Tag Archives: spontaneity

It’s the Journey, not the Destination, that Really Matters

At one of the first socials we had at WHU where we got to meet the German students, we asked them, “Which city do you think is the most beautiful in Germany?”

Yes, it’s an unfair question, but we figured we’d get a nice variety of recommendations for future travel plans. We did get a quite a few answers (Munich, Cologne, Berlin, etc), but one city kept cropping up.

Heidelberg.

Which I was planning on going to anyway.

So when one of the 2nd semester Tauschies casually announced that she was planning on going to Heidelberg for a day the following Friday, I jumped at the opportunity.

As did 30 others.

It was almost the same thing that happened when we went to Cologne.

We all met in the morning at the Vallendar Mitte bus stop to go to the Koblenz main train station. From there, we worked the logistics of splitting up into groups of 5 in order to get the Deutsche Bahn group discount. (*TIP for traveling via DB) We got a day pass ticket that involved a lot of transfers, but it only cost us 15 Euro each.

When we got to Heidelberg, we got off at what looked like the city center, but it looked nothing like the Heidelberg postcard pictures we saw when doing research online. (*ahem* research on traveling) Nevertheless, we took a light rail to see the Heidelberger Schloss – the iconic Heidelberg Castle. As most castles are, it was on the top of a hill, so it was quite a steep trek to the top. Especially since my boots were a bit big, and I was so not prepared for a hike. But when we reached the castle, it was absolutely beautiful, and this is what we saw:

And THIS is probably one of the most postcard-esque pictures I have taken.

Unfortunately, we had to pay to actually go in and see the ruins of the castle. I think it was 4 Euros, but I know it is 6 Euros to take the tram (round trip) and for entry into the Schloss. That way you don’t have to hike up that hill. But it’s a very scenic way to burn some calories!

At that point, I didn’t have much to burn because I was getting hungry. Some of us stayed back at the castle, but a dozen of us decided to head to the historic city center to find the university and get food. And that was when we saw the sun.

After being in Hawaii for so long and being so used to diving into shade under the trees, the sun had never looked better, shining over the quaint architecture and medieval ruins.

Oh, and did I mention the glorious pastries?

Of course, I succumbed and split a chocolate snowball (the little brown spheres at the top left corner of the picture) with two others. Chocolate on the outside surrounding some sort of angel food cake, with a chocolate-hazelnut creme center. It was divine.

We continued walking till we reached the river and the bridge. On the other side of the bridge, there was a hill where there are remnants of World War II history, a coliseum, and a monastery. The hill looked pretty steep, but the website promised us there would be “strategically placed benches along the trail.”

Part of the hill, as seen once you get to the other side

The story goes that we decided to go up the first part of the hill and see how we felt then whether or not we wanted to grab lunch after. More specifically after the first couple of benches or so. Fair enough.

Three minutes later of trekking up on a 50-degree incline of uneven cobblestone, I regretted it. So much. All we could think about was, “WHERE are those benches?!” Haha.

But when we reached the first bench (like a million years later), the view was amazing.

After climbing some more and asking some passerby who knew the hill better than we did, we surmised that the monastery and coliseum weren’t too far from where we were. So we decided to press on and find them before getting lunch.

The cobblestones disappeared and soon we were literally hiking through a forest on a dirt path. We were high enough to see the river wrapping around the hill and the sun beaming down on the little houses on the other side. It was perfect. The weather was warm, but cool enough to make the walk refreshing. In good time we saw a biker, who told us that both paths in the upcoming fork in the road would lead us to the monastery, which was close to the coliseum. We took the high way, the one that branched off and escalated above the path on the right. This hike was beautiful, scenic, and relatively easy considering this was completely spontaneous and unplanned and the fact none of us were in hiking attire.


“Relatively easy.” Or so we thought.

30 minutes later, when the trail started getting soft and muddy, and the trees were getting thicker, we realized we must have taken a wrong turn. The website said it would be 45 minutes from the bottom of the hill to the monastery, but even at the quick rate we were walking, we saw nothing, and it had been almost an hour since we crossed the bridge. Should we turn back? Keep going? Are we committed to finding this? When should we get lunch? But being the adventurers we are, we kept going.

At this point, I was EXTREMELY grateful for my previous decision of getting that snowball. Because that was the only thing keeping me moving.

Back in Vallendar, we knew the sun would start to set at around 4:30pm, so by 5:00, the sky would be nearly dark. None of us wanted to be stuck here at nightfall, so we decided to keep walking until a quarter before 3:00 to make sure we would be out of there by 4:00. We eventually turned back, and on our way downhill, we found the path we should have taken.

Which reminded me of:
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
I took the one less traveled,
and that has made all the difference.”
(credit, of course, goes to Robert Frost)

Even though we were tired, hungry, and unsuccessful in finding what we were looking for, it was one of the best hikes I’ve done, and it was totally worth it. Our little group bonded through our excursion, and we got lots of great views of Heidelberg we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. If I ever have the time (and proper hiking attire), I’m definitely coming back to find what we first set out to see. But that’s another story 🙂

I’ll conclude this post with one of my favorite pictures of all time (taken by yours truly)

Because the beauty of life and nature lies in the details. Seek patiently and you shall find.
Because the beauty of life and nature lies in the details. Seek patiently and you shall find.

For more pictures, please visit:
https://www.facebook.com/waisamlao/media_set?set=a.10202989174555128.1073741831.1377198545&type=3

Chocolates, Currywurst, and Some Really Good Beer

I was originally going to combine the tales of our journeys through these two cities in Germany, but I love them so much that I think each of them deserves its own blog post.

COLOGNE

(For more pictures, please enjoy my full album here.)

This is probably one of the first big, rather spontaneously planned Tauschie trip of the semester. All of us just want to go EVERYWHERE! And together. We announced that we’d be meeting at the Vallendar train station at 7:45AM to catch the 7:59 train, and pretty much thirty people showed up. It was cold, a little breezy, but the part that got me was how dark it was. The sky only started getting a tinge of blue 10 minutes before the train came (on time, of course).

I'm REALLY not a morning person, but I'm ecstatic to go to Cologne!
I’m REALLY not a morning person, but I’m ecstatic to go to Cologne!

For the train to Cologne, we were able to save money by buying our tickets in groups of 5 for the group discount that Deutsche Bahn (DB) offers. Another tip: we saw two Cologne stations on our way there. Don’t get off at the first one. The one you need to get off at is the Cologne Cathedral Main Station, or Köln Dom Hauptbahnhof. (Köln is the German name for Cologne. For a rough pronunciation guide, you can say it as KERN, as in “Kernel”)

We alighted in a massive steel web station, and once we got out, we saw this beholding sight.

The High Cathedral

This is the Cologne Cathedral, or the Köln Dom. Officially it’s called the High Cathedral of St. Peter, which gives it away that it’s Catholic. The Gothic architecture and rich history behind it makes it all the more imposing. Inside, it’s absolutely beautiful and so vast.

Construction began in 1248 (I know, crazy right?) but discontinued in 1475. It was finally completed according to the original design in 1880.
Our Cologne Tauschie group!
Our Cologne Tauschie group!

We paid a couple more Euros for the chance to climb the tower. I believe it was something like 500 steps. Felt like more, actually. I concede that I wasn’t able to make it up to the very top, but I got close! I seriously need to get into shape, haha.

The never-ending, winding staircase. Oh man.
The never-ending, winding staircase. Oh man.
Pretty high up.
Pretty high up.
Really high up.
Really high up.

In all seriousness though, this is a must-do for anyone in Cologne. Even if you can’t make it to the top, just visit the Cathedral. Who knows? You might even be treated with a special performance from these fellas. (They’re really quite good.)

And then there's this guy.
And then there’s this guy.

Our next stop was the Lindt Chocolate Museum and Factory. Pretty much the next best thing after Willy Wonka. Lindt is probably one of my absolute favorite chocolate brand, so I was pretty excited to say the least. After an entertaining 20 minutes or so, walking around, looking for the river as a landmark, and asking for directions, we finally got there and got free samples upon entering! It was definitely interesting to see how the chocolates were made on such a grand level. As we toured the levels, we saw not only Lindt Chocolates, but essentially aspects of chocolate history around the world. For 4.50 Euro (or thereabouts) you can get your own custom made Lindt chocolate bar! If you go further in the tour, there’s an old-fashioned chocolate dispenser that gives you chocolate bar (milk chocolate) for 1 Euro.

The Chocolate Factory
The Chocolate Factory
Making the chocolates
Making the chocolates
All you have to do is fill out a request form, pay, and wait about an hour for your very own custom made chocolate bar!
All you have to do is fill out a request form, pay, and wait about an hour for your very own custom made chocolate bar!
Found an old friend on the way :)
Found an old friend on the way 🙂

At this point, we were starving, so our group of 15 (everyone kinda dispersed after the initial photo) went searching for food. The lady at the Lindt information desk gave us suggestions to go to a restaurant where they served authentic German food for decent prices. It also didn’t seem too far from Rudolfplatz, which was supposed to be very historical. Half an hour later, we finally got to the Früh am Veedel. The food took SUPER long to get to the table, but when it did, it was pretty amazing.

Breakfast of champions. Fleishkaese, perfectly caramelized onions, salted potatoes, perfect sunny-side up egg. Salad on the side. All for less than 10 Euros.
Breakfast of champions. Fleishkaese, perfectly caramelized onions, salted potatoes, perfect sunny-side up egg. Salad on the side. All for less than 10 Euros.
THIS PLACE
THIS PLACE
Starving Tauschies (when the food finally came) Oh, and mine was last. Figures.
Starving Tauschies (when the food finally came)
Oh, and mine was last. Figures.

Oh, if you’re ever in Cologne, make sure you try the local beer, Kölsch. It’s kind of a big deal. It’s pricier than your average beer, but so worth it. (Sorry I don’t have a picture this time)

And then it rained. And then it poured. We passed by several medieval buildings that may or may not still be in commission. By the time we got to or what we thought was Rudolfplatz, it was so wet and dreary that we just decided to go back because we couldn’t find the Roman ruins we were looking for.

But the day wasn’t over just yet. We HAD to find the birthplace of eau de cologne. After getting disappointed from accidentally walking into a chain store/gift shop, we found the original 4711.

Robby and the Fountain of eau de cologne.
Robby and the Fountain of eau de cologne.

Our little group split up some more once we got back near the train station to do some shopping. So Cindy, May, and I ended the day with a Cologne specialty: piping-hot currywurst from a street vendor. It was a marvelous 3.50 Euro spent.

Not an original picture, but this is what it looks like. Curry powder, ketchup, and good ol' sausages.
Not an original picture, but this is what it looks like. Curry powder, ketchup, and good ol’ sausages.

I will definitely be back in Cologne, if not on a personal planned trip, then definitely for the Köln Karneval. We’ll be going there on March 3rd, so stay posted! It’s going to be a good one!

PART TWO: HEIDELBERG (TBC)