Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Daytripping for Two Weeks (or more?) in the Frankfurt Area

Daytripping for Two Weeks (or more?) in the Frankfurt Area

Jul 20th, 2012, 06:56 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
Daytripping for Two Weeks (or more?) in the Frankfurt Area

In May when my husband (DH) found out he would be spending 2 weeks in late June/early July on business in the Frankfurt area where his company has offices in Hoechst and to which he has been numerous times in the last 10 years, we decided this would be the time for me to accompany him. On his other trips, I have had school or travel conflicts and have not been back to Germany since going with him in 1988. So we cashed in some of his American Airlines FF miles, and I began to pore over information to decide what I could do and where I, and we, could go. I am a long-range planner usually, so this felt like a very last minute trip!

And what a trip it was! It was packed just about as full as I could make it with travel—in fact, fuller than I expected, but that’s in the TR below the introductory remarks. Overall impressions and opinions of what I did? Germany is beautiful, often rainy in July, and full of much history and much modern repair. The Germans are efficient, orderly and polite. I got to visit a wide variety of places and ate way too many potatoes and too much bread—but all sehr gut!

Introductory Remarks:

Planning: I of course used the Forum; thanks especially go to Mainhattengirl and Russ for specific and helpful information. I still like guide books, so I got a Fodors current one and a recent used Doris Kinderley. And I used the DBahn website until my eyes crossed and DH thought I had every route possible from Frankfurt to anywhere memorized! Plus DH’s many trips to Germany had enabled him to see many things in the Frankfurt area and he had several places he highly recommended.

Travel modes: Before we got the plane ticket, I looked into doing day trips via trains. DH would pass by the Hoechst train station on his way to work about 7 every morning, so I worked from the premise that I would have transport to there and then I would ride train/s and walk all day and be picked up there between 5 and 6. I knew the hotel the company used is not within walking distance of anything really. And DH would have a car for any weekend travel.

Deciding on how to pay for train travel: One of my forum questions elicited a lively conversation about the best way to pay for train travel. I appreciated the mostly helpful comments, especially from Russ and PalenQ. Between their feedback and my own research as well as taking into consideration the idiosyncrasies of this trip (i.e., I’d be alone, Hoechst would be my departure and arrival site, the beginning and ending times were somewhat dependant on DH’s work, etc.) I decided that a German Rail Pass would be the best option for 8 of my probably 10 days of daytripping (we’d have a car for the weekend). The Pass was $385, purchased through Rick Steves’ website, a purchase which gave me a discount on a backpack I was considering buying anyway. It arrived in about a week. There are definitely cheaper options; there are regional/city day passes (much cheaper than a RailPass day) that I could have used for a couple of my travel days, but I did not have a fixed itinerary, and so the flexibility of being able to go ANYWHERE, on ANY day, at ANY time, on ANY train (those regional passes don’t include the IC or ICE faster trains) was worth the extra cost to me this year. There are also some really good deals for weekend travel in regions with group/family prices that are terrific; but those didn’t work for me. And of course planning ahead and purchasing a specific ticket is often the cheapest. But that wasn’t going to work for me. So are RailPasses a good thing? For the flexibility and ease of use, there’s nothing better, in my opinion. (We used 4 day flex passes in England once, too.) But they aren’t the most economical. So every person should DO THE MATH and look at your own wants and desires.

Deciding on where to go: Ok, this was even harder than the above decision! I teach high school literature and next year ancient history; I love seeing historical sites and taking pictures more than shopping or eating at fine restaurants. I didn’t think I’d want to ride more than 2 hours one way (or else I’d have hardly any time). I would want the train station to deliver me to within moderate walking distance of the major site/s in each town. I didn’t really want to repeat any of the places near Frankfurt we’d visited in 1988 except for Mainz and the Rhine Valley. I wanted to mostly see cathedrals and churches, old castles, Roman sites, medieval walls, and pretty views. So armed with guide books, forum input, and DH’s ideas, I came up with a list of about 20 and had to whittle it down to the top 8 to 10 ideas for day trips; we together decided where we wanted to go on the day of arrival and the weekend.

Before travel purchases: 1. The 8-Day RailPass. 2. A new small light daypack/backpack; I found the one on Rick Steves’ website to be a very good value, although I would like more pockets inside. 3. Jack Wolfskin passport pouch for wearing under my clothes; I put almost all cash, Pass, Passport, and important cards in this and wore it about 90% of the time and liked it. Some days it was a bit warm, but it is roomy and convenient. I have another one I’ve used since 2005, but this one is a little bigger. 4. I got another pair of Travex material pants from Eddie Bauer; these things are amazing! Light weight, warm or cool, dry fast, never wrinkle, wash out in sink well, and—a plus!—have zipper pockets for holding things like some change or a transportation card or other ticket. I carried two pair and wore them 80% of my travel time. 5.A new Gore-tex rain jacket; it’s not hugely fashionable and weighs a bit more than another rain-sorta-repellent jacket, but it WORKS! 6.Cheap small flashlights. 7.Bright orange luggage tags to go with bright orange tie-wraps we put on our black luggage to help ID them at baggage claim.

Pre-travel plans: I of course called all the financial institutions and worked out what would and would not be used on my Blackberry. The house/dog arrangements were a little more complicated than usual because both son and daughter in town would be traveling some and so I had to make arrangements with neighbor girls for some days of care. Ran off agendas (daily ones to hand to DH), maps, reservations, some lists/suggestions etc., and created my accordion file that becomes the repository for daily-gathered memorabilia. Made lists to carry of all family/friend/financial numbers for emergency contacts.

Trip Report

Day 0-1—Travel and Arrival

Our travel from Texas was pretty uneventful, despite a 30 minute delay leaving home and a long and slightly delayed flight from DFW to FRA. We arrived about 9:20 am (almost an hour late) and were through passport control and baggage pickup by 10ish. While DH got his rental car paperwork done, in Terminal 1, I found the train station nearby and got my RailPass validated. That only took about 2 minutes after waiting in line for a bit. I wasn’t sure what the station in Hoechst would be like, whether it would be manned or not, so I decided to do this necessary task on arrival. (The Hoechst office was manned every day, so I could have waited, but this was a convenient and not-time consuming stop in the airport.) We used the ATM in the rental car desk area, too. The garage is a long walk from the terminal, but we found our Skoda Octavia with no problem. DH’s familiarity with the airport and procedures is a blessing, as the place is very spread out.

After getting Sheila settled in (she has issues changing countries) (more about her later), we decided we felt like proceeding with our plan to drive to Kloster Eberbach in Eltville where we arrived about 11:30. This is a former Cisterian Monastry with some original buildings from the 12th to 14th century well preserved and lovely grounds. It’s known for its wine and is used as a venue for concerts (and movies—The Name of the Rose. It wasn’t crowded on this pleasant warm Sunday afternoon as we walked around—gotta stave off that jet lag! The restaurant at 1 was quite busy. We had a lovely dinner with nice wait staff; I had a pork dish in wine sauce with potato dumplings and DH felt welcomed to Germany with some schnitzel! Cash only. Lovely spot for a rest. We didn’t try to see about a tour; we just enjoyed the peace and prettiness.

About 2:30 we drove to the Dorint Hotel in Sulzbach (between Bad Soden and Hoechst), a nice modern hotel sorta in the middle of a field; it’s close to major roads, DH’s work, and the big mall, Main Taunus Zentrum, but there’s not really any place to walk to. After settling in and succumbing to tiny cat naps, we drove into Frankfurt, found a miracle of a parking space on Braubachstrasse and walked around the Römer and pedestrian and shopping area near there. Being at the Romer, in ways I guess the heart or near the heart of Frankfurt, is rather like, for me, being on one of the Thames River bridges; I know I’m in the city! DH had found a specific shop--Handwerkskunst am Römer--Ulrike Scheit at Braubachstrasse 39—to look for cuckoo clocks, as he’d decided he was definitely going to buy one (we had one given to us) and a trip to the Schwarzwald wasn’t on our agenda, and we got to it well before its 6 pm closing. He found one but said he’d want to think about it and send me later. After some refreshing chocolate HagenDasz not far (walk away from Römer across Berlinerstrasse to corner of building, facing an open area in front of Liebfrauenkirche), we drove back in about the lightest traffic he’d ever seen around Frankfurt he said. We drove through Hoechst to confirm where the train station is, about 10 minutes from the hotel. Grocery stores aren’t open here on Sundays, so we’d have to wait to pick up my breakfast and snack foods tomorrow.

We didn’t want dinner after our late big lunch and ice cream, so we unpacked and went to bed before dark. But then, we did that every night! It didn’t get dark until almost 10 even with clouds! And light before 5:30; we didn't see much dark.

Tomorrow—First day-trip--to the city where the word “Protestant” was first used—Speyer.

Day 2—Speyer

I had planned an easy, not too complicated or faraway first day of travel, with plenty of time for “mistakes” or glitches on my part as I figured out the system. I feel like I’ve “conquered” much of the public transport in the UK (but not the buses), but that was in another country and besides, the language was English. I am not used to trains and I don’t know more than a handful of words in German. So I chose Speyer.

DH ate breakfast in the hotel (last time—quite costly) while I had some food I’d brought. I used the internet in the lobby to check my connections; internet in the room is too expensive unless his work necessitates it (why don’t European hotels start providing free wi-fi?), so it’s good to have access to a computer for me to check things like the weather and confirm train times. Despite my DBahn-website hours, I hadn’t memorized or even printed out every possible connection or station change and I was a bit nervous about how to find that out so I’d know what to look for. The weather was cloudy and mild temps expected. At 7:15 M dropped me off, so I had time to get familiar with the Hoechst station, which is small but busy—with pigeons roosting (and all that goes with that—yuck) on the light fixtures inside the lobby. I figured out how to read the boards—the big electronic one with immediate trains, the bulletin board ones with times for all trains all day printed on paper, and the smaller electronic ones next to each platform. Both regional trains and S-Bahn trains run on the same level at this station. I caught a train for an 11 minute ride to Frankfurt Hautbahnhof (Hbf); it was crowded but nobody stood.

The Hbf is really big and busy but somehow doesn’t seem as frantic as some London ones. I walked down the long platform and found some steps up to a not-yet-open restaurant and took some pictures. I was very careful about taking pics, avoiding people except in long crowd shots. The station is structurally interesting, somehow more industrial and mechanical than London stations. It’s well laid out with plenty of signage. (There are abbreviations, words, and messages I didn’t know; I figured some out as my trip went along, but not all!) The trains arrive on the level where all the stores and services are; the S-Bahns arrive below, after you go down 2 escalators; later I looked for the U-Bahn which is a 3-4 minute walk away from the S-Bahn platforms. I looked around and got familiar with the station as I waited for a 9:05 train. I tried to use the WC, but it’s –closed til September?! The busiest (or second) train station in Germany and there’s no toilette!? Unacceptable. I watched people come and go; the trains seemed to be leaving right on time this day. I saw one guy hustle up to the platform for his Munich bound train at, according to my watch, the exact departure time—and he watched it pull away. Not a happy traveler! My train left on time, but as we made several stops, we seemed to be running 1-2 minutes late. I had 11 minutes to change at Mannheim and I was a little antsy about that, but I just followed signs, moved quickly to the new platform, and boarded. It seemed that not all the cars would be continuing as not all the doors were open, but I entered one—and got waved out by somebody! Hustled to next car and found a seat, and whoosh, doors closed. I never did figure out what words to look for that would indicate not to get on a car. A closed door would be a clue!

The train was not full at all; so far I’d noticed that the trains seemed scented with food? Goats? Just people? But they were all clean and comfortable, although a few were a bit warm over the course of my visit. An agent checked my Pass.

I arrived in Speyer at 10:30—my first city tour on my own! I had a map I’d printed out and headed toward town along a street with some residences, some offices, and some shops. My first destination was the Altpoertel, the town gate remaining from the old wall. It marks the edge of the pedestrian-mostly old town part. I climbed to the top and had fun looking through the windows and catching my first glimpses of the Kaiserdom. This is a great introduction to the town and affords great views, but is only open 10-noon weekdays. Worth the climb!

I walked along the pedestrian shopping area and went into the TI office for another map and found a coke someplace and a cheese and tomato sandwich. Found a bench—unlike in Oxford!—and had my early lunch. I went looking for the Jewish quarter and the Mikwe (ritual baths), Germany’s oldest, and found them easily. I did not know what these were until I did my pre-trip research. I spent a little time at the museum, the deep baths, and the remains of the synagogue from the 12th century. It was poignant and somehow a good introduction for me, a reminder of the importance of the Jewish communities to German history. I’m glad I stopped.

Next I approached the Kaiserdom, Dom St. Maria and St. Stephan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was once the largest Romanesque building in Europe; inside its massive Romanesque pillars from the 1100’s are stunning. Being Romanesque, with chunky blocky thick supports, rounded arches, and not much glass, it’s rather dark. But it’s amazing. The extensive well-preserved crypt area is the largest in Germany and worth a look (but I didn’t pay for the audio guide). Back outside I took more pictures and walked around the back where there’s a garden area between the church and the Rhine River. There’s also more of the medieval wall there, with paths and trees and quiet shade. I found a perch and finished my lunch. Good views of the church from here. The day was warm but the shade was great.

Nearby is the Dreifaltigkeitskirche, but it was closed on Mondays (this was going to be a common find—a sign saying “Geschlossen Montags”) except for a look through locked glass doors at the Baroque-ly ornate but dark interior. I had 2 more hours before a scheduled train, so I set out for a visual landmark—two more spires dominating the skyline. I got to the Protestant Memorial Church at about 1:45. It’s not huge but gothic, with slender spires and gorgeous rose windows. But it was padlocked. I was trying to figure out the signs and just decided it said it was closed from noon til 2 pm when a lady arrived with keys; she said something but I don’t know exactly what, but it meant that she was coming and would let me in; she was early and I appreciated her letting me in. It is a pretty church, with a statue of Luther in the outside portico and a stained glass window picturing him and his Thesis. It was at a session of the imperial parliament meeting in Speyer in 1529 that some states of the Holy Roman Empire lodged a “protest” against the decisions of the Catholic majority. This church was a nice find. Right across the street is St. Joseph’s with some interesting tracery on some small and large windows. Inside I was all alone; I saw that tracery repeated in manyplaces, even the wooden pews. It was those little details of design that I enjoyed so much everywhere. I rested in the cool and quiet.

It was about a mile to the station and I decided to take an earlier train. At the manned DB office, I asked about connection and he printed out the info for me. I sipped a tea on the platform in the pleasant afternoon shade and the train arrived on time, with a quick change in Mannheim. The ICE train to Frankfurt Hbf was again pretty full; the agent who checked my Pass had me sign it, which I’d forgotten to do. I’d been keeping DH apprised, via our Blackberry Messengers, of my day’s events and ETA’s as they changed. An earlier than planned arrival worked for him, so after an S-Bahn ride this time to Hoechst, he picked me up despite last minute delays at 5:15.

For our first dinner he took me to one of his favorite restaurants from past trips—the Corner Steak House in Raunheim. (My restaurant suggestions may not be that helpful to the typical traveler as they, except for one, are in suburbs and residential not tourist neighborhoods. But any of them are worth finding if close.) At this place you cook your steak on a hot stone they bring to you at the table! Really yummy beef after a good salad. (They have other dishes.) Then we stopped at a nearby Real market for some cookies, cokes, and breakfast stuff ; we had trouble but finally found Greek yogurt—Griechisch jogurt.

A good first day. My feet were sore and I was tired, but the day went smoothly. I didn’t get lost or fall down, I figured out the train stuff, and I saw an incredible cathedral and some amazing remains of communities almost 1000 years old. I was glad to have had a calm easy day as the extra time at the stations helped make me more sure of logistics of such travel.

Tomorrow—Rheinfels on the Rhine!
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 04:50 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
Day 3—The Rhine Valley and Burg Rheinfels

(I won’t bore you with the details of my research about how I could see the castles I picked. There are trains and ferries galore, but the logistics of traveling from little town to little town or from castle to castle (not all of which are easily reached on foot) can make you crazy! I will tell about what I ended up doing on this day and one other Rhine day, but there are about as many permutations of how to do this as there are people! Also, lots of people will strongly suggest Marksburg as the best castle; it is wonderful, but I’d seen it in 1988 (my first ever castle!) so I wanted to go to different ones. Also, I decided not to cruise very long along the Rhine which is a great way to SEE lots of castles, but I wanted to go in a couple.)

After breakfast in the room, we headed out in our becoming-a-routine way, DH dropping me at the station where I waited about 45 minutes for an 8:05 train to St. Goarshausen. There are benches inside the DB office. Today was looking like it would be even better than predicted, warm and no rain with a few clouds in a bright blue sky.

The train was pretty full already when it arrived from Frankfurt. Trains are a big deal here; it seems like everyone is riding them. But then we cross over a packed autobahn or I see all those people on bikes, so I know that there are lots not using trains. But it is still big deal. I had to sit backwards for a while, which doesn’t bother me. At Weisbaden lots got off, so I changed seats. The train reversed so I was STILL sitting backwards. Doh! By the time we were whizzing by the Rhine, I had secured a window seat and enjoyed the views.

At St. Goarhausen I had about 20 minutes before the ferry I was going to take. This was a KD boat—this line was included in my RailPass so would cost me no more. However, the ferries by several different companies are all pretty cheap for foot passengers, so it wasn’t a big factor. It just worked out. I had time to go to the TI office, buy a tote and get directions to the ferry. There were several ferry docks right near the train station. The whole ferry/ferry time schedule stuff was a bit confusing on the websites to me, so I asked the KD info person if my plan to ride across to St. Goar was ok; her answer was not clear but in any case when the boat arrived, I got on with a bunch of other people, my Pass was looked at and approved, and I rode the short trip across the river to St. Goar.

I had read that there was a little Berg Express tram thing to take people up the hill to Burg Rheinfels; I arrived at the little town square near the dock to find it leaving. Next trip in 30 minutes, 10:45. So I strolled the little pedestrian shopping street and took a few pictures. There were lots of little places to eat just getting ready for lunch crowds and some touristy shops. Cute street.

At 10:35 the tram was back and a few of us boarded and paid €3 for a round trip. Off we took on the little choo-choo, with a few audio-guide comments in English as we went up. Quite steep; I’m glad I rode!

I was inside the castle by 11 and spent til 1. It was a blast. First, the views from its heights were wonderful. Rheinfels is very ruined and so it’s hard to imagine what it actually looked like, but it’s huge, has cool walls and winding passages, lots of lovely old rock work, and the coolest toilettes I’ve ever been in! Kids have a great time here rambling and climbing. There are two marked walking tours which you get with your ticket. I followed the first just about exactly, except for skipping a good lookout point because people were weed-eating; I went back later. There were plenty of people around but not crowded at all. The day was beautiful, in fact approaching very warm. I tried to follow the second tour but I got a bit turned around and didn’t want to go into all the dark mines/tunnels anyway. I did go into some passages dark enough to use my flashlight they’d recommended visitors bring. I missed the dungeons but decided not to go back. There were lots and lots of cobblestones to take care on, lots and lots of steps, and lots and lots of walking, so I was tired and getting hungry. I spent a little time in the gift shop before waiting for the tram down.

By 1:15 I was in St. Goar looking for something quick to eat, but everything was sit-and-order. I settled on a big pretzel and cool-ish coke. I found the public WC at the end of the little street, had a closer look at the world’s largest hanging cuckoo clock and priced some normal sized ones–much more mullah than the ones in Frankfurt. Lots of junky touristy stuff.

Along the river near the ferry landing for the KD boat that I would catch there were benches, so I enjoyed a rest while people and river watching. I boarded the 2:20 for a 1 hour and 20 minute ride up the Rhine to Lorch. Along the way I saw the Loreley and the statue, took pictures of lots of castles, and moved around to different areas to avoid the cigarette smoke and bright now hot sun. I was glad to find that the toilette did NOT open directly into the river like the one I remembered from a ride on a 1988 ferry! A ride on the Rhine, even a short one like mine was, is a terrific way to see it.

At the Lorch ferry landing, I saw no indication of a train station, which I knew was more or less to the right. I asked a couple; they pointed right. I had 27 minutes, 5 less than expected; certainly not gonna “see the town” which didn’t have much to see anyway; it’s just a little town along the Rhine. I hustled along a residential street, asked a passerby who said it was a kilometer more, and in about 10 minutes I found it. I never saw any signs about it. Waited less than 15 minutes and rode to Hoechst in 72 minutes where my coach and driver already awaited.

We headed to Bad Soden for Italian. At La Cocina we sat outside. This is a great restaurant; lovely staff, great food, nice outside eating area but nice inside too. They start with olives and fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic, and the salad starters are wonderful. He had salmon and I had seafood in pasta. Delicious.

Back “home” I did my "chores" to get ready for the next day (including photo backups and batteries charging).

Tomorrow—Good chance of rain all over the area, so I will take the long train ride to Köln and see mostly indoor stuff.

Day 4—Koln

The day did look cloudy and maybe rainy, so I figured Koln would be a good destination. I got to Frankfurt well before my 8:16 ICE train which left on time and was a nice ride, arriving about 9:40. It was again fairly crowded, but getting a seat was no problem.

The Hbf in Koln is directly at the Dom. The sky was grey and it did drizzle on me a few times as the day went along.

The cathedral is amazing. It has been described and drawn and discussed by so many, I probably don’t have anything new to say. But seeing things for oneself is of course totally different from others’ pictures or words. I was struck by 3 things: 1. It’s so big, so tall. I knew that, but being there with myself to set the scale/proportion really made an impact. 2. It’s surrounded by new and often tacky stuff, square/blocky architecture mixed with old mixed with the really old. I guess I wish there was a bit more space around it. 3. It’s dark. It just seemed like all the churches and cathedrals I went in were darker than the ones in the UK; maybe that’s because more Romanesque here?

There were lots and lots of people. I went inside for a look around and to wait for a 10:30 tour in English. The windows are spectacular. I gazed and gaped. At 10:30 a lady gathered us around her and gave out our headsets and off we went on a wonderful tour for about an hour. She was from Koln and remembered walking in the rubble after WWII in all the neighborhoods and at the cathedral. Of course I can’t remember all the details but she spoke of the long history and importance of the church, the history of Germany, and about the windows, some which date from the 14th and 15th centuries. They were mostly removed during WWII and thus saved, except for I think she said some 19th c. ones which weren’t very valued by the removers. Those were destroyed or damaged and replaced later. It takes 100’s of workers on staff and 6 million euros in materials to keep up the repair and maintenance. There were several craftsmen at work maintaining or restoring various art/stone work as we walked around. Although it was too dark outside to help make pretty pictures, it was still such a great tour. I didn’t want to climb the tower, on this gray day, and I totally forgot to go back to the crypt part. So after a few more appreciative looks, my visit was done.

We turned in out headsets across the platz and then I went to the TI office very near; I bought the Day Pass, which I think ended up not really saving me any, but I broke even by going to 2 museums. A 3rd would have netted me a savings.

I then headed to the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. The map I had wasn’t very detailed, but I used the Dom as navigation aid. First though, I stopped for a sandwich and coke and sat in the shade to eat and watch people bustling by at noon. I got turned around a little and took an extra 15 minutes maybe to find the museum. However, the floor I most wanted to see with 19th century and later works was closed! Dang. Oh well. I saw some great early Medieval and Dutch art. It was hot though. But drizzly outside. Too many different layers of clothing needed to drag around on such a day! I bought a few postcards of a few of my favorite pictures. They can’t capture the colors and lights and the wonderful different textures but are nice reminders.

My next stop would be the Romisch-Germanisches Museum right across from the Dom, but I saw 3 things along the way: 1. the archeological site, near the art museum, which is uncovering medieval Jewish community remains where there will be new museum; 2. one of the dozens of Romanesque churches--Grosse St. Martin; and 3. the nice park by the river for a few pictures. Then on into the museum. It was wonderfully done. (And it was cool inside!--this became increasingly a mark of how much I enjoyed a place as my days went on and the heat increased!)

I didn’t really see much new information or see types of things I hadn’t seen before, but so many of these artifacts were from the Koln area. That was cool. I was amazed at some of the lovely glassware with its handles and decorative flourishes still unbroken. While I was admiring the mosaic, I noticed it was pouring down rain and people were all huddled under the overhangs all around the platz. Good time to be inside!

When I had seen all I could mentally take in for this trip, I walked around to another Romanesque church, St. Andreas, which is also lovely. If I’d had time and sturdier legs, I would have enjoyed seeing all of the Romanesque churches in the city; DH had made it to several more on his trip here. The details tend to run together after seeing so many beautiful churches, but I appreciate the love, care, and respect that went into their creation and am glad to pay brief homage when I can.

I headed back to the station; the 4:20 ICE and an S-Bahn got me to Hoechst about 6 where DH had just arrived, too. We went to Raunheim to a pharmacy before it closed and the adjoining grocery for a few items. Then we ate at the Bemblesche in Raunheim. We ate inside and the food—salads and schnitzels—was delicious, but the service was frustratingly slow this night. Oh well. The apple strudel was fabulous. There’s a bank next door and we used the ATM in the lobby, which DH had done before. Collapse in bed, after doing only absolutely necessary stuff!

Tomorrow—It looks like a pretty day if near hot—on to Heidelberg!
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 06:40 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
Day 5--Heidelberg

Today held many frustrations and irritations, but I am glad to have seen what I saw of this popular destination. It promised to be hot with no rain. Promise kept!

I got on an ICE at 8:20 to Heidelberg. I ended up having to move 3 times because I was in a reserved seat; it took me that many moves to wake up and look around for the reservation notice; I finally noticed the little plastic card holders above the windows; in the car I went in initially almost all of them were full; when I moved to a different car, I had plenty of seat choice. Learned something!

Our Blackberries seemed to have some problems, so I was not in communication with DH most of the day.

From Heidelberg's Hbf I went via Sbahn to Aldstadt station; it was a lovely but already hot day, about 9:30. I had found that an English speaking tour was either at 10 or 10:30 from the TI office. I walked toward where I though it would be with a little map that wasn’t detailed enough. Too many streets not on the map. At about 10:05 I stumbled across the Konigstuhl Bergbahn, which I was going to take after the walking tour; it might be hotter later anyway, so I decided to go on to the castle and rode the furnicular railway the short leg to the castle.

The castle is cool in lots of ways BUT there's no map or schemata given out except with an audio guide. There was a guided tour in English at 11:15 (I got ticket for that at 10:30) and I asked ticket person if the audio guide had different things on it than the guided tour. He said the material would be repeated, but I think he was wrong. The people with headsets were looking at stuff I looked at but didn’t get info about from my tour guide. Oh, well. I walked around a while. The views were gorgeous today. There were LOTS of people, mostly from tour buses but also lots of individuals.

At 11:15 I “found” the tour leader (I also don’t think they were clear in how to find her--”in there” “on left” “by door”---well, that could have been a dozen places!). She said there were 4 Asians on this English tour and I might get more out of a 12:15 tour. I didn’t want to wait an hour, so she said that was fine. She told the interpretor, a very young lady with 3 adults my age or older, that she couldn’t interpret while the tour leader was talking. So there was no problem at all; it was almost like having a 1-on-1 tour. So I don’t know why she wanted me to wait. She was a wonderful guide and we saw lots inside. Again, I don’t remember all the details. But we went from room to room and she pointed out some history of the castle, some things about the architecture or furnishings. I guessed what the fancy lid was (a lock for a money box), what the device did (it pumped, although I didn’t know it was pumping up wine from the cellar) and why there was the little door between halls and the living rooms of the nobility (led to a big iron/ceramic heater thing, so it was a way for servants to put fuel in and clean grate out without entering into the nobility’s room).

After the tour I went to see the world’s largest wine cask, which is about 2 stories high and required some enormous number of trees to build. There’s a little eatery in the cool of the cellar, so I had a little sandwich and Coke in the welcome cool. Back outside I took a few more pictures. I remembered seeing some of these same angles and shots when DH and I were here in ’88. I know there were some more gardens I didn’t walk around in, but I needed to get down the mountain. The line to go back down was much longer than coming up, but it went pretty quickly.

I walked toward the center of the old town and the Marktplatz--and there was the TI office I think I’d passed already; it’s in the Rathaus but has almost an invisible sign. Anyway, got some info, but of course the tour, whenever it had happened, was long over! So I just planned a little tour of my own. Did I mention it was HOT!? I headed towards a couple churches and the student jail. I looked around the market square and went in the Heiliggeistkirche, which was surrounded with stalls and booths for food and souvenirs. Got the coldest water of the trip so far! Nice. I continued my self-guided tour. I liked the student jail with its graffitti and cells. For the price of admission, I also got to walk almost around to the other side of the block to the entrance of the Old University where a lady took a key and led me upstairs for a (short on my choice) look at an old lecture hall. Across from these, I think, is the University Library which is a beautiful building; I went in for a minute.

Did I mention it was hot!? But I had two more stops to make for sure--the old bridge and a shop for cookies. As I headed toward the river, a group of teenagers asked me for help. They were on some sort of scavenger hunt/info quest and wanted to know if I knew what “ritter” means in German? I couldn’t remember and hadn’t packed my dictionary, but I pointed them to the Zum Ritter Haus right behind us and they took off with thanks. I saw lots of different groups doing such "quests," in Heidelberg, on the Rhine, and in Frankfurt later. Fun!

I found the Knoesel chocolate shop on Haspelgasse; DH had brought back Studentenkuss cookies and the story when he was here one time and we wanted some more. So I got 2 boxes--and tote and mug. I also admired the nearby Alte Bruke and the views from mid-river. Time to head to the station.

After maybe a 20 minute walk, not in a hurry and some in shade, I caught an SBahn and got to the Hbf with plenty of time. Because of my experience on the train in the morning with being moved, I got in line at the DB office (with AC!) to make a reservation on an IC at 4 something direct to Frankfurt. I waited in the cool til 15 minutes before the train before going to the platform assigned on my printed out reservation, which I had just paid extra for and had just been handed less than 30 minutes before--and there was all sorts of scurrying going on and the sign now read train cancelled. Dang. Anyway, somehow (I don’t remember if I had it written or looked on board on platforms) I figured out there would be a way back through Mannheim that would make me later than we’d agreed, so I called DH and left message and we soon made phone contact. My next train was also late, but eventually I made it back. We met a colleague at the Corner Steakhouse in Raunheim again and had great dinner.

The missed stuff and heat and un-clear signage and train snafus made me uncomfortable, but I did enjoy the castle and several other sites. The flexibility of my Pass sure was nice today.

Tomorrow--Mainz for a short trip then a weekend get-away!
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 08:05 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,226
Wonderful trip report!

How lovely that you got to see more of the historic churches of Köln. Most people just think the Dom is all there is to see there, when in reality, there is so much more. Makes me want to take another day trip up there to do some more exploring.

I really enjoyed Rhinefels too, especially the fun toilets, and the ferry ride across the Rhine from St. Goarshausen is a nice experience.
Mainhattengirl is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 08:39 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
Hi, MHG--thanks for the encouragement. A TR that runs over 2 weeks might get a little lengthy--and I'm actually editing down from my rough drafts! Yes, seeing the lovely churches, whether in Koln or elsewhere, sorta is the backdrop for all the other images from my trip as they parade across my mind.

OK here's more!

My time in Mainz was far too brief, but since DH was able to leave in mid-afternoon for our trip out of town, I was more than willing to cut it short. An RMV day ticket to Mainz from Hoechst is €14.25; the ticket machines won’t take a CC but the agents in the DB offices can handle CC’s. There were some rail problems again and I got to Mainz Romanische Theatre station (much nearer Dom than Hbf) at 8:45 a little late. It had been raining in Frankfurt but was sunny but not hot yet in Mainz.

I walked toward the Dom (I’d looked at a map on the internet again and written down street names I should pass) down cute old streets and found Augustinerkirche which DH had gone in; I sat for a few minutes as an organist practiced. From there I went on to the Dom Platz. The market square was packed with food stalls of all sorts. I went into the Dom Shop and then the Dom, the Cathedral of St Martin and St. Stephan. It’s the oldest of the 3 important Romanesque cathedrals in the Rhineland—Speyer, Worms, and Mainz—and was begun in 975. Fires have resulted in much rebuilding and most of the current one is “only” from the 11th to 13th centuries. It is very very pretty. I still like Gothic light and tracery better, but this is nicely proportioned.

Then it was on to the Gutenberg Museum right across the way. I happened in on a demonstration of printing and watched a while. Then I wandered around 3 floors of the museum--papers, books, machines. It’s well-done and thorough. I of course headed to the Gutenberg bibles. I learned a bit from happening again on an English speaking tour leader. I didn’t tag along but did hear what she said in the display room. Gutenberg printed in only black and left spaces for any illumination/decoration the owner wanted to add, so every one of the Bibles is unique. One of the points of the museum is what a revolution his invention began--it is truly incredibly important and as a teacher and lover of books and writing, it was very significant to see this.

I wandered back towards the market to look for lunch. DH BBM’d me he wanted to try to see me on the Dom webcam like I’d done to him. So we connected that way; I stood in the market square next to that big pillar thing, I waved, he located me, he saved the pic. Funny. The market stalls didn’t really have anything for me for lunch (not wanting fresh veggies or large portions of bread) so I walked towards the Gutenberg statue and found something to eat at a little stand--a pizza-like thing and a COLD coke. I ate while sitting on a bench in the shade in the pedestrian area there.

I consulted my map and headed to the church, St. Stephanskirche, with the Chagall windows. In 1988 a couple had taken us on a walk to the church but it was closed, so I’d always wanted to go back to see inside. I found the street and took off UP HILL. Inside the church the windows were worth the climb. The light is blue as you enter. The windows, replacements after WWII damage, are spectacular. I’m glad I got to see them.

I headed downhill to the main street and to the station where there is a ruin of a Roman theater (hence the name) right at the station. DH picked me up (a little delayed) by 2:00; he wasn’t feeling 100%, but we programmed Sheila for the Trier hotel and took off.
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 12:04 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
Days 6-7—Trier

DH has had a love/hate relationship with Sheila for several years. He tends to listen to her but later sometimes wonders about that. We followed her instructions, and she led us, along with many many others on this summer Friday afternoon, through Bingen where we encountered much traffic as we wound here and there. Her routes are supposed to be shortest--on paper, maybe, but she relies on non-contextual information. We sometimes have wiggly routes off main roads. But anyway we did eventually get on more major roads and arrived in Trier about 5. DH had been to Trier twice before, but when we planned this trip, it was on the top of my list of places I’d like to see, based on his stories and pictures. He said he was more than willing to go again and be my guide, so this became our weekend destination. The oldest city in Germany, it has so much history!

The Hotel Romischer Kaiser is absolutely lovely. (No A/C but that wasn’t a problem for us this trip--word to wise, though) It’s on corner right across the street from the Porta Nigra. We had a corner room so it had a little extra bump out space. Little balcony off the bathroom. Just precious. Lovely reception area; nice staff. A gem. (DH had stayed at its “sister” hotel the Aldstat nearby and said it was fine, too, but this was nicer.)

DH needed a nap. I went for a short walk. The TI right behind the Porta Nigra was still open so I got a map and some info about tickets for tomorrow. I also looked in the Dom. Will go back! Back in the room, I settled in and had a snack. When DH woke at 7, he felt better and hungry, so we took a walk around the Porta Nigra area and then had some goulash at a restaurant in the bottom of the Steipe, which was a building used by officials for banqueting and meetings. It was so great, sitting outside on the main market square. Lovely evening. Since DH had been here twice, he was a great tour guide and directed our walks expertly. After our light but filling supper, we walked around the Dom, bathed now in an evening glow, around to see the outside of the electors’ palace and Aula Palatina and back to the room about dark so it must have been nearly 10. It was still a bit noisy, even when we closed our windows, but it didn’t bother us. I was already in love with this city!

I went to breakfast before DH who said he’d be ready by 9; it was a wonderful bar with all sorts of stuff cold and hot, fresh and delicious. I then went on a walk, heading for the Karl Marx house but went into the Dom instead. On my way back to the room DH met me. There was a craft market set up all around the Porta Nigra which we wandered around in a lot, after returning to the room and checking out, but we left the car in the parking lot. There were lots of cool things in the market; I looked at several but settled on 2 ceramic pieces, a gnome and a sun from two different makers, for the garden. We had a nice talk with Annette who made the sun. DH found a couple little presents also. This sort of unexpected venue and conversations are often the highlight of a trip, aren’t they?

About 10 we bought the Antiquities Card Ticket thing at the TI and went into the Porta Nigra, the big black Roman wall gate. There are several levels in it and it affords great views as well as being interesting in itself. And then to the Kaiser Baths. DH’s pictures had made me feel like I’d been there, but it was still so fun to be there myself. The Baths are huge and we spent a bit of time there admiring the incredible stone work and wandering the cool below ground pathways. In the gift shop as we left, we saw this little relief souvenir of Cupid and Psyche, so in honor of our anniversary coming up in July, a book I really like about this myth by C. S. Lewis, Til We Have Faces, and my teaching Roman stuff, we decided to get it, but it was only at the Museum, which we weren’t going to go to but wasn’t far away and was another punch on our ticket! So we went in there but I only went to the shop and DH didn’t go far either. No time. We also went in the Dom which DH enjoyed too; the Gothic church next door was now open but there was a wedding! So I still didn’t get to look inside.

For lunch we sat in the market square and had Subways. We enjoyed people watching –and there were plenty of people to watch! We then went on a bit of a walk by the Viehmarktthermen baths for a brief visit and a couple other places DH remembered.

We loaded up the car and drove to the ampitheater, which looks close on a map but is quite a hike, so we did that on our way out of town. The ampitheater is great; I learned that in this case a vomitorium meant the entrances/exits where the people would spew through. This was of course much smaller than the coliseum in Rome but still fun.

Then for another site included on our ticket we went in search of a hermitage/cloister thing-- Klause Kastel-- outside of town. It was definitely not well marked and Sheila couldn’t find it! But she got us close and then there were signs, although they weren’t very clear. On the way to the entrance to the Klause Kastel, we walked by a little church, St. John the Baptist, built on a Roman wall and still functioning as a church for the area; there were people tending graves as we visited the church briefly. Behind it is a small but moving WWII memorial (1957) to German dead--an area with row after row of little stones with names. Then on into the Klause. This site was totally cool. The Tourist Info website says this: “High plateau above the Saar valley, used as a fortified place of refuge by the Celts. In the 16th century, a French Franciscan monk-priest settled there and carved a hermit's cell, the Klause, into the rock. In 1838, the Prussian court architect Carl Friedrich Schinkel transformed a 17th century chapel next to the cell into the burial chapel of Blind King John of Bohemia.” This is definitely off the beaten path but it ended up being one of my favorite spots—the remoteness, the moving memorial, the vista. Highly recommended.

Then it was time to leave Trier. There are definitely days' worth of things to see and explore both in the city and close by, but our time was well-spent (helps to have someone who knows where he’s going!) and I loved it.
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 02:14 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,025
texasbookworm-- I like your travel style. Lots of inspiration for those (like me) who may want to use Frankfurt one day as a base for day trips. I can't believe there wasn't a working WC in the Frankfurt train station!
Daniel_Williams is online now  
Jul 21st, 2012, 02:19 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
DW--Thanks! I think Frankfurt may be under-rated both as a base and as a place to explore itself; if you keep reading, you will see that I ended up spending several days in the city, very happily. And I couldn't believe the WC situation either! I actually have notes about the WC availability, or not, most places I went--whether free, whether close, etc.--but chose not to mention them every post! Ha! Both as a base to drive from and to use the train from, Frankfurt worked great.
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 04:01 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
Days 7-8--Luxembourg
When looking for what to do on our one weekend, since Trier was a priority, I looked to see what was near and I don’t remember how I stumbled on the info, but I found that there were some WWII sites close-by in Luxembourg (a European country DH hadn’t been to, so another check on his mental list!). We have known a couple people who were involved in the Battle of the Bulge and since we didn’t have time this trip to visit Normandy, we decided to see what we could see in Luxembourg, which included an American cemetery.

Then it turned out that there is a DoubleTree Hotel near the Luxembourg airport and we had enough points for a room, so we decided to go there after Trier and see some stuff Sunday.

So off we went, with Sheila’s directions, for the hour drive. As we wound through some lovely German countryside, we crossed a river and the signs began to be in French, so we knew we were in Luxembourg. We got to a point where we would be getting on A-1—oops, the entrance was closed. Here on a Saturday in summer at an on-ramp to a major autobahn, they were –repaving. Repaving!? Any way there were “deviation” signs and red tape across names and numbers we needed and it was confusing and frustrating and in French (of course) and DH was tired. Eventually somehow we did end up being able to go on the correct road and found the hotel. Not a nice intro to this country. What did I learn? Shouldn’t travel anywhere without better road maps; relying on Sheila works almost all the time, but in such a situation as this, we’d have done well to have paper maps.

The Doubletree seems a bit far from anything, in a residential rather than business or tourist area as far as we could tell. But it is a very nice hotel, and after we settled in our huge room, we ate a delicious (if pricey, but, hey, not driving anywhere else!) buffet with desserts magnifique!

We left early, planning on finding breakfast at a nearby (as the crow flies, anyway!) McD’s, but it wasn’t open. So on to the nearby, easily found American Cemetery. We got there before 9 in the rain-threatening skies; they opened up exactly on time (the gates, not the skies--the skies waited a little). Not one else was there for a bit. We went into the office and then walked to the memorials and cemetery. It started to rain and the bus tours started arriving, but it was still a great visit. We spent over an hour there. We traced down a couple of the Band of Brothers’ graves. Gen. Patton’s grave was actually in a separate spot, but it is still poignant that he wanted to be buried alongside his men. The rain may have kept some away, but it seemed rather fitting to be lingering in a downpour, walking among the memorials to those who'd sacrificed for us. We are glad we went.

Then we followed directions on Sheila and what I had printed out and mostly helpful signs on a pretty direct drive to Diekirch where there is a National Museum. (We had found a grocery store along the way open on this Sunday morning and DH got some breakfast.) The museum was….fascinating but sorta quirky. It looks tiny but has several floors and extends in the back so it has lots and lots of displays. Lots of ammunitions, uniforms, photos, letters/documents. Most of the displays have good explanations in English typed out on an old typewriter. Sorta funny. Not high tech but minutely detailed . The point seemed to be Luxembourg was/is extremely thankful to the Allies, especially, the USA for liberating them. We spent about an hour--it would take many times that to see it all but we needed to get on the road.

We headed to a nearby McD’s and actually ate McD’s food in Luxembourg! There weren’t any other choices on our route, anyway. Then on we drove to Germany headed through Bitberg. We got close and saw a sign or two with the now-dreaded red tape through “Bitberg” like we couldn’t get there from here. We got to a T in Bitberg, I think, or close and the way we needed to go was barricaded! But the road, while under construction, did have one unpaved lane that was passable, so we used it; the journey was fine after that, but through lots of wiggly, windy roads for a while which I thoroughly enjoyed but weren’t very restful driving ! We arrived back at the Dorint in mid-afternoon and after a rest, we returned to La Cucina for another excellent meal. Then, re-plan, regroup, recharge!
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 05:24 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 1,893
Hi texasbookworm, I'm really enjoying the detail in your report. So glad you've been enjoying the Rhein-Main area and surrounds, there is so much to see!

lavandula is offline  
Jul 21st, 2012, 06:14 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
Thanks, lavandula--I have to wonder/fear that there is too much minutia, as I tend to go on sometimes! I did enjoy myself--and the country, as I hope is coming across.

OK, more days to follow!
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 04:44 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
I don’t remember how I came across Marburg as a destination; I’d never heard of it before. This town is known for its university and old town area which are atop a high hill overlooking the Lahn River. It was a completely charming day and I’m glad I went.

It turned out that DH needed to go to work really early, so I checked the DB website and there is a 61-minute train at 7:18 to Marburg, so that became my plan. As we got to Marburg, where the station is a mess of construction but usable, the fog was clearing off and it was cool and nice. The map I’d printed off and brought was good, so I walked not far and pretty directly to St. Elizabeth’s church a little before 9. I took lots of outside shots and ate some granola bar and used the WC near the entrance. (This was one of those public restrooms that have the attendant desk which isn't always "manned" so leaving the cents is sorta an honor system I guess. I could write a whole thread on the different sorts of public WC's I found!) As the bells rang at 9, the church opened. It is lovely and was almost silent until some organ practice later. There were hardly any people there; I spent about 45 minutes.

Next I walked toward the elevator, right next to the TI, which takes you up to the Aldstadt. All around were young people; this is a university town and it was evident in the youth, the shops, the many many bookstores! and the energy. Cool. I found the lift and swooshed up to the Aldstadt. This is an interesting--and free--solution to the steepness of the town. I took a few pix of the market area and then headed to the Schloss. I ended up on a route that had more stairs than the sloped walkway, but found the Grimm Brothers’ quote about Marburg having more stairs in the streets than inside the houses written on the stairway, so it was a good way to approach. Being a fairy tale fan, I like the fact that I was walking in the Brothers’ steps. Pretty solitary, too.

I found the Schloss perched up on top. I wasn’t that thrilled with the inside, but the views from both the windows inside and the plazas and gardens outside were amazing. The sky had cleared up a little. It didn’t cost much to get in.

In the Aldstat I wandered around with my map a while; there are lots of cobblestones and stairs. I went by a couple more churches and lots of half-timbered houses. There are many restaurants and as below many bookstores and clothing stores and other shops catering to students and residents more than tourists I thought. Which is fine; it was fun. At some bakeri I grabbed some bread thing and coke and enjoyed sitting outside. Then more traipsing up and down those cobblestones and stairs taking more and more pix! I did find a chocolate shop on my way to see the Old University and savored a couple truffles. By this time the steepness, uneven cobblestones, ubiquitous stairs, and early start had taken their toll and I was ready to go find a place to sit for a while. I rode the lift down and headed toward St. Elizabeth’s again taking my time. I went into the Old Botanical Gardens for a shady walk as it had grown warm and sunny. This is a pretty place. From a bridge near the gardens I found a good view of the Schloss.

Back at the church I sat in the cool and the quiet for a while and hoped for better light inside to make a difference through the windows, but it didn’t help much. These Romanesque churches are just dark. But there was something soothing and lovely about this church; I thoroughly enjoyed being there. I then noticed a little shop across the street and got a couple souvenirs, which I hadn’t found much of on top of the hill. I went on back to the station and I decided to take the fast 4:04 train which got me back well before our 6 o’clock plan, but I was done and just waited for DH back in Höchst.

We had a good dinner with his colleague at a different Italian place near Bad Soden—Mezza Luna—which is in a rather weird place, in the bottom of what looks like a new apartment complex. It was good but we like La Cucina’s atmosphere better. Then the normal “chores” before crashing.
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 05:34 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
OOOPPSS--Marburg above was actually Day 10!

Here's Day 9—Rheinstein and Rüdesheim on the Rhine (and Höchst)

The day was cloudy and cool with some rain promised, but I didn’t want to change my Rhine-day plans. It started drizzling as my train to Rüdesheim left on time, 8:03. We had a bit of a halt near Weisbaden, but I had left some cushion time so no problems expected. I had a pretty specific plan concerning the train and boat, but some small delays wouldn’t affect it.

It turned out that the train arrived right on time, and the weather cooperated all day with just clouds and no wet. From the train station I walked along the river for a little bit and found the TI office. Right across the tracks was also the ticket office for the Bingen-Rüdesheim ferry I wanted with a boat scheduled at 10, but there was no one there at a little after 9, so I just walked around a bit. The agent arrived about 9:40, I bought my ticket for round trip to Rheinstein, the crew let the few of us waiting board early, and we left promptly at 10 for the 20 minute ride. This ferry company goes to several castles/towns in this area, and you can buy a ticket for a whole trip or part of it, get off and on as the boat makes its stops.

The ride was again quite a treat. We arrived at the dock which is directly under Burg Rheinstein. From the river the view of the castle is excellent and it looked like a steep climb! But with the switchback-approach of the path up, it was not bad at all. It took about 10 minutes.

I found the castle fascinating, perched on its rocky base. The garden areas, the textures everywhere, the views were all just lovely. When I arrived at the little ticket office, the smiling gentleman was on the phone and I had to wait what seemed like a long time. Guests have to be rung through this little gate; there is a family still living in part of the castle and the iron gate is locked. Anyway, he was apologetic when he got off and said there was an electricity problem. In I went.

There was almost no one there and the few that were there were usually not where I was. It was so quiet. I tried to imagine being a princess or a maid or a watchman standing on all those terraces. It is a multi-leveled complex as it is built all over the rocky foundations. I climbed every staircase I could, found terraces and turrets and lots of places for views of the river. The inside of the castle was cool too with some rooms re-done as they were, not in the medieval era, but somewhat later. I spent a little under 90 minutes here and took many many pictures. It was a real highlight of my trip.

I had figured I needed to be done so I could be picked up at the dock at 12:40 because the next boat after that wasn’t until 2:40. As much as I enjoyed the castle, I didn’t need 2 more hours there! So I decided to be safe and walk on back down and take a rest. I ended up being on the dock by 12:15, as were a lady and grandson who’d traveled and visited the castle when I did. The boat stopped on its way downriver and let us on even though our tickets were for upriver back to Rüdeshiem. So we ended up with a little extra boat ride which was great--better than sitting on the dock, I didn’t need more time in the castle, and I could take more pix! It was a bit cold on the water but still no rain.

We got off at Rüdeshiem about 1:15 and I began to just wander, looking for food and some of the places on the TI map. I found a doner for lunch and enjoyed sitting for a bit and people watching--although there were a LOT LESS people than I had imagined--or remembered from 1988. Cloudy Monday? I shopped a bit and found a couple souvenirs. Most stuff was junky or overpriced kitsch. I took lots of pics of some lovely houses and other sites on the map and enjoyed the not-too-crowded meandering lanes. I was really done by 3:30; it is a cute little town, and I’m glad I had an unhurried look around.

I walked back to the bahnhof, which is definitely in need of a facelift and technological update. But the train was right on time at 4:23, and I had an easy ride back to Höchst an hour later where DH picked me up in about 5 minutes. Sometimes this timing was working almost perfectly!

We went to Zum Bären in Höchst and had great salads and yummy schnitzel sitting outside on the schlossplatz. Then we strolled around the Aldstadt with the schloss, half-timbered houses, the old city wall, and Justinuskirche (Frankfurt’s oldest building), all of which were not damaged in WWII. The church’s garden area was open so we enjoyed that. I hope to return to go into the church before we leave. Several of the little lanes are really picturesque with the half-timbers, the cobblestones, the window boxes with flowers. We went along the river which is a nice area for kids and walks and bikerides. Then “home” to prepare for the next one! (which was Marburg, posted above--got mixed up in posting)
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 06:23 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
Day 11—Frankfurt

In my internet research for self-guided walking tours/maps I could take with me, I found an English language walking tour of Frankfurt—Frankfurt-on-Foot—which meets daily near the TI at the Römer area at 10:30. This sounded like a great thing, so off I went. I bought a Day Ticket from the RMV machine for €6.20 (which covers all vehicles to and in Frankfurt), rode to the Hbf, began figuring out the U-Bahn, and headed to the Dom/Römer stop where I arrived about 8. My first impression of the U-Bahn (other than that some of the trains were rather—er, fragrant?) is that it is not as well-marked (that could be a language thing and is definitely influenced by lack of familiarity) or as extensive as London’s Tube, but I figured it out. It was not terribly crowded this early workday.

I went into the Dom thinking I might climb but couldn’t find anyone to tell me how. I think you have to go through the Museum which wasn’t opened yet (and as it turned out, I’m glad I didn’t use up my leg energy!). The Römer was full of vans and scaffolding and workers and cables, preparing for the European Iron Man finals in a few days. So there was too much stuff in the way for picture taking; glad we took some on arrival day. This is such a lively, pretty area. I wandered around a little, waiting for the TI office to open at 9—woops, 9:30. So just people watched and snacked on a bit of pastry. I considered going back in the Dom, but the day was gonna be warm and my interest just wasn’t as high at this point in my trip as it had been back home!

After my brief TI visit (with unfriendly ladies at the desk; I found wait staffs and store clerks everywhere to be way warmer and more welcoming than any agent in the TI’s—that struck me as odd), I found the pay toilette across the plaza downstairs and waited some more, watching the bus loads of tourists arrive, take a few pix, and leave. A couple buskers set up shop, too.

About 10:20 exactly where the instructions said (across from Starbucks near the TI office), there was a gentleman holding a sign—Frankfurt on Foot tours. We introduced ourselves and after 5 more people showed up (2 pairs from Toronto and an Aussie), we left about 10:35.

This was an absolute gem. It’s only €12 and worth more! I am so glad I stumbled across this. He and his wife are doing these tours every day (and some other sorts of tours, too.). He told us it would be about 7k and 3-4 hours; we finished at 2:35. He made sure we saw some main sites, had some history of the city, explored some hidden treats, were exposed to the urban lifestyle here, and understood a bit more about how walkable, accessible, and full of good things to do and see Frankfurt is. I made lots of notes with my pix as soon as I could so I could try to remember all the facts and trivia and stories he had, but I know I didn’t get it all! He was funny and quite knowledgeable and clear (and loud enough) and it was just wonderful.

Caveats for others: it is a full 4 hours of fairly brisk walking and I’m sure we did every bit of the 7km he said; one only WC stop; only one water-buying stop; and “lunch” was whatever we grabbed (I found scrumptious hot samosa) as we had 10-15 minutes at the Kleine Markt area.

Plenty of photo ops. The stops/things that jump to my mind as I look back are these: the short but full-of-facts tour of the Dom; the Stumbling Stones which I knew nothing about; the Holocaust Memorial Wall and the other Jewish-history-related stops like the Judengasse area; the funny things he pointed out like a mailbox and the Greek quote (which I recognized from the Odyssey when he read it in English) on the Eisener Steg; the star shaped park around the center of the city, which used to be the city wall til the French made them destroy it; the story of why there‘s a monument to a chicken on the Alte Bruke… Not in that order! Anyway, I can’t recommend this highly enough. http://frankfurt-on-foot-cityguide.blogspot.com/#!/

I had several things had on a list of possible things to do for 2-3 hours after the tour. Well, going to a museum or climbing the Dom wasn’t appealing after the workout of the tour! Also, DH wanted another bembel (which is a local sort of pottery that mostly contain the local applewein and which he’s brought me several of), which would mean I’d go to Sachenhausen to the Töpferei Maurer. Plus I was supposed to go back to near the Römer to the shop we’d looked in on our arrival day and buy the cuckoo clock. And on the tour we’d passed a Höchst porcelain shop not far from where we ended up the tour, and I didn’t know if I’d make it to the porcelain shop in Höchst—So I decided to try to make these shopping destinations. After I rested a bit in some shade and got my bearings, I opted to look at the porcelain, search for the bembel, then get the clock. I went back to the shop but it was WAY too pricey. If there had been any design like my little vase at home, I might have been tempted, but there wasn’t. Next I walked over the Alte Bruk to the bembel place, which isn’t far from the bridge. I bought a bembel jar/vase, not pitcher, and met the owner who makes all the bembels there, Fr. Maurer. Then back over the bridge, along the river, and to the shop with clocks. Pay WC again (in ways I rate places by availability of free public toilets! Frankfurt gets F!)

My U-Bahn and S-Bahn travel was fine and DH, colleague and I had another wonderful meal at La Cucina. It was a marvelous if exhausting day!
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 06:57 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 16,909
Great report, I too get frustrated that German hotels don't give free wifi (I don't see it as a European problem, just mainly a German one, so much so I normally book into B&B rather than hotel as they tend to offer it),

I liked your Trier visit. I've been there 4 times now and I don't think I've been to most of the sites you mentioned so something else to do (rather than vinyards etc) next time
bilboburgler is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 07:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
Day 12—Büdingen—not! Aschaffenburg and Frankfurt and--Surprise!

We were both glad to have an unhurried morning; my train for Büdingen via Gelnhausen didn’t leave Frankfurt til 8:26; it left exactly on time. In my few minutes waiting at the Hbf, I took a picture of the big info board; some guy approached and fussed at me in German. “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” He said, “You took my photo!” “No, just of the board”; I showed him; he said, “Oh, sorry” and went on. I have been aware of avoiding pics with people unless far away.

We got to Hanau on time at 8:50ish. There was some announcement and everybody started getting off. I asked a young man who did speak English and he said the track was closed ahead for at least 2 hours. Sigh. If that was so, by the time I got there, at best, I’d have 3ish hours, as I had to catch the 3:30 train back. So I just got back on the train (I think) which turned around and went back to Frankfurt to regroup, arriving about 9:30.

I hadn’t made definite plans for my last day; I was thinking something close, instead of Wartburg, and I wanted to see more of Frankfurt, maybe the art museum, and a friend had highly recommended Ashaffenburg; so with the flexibility of my RailPass I thought I’d just switch and do that stuff today and try Büdingen tomorrow.

Back in Fbf, I read boards and found an ICE to Aschaffenburg about 10--ah, the advantages of a flexible Rail Pass! The train was quite full, but I did find a seat for the short ride and got there about 10:30 I think. There is a newish station with a small mall attached. Outside I found some signs with arrows and a map. I of course hadn’t left with this plan in mind or any info, but I knew the main thing was the palace. So off I set for the TI office which was well-signed and close to the palace. I got a map and went next door.

I’m glad I went but there’s not much to see for €5.50. Some inside museums displays, some art, some palace rooms sparsely furnished, nothing in English. There is the world’s largest collection of models made of cork--the Roman coliseum, pyramids, etc. Weird! Then I walked around outside a little. It was very warm. I sat by the river and had a snack. Pretty. I strolled further along the Main to the Pompeii reproductions. That was another €5.50 So not interested. I walked back to the Hbf through the palace gardens which were shady and pretty. In the mall I got a Subway and a cold coke (but no ice!).

My blistered toe was really hurting and it was getting really hot, but I decided to go to Frankfurt and see what I felt like doing. I got there about 1:45 and my main goal was the Holocaust Memorial Wall around the Jewish cemetery to find Anne Frank’s stone as we hadn’t had time to walk all the way around to it on the walking tour. Got to the station Konstablerwatche and it was full of produce and stalls--more market like than other stations I’d been through. Lots of food services and stores too. I actually found a couple scarves at a vendor there. I went to street level and got turned around just a little but found the memorial and the Franks’ stones. This memorial is quite moving, the rows and rows of stones with names, the wall wrapping around an old Jewish cemetery which had been much tampered with over the years. Rememerance can be hard but is necessary.

Then DH started BBMing me about staying in Germany longer as there was work left for him to help with. And maybe I should stay, too. Unreal. Between the heat, my toe, and this news I got too overwhelmed to enjoy a museum. I decided to just get back to the hotel. At Höchst I got a taxi for €11.35. Ouch, not used to that. Oh well. In the room I cooled off and made some decisions about travel. Our BBM communication had about led to conclusion that I would stay longer with him, at least part of his extended time. He would have to check on changing flights. I got on the internet awhile and DH said he’d be late to dinner and for me to go to the hotel bar/restaurant, whichever was cooled by AC and wait on him. We enjoyed to abundant salads and got bowls of salty, meaty goulash in the cool bar area and talked about the change of plans. I would have to cancel some things and pay some bills via phone; DH would have to get our son to do more yard/dog care. This also would mean DH would probably have 2 weekends to travel. So details to handle and info to gather. But it turned out my FF tickets were totally changeable, and if we traveled on a Wednesday instead of a weekend DH’s tickets weren’t too much to change. So Surprise! Our trip got extended 11 days!

I decided to rest and regroup the next day, instead of doing any travel, and began looking at my books and maps to figure out 4 day trips for the weekends, plus what I would do with my 7 new days! A thunderstorm rumbled by outside, and the weekend forecast was not great. But we would be here!
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 10:08 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
bilbo (love your forum name--looking forward to THE MOVIE in December?)

Definitely check out the Antiquities Card if you go back--it covers all those places and maybe a couple more. Interesting fact about the wifi, too. Thanks for your encouragement.

Day 13—Day of rest

I didn’t go anywhere; I did some reading and fact gathering about possible trips for the upcoming unexpected days, rested, and caught up my travel journal writing. DH was able to make all the extensions and ticket changes we needed, and I handled the cancellations and such back home. For dinner we went to Raunheim and ate at Bembelsche again, with faster service and good schnitzels, mine with Frankfurt herb sauce.

Day 14—Triberg and Freiberg

Even though we’d bought a clock in Frankfurt, now that DH had time to travel, he wanted to go to the Black Forest and maybe buy another one. He remembered Freiburg as having lots; I found that Triberg was where they were invented, so we plotted out a course to both.

We left early about 6:30 on what promised to be a lovely day. Our road to Triberg was mostly autobahn and arrived a little before the TI office opened at 9. We found the parking lot right behind the TI office with plenty of space (cost us €4.50 as we left). We weren’t sure what we would do other than look for a cuckoo clock and not sure when those places opened. We thought we MIGHT see the Falls (Germany's highest) if they were any closer than the 45 minute walk my info said, but when we found we couldn’t park any closer than we were, as the entrance was just across the street to the walk, we decided we didn’t have the energy.

The House of 1000 Clocks, which I’d looked at on the Web the night before and that we’d passed another branch of on the way into town, opened, so we went in. Yes, 1000’s of clocks of all sorts and shapes, mostly 100’s of variations old and new on the cuckoo! We were escorted around and helped by an old gentleman who was really very helpful. There were so many cool, silly, lovely, cheap, and costly clocks! We decided to just get one there and not worry about “shopping.” At checkout I thought, and so did DH, that the young man ringing us up was just telling us how much it would be in dollars. But they actually charged us in dollars. First time that had happened. Might have lost a few bucks in that exchange. Oh well didn’t want to make fuss and have him redo.

Triberg is cute but very small. We walked past the Rathaus to a bakery and got sandwiches and a yummy chocolate layer cake.

Then it was on to Freiberg. We arrived in about an hour. DH found a parking garage that was probably closer than the one I had been seeing signs for. We walked back into the old town navigating by the spire of the Munster. There were tons of people; and around the church, just like when we were here in 1988 but even more so, there was a market going on, so it was a maze of tents, tables, wires, cables, stalls, vans and people. I do understand the draw of markets, especially for residents or people who live near and have seen the churches/castles/walls/whatever often, but for the one-time tourist with a camera, such things are rather detrimental to one’s goals. But I’m not the only person involved here! On the way toward the city center we walked over several of the buchles with the water running briskly in them; some had intriguing little statutes or art work in them. Many had small footpaths built over them, so with a bit of looking at ground ahead, they are just charming, not a nuisance. First we went in search of the TI, WC, and cold drink. We finally found the TI, which was hard to see with all the market extras around, and they directed us to a WC. We wandered the streets a bit more and found the McD’s in the city wall gate that we remembered from ‘88, but it was so crowded we just went a couple doors down for a drink. Back at the Munster DH sat while I took pics for a little. Then we took some outside photos, especially of some of the gargoyles but not the most scatological ones I remembered! Must have been on the other side. The Munster is striking, and if we'd had more time we'd have enjoyed the town more, but our visit was really just a glance at the Munster's surrounds this time.

We had pretty fast drive back as the weather was fine, the traffic not bad, and the autobahn has no speed limits much of the time! We decided to just eat in the hotel before collapsing once again, after the regular chores.
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 12:41 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,844
Day 15—Wartburg in Eisenach--Happy 34th Anniversary!

We had been in Germany in 1988 for our 10th anniversary; we didn’t expect to be here on this one, as we had been scheduled to fly home already, but it was sweet to be here again.

It was pouring rain when we left at 9, after letting DH get some much needed rest; we didn’t need an early start. We got to Eisenach, despite the slowed travel due to rain-caused autobahn 110km limits, in under 2 hours and found a McD’s before 11 for brunch.

After winding through, up, and around the city, we arrived at Wartburg Castle on top around noon. It had stopped raining and--surprise! There were crowds and crowds already! Well, it’s not that big a place; but the lot was filling quickly, but we got a pretty good space not far from the entrance to the walk up. I had come to Germany prepared with info on how to get to the Castle via public transport which included some combo of bus and walking; this was so much easier! Then we went up and up and up the steep climb. After a look around, DH decided he’d be interested in staying for an English tour at 1:30, so we got tickets for that and slowly looked around enjoying the views. We had a 50ish minute tour at 1:30 of the inside of the palace (and we could take pix, for €5); there were some really cool rooms like the wonderful great hall. Then we flew through the museum part which was also the access to Luther’s room where he worked on his New Testament translations. That was memorable. We left a bit after 3; the weather was much, much better; we had lovely views of gentle green hills and lush forests and golden fields sometimes. We got back by 5:15 and went to La Cucina for a wonderful anniversary dinner.

I still was undecided about where to go the rest of the time! I had one more day of the Rail Pass; so much was closed on Mondays ; we hoped M would be off again the next weekend but that wasn’t a certain thing. I posted a plea on Fodors Forum including asking the ever-knowledgeable Mainhattengirl if she wanted to have a GTG. By bedtime I had decided to go to Weisbaden the next day

Day 16--Weisbaden

I checked the Forum and Mainhattengirl could arrange a GTG on Thursday—fun!

I had tried to figure out on-line if I needed to buy a week-travel ticket or just daily ones; I suspected the daily ones but confirmed that with the helpful DB agent and bought my Day Ticket—like the Mainz one, it was €14.25. I caught an S-Bahn and arrived before 9.

Weisbaden is pretty. It has a nice station which is huge and airy and under some renovation but it’s not packed or frantic. There’re lots of shops and fast food places. And right outside the station is a TI office with agents already at work before 9 and free info (if still no smiles)! Got a good map and decided on the sites I’d tried to see.

I headed to the Marktkirch walking down a nice street with shops and people and greenway down the middle. The walk was about a mile and with such lovely morning weather was an excellent start. The church, as DH’s pix had told me, is beautiful--but closed on Mondays, of course. So much is. It was hard for me to figure out what to do on Mondays. In this case, I just had to forego going in. Took pictures outside. I had decided to ride the Theomine train thing; the stop was right there at the church/TI office area. The train left hourly til noon. I decided to wait for the TI office to open at 10 and then do some stuff til the noon train. Right at 10 as the church bells rang, the office was opened up. I used its WC and got more maps.

I had time for a bit of a ramble so set off for the Roman Walls. When I got there and recognized it from DH’s pictures, I suddenly put all of his Weisbaden pix into one “folder” in my head and knew I was retracing his steps somewhat. I clambered around the steps and walkway around the Wall area. I ambled through some shopping areas and found scarves and got a couple small, light ones. I found a Rewe grocery store and got some portable lunch and sat in a platz to eat it. This park has the thermal spring in it. There are nice parks all through the city, both the platz kind as well as lots of gardens and paths and pools and fountains. Trees and flowers abundant. Really beautiful.

I got back to the TI to wait for the noon train. Promptly on the hour he drove up and we boarded and paid. He didn’t give me the written English guide til we were at the Greek church, so I don’t know exactly which things I saw, but it was a good ride with nice views. And then it started raining a bit. There were lovely villas and homes everywhere as we climbed the hills. We stopped at the Greek Orthodox church for about 10 minutes. I only had time for a peek (it cost to go in and I didn’t want to take the time).

The next stop was the Nerobergbahn station. This is a funicular-tram that powers its two cars up and down the short but steep climb by water; the car on top loads up with water; the gravity of the water pulls it down and draws up the other car; at the bottom that car dumps it water while at the top the other car is loading up again. Ingenious. At the top of the hill we got out and I walked around some under the gray and sometimes dripping skies. I took a few pics from the top of this hill but the views weren’t very well lit this rainy day. I rode back down to where the little train would pick me up. There was a lovely park across the way so I looked into it as I waited about 30 minutes for the 2:10 train which was again prompt. We were back at the TI at 2:30.

I walked to two churches--the English church was closed, the Catholic was open but rather dark. More walking down a lovely street; it reminded me of the street next to Kensington Park or Notting Hill for some reason--the architecture of the stone fronts on the houses and the trees I guess. Into the station for a rest and my first Magnum McFlurry. Oh very good. I sat and caught up my travel journal in rough draft by hand to type later. I thoroughly enjoyed Weisbaden; it is lovely and pleasant and “stuff” is accessible and convenient.

DH and I came up with a plan that would save him time and driving at the end of a rather stressful day for him—I would bring Subway sandwiches home with me. So I got our dinner, caught the train back at 5:05, arriving at 5:24 with DH there very shortly. We had a restful evening.
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2012, 02:07 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 12,492
What a detailed report. You certainly took great advantage of the time there. Thanks for all the information .. I have been some of the places but not to others. You had such a coordinated routine at the train station! Sounds like a lot of fun!
lincasanova is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2012, 07:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,025
Still enjoying... It's blowing me away how many day trip possibilities were available to you... that you still had more even with a surprise extra 11 days. I wonder if you're like me? I enjoy the day trip locations, but it often ends up being my base that I really fall for (in your case, Frankfurt), because I feel that I got to understand it best, and the base starts to feel "home-like". Recently I did something similar out of Haarlem in Holland and while I enjoyed the sense of discovery of my day trips, it was Haarlem that I felt I had the most "insight" on.
Daniel_Williams is online now  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:04 AM.