My trip to Germany has been an absolute incredible experience so far and I am only 2 weeks in!
I have been incredibly lucky during my stay here to experience many traditional and exciting excursions. On first opportunity I signed up to as many excursions as my study schedule would allow.
First on the list was a day trip to Heidelberg, an old traditional German city, 30 minutes away by train from the University of Mannheim. Upon arrival we walked down cobbled lanes and stared wide eyed and drooling through pastry shop windows until we reached our destination; the castle. Standing guard over the city is the spectacular 500-year-old ruins of Heidelberg castle. Waiting for our tour to commence, myself and other international students went ‘snap happy’; taking pictures of the ruins and of the spectacular view we received over the city and river as well as many selfies. The cold, wet weather failed to dampen our spirits. The tour guide, a young university student himself, was comical, acting out scenes from the castles long and tumultuous history. In doing so he brought the castle to life and the encroaching fog and gloomy weather only added to the atmosphere and thus made the experience unbelievable. In the evening we wandered the old town of Heidelberg, marvelling at the quaint and very traditional architecture whilst scouting out a place for dinner. Around one corner, we discovered an old style restaurant that served good hearty portions of German cuisine. Lashings of pork, sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), potatoes and other meat were piled high on our plates accompanied by beer and grinning smiles. Two hours later and we all left with our stomachs full and ridiculous smiles plastered on our face. After dinner, sadly our time in Heidelberg was over and our university residences beckoned for us to get of the cold but one last stop was made on the way to the train station. Could not leave the city without buying one of those pastries I gawped at before. One thing I have taken from this trip is that Germany certainly knows how to do castles, old beautiful buildings and of course food!
Another side trip the university offered was a trip to Speyer; an old town with a stunning Cathedral dating back from the 10th centaury. The large group of international students that we were certainly looked out of place in this sleepy town, especially since we were there on Sunday. Germans take their weekend seriously with most shops and some museums closing early on Saturday and all together on Sunday. Needless to say locals were very interested why so many young people were visiting on such a quite day. After walking the empty streets and listening to a brief history of the town, we visited the cathedral where we stared in awe at the sheer size of it. All that walking and history made us famished and we searched for a restaurant or café that was not only open but that could accommodate 25 people with no reservation- a challenge to say the least. A traditional German restaurant was found with stunning views of the cathedral out the window. Not long afterwards we were all tucking into hearty food consisting of the staples of pork, potato, cabbage and more meat.
One thing I have noticed during my stay here is that pets dogs are allowed into absolutely any building. Whilst eating lunch, a Border collie was sitting well behaved next to his owner whilst they ate. The waiter even brought the dog its own water bowl! Needless to say I can’t wait to bring my dog to Germany as I think he would love it!
Discovering the small and history filled towns of Germany has been something out of a fairy-tale as they all come with cobbled stones, gorgeous buildings and great food. If it weren’t for my exchange to the University of Mannheim, I would probably have not visited these places. Proximity and local advice as well as great people as made this journeys all the more special.