Somewhere beyond the sausage and beer and cars and technology, Germany harbours a secret. A place where timbered houses dot the scenery, castles perched high up on hills and century old Gothic Churches line up, against a backdrop of the panoramic Alpine view.
I spent my days travelling through Heidelberg, Mainz, Baden Baden, and Nuremberg discovering the real taste of what Germany has on offer.
Our drive from Amsterdam to Mainz took at little over 4 hours via the Autobahn. We stopped for lunch in a field where pine trees sheltered stone tables and stools, that travellers have long used.
Mainz is a German city on the rive Rhine known for its old town, half-timbered houses and medieval market. In the centre of the town is the famous fountain with a brick red column signifying the Renaissance era. I spent my evenings gingerly strolling down the riverfront promenade, watching in awe as the large ball of orange sank into the Rhine. Through the day there is a parade of ships and barges that cruise down the Rhine, passing by the riverfront promenade, making it a great picnic spot.
Heidelberg, our next stop is a hidden gem nestled in the hills along the river Neckar in South West Germany. My personal favourite and one of the most storybook destinations in Germany. One of the few towns spared during the Second World War, it retains many of the city’s historic treasures. Heidelberg’s Old Stone bridge is an impressive stone bridge dating back centuries. You could practise your sailing skills as your cruise the Neckar. I spent my days whiling away time with a can of beer, cycling along narrow cobbled streets, exploding with pretty flowers in vibrant colours. Make time to visit the stunning Heidelberg Schloss (castle) during the day and enjoy your meals in one of the many picturesque café’s dotting the Marktplatz.
After days spent on the road, hiking and cycling, Baden Baden was the perfect destination to relax. Baden Baden nestled in the heart of the Black Forest bordering Switzerland, one of Europe’s most fashionable spa towns, is famous for its saunas and a must try for the bold. Unisex by nature with a no clothes bar makes for a rather adventurous sauna experience. Friedrichsbad spa continues to attract locals and visitors alike. The town sits atop extensive underground hot springs. Ruins of Roman baths can still be seen in the city centre. Drive through the Black forest, the origin of the famous back forest cake and pick a cuckoo clock as a souvenir to take back home. One of my favourite meals during my entire trip, dinner that night comprised a wild hare right from the Black forest, a bowl of fresh salad and beer for just under 6 Euros.
We continued our journey, from the west of Germany making way towards the scenic Bavarian district famous the world over for its mountains, castles, rivers and valleys. Choose to camp in one of the many open fields or pick a century old cottage with a vineyard to relax and let the German way of life soak in.
Though not a history buff, but traveling through the medieval German countryside dotted with orange titled houses and vineyards felt like flipping through the pages of an ancient fairytale.
From Munich discard the Auto Bahn and make your way via the Romantic Road to Nuremberg. Dotted along the way are postcard perfect villages, seeped in old world charm, that have long inspired travellers to drive down, seeking its sheltered hamlets. The Romantic Road whisksed me away on a journey of hundreds of miles, rewarding me with treasures of magnificent fortresses and medieval timber-framed colourful houses. The Romantic Road has been the highlight amongst Europe’s scenic routes for over decades now and is still a firm favourite attracting tourists from all over the world.
We got off the road at Nuremberg, a city in northern Bavaria to spend a few nights there. Nuremberg is distinguished by medieval architecture such as the fortifications and stone towers of its Altstadt (Old Town). The city was once a venue to the Nazi Party Rallies and subsequently the Nuremberg Trials. The town and its locals paid a hefty price for the Nazi obsession with Nuremberg. Thousands of people lost their lives. From the ashes the locals have over the past decade rebuilt their city. Walking around the sandstone facades and colorful timber houses, the city today is a symbol of hope and courage.
So there ended my 10 days road trip though the hidden gems of Germany. Choose the road less traveled, choose to explore the unexplored. In them you will discover the true culture of a place.
Guzzling the finest beer in the country’s oldest biergartens, savouring on wry humour of the locals I fell in love with the magic of Deutschland.