seen in your life, and a gorgeous old castle/fortress overlooking everything which glows at night. We were wandering the cobblestone streets of the Altstadt and made our way to the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) when we turned around and there it was, up on the side of the hill! My pictures of it on Facebook simply don’t do it justice.
For dinner that night, we were planning on doing something traditional, but it was cold and we got sick of searching in the cold without a plan…so we somehow ended up at a place that was supposed to have a South of the border theme. The best part? We were there in the 6 to 8pm Happy Hour special and I got a strawberry daiquiri half off….then a steak fajita salad. It was the most un-German and un-European thing you could get, but we quite enjoyed that night as it has been forever since we’ve had anything like that! (I continued to see sushi places everywhere, too, but I never ended up satisfying that craving. haha)
Walfisch – The best breakfast I’ve ever had in my life:
In my hours of research online before the trip, I had found a recommendation for this restaurant called ‘Walfisch’. Apparently it’s so popular for breakfast that you have to make a booking ahead of time, so the woman at the hostel helped us make that call and we started our Saturday off right. We spent much trying to decipher the menu, then both ended up ordering the recommended “Sugar and Spice” breakfast. Best decision of my life. We each got a cappuccino, cup of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, and a whole basket of different breads brought to our table first. (from pretzel rolls to plain croissants to chocolate-filled croissants to cranberry things to other unidentifiable, but delicious things). We had to restrain ourselves to wait for the actual food before touching the bread. Okay, okay….we may have nibbled a bit first. Then came out perfectly cooked vegetables (eggplant, red & yellow peppers, mushroom, tomato, slice of mozzarella all drizzled with a balsamic-y type sauce) and served with amazing tzaziki. Then for the “sweet” part, a crepe filled with all fresh fruit (blueberries, pineapple, mandarins, strawberries, apple, & melon). Then of course, a serving of Nutella and strawberry marmalade for the bread. It was an exquisite breakfast. I’m salivating just thinking about it again!
After leisurely enjoying the rest of our cappuccinos (and letting all that food digest!), we visited the Neuenheim market which was filled with locals. My favorite part? All of the hard boiled eggs that they’ve dyed for Easter! We then headed up to the castle. Unfortunately the funicular was under maintenance, but we headed to the top and enjoyed the beauty of this now run-down castle up close, as well as the view over the whole city and river. There’s one corner tower of the castle that has been broken and literally just fell apart to the ground. We asked about it and the woman simply told us, “Oh the French tried to blow it up. And failed.” haha.
A pitch black hike:
Our day slipped away from us and next thing we knew, it was late afternoon and we still wanted to visit Philosophenweg, which is the area where all the old-time philosophers and poets went for inspiration up on the side of a mountain. Furthermore, I was bound and determined to continue hiking up to the top, ‘Heiligenberg’ or ‘Holy Mountain’. At the top, I knew there was Thingstätte, a Nazi amphitheater built by forced labour, and the remains of an old monastery built in the 9th century and abandoned in 1500. We knew it was a bit of a hike up, but we decided to move quickly and try to make it before the sun set.
About halfway up, we questioned if it was a good idea as we were following a dirt path in the woods, with only random rocks at junctions to help guide our way. However, we decided if we were this far, we were going to try to make it. So on we went.
We reached the top at twilight…the pictures of the amphitheater are absolutely awful, but it was neat (and horrible) to imagine the time it was built and also to stand at the stage and top of the steps to test out the acoustics. They were incredible. By the time we reached the monastery ruins, it was pitch black and you couldn’t see too much. I really wanted to explore the steps down to some rooms beneath the ground, but even with our cell phones giving light, it was way too dark and freaky. So we decided to turn back. There wasn’t a car left in the parking lot at the top and we realized we now had an hour hike back down through a pitch black forest and not much to guide us. That’s when we told ourselves that this was a bad, bad idea.
But, the only thing we could do was start moving, and so we did. Let me tell you….I have an active imagination and my heart did not stop pounding that entire hike back down. You couldn’t see where you were walking, absolutely NO one was around or knew where we were, animals kept rustling in the bushes and leaves around us so you could never quite tell if they were moving toward you, and to be honest, I didn’t even know what kind of animals they had in those forests. I was imagining wolves and all sorts of crazy things. For some reason, I thought it would scare them off to talk loudly, so I just kept saying all sorts of ridiculous things to Christine with an obnoxiously loud voice. Then we were quoting ‘Wizard of Oz’…you know, “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my”?? hahaha. Then we began singing “Row your Boat” in a round to distract ourselves from all the noises around us. Definitely one of the scarier experiences in my life….when we finally reached the bottom and near civilization, it was the best feeling. We definitely did not make the smartest decision when we set out about 4 hours prior. So everybody, take this as a lesson for you! ha
An amazing couple & free dinner:
After such a panicked adventure, we decided we had earned some beer(s)! I had read about a place called Vetter’s that brews all of their beer in the house, so we headed to the heart of the Altstadt where it happened to be. The seating in these types of places is community—huge tables where several different groups of people sit. We ended up with a group of Germans who also spoke perfect English and helped us out with our ordering. I got their homemade wheat beer, but as a “radler”, which means it’s mixed with some sort of Sprite-type stuff. It was great! Similar to a “clara” in Spain, which is pretty much the same idea. For my second beer, though, I tried just the wheat by itself and it was fantastic. Especially since I haven’t had much beer since coming to Spain, as they mainly have lighter ones like “Estrella Galicia”, which is good but not too exciting. An interesting fact about the ‘radler’ – the man was explaining to us that some part of the word means bicycle, and the drink was invented so that those who rode to the bars on their bicycles were still sober enough to bike home after. Sounds like something we’d need in Bloomington, ehh? I think some of my friends can understand that one!
Once that group left, we ended up with an American couple who was serving their National Guard duties in Kosovo. They were from Wisconsin, both helicopter pilots, and this was their first year actually getting to live together since they were married! We spent a good hour and a half laughing and joking with them, when we decided we were absolutely exhausted and wanted to hit the hay (and hope the rhythmic snoring squad in our hostel dorm wasn’t still there). When we received our bill, the woman ripped it out of our hands and told us they’re taking care of it! We naturally protested and she goes, “No, I remember what it was like staying in hostels. Plus, this is our tax-free money from Kosovo. We’re paying. We’re going to stick around and have another beer…you guys have a good rest of your trip.” They were such an interesting, funny, amazing couple….we thanked them profusely, promised to pay it forward, and headed on our way. This is the best part of traveling, I think….the people you meet, the bonds you create, if only for a short while, and the memories you will now have for forever.
With that being said, I’m going to save Sankt Goar, the Rhine, and the remainder of Frankfurt for the next post. (And yes, luckily our hostel dorm on the second night was not interrupted by (as much) snoring nor anybody who came in at 3am, turned on all the overhead fluorescents, then took their sweet time getting ready for bed, while keeping awake the 9 other people in the room. Yes, this all happened the first night.)
Until the next one!