Over the last ten days, I’ve been traveling throughout Germany, part of which was with my grandfather (mom’s dad) who was stationed near Wurzburg for eighteen months.
Thursday, 21 January: After my grandpa’s long flight from Los Angeles earlier that day, neither of us were in any mood to go out the evening of my arrival. However, the next day, we took a drive to the south of Munich, where our first stop was a little town called Garmisch-Partenkirchen. After that, we went on to the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany, where we took a tram to the summit. It was cold (about -15°C/ 5°F) and windy, but the views were breathtaking. Our final stop of the day on the way back was Oberammergau, a small tourist town in the shadow of a grand mountain. That night, we had our best meal of the week, at least in my opinion. We went to a large (I mean, really large, with several different floors and rooms, this place never seemed to end, but even with its vast size it was crowded) Bavarian restaurant where we enjoyed smorgasbord of sausages with sauerkraut and potatoes.
Friday, 22 January: The next day, we took another drive to the south to explore a few castles. First was the Hohenschwangau Castle, a smaller castle with intricate bedroom designs. Then, we visited the nearby Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle supposedly inspired the Disney castle and righteously so, it has a gorgeous exterior and a grand interior. I enjoyed visiting both castles (as the Hohenschwangau Castle gave us some background on the history of the family who lived there, particularly the son that went on to build the Neuschwanstein Castle), but the Neuschwanstein was my favorite of the two castles.
Saturday, 23 January: The next morning, we squeezed in a guided walking tour of Munich. As it turned out, we were the only people on the tour, so we got to ask as many questions as we wanted. After the tour, we drove to Frankfurt and we’re hoping to stop by Rothenburg along the way. Once we arrived, it didn’t look like much. As it turns out, we went to the wrong Rothenburg. We meant to go to Rothenburg ob der Tauber but I misguided us to Rottenburg an der Laaber. However, that was a blessing in disguise because we were both tired and wouldn’t have had the energy to explore the “real” Rothenburg that day anyway.
Sunday, 24 January: We originally planned to just visit Trier this day, but since it’s so close to Luxembourg, we decided to visit the city. We have ourselves a self-guided walking tour of the fascinating city. On our way back, we stopped in Trier. The ancient Roman city has a really interesting history, from its ruins like the Black Gate to the Karl Marx house. We saw all these sights on a tour on what I can best describe as a kiddie train. Regardless, it was a great way to see the highlights of the city in a short amount of time.
Monday, 25 January: To avoid rush hour traffic leaving the city, we took a short walk around what can best be described as Frankfurt’s old town. It’s incredible to see the contrast of historic and modern buildings. On our way to the “real” Rothenburg, we stopped by Wurzburg, the city my mom was born in. Unfortunately, the army hospital was destroyed. We moved on to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which was probably my favorite small village we visited. It, too, is a historic city surrounded by a wall. My favorite parts of the city were the picturesque buildings and castle ruins, the views of the valley from the top of the wall and the massive Christmas shop, which was still impressive in the off season.
Tuesday, 26 January: That morning, my grandpa left and I continued throughout Germany solo. Before I left Frankfurt, I took time to explore some more of the old town. In the afternoon, I got a train to Giessen, where my friend Amy lives. We were online acquaintances for several years and thought this would be a great opportunity to meet up. She showed me around her small town (whose population is mostly university students), we visited with her boyfriend and we ate at a delicious burger restaurant and a waffle place for dessert before having a quiet night in, which was much needed for the both of us.
Wednesday, 27 January: That morning, I left Giessen for a day in Cologne. After dropping my bags off at my centrally located hostel, I went to the Cologne Cathedral, perhaps the city’s most iconic structure. After that, I visited a nearby bridge called the Hohenzollern Bridge. It is know for its ocean of locks on the fence: lovers lock a padlock to the fence and throw the key into the river. This idea is popular throughout Europe (I’ve seen it in Paris, Frankfurt and London), but I’ve never seen it on this scale, every square inch of the fence and then some was covered in locks. Finally, I went to the National Socialism Documentation Center where socialists were held for questioning. The prison is well preserved, revealing the inscriptions on the wall of prison conditions, death and hope. It was really interesting. After that, I had an especially quiet night in being the only occupant of the four bed dorm room at the hostel.
Thursday, 28 January: I arrived at my Berlin hostel from Cologne following day. That evening, I went to the Topography of Terror Museum, a free exhibit that outlined Hitler’s reign. After that, I went out with about five other people from the hostel (in addition to two guides) to a gourmet food street fair. Thankfully, it was actually indoors, but we still got to enjoy a wide range of cuisine, where I got veggie tacos and a waffle for dessert.
Friday, 29 January: In the morning, I took a walking tour that visited the Brandenburg Gate, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the place where Hitler ended his life (it was in a bunker beneath a car park), one of the three portions of the Berlin Wall that remains standing, Checkpoint Charlie, and several squares, including one where the Nazi book burning took place. I was meant to go on another walking tour, but I missed them, thankfully, my hostel offers something similar. On my way back to the hostel for the night, I saw people who appeared to be wearing hockey jerseys heading towards a large arena in the area. I looked into it and as it turned out, the professional hockey team was playing that night. I thought it would be interesting to experience a hockey game in another country, so I went. As soon as I came into the arena, I was both excited and somewhat frightened to see small fireworks and an arena of thousands of people yelling in German. Unlike any hockey game I’ve ever been to, this team has what I can beat describe as a spirit section: where especially devoted fans sit and chat throughout the duration of the game and wave large banners. Also, in lieu of clapping, card stock sheets are places in each seat and fans fold them accordion style and slap them against their hand. It was a good game, but the home team was losing by a few points, so I left about five minutes before the end of the last period. Despite the fact that I had pretty much no idea what was going on because the whole game was described in German, it was fun.
Saturday, 30 January: That afternoon, I took the alternative walking tour that shows the counter culture of Berlin. We were shown and told the significance of street art and certain artistic quarters of the city, squat houses, a tree house, youth subculture and more. It was really interesting, but I think I preferred the historic tour.
I wish I had more time in Berlin, but I had a great time in Germany. After averaging about seven miles of walking a day, it goes unsaid that I’m exhausted, but looking forward to my next trip already!
My next adventure: Budapest, Hungary!
Photo by Mar Cerdeira.