¨Traveling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” -Ibn Battuta
I’ve seen so many things over the past two weeks that have actually left me speechless at the moment of viewing them, but now all I want to do is share about my adventures with everyone.
In the middle of April, the week leading up to Easter is called “La Semana Santa” (or, Holy Week) in Spain. This week is a week filled with processions, parades, and celebration in major cities in Spain, including in Granada. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to see any of these processions because I was traveling during this week.
I had the amazing opportunity to stay in Gau-Algesheim, Germany for 10 beautiful days with extended family during this week of vacation from school. This trip was important to me because the majority of my family comes from Germany and although I was not able to see exactly where they were all from, I was able to stay with a Germany family and see different parts of the country.
The Thursday before Holy Week, I took a bus to Málaga, a city in southern Spain where there is an international airport. Because my flight was so early on Friday morning, I stayed in a hostel nearby overnight. My last two experiences with hostels had been great and although the reviews were not perfect, my expectations were clearly set far too high for this night. When I arrived, the man at check-in was condescending and rude and didn’t bother to show me the facilities or even give me bed sheets, I had to find them and my room on my own. When I made my bed and wandered down to get the wifi password to tell my family I had made it safe to the hostel, I discovered the wifi only functioned in a small spot in the hostel in the common area where the other guests were smoking, drinking, and yelling. I shared a room with 11 other women, all of whom must have had the Black Plague because they were all coughing up their lungs the entire night and getting up and leaving every 10 minutes. Needless to say, sleep was minimal that night.
Fortunately, it was only for a night and I had a nice 3 hour flight to rest on the next morning. I met a really nice young girl (about my age) from France on my way to the bus station to get to the airport. We chatted and kept each other company in the airport while waiting for our flights. I was happy to have met her, I have discovered that I really like meeting new people!
On the flight I rested and read and before I knew it, I was landing in Frankfurt. While I was in Germany, I did some amazing things that even I can’t believe sometimes. As I was there for ten days and did many amazing things, I will just briefly describe a few of the major things that I did, and if you would like to know more about something, you can comment to this post and I will reply with any information you may want about my trip 🙂
The first day I was there, the family I stayed with took me to the Marksburg castle in Braubach, which was about an hour away from where they live. I really enjoyed the ride there because we drove onto a car ferry boat, crossed the Rhine River, and then drove alongside it for the whole hour. By doing this, I had the opportunity to see many beautiful castles perched on hilltops, the never-ending pains, rolling hills, and endless vineyards. The views I saw on this car ride are a memory I am determined to keep permanently in my mind.
Photo from: http://dreabobea.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/marksburg-castle.jpg
Not only did I get to see the entire outside of the castle, but we also were able to go on an English tour of the inside. Below is one of my favorite pictures that I took because I really liked that they recreated the way the kitchen of the castle used to look.
I thought it was interesting that when I saw the bedroom of the castle, the following room was the dining room, with an attached bathroom (a small area in the room in which had a hole in a bench and waste was deposited outside the castle, and then the following room was the chapel. I thought it was interesting that they connected in this way because they only way to get from the main areas of the building to the dining area were through the bedroom or the chapel. I wondered why this was.
I got a kick out of seeing this there. My grandparents always told me that Herzog means duke in German but this was validation enough for me. Where’s my tiara? 😉
Small businesses, including this castle, had their own little mailboxes outside them. I liked the way this one looked.
This is a photo from half inside, half outside the castle.
I also got to go to a really beautiful city called Oppenheim. Though, I’m not sure if city is the right word to use. It’s more like a cute little town square. There, I saw a beautiful church called St. Catherine’s. I was truly blown away by the ornate external architecture while the inside remained modest, boasting beautiful stained glass, but no other ornamentation.
We were able to enjoy a short walk and a coffee in the square before going on one of my favorite adventures.
After, we went on a tour of the Oppenheimer Kellerlabyrinth (Oppenheim Celler Labyrinth) under the old town. This was a maze of underground tunnels and passageways of multiple levels, stiarways, and rooms that linked houses and businesses together. They were built in order to store goods (like wine and potatoes) at a cooler temperature. They could not simply expand the city because of cities on each side, the Rhein, and of course the vineyards that produced the wines. So to solve this problem, they expanded downward. The city forgot about these catacombs until a car fell through the ground. Altogether there are about 650m of passageways open for public viewing, but the rest is protected. This is only about 2% of the passageways that exist in the city and they still believe that 20% no one has discovered yet. Although the tour was completely in German, I enjoyed viewing and picking up small things from words that sound similar to Spanish or from my family members who translated when they could!
Unfortunately, photos were not allowed.
in Rüdesheim, I went to a wine museum (above) and learned a lot about the history of wine. The tour was audio-visual and I was able to select English. There is so much to say about what I learned so if you have specific questions, please comment below. I will say that I climbed a never ending tower to the top and was able to get some beautiful views of the Rhine River. I also went to an organ museum and got to see and learn about the history of musical instruments, specifically organs. That tour was in French, but luckily they gave me the English script to read!
After this, Margaret and I did my absolute favorite, most memorable thing in Germany. We took a cable car up to the top of a giant hill to see the Germania monument. The views were spectacular. Everywhere I looked were vineyards, river, castles, beauty. I will never forget this beautiful ten minute trip in the sky.
I had the opportunity to see many other castles while in Germany. One of my favorites (because it was still so well preserved) was the Burg Klopp in Bingen. Although I couldn’t go inside, it was remarkable from the outside!
On one of my last days in Germany, I was able to go for a small hike and climb a never-ending tower called Bismark. It was one of the scariest things I’ve done because you can see all the way down in the middle, but the view was so rewarding.
We also went to a medieval festival there. I thought it was going to be a little weird but it was actually really cool! We watched and listened to a bird show, looked at all the cool venders hand making their products (baskets, wood carvings, stone pieces). I enjoyed a delicious banana crepe and a cherry beer. There were no plates or plastic cups or silverware.
The festival was in a town called Lorelei (click here for more info on the myth) which has a really cool myth behind it!
Going to Germany was an incredible experience for me. I had a wonderful time, learned how to cook German food, learned more about the country from which my whole family came, and really enjoyed myself. I filled 15 pages of my personal travel journal just on information, sights I saw, and things I learned while there. I hope that if you have questions about my experiences in Germany you will comment and ask them below.
Soon to come: stories of my adventures in Portugal 🙂