After two delightful days in Amsterdam, we all hoped on a private chartered bus and headed to Germany! Thankfully there were only 20 people in our entire group so we could spread out and each have a whole row on the bus. We drove for about three and half hours and found ourselves at our first stop, Cologne Germany.
Cologne is home to one of Europe's great cathedrals, Cologne Cathedral. The church itself is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. It took over 600 years for this church to be built. Construction began on the cathedral in 1248 and wasn't full completed until 1880. The entire time I was there I was thinking about the book The Pillars of the Earth, which is about the building of a cathedral that took just about as long to be built as Cologne Cathedral did. It was a phenomenal read and I highly recommend it to everyone. (Oh and it's over 1,000 pages, so make sure you have plenty of time.)
And now I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Afte a light lunch and some shopping in Cologne, we were back on the bus and heading toward our River Cruise on the Rhine River. The views were amazing, but if I'm honest, this was a bit of a disappointment for everyone. The boat was not in the best shape, there were about 200 other people on board, the windows were dirty so it was hard to see through them and take clean pictures, and the "wine tasting" we were told we would have was just a voucher for a glass of wine. There was no "tasting" involved. We were also told the river would be lined with a bunch of castles and while there were a handful, it was pretty disappointing.
We then moved on to our hotel for the night, in Mannheim. Sadly we didn't have much time in Mannheim to see any of its sights (not even sure what there is in Mannheim actually) because we arrived later in the evening, checked into the hotel, and then headed to one of our included dinners. Our hotel was adjacent to a park, that had gorgeous flowers and a very pretty fountain. Plus our room had a balcony. Only draw back to the hotel was that the air conditioning wasn't the greatest. But they did have a delicious breakfast (complete with chicken nuggets, weird) and comfy beds. So overall it was pretty good.
The following day we made our way to Heidelberg for a morning guided tour and some exploring of the cute little university town. Our tour guide was this delightful little German woman, named Bridgitte, who had no problem telling other tour groups to quiet down because HER group couldn't hear her talking, nor did she have any problem telling US to be quiet if we were talking while she was talking. (I have a feeling she may have been a teacher as some point). She was hilarious and very knowledge about the whole city.
After our short bus tour around the city, we made our way to Heidelberg Castle for a guided tour with Bridgitte. The castle was originally built in the 13th century and experiences various natural disasters (lightening bolt strikes) that caused it to be rebuilt and expanded several times throughout the 16th and 17th century. We toured the outside of the castle and then made our way inside the castle. The castle itself isn't used for much these days save for tourists and the occasional opera or play inside the main courtyard. The fact that people actually used to live here is just insane. Just as I was after visiting Versailles I was in awe of the fact that these places were actually homes. I just cannot imagine inviting friends over to "castle" for a visit. Insane.
The final leg of our tour took us into the Church of the Holy Spirit, the most important church in the city. It's located in the center of the city right next to it's main square. What I found most interesting about the church was the fact that apparently in the 1700s the church was used as both a Protestant AND a Catholic church. According to Bridigitte the towns people put up a partition and on one side a Catholic service would be held and on the other a Protestant service. This is so neat to me because the Protestant Reformation began in Germany and the fact that the two were able to worship side by side is amazing. Additionally, the partition was not officially taken down until the 1970s when it then became exclusively Protestant. So crazy, huh! Gosh I love History! :)
After our tour was over we had some free time to explore the city on our own. I found my parents some fantastic gifts (which they loved) and we had lunch at one of the towns brewery's, Vetters Brauhaus. I had a delicious Bavarian meatloaf (and no it's not ANYTHING like the Southern meatloaf I'm sure you're thinking of) and this delicious appetizer. It's a house made sourdough bread covered in Bavarian cheese. So tasty.
After lunch we made our way back to bus to head to our next country. Let me tell you, the German countryside is GORGEOUS! I have to make it a point to go back to Germany and spend more time exploring that part of the country. It was so picturesque and reminded me of Disney movies.
Overall I think I was the most disappointed with our time in Germany. But only because I felt like we had to rushed through it. Actually I don't think disappointed is the correct word, I think a better one is "unfulfilled". I don't feel like I got a good enough taste of Germany. I wanted more. So much more than what were able to get. Clearly that means I have to make another trip to Germany, which is A-OK with me because the parts I did see I loved. So I have a feeling I'll love the rest of it even more.
This has been so fun! I am loving re-capping each country we visited and I hope y'all are too! Come back next Tuesday because I'll be talking about the most expensive, neutral country in the world.....Switzerland! :)
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