Yes, I know what you’re thinking- I was just in Europe. But cheap roundtrip tickets and the annual father-daughter spring break trip and me having finished college and spring in Seattle being rainy and well… is there more explanation needed?
If seeing the world and eating good food isn’t enough to make you want to travel in the slightest, I’d say making friends from all around the world make the act of travel a worthwhile triple threat. As trip number six with dad got underway, this trip was especially fun as Alex and Amber, two very close friends I made on my semester abroad in Milan, joined us for the week.
Rather than recount our adventures day by day, I thought I’d take a little different approach by sharing the highlights of our trip categorized by city (so bear with me).
At the start of Germany’s famed Romantic Road, our first stop was in Wurzburg. Completely destroyed after WWII, this old Franconian city located on the Main River has been rebuilt as a vibrant cultural center and is the capital to one of Germany’s most important wine-producing regions. It’s most impressive Baroque and Rococo architecture is reflected in its main sights like the Royal Residenz, St. Mary’s Chapel in Marktplatz and the Marienburg Fortress. While you can take a taxi up to the top of the latter, our delicious and authentic German lunch at Weinhaus Stachel gave us the energy to walk across the Alte Mainbrucke (Old Main Bridge) and hike to the top of the fortress for spectacular views over the Old City.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Next on the Romantic Road, this fairytale-like city is the epitome of German cuteness. Within it’s preserved walls is a picturesque town with colorful, characteristic buildings reminiscent of a quintessential German postcard (Not to mention it’s named after me!). If it couldn’t get any more adorable, make sure to check out Käthe Wohlfahrt’s year-round Christmas shop that has thousands of ornaments, decorations, carousels and holiday decor to delight—and possibly overwhelm— any Christmas lover, tourist, and kid. After this family-friendly stop, finish up your visit with a local schneeball treat to top off that holiday high.
Side note: there are multiple Rothenburgs so make sure you have the correct one typed into your search bar so that you don’t go to the wrong one.
The capital of Bavaria and home to the little known Oktoberfest, I was excited to go to Munich, especially being that it was everyone’s first time and there being so much of the city to be explored. One of my happiest places is at farmers markets so our sunny Saturday morning started with a walk around the Viktualienmarkt, a local and lively center for fresh produce, gourmet products, and the perfect spot for grabbing a bite to eat, relaxing and enjoying the day amongst friendly faces. For a breathtaking (both in effort and result) sight of the city and close to the market, hike up some 300 steps of St. Peter’s Church to the top for a panoramic view that includes some of Munich’s top sights like the Frauenkirche, the Marienplatz, and New Town Hall set among beautiful Alps in the background. Note the small entrance fee and specific opening hours to plan accordingly.
To see as much as Munich as possible with the time we had, we did the typical tourist thing via sightseeing buses around the city. One of my favorite parts in Munich was the English Garden, which is one of the largest parks in the world and the first public park in Europe. Apart from its own natural beauty, this park offers an array of activities like cycling or horseback riding through its many paths, surfing on the Eisbach river, sipping on tea at the Japanese teahouse, enjoying a beer in one of the many beer gardens, or even going “au naturel”, to entertain and delight anyone that spends time on its luscious green fields. A pleasant surprise full of fresh air and liveliness in the middle of the city, I definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Munich to explore, to people watch, to relax and enjoy a sunny day.
While finding beer and bratwurst is no hard task in Germany, Zum Augustiner has multiple locations around the city that gives a no-frills, typical German food and drink experience. I’ll admit right here that I am not a fan of either beer or bratwurst or really typical German food for that matter, but I can sacrifice taste for a fun night with friends and family.
Close in population to Milan, Munich has that small community in a large city kind of feel. A weekend in Munich is certainly not enough time to see or do everything, but it was still nice to get a little taste of all it has to offer.
A sunny stop on our way west, Freiburg is a university town with iconic bächle —small streams of water running alongside the city’s streets — and has lots of cozy cafes, scenic surroundings and relaxed ambiance to highlight its high quality of life for tourists and locals alike. Known as the “Jewel of the Black Forest”, Freiburg is famous for its sunny weather and has a reputation for being a very environmentally and family friendly city.
At the northern foot of the Alps lies this Central European lake, also known as the Bodensee, that borders Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Meadows, vineyards, orchards and beaches making up Lake Constance’s landscape only emphasize how massive and majestic this body of water is. Lakeside towns and charismatic villages, such as Überlingen, Meersburg and Lindau, all have their own charm and appeal for going around the lake by foot, car, or ferry on a warm sunny day.
On the south shore of the river north of Konstanz is the island of Mainau, a garden island graced with giant sequoias, millions of flowers, a 150 year-old arboretum, castle, and butterfly house, whose natural beauty mesmerizes with color and character. It’s a very family-friendly place with lots of areas to roam for both adults and kids, though take into account the opening hours based off of season and weather and moderately-priced entrance fee to enjoy it to the fullest.
Historically and culturally one of western’s Europe’s most enchanting rivers, the Rhine River has its history as one of the most important waterways. Along its winding path are hillside castles and palaces high above story-book villages hugged by lush, terraced vineyards, quick to captivate and romance all who visit.
Always wanting to treat his girls like princesses, my dad booked us in the Romantik Hotel Schoss Rheinfels that has a sensational location, great food, and stunning view of the Rhine below. It is integrated into the historic Castle Rheinfels which is open for exploring and roaming the grounds. On the other side of the river, which can be crossed by ferry, in the small village of Hattenheim is the Hotel and Weinhaus Zum Krug. This family-run establishment’s friendly staff, historic building, and absolutely fantastic restaurant is a special treat for all who stay, including us.
Heidelberg is Germany’s oldest university town in southwestern Germany with an impressive baroque Old Town, beautiful riverside setting, and captivating castle ruins, which draws millions of visitors every year. It also has a rich literary history and complimentary scene that involves authors, bookshops, publishing houses and festivals year round, naming it a UNESCO City of Literature. Discover alleyways filled with little boutiques, cafes, galleries, and restaurants or take a walk along the riverfront to partake in the hidden treasures of Heidelberg. Less than an hour away from Frankfurt makes Heidelberg a great day trip or stop on any Germany itinerary.
Alsace & the Wine Route: The Alsace region between the Rhine river and Vosges mountains has both French and German roots due to the switching of rule between both. While now under French rule, it still has many strong German influences and it’s this rich history that interests so many. It is one of the most beautiful regions of France for its architecture and most famous for its world-class wine production. From the sommeliers to your average tourist, the Alsace Wine Route combines the best of both worlds, leading visitors through vine-covered hills and picturesque villages with experiencing the natural beauty and tastes of the region.
Riquewihr: This quaint medieval, Alsatian town along the Wine Trail is classified as one of the “most beautiful villages in France” and definitely lives up to its title. Its half-timbered houses set within vine-covered city walls and world-famous Riesling are just a few reasons people are drawn to this wonderful and romantic city. Spring brings sight of fresh flowers and pastel-colored Easter decorations while the magic of Christmas takes over the holiday season, which attract many tourists throughout the year. Our lovely stay at La Maison d’Amèlie was the perfect location from grabbing some frog legs at the all frog restaurant La Grenouille followed by a delicious dinner at La Grappe d’Or and going to bed with sweet dreams of the sweet city.
Colmar: Known as the capital of the Alsatian wine region, this city’s charm can be attributed to its quality architecture along traditional cuisine, delightful floral displays, and cozy country village atmosphere. Take a stroll down the streets lined with shops and boutiques full of local, Alsatian products, walk alongside the peaceful river in “Little Venice” (La Petit Venise), or be enchanted by the sparkling lights of its Christmas market during the holiday season. In addition, Colmar is just a short distance away from cities like the more popular Strasbourg, which is home to a range of European Institutions and the oldest Christmas market in France.
As all good things must come to an end, all “hallo”s must eventually end with a goodbye, and just like that our long, anticipated trip number six was put in the records. But with all things,
“It’s not a goodbye, it’s just a see you later”.
This quote is quite familiar to me as I’ve realized life consists of many new hellos too soon turned into goodbyes, but this trip reminded me that there is “good” in the goodbye and that “later” means taking place after the expected time. Sometimes it’s four months, sometimes its 46 years, but no matter how much time the later is, its the good that you make in the memories with the people that mean the most to you that makes the “good” timeless. That good can carry you far past the later so that when that next “see you” happens, its like you weren’t even expecting it.