Dear Germany, I Miss You (Part 1 of 3)
I’ve had posts coming out my ears this month and the short month of February is nearly over already. I’m not sure where the time disappears to! But regardless, I owe all of my valued readers my promised travel post. For those of you new to Eyemasq, you might not know, but I am a bit of a travel junkie. So although this blog is primarily about nails and make up, travel is still a huge part of my life and more importantly it has been a big part of shaping me into the person I am today. So every month I choose a country that I have visited and do a bit of a showcase for my readers. Here we go!
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”
I’ve been to six different countries in Europe (over the course of two individual trips), which I know for most backpackers is hardly any at all. With so many countries in such a small vicinity, a great wealth of backpackers will see over 15 or 20 countries over the course of a couple months in this great continent. For me, I was able to go for just 2.5 weeks during my regular vacation from work. So I decided on a trip to Germany and the plan was to see just one country and try to see a lot of it. Rather than experiencing a small taste of a country that has so much to see and experience I would see as much as I absolutely could. I was out to experience Germany as a whole.
If you are wondering what made me choose Germany, the answer is simple. Jens and Esther Kreikenbaum. Not sure if you remember the sweet young German couple that I met in Costa Rica…but they had invited me to come and visit. What an opportunity! To be able to experience Germany as the locals do and to have German speaking tour guides and hosts! Only now, a couple of years later, they had a 9 month old son named Julian and to top it off, a girlfriend of mine from highschool Gillian, was on a work exchange program in the UK and was able to get some time off work to explore Germany with me. She flew into Frankfurt the same day as I did (July 28th, 2007) and left 10 days later. So she wasn’t there for my entire trip, but she certainly had a great deal to do with a number of my fond memories from this adventure.
So choosing Germany was a no brainer and I am so glad I did. To this day, Germany is my favorite place that I have visited in Europe (beating out London, France, Austria, Spain and Italy) and I hope to be able to go back some day with my husband and share with him the parts of Germany I fell in love with.
At the time Jens, Esther and Julian lived in a small village called Neulingen, about an hour outside of Frankfurt. They picked us up at the airport in Frankfurt and we made our way back to their home in rural Germany. One of Germany’s charms that make it such a picturesque country was that every little village had the remains of some castle. Every little village was ripe for exploring, filled with cobblestone streets and fairytale like homes covered in vines. With Canada being such a new country, especially coming from Calgary at the time, I wasn’t used to seeing such old buildings and structures everywhere you went. It was truly spectacular.
Even Neulingen was having a summer wine festival the day we arrived…and it was of course being held in the old castle ruins…where else!? So we went for a walk to take in some of the local culture. There is no doubt in my mind that Gillian and I were the only tourists there, which really was great. The vendors were filled with different types of sausages on buns with a range of mustards for your enjoyment. I was in heaven. That was soon to become our “everyday” on this trip.
The next day we drove to Heidelberg Germany, a very popular tourist destination. There was no question as to why Heidelberg is considered a “can’t miss” by so many. The cobblestone streets were lined with unique shops and restaurants and nearly everywhere lent a view of the gorgeous Schloss (castle) that overlooked the city. When not stealing glances of the castle’s majesty, you could watch the river rush by in the most romantic of settings. I remember that day well, it was spitting rain off and on and not all that warm. But it was a gorgeous place to spend the day and the fact that we got to do our exploring with friends made it that much more special. Heidelberg is only a 1 hour drive from Frankfurt (directly south), so my advice to you is if you are in Frankfurt on business, book yourself an extra day to visit this gem. You won’t regret it, no matter the weather!
Later that night, back in Neulingen, our hosts treated us to some home made Weiner Schnitzel. We really were living the dream!
With little time to spare we hit the road and were off to a small village outside of Freiburg to stay with Esther’s parents in order to experience a little piece of the southwestern portion of the country. We spent our first day in that area visiting Europa Park. A very popular family destination in Germany, it offered roller coasters, a variety of rides as well as several cultural plays or events for your viewing pleasure. The park as a whole showcased different countries from across Europe, similar to what you might see in Las Vegas with the Venetian and New York New York.
Freiburg was next on the destination list. We headed into the city to visit Freiburg Munster (the medieval cathedral in the heart of the city) and do a bit of shopping. With this being my first visit to Europe, this was also my very first cathedral experience. In Calgary, churches are for the most part constructed fairly modernly and we simply don’t have buildings like this. I was like a kid in a candy store, drinking in the beauty in every carving and every stained glass window. You just didn’t find masterpieces like this back home. We don’t spend 300 years building anything. I was sure to soak it all in and climbed every step to the top of the bell tower for the stunning view of Freiburg.
By this point in our trip, it was unfortunately time to say goodbye to our fabulous hosts. Gillian and I were heading to Schloss Neuschwanstein and Jens and Esther felt it was too far to head with Julian. So we said farewell and thanked them for our unique experience in Germany before hopping on a train for Fussen. A small town in Bavaria just 3 miles from the Austrian border.
Fussen acts as a gateway to Schloss Neuschwanstein. Perhaps you haven’t heard of it, but it was the real life inspiration that Walt Disney used when designing Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Construction began in 1869 and took 23 years to reach completion. Everything about this castle is magnificent. The structure itself, the history, the views both of it and from it. You can’t even imagine it’s size until you stand at it’s feet. Truly a beautiful creation by man and to this day it is one of the few places I have visited in my travels where I truly ache to return.
You can either walk up or walk down the mountain, but if you prefer, you can take a horse and carriage in either direction for a nominal charge. Gillian and I chose to ride up and walk down. A wise choice if you ask us. 🙂 Once you reach the top, prepare to grab a number which gives you rights for a tour of the interior of the castle. Be ready to wait a while during peak season as up to 6000 tourists visit per day during the summer months. You are unable to take pictures inside the castle, but of course, they offer a wealth of books for purchase which help you preserve the memory of your visit and helps them preserve Mad King Ludwig’s castle for future generations.
If you have time, which I suggest you make time for, you must walk over to Mary’s Bridge (also know as the Marienbrucke or Waterfall Bridge). The views of the Castle and the valley from this point, are unparalleled by anything short of a helicopter. You would be absolutely insane to travel all this way and miss this photo op.
After just a couple of days in Fussen, Gillian and I were on the road again and taking the train to Munich where we would spend the next few days. Upon arrival we learned of a Summer Festival held at the Olympic Park so we made our way over to engage in the festivities. The Olympic Park was stunning, but one couldn’t help but think of the Munich Massacre while strolling through Olympic Village. An event that made the 1972 summer olympics well known to people from a wide range of generations. But I assure you, there were plenty of things to distract you at the Olympic Park. Unlimited sausages, beer gardens, live music and an endless array of shops and stands for you to peruse.
As usual, my travel posts tend to run long with so much content to cover. So once again I am opting to split this up into multiple posts and I feel this is as good a place to stop as any. Please join me for my next post which will cover the second half of my time in Germany where we take a look at the darker side of this countries history as we revisit WWII, the Holocaust and living with the Berlin Wall.
Thanks for reading!