The last section covering my trip to Germany…
The remainder of Heidelberg:
We spent our last morning in Heidelberg visiting more of the smaller neighborhoods that are off the beaten track, before checking out the Universiplatz which is where the Old University is. Apparently there is also the Studentkarzer, a student prison from the past where students were allowed to leave to go to class, then had to return immediately to the prison. I have seen pictures on postcards of it and read about it multiple times, but we couldn’t find it for the life of us! We had the map and saw where it was marked, but either we were blind or it was not well-marked. And it was Sunday, meaning nearly everything was closed so we probably wouldn’t have been able to visit the inside regardless.
By early afternoon, we were on the train bound for Sankt Goar! We took the opportunity to snag a quick nap and get some reading in. (I’m currently reading “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. I’m trying to work my way through some of the traditional literary classics, but some are so incredibly dull that I simply can’t do it. However, this one is good!) Finally, we arrived to our transfer stop, Bingen am Rhein, and as we got out, there was the Rhine River and a castle just hanging out on the mountainside! That was not the last time we would randomly see dilapidated (and other times, restored) castles and fortresses along the river. It was so exciting! Also, as a side note, we were frustrated that no one ever checked our tickets on the train as it was our most expensive trip…I swear, the transportation system is impossible to understand, regardless of the country you’re in!
We arrive at Sankt Goar to the cutest little train stop with old buildings and a church steeple jutting out the top. We had no reservations for sleeping accommodations yet, but we knew of a youth hostel that we had seen online so we set off to find it. As we walk through the streets, unknowingly in the wrong direction, I was absolutely ecstatic. I love the bigger cities, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something special about these sleepy old towns bursting with culture and tradition. It reminded me of Wicklow in Ireland and also a German version of Pobra, where I currently live in Spain. Eventually we reached one edge of town and knew we had gone the wrong way, so we began backtracking and eventually a woman noticed us looking lost and ran across the street to speak with us in English and tell us where the youth hostel was. And on we went….a bit later, we finally see the hostel up on a hill, directly beneath the Rheinfels Fortress/Castle – turned hotel. But then we couldn’t see how to get up to it….a man noticed us (I’m guessing we stuck out with our bags and lost puppies-look), whistled to us, and pointed us in the correct direction. Already the people of this small town were so friendly! 🙂
As we start climbing the hill, we both were getting excited for the location, beauty of this place, and general happiness. As we get closer, however, we realize the building looks a bit dark….I climb up the front steps and read the sign there, then burst out laughing. Christine below asked me what happened. The hostel was closed until March 15th! (Mind you, that was in less than a week…we had just missed it) Apparently they don’t get enough business during the winter season, so they close. We must have somehow missed that notice on the website amongst all the German. So we decide to start searching for a hotel that was within our meager budget. Luckily, the main street of Sankt Goar is bursting with hotels that are more like b&b’s because they are all converted houses and are also restaurants. We stopped in about 5, but they were all too expensive for us. About another 5 were closed or no one answered. Finally, we decide to give one more a try before catching the ferry to Sankt Goarshausen across the river because we knew of a cheaper place on that side. So we stopped at Hotel Eingang…a man opens the door who luckily spoke a bit of English. He tells us the price including breakfast, which was a good price for us, then offers to let us see the room. We follow him up the staircase and he tells us it’s “the best room and the best view, just for us” (or rather because no one else was staying there haha). We look into Room #1 and sure enough, it’s beautiful with large windows overlooking the river, and you could even see the castle on the other side when you were lying in bed. So beautiful at night when it was all lit up! He asked us, “Do you like?” We told him we’d take it, he handed over the old-fashioned key, asked us what time we’d like breakfast and if we prefer coffee or tea!! We were ecstatic. It was much more than we could have hoped for. So we spent a glorious few minutes jumping around the room all excited and laughing like little children, then went out to explore the town.
It was dinner time by this point, but we knew many places would be closing early because it was a Sunday and a small town, so we hit up a café for dessert and coffee first (I swear, this was a theme throughout the entire trip…after the lack of good desserts in Spain, we were in heaven with all the pastries, cakes, etc :)). Then we window shopped a bit because St Goar had some interesting little shops, including a cookoo clock shop! To end our night, we climbed up to the Fortress Rheinfels which used to be the most powerful, most desired one in all of the Middle Rhine region. This is saying a lot for how many fortresses and castles there are. One part of it has now been converted into a Romantikhotel, and we entered in to wander around a bit. We didn’t see one person, though I don’t think we were supposed to be in there…we even found the spa section of it and could have done whatever we wanted! Definitely a lack of security, but I’m guessing they don’t need it all the way up there in the middle of nowhere. We ended our night, exhausted, and hiked back down to the town again in the dark, but at least there were street lamps this time so it wasn’t as stupid. 🙂
For breakfast the following day, it was just the two of us downstairs. We were served bread rolls with jam, butter, meat slices, cheese, orange juice, coffee, and a soft-boiled egg. Funny story—I’ve recently been making a lot of hard-boiled eggs at home and read online about an easy way to peel them by breaking holes in both ends, then literally blowing the egg out of its shell. I decided to attempt it with this egg right as the man was coming up to talk to us. It shot out perfectly and into my hand. I was so proud of myself and held it up with a huge grin on my face to show the owner….he looked at me strangely and goes, “You make good thing??”. hahaha.
Anyways, we decided to spend our day visiting a couple of the other towns before heading back to Frankfurt that night. So on we go to catch the ferry across the river to Sankt Goarshausen. Luckily, the owner of our hotel called their tourist information and asked if we could leave our bags while we hiked up to the Lorelei rock. Being a small town and everyone being pretty friendly, they were fine with it and we even did it again later in the next town. So we climbed up the 400+ steps to the top of the mountain, stopping along the way for explorations into other tower ruins, a converted train tunnel, and more. The Lorelei is a point in the Rhine where it gets extremely narrow and dangerous, and many boats in the past have crashed there. There’s also several legends about a beautiful woman, the Lorelei, who killed herself there because her love left her and now she haunts the men that come through on boats to distract them and they end up dying. Or something like that. If you want to know more, go to the Wikipedia page here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorelei .
Rüdesheim & an embarrassing fall:
A bit later, we went on to Rüdesheim, a bigger and bit more touristy town, but as it was the off-season, it still was pretty empty. We explored there for awhile, though unfortunately many of the museums were closed until mid-March (only one week away!). We did somewhat visit the Museum of Mechanical Music Cabinets, which is essentially a collection of toys that play music themselves. A bit eerie, yet neat. Once we left there, Christine realized she left her phone in the hotel back in Sankt Goar…a 30 minute train ride and ferry ride away. We decide to split up, each catch the train to Frankfurt ourselves, and meet at the hostel there later that night. I spent my time wandering around and taking in the atmosphere, then stopping into a café for a beer and to write some postcards that I wanted to send before leaving Germany. When I finished, I decided I had enough time to rush to the post office in the town before catching my train. So I began speed walking to the post office, big backpack on, postcards in hand….I notice a woman pushing a stroller on the sidewalk towards me. I go to step down into the street to give her more space, look back for cars, and that’s when it happens.
Down I go.
Postcards go flying, my water bottle falls out of my bag, knees slam the ground and become bruised, face into the street, instant pain in my ankle.
Next thing I know, the woman with the baby has my arm and is trying to pull me up. I thank her while nearly crying and somehow remembered my German, retrieve my belongings and stand there against a gate for a while trying to breathe and assess the situation. One look at my already swollen ankle tells me it’s injured, though I didn’t know how bad. I’ve never broken a bone so I didn’t know what it should feel like. I decided it was fine, though, when I could move my toes and put enough pressure on it to limp the 10 minutes to the train station (most painful 10 minutes of my life). As I limped hurriedly and tried not to freak out, the clock kept ticking down…I began to worry I wasn’t going to make my train. Right as I arrived to the station, I saw it pull in. However, I hadn’t bought my ticket yet! I went up to the woman and when I pulled out my card to buy it, she told me there isn’t enough time and off the train went.
At that point, I will admit something embarrassing. Yes, I actually began crying. At that moment, all I wanted was to get to Frankfurt and my hostel as soon as possible because every minute that passed made my ankle hurt more. The German woman, who is unused to such expressions of emotion, tried to reassure me and tell me there was another in an hour (which I knew, if I was being logical). After a few deep breaths, I controlled myself and told her the situation. She got me a cold, wet towel and even called her sister who lives in Florida to describe my foot to her to verify it was just a sprain probably. The woman knew what it was in German, but I didn’t understand her. She was wonderful to me until the next train came, at which point I was perfectly fine and had calmed down. In the end, it’s probably better I didn’t make the first one simply so I had that period to relax.
Finally in Frankfurt, I got to the train station, caught my bus, and walked (painfully) to my hostel. Luckily, we had our own room again and Christine hadn’t made it back yet so I had plenty of time to chill out, take a much-needed shower, and prepare my belongings for our trip home.
Frankfurt (the last day):
For our last day in Frankfurt, we visited some other neighborhoods that we hadn’t seen yet (and which we loved!), walked across the Iron Bridge which has been covered with locks by couples over the years. There’s literally thousands and most are signed or engraved….it’s such a neat sight. I could have looked at them for an hour. Finally, we made our way back to the Römer and Zeil where we had explored the first night, but it was a whole different atmosphere during the day.
We caught the 1 hr 45 min bus to the airport and nearly didn’t make it through security there (I had a liquid that was over the 3 oz that I snuck into my Ziploc bag and luckily he didn’t see as he examined the bag. Christine didn’t have a Ziploc bag at first, which Spain simply didn’t notice. Then both our bags were over the 10 kg carry-on limit. The woman was nice to me as it was just 0.5 kg over and she goes, “Well maybe once you eat your apple, it’ll be under. You’re fine.” hahaha, as if an apple that I had saved for a snack weighed 1 lb….but I appreciated her ‘reasoning’ to get me through. Christine, however, was over by a lot, but she went and ‘rearranged’ her bag, aka: took things out and hid them in a bag which she held under her coat in order to get the bag to under 10 kg.). While waiting, we met a boy from Lithuania who had come to Germany on his own to compete in some karate championship and he had won! He spoke pretty good English and we had an interesting talk with him. Finally, we were on the plane ride home, during which time I made friends with the old man next to me who was from Ourense, a province near mine in Spain, but does business in Germany. We discussed the failings of the education system and the disrespect and “gimme gimme” of kids nowadays! haha. Funny thing is, he thought I was Portuguese, while the woman on the way over to Germany had thought I was Spanish. I don’t know where they’re coming up with these because my Spanish isn’t that great, but it was definitely a compliment! In Santiago, we caught the train to the bus station, waited a bit more, then lastly, the bus to our towns. I swear, it takes more connections to get from place to place here than anything. J
At this point, my ankle felt like it was so swollen it was going to burst, but we got home too late and I had school and private lessons the following day. Luckily, one of my amazing teachers met with me in the evening to go to the doctor. He did an x-ray and luckily nothing was broken, so he wrapped it in one of those semi-permanent bandages that you can’t get wet and gave me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and said I needed crutches, to which I protested loudly. Unfortunately my teacher also insisted (probably better, I know), so I borrowed some and made a fool of myself at school for the next several days. I gave them up on the following Wednesday, simply because the kind they have here were more painful on my hands than my ankle was! Then this past Friday, I went back to the doctor, he put on a new, tighter wrap and I can take it off in a week and that’s that! It still hurts and I have some crazy weird bruising, but in a week at least, I can start swimming again. I’ll have to baby it before I start running again though. L Very unfortunate. But it is what it is!
So that’s that. This week is the Semana Cultural at school, where we have plenty of activities and other groups of students are on field trips, including a ski trip to Andorra and a trip to Paris! Then next week is Semana Santa (Holy Week) in all of Spain, which is kind of like our spring break from school. I luckily have a friend coming to visit from Warsaw, so I’m getting that all planned. It’ll be so nice to share my life here with a bit of home!