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Trip Report Amsterdam - Cochem - Colmar - Heidelberg

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Details on Amsterdam portion of the trip listed in a separate trip report.

From Amsterdam we took the ICE train into Cologne (prepurchased via the German train web site and saved some money that way and also by not traveling during rush hour).

Had reserved a car via Gemut travel - based on referrals from this site and others. good price and everything went smoothly. picked up the car in Cologne and spent some time at the Dom, then headed to Cochem (a small town in the Mosul valley)
The car seemed to be great deal $380 US including all taxes, for 6 days unlimited mileage, I ordered a 'C' class Mercedes and they gave me an 'E' class (2012 diesel)
The GPS is simple to use, cannot get lost, made driving around extremely easy and gives you so many options on a trip without having to deal with public transportation.

We got to Cochem in about 90 minutes, lots of small roads thru small towns and farmland. All roads are in good shape all houses and farmland are extremely neat and clean.

Checked into Stumberger’s hotel right on the Mosul river in Cochem – small and modest but clean, only $107 euros per night and comes with breakfast, no telephone in the room (or I didn't see it) but has a decent flat screen with 1 English station (CNN what else), also has really good internet connectivity (this is not always the case in Europe even in 2012). Great views of the Reichsburg castle which overlooks the town.

Went to the town (a 2 minute drive) and walked around, many shops, restaurants, etc.
Went to the Reichsburg castle which overlooks the town – we walked up the hill after much debate over taking the bus. Got lost at first somehow but made it up with no problem. Lots of excellent views and had a group tour (in German)

Drove to Koblenz (town where the Mosul River meets the Rhine river). Took a ski lift over the Rhine to a huge Prussian fortress – lots of great views of both rivers and the towns.

Drove to Boppard (down the Rhine about 20 kilometers) – having a wine festival – lots of extremely 'happy' Germans at 2 different places celebrating the wine festivals. Stopped to enjoy the atmosphere and have a drink or 2.

Next day we drove to Trier, Germany after checking out of our Cochem hotel, spent a few hours at 2 Roman ruins sites, not much there but worth a quick view.

After this we drove to the American cemetery in Luxemburg where Patton is buried. This took about 40 minutes from Trier. This was well worth the drive, About 5000 crosses in the cemetery and a large American monument, some stories about a couple war heroes also.
Then we headed down to Colmar, France, about 300 kilometers – took about 2.5 to 3 hours. Colmar is full of historic stores, houses, restaurants, shops, churches all in a 2 or 3 square mile area, the houses are 200 to 500 years old. Checked into Le Columbier hotel right in the middle of the historic area, nice hotel, all new inside, 2 flat screens, $175 Euros on Sat, $125 Euros on Sun, but have to feed the meter during the day (not on Sunday) for parking (not really a big deal)

Also went to Ribeauville and Saint-Hippolyte, small Alsace towns, very historic at the base of mountains/hills of vineyards. At the top of the mountain overlooking Saint-Hippolyte is a huge restored castle Haut-Koenigsbourg built in the 12th century but restored under Kaiser Wilhelm in 1902. We were kind of looking for a way up there but found a new wine festival with a local band, dancers, new wine (1 week old), etc. So we hung out for a bit. Then because it was so nice we went back up to the vineyards, way up top to check out the views.

Next day we checked out of Colmar and started on to Heidelberg.
On the way past Saint-Hippolyte we saw the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle on top of the mountain and decided to try to get there one last time before leaving the area.
This time we found the right road and after driving steep roads for 8 kilometers arrived at the top and it had stopped raining.
Castle was huge and looked brand new, per the English speaking tour guide, Kaiser Wilhelm II spared no expense in restoring this castle and wanted it to show Prussian dominance in a region that had been ruled by both German and French back and forth.
We were glad we had stopped, it took about 2 hours to tour and walk around.

Got back on the road and started driving to Heidelberg, took about 2 or 3 hours and got to Heidelberg and found the Marriott. We were going to stop at Stuttgart for the Mercedes Benz museum but it was closed on Mondays.

Heidelberg Marriott is a nice typical Marriott, right on the Neckar river, we got a river view room on the second floor, very quiet area of the hotel.
Took the water taxi right away (after an hour) into Heidelberg, this picks you up right in front of the hotel, down to the Old Bridge section of Old Town, weather was sun breaking thru the clouds.

Heidelberg is an historic town that wasn't destroyed in WWII, lots of shops and old buildings, squares, churches. Also seems relatively inexpensive (especially compared to Amsterdam), dinner for 2 with drinks was under $30 Euros at a casual restaurant.

Once there we wandered to the old castle area, and wanted to go to the castle because there was some light left so we debated walking or not, then saw we could take the funicular to the castle and for 6 euros more we could get off at the castle but then get back on and go all the way to the top of the mountain.

Ride up was fun and the castle itself was in good shape and good light for pictures late in the day prior to sunset, the views from the top were about 30 mile views but it was windy and chilly up top so we only stayed about 10 minutes.

Next day is was a bit rainy so we decided to drive to the Mercedes Benz museum in Stuttgart. Stuttgart is about 90 kilometers away – so about 1hr 10 minutes depending on autobahn speed and traffic and construction. I think I may have gotten a speeding ticket in Stuttgart after getting off the autobahn based on an automatic camera flash I saw on my car, at the time I was going 90 in a 60 zone. (hopefully they will waive it for tourists or rental cars)

Stuttgart is a bit confusing, lots of Mercedes buildings, but we found the museum with a prime free parking spot right in front. The museum was pretty cool, lots of stuff we didn’t know about the invention of the car which occurred in 1886 in Stuttgart by Benz. Very efficiently set up by eras, top floor to bottom with lots of self initiated audio from every display.

Around 3:30 we headed back, raining hard now, lots of traffic getting out of Stuttgart, We made it about 20 kilometers outside of Heidelberg and the GPS was showing accident or jam up so we got off via an exit right before the jam up, took a bit of working with the GPS to find an alternate myself but it worked out fine and brought us through some small towns and into Heidelberg down by old bridge.
So we parked in an underground garage and went for shopping and dinner.
Afterwards drove back to the hotel and started to pack for the next day drive to the airport.

Last day in Germany, woke up early and packed and got out of the room by 8:30, checked out and got out of the garage by 9:00am. Luckily I had checked ahead of time that US Air was terminal 1 in Frankfurt, so just followed signs to terminal 1 and car rental return was easy to find.

Usual airport stuff after that, including the joys of Philadelphia international (my vote for worst airport - tied with LAX), but all in all a great time. cant wait to go back.

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