We landed in Frankfurt on what we now consider the warmest day of our trip. It gave us false hope for a sunny, warm winter vacation. Not California warm. Germany warm. Keep in mind, being from California, once the temperature drops below 60*f/15*c we start shivering and turning blue. It was a “warm” 45*f/7*c outside and the sky was blue, birds were singing….we were excited for our winter trip in Germany. Maybe we over-packed? This wasn’t so bad!
Our good friend Alex met us at the airport to help us navigate the city for the first time. The world of trains and trams, and German, was foreign to us. Since our first week was going to be spent teaching English in Laubach, we stayed in Frankfurt for 1 night before the school would picked us up.
Alex took us to the city center and then Römer. The city center was very modern, busy and reminded me of Los Angeles. Römer was beautiful, the area was rebuilt after its total destruction in WWII; only one house (“Das steinerne Haus”), where one can drink an excellent beer, withstood the bombings..
After that, we walked across the bridge into Alex’s hometown, Sachsenhausen. While crossing over the bridge we noticed what we thought was only in France, a love lock bridge. We came to find out this is on almost every bridge in Europe now.
In Old Sachenhausen you will find quaint little pedestrian only streets packed with restaurants and bars. Sachsenhausen is known for its vibrant nightlife. The main street is Schweizer Straße, a cosmopolitan boulevard with bars and two of Frankfurt’s most traditional drink ‘Apfelwein’ (Applewine). We stopped to try this traditional drink and have our first weinershniztel at one of Alex’s favorite places. We weren’t big fans of the drink (we don’t drink wine, maybe thats why!) but the food and atmosphere was amazing.
After the week in Laubach, we headed to Wiesbaden. My uncle has an ice cream shop there, and we stayed in the apartment above it for 3 nights while we enjoyed the city. Our first stop was at Va Piano, a trendy little restaurant a few blocks away in the city center, serving Italian goodness.
The next day was the Wiesbaden Farmer’s Market, which even in the light snow and freezing cold, was really fun. Lots of hot food vendors, flowers and in a beautiful setting on a wonderful Saturday morning.
If you are like us and want to see lots of cool castles, remember the word SCHLOSS. This means “castle” in German and will come in handy reading signs.
After browsing the farmer’s market we stopped by a place called Curry Manufatur, serving every type of “wurst” you can imagine. Currywurst is very popular and if you get the mild, it tastes like BBQ sauce, but watch out when you ask for spicy or a high level of heat. They are not joking when they say spicy! They have 30+ sauces and toppings available, and at about $4 USD per meal which includes fries.
After our appetites were satisfied, the Mr. saw some smoke coming out of a fountain and suggested we check it out. It turned out to be the a natural hot-spring in the middle of the city. There was one in the ground, and one converted into a fountain. The water was HOT. Yes, it should be obvious being a hot-spring and all but people were so cold they used it to warm their hands….and drink. Yes, drinking the water that smelled like rotten eggs was a normal thing to do and considered to have healing powers.
After that it starting really snowing! (The weather changes by the moment!) So, we took a selfie and ran back to the apartment.
On our last night in Wiesbaden we went walking around town and night and ate at a great Greek restaurant, and enjoyed the quiet of a Sunday night…..very quiet. Keep in mind most shops and stores are closed on Sundays. The Mr. stopped at a window up ahead of me and I was curious what got his attention.
Men! Boob. That is what had his attention. Apparently a maternity store didn’t have much creativity. We headed over to have drinks at Coyote and then rest up for the next day’s drive to Dresden.
The drive from Wiesbaden to Dresden is about 5 hours, and there is nothing much on the way, only a few truck stops. You can take a train for about $30 as well. HERE is a map of Dresden that will come in handy. All the tourist stops are in one central area, so its easy to see it all in a day or two.
First we took a walk through one of my favorite places, Zwinger. This Baroque building, where you can find the Crown Gate, Nymphs Bath, and the most exquisite gardens in its courtyards. The strange-sounding name, “Zwinger” is a term used in military architecture and refers to the building’s original position in front of the defensive wall around the city. Originally, Zwinger’s courtyard was a garden and a venue for royal festivities. We imagine that in summer, Zwinger is crowded full of tourists. The advantage of freezing our butts off? Perfect photos, we were practically the only ones there!
After Zwinger, we walked through Neumarkt Square, where you can get a great shot of the Frauenkirche church, with its beautiful colors and decor. Since October, 30th 2005 the steeple of the Frauenkirche graces the Dresden skyline once again. The reconstruction of the Frauenkirche is a symbol of international reconciliation after World War II. The building was erected between 1726 and 1743, but the dome, called the “stone bell”, collapsed on February 15th, 1945 under the rain of bombs. You can also climb the dome, the hours for climbing are:
March to October: Mon-Sat 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. & Sun 12.30 p.m. – 6 a.m. November to February: Mon – Sat 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. & Sun 12.30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
You might be turned away if a mass is in progress. Photography is also not allowed (we are sneaky, shhh!)
After viewing the church (we decided not to climb the dome, as church was in session and we didn’t want to wait an hour and a half) we headed down the street past the Procession of Princes, over Elbe, across the bridge to see the Goldener Reiter, a statue of August the Strong, in the Innere Neustadt area (Inner New City). The Goldener Reiter escaped the bombing of Dresden in February 1945, as it had been dismantled and stored in an underground cave in Pillnitz in 1944. The street where the statue stands is called Hauptstrasse, and has many restaurants and great shopping.
Our last stop in Germany was going to the famous Heidelberg Castle. In the late 17th century, the palace was repeatedly attacked and ultimately destroyed by the French. In 1764, after some makeshift repairs, the castle was again heavily damaged, this time by two devastating lightning strikes. The once-proud residence caught fire and was left in ruins. To enter the castle grounds is $4 USD and includes a tram ticket. Yes, an awesome tram that takes you from the city center, up to the castle entrance.
Check out our tram video:
Tip: After 6pm, you can roam the grounds for free.
The view from the castle is beautiful, even in the winter. Heidelberg remains one of the best-known and most visited cities in Germany, and some of its ruins have been revived as museums and hotels. Down below the city center flows the Neckar River, covered by the Old Bridge, which was rebuild nine times, due to flooding. In 1788 it was finally rebuilt one last time completely in stone. The towers on the bridge served as an apartment for the bridge keeper as well as a dungeon for prisoners.
Traveling through Germany in winter was not as horrible as it sounds. It was cold, but it always seemed that we had the cities to ourselves. As a photographer as well as a tourist, this was the biggest upside. We were able to fully take in each city and photograph it without dealing with crowds.