Blog | Travel

Family, Friends and 2 German Cities

14/06/2018

Weekend adventures with special people

Greetings from rainy Siegen – for a change. The heat has been quite insane in Germany lately and it’s only early June! But the rain is here and coolness is welcome! I love writing blogs in this weather, I can think clearer and it has a cozy feel to it so it puts me in a good mood. Also a sleepy mood haha. BUT, we had quite a cool weekend spent with family and friends, in some beautiful German cities, which means so much writing needs to be done.

Our first visitors were Stew’s parents. They went on a tour of Croatia and decided to make a small detour to Germany before heading back to SA. Words cannot describe how good it was to see family and to be able to spend some time with them. And then, to end the week on an even higher note, we spent our Sunday with 2 great friends of ours who moved to the UK around the same time we came to Germany. So my heart is buzzing with happiness right now!

It started in Siegen

Stew’s parents arrived on Tuesday and spent the day in Siegen, checking out our home away from home. We got to catch up and enjoy some really yummy schnitzels at a restaurant called Gasthaus Peun. It was really just so comforting to sit with loved ones at a restaurant and chat about life and our adventures. Just what I needed really.

Stew’s parents went off to Cologne for a few days while Stew worked and I… well I blogged and stuff haha. But only a few sleeps and we were off on our next road trip adventure – the Leith’s were off to Frankfurt… and a few places in between.

We are lucky enough to be positioned in between Cologne and Frankfurt. So it is so easy to take a 1 or 2-hour drive and head to either one of the big cities. Or even a train – but those seem to be more expensive than we thought, so driving is better. Also, there are so many crazy cool towns in Germany, and by road-tripping, you get to stop off wherever you want and see it all!

Koblenz

Where the Rhine and the Moselle meet –Deutsches Eck (German Corner)

That is exactly what we did on our way to Frankfurt on Friday. We decided to head to a town called Koblenz and see where the Rhine and the Moselle meet. A beautiful town on the river, with a massive fortress on the hill overlooking the point where the rivers join. Of course, when there is a fortress, you go see the fortress! It also has quite a kickass cable car that you can take from the fortress or the town below. It crosses the river and heads up the hill, so the view must be SPECTACULAR!

The fortress…

…itself is quite huge and is incredible to behold. You can see how it was developed over the years, some artifacts left behind and… well, some very random other stuff. No matter what movies I see, photos I look at or stories I hear about centuries past and what happened in those days, I will never be able to grasp what it must have been like. To be a soldier on the wall of a fortress protecting a city, to be in a war, to fight with a sword, to use a shared loo with long drops… where humankind has come from is truly incredible.

The best part of the fortress, however, is the view! I wouldn’t mind being stationed there if it meant I could look over the rivers and the town every day. You also get a really cool vantage point of the German unification monument. This is positioned at the apex point where the two rivers meet. Unfortunately, we didn’t go down to the monument as we were in a bit of a hurry. I guess that means we’ll just have to come back!

On route to Frankfurt

Loreley Rock

From Koblenz, we decided to drive to the famous Loreley Rock on the Rhine, and as we drove we must have passed 20 Castles – or Burgs as they are called. My goodness, it feels like everyone must have lived in one in the past. And some of them look very much occupied still. So if anyone is keen, I am sure we can group up to buy a castle in Germany? Just let me know if you’re keen haha.

So about Loreley Rock.

The name comes from the murmuring sound that was made by heavy currents and a waterfall that was found in the area. You, unfortunately, can’t hear the sound today, what remains are all the folk stories behind the name and the rock. Some involve dwarfs, but most about a lady or mermaid that sits on the rock and warns the sailors to be cautious on this stretch of river. We went up to a cool lookout point on the rock but were slightly disappointed when we didn’t really see any form of a lady.

It was only on the drive to Frankfurt from the lookout point that we saw there is a Loreley statue on Loreley rock. You can see the little island from the lookout point, but not the statue. But the view from the lookout point is beautiful none the less! Next stop – Frankfurt!

A day in Frankfurt

Römer

We arrived in Frankfurt a bit late, dropped off the rental car, checked in to the hotel and eventually had a delicious dinner at the Tavern in the hotel. Tummies full and eyes half closed, we called it a night. The adventure would continue the next day.

Bright and early on Saturday morning we were on the train and on our way into the city. Everything we wanted to see was within walking distance from each other, and when you are in the city early, the streets are empty!

So off we went to see the following:

  • Goethe House: This is the original house of the Goethe family and a museum alongside it. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (what a name right?) was a writer known mostly for his novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. Not exactly what we expected really…
  • Römerberg: Next we were off to Römerberg, a square in the Altstadt of Frankfurt known for its beautiful wooden houses that have gold finishes. It is like you are transported to a town many years ago, where they didn’t mind spending time on adding details like these because there was no rush. Here we also found the famous Römer. The Römer is an important landmark for Frankfurt and has served as the Rathaus for the past 600 years! The Old St Nicholas Church is also in the square, which has 51 bells by the way – hard to believe when you look at it from the outside.
  • Cathedral of St. Bartholomew

    My personal favourite: Cathedral of St. Bartholomew. A beautiful Gothic cathedral located right in the middle of Frankfurt. It has such a distinct red colour inside and out and an incredible history. There is a photo in the entrance of the Cathedral during the war, and it is the only building standing unscathed. Everything else around it was destroyed – how amazing! Simple but so so beautiful. I could easily sit and just take in the church and its history for hours.

Um… can we have breakfast now?

After the early morning sightseeing, we had definitely worked up an appetite. So some googling and a 3 min walk toward the river later, we made it to MainKai Café – one of the best breakfast places EVER! So many delicious options for breakfast or brunch (or even lunch and dinner). A stunning view of the river and the church across it. Friendly and ridiculously quick service and it was just mouth-wateringly delicious! And all the produce is organic! Extra health bonus!

If you don’t go early you may not get a seat, so maybe make a reservation! Recommendations? I had a bowl of the creamiest yogurt, with gluten-free cornflakes, fresh fruit, a nut crumble and honey. Mouthfuls of clouds! The others enjoyed fresh bread and croissants with scrambled eggs, salmon and more! #restaurantofchoice

Goodbye for now

Sadly, we had to say goodbye for now to Stew’s parents as we caught the Flix Bus (great way to travel in Germany) back to Siegen. It was sad to say goodbye, and strange because my mind kept thinking this was just the end of a long holiday and we were all going back to SA. But we will be visiting SA soon and we had a wonderful time together, so the happiness in my heart is enough!

Let’s meet in Cologne

So that all just happened on the Friday and Saturday – yup, crazy right! We still had our awesome friends Phil and Michelle to meet up with, and that was happening in Cologne! To make the most of the trip and see as much of the city as possible, meant another early morning and a quick hour’s drive to Cologne!

So just a note on driving in Germany –

It is crazy! Firstly they drive on the opposite side of the car and the road, so your depth perception is way off. Then there are the insane highways, off-ramps, and on-ramps that make no logical sense and are scary and confusing. And then, what most people think is amazing – the autobahn with no speed limit.

Sure it is epic if you have a fast car and you get to drive as fast as you want without getting a fine. But what you don’t realise is how dangerous it can be. One wrong lane change and you could be in an accident that could very well be deadly. So #drivecarefully when you take on the German highway!

A Cathedral unlike any other

Kölner Dom.

So the beauty of going to Cologne early was that we managed to attend a mass in the most magnificent Cathedral I have ever seen – the Kölner Dom.  Its sheer enormity is just the beginning. You could spend months looking at it and find some new detail every day. And to think it was built over 6 generations, hundreds of years ago. There is even a piece of the top towers on the ground as an example and it weighs 9 tonnes, and it looks tiny from the ground! How did they do it!!?? It is just mind-blowing. The details are incredible, and that is just the outside!

Kölner Dom.

As soon as we walked in…

…we realised how unprepared we were for its beauty! We didn’t have long to look around at first because we were late for mass, which was in a smaller section of the Cathedral. It was such a beautiful privilege to be able to celebrate mass there. Sitting on the pew and just looking up at the outrageously high ceilings, the intricate details of the statues and artifacts on the wall… breath-taking!

The stained glass windows that retell the beautiful stories of Christ and display Saints that have come and gone before us. I have seen Cathedrals with so many more stained glass stories you forget to look at the rest of the church. But in here the stained glass did not distract you, it just simply made the entire church the center of attention.

I could try to describe the cathedral to you with words that do it no justice, but it would be a whole lot better if you go see it for yourself! It is a MUST!

What to do in Cologne:

  • The Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum: this is one of the top places to go when visiting Cologne for all chocolate lovers (aka all of us)! The museum is along the river, and walking towards it you already see this massive chocolate egg with melted chocolate running over it #dreamland #chocolateislife. We didn’t manage to go in but Stew’s parents did and they highly recommended it! They told us about a room (which you can actually see from the entrance) that imitates a tropical forest where the cocoa beans grow. So you can see what it is like to harvest them. And, of course, there is a shop that sells all kinds of Lindt chocolates… enough said!
  • Hohenzollern Bridge

    The Hohenzollern Bridge (also known as the Love Lock Bridge): It is pretty hard to miss! If you are going to Cologne by train you will be crossing the Rhine on it, and if you have just been to the Cathedral, it is just a few steps away! There are walkways on either side that are full of locks left by couples and families leaving their mark in Cologne and declaring their love to the world. A tradition that only started in 2008. So you can imagine how many visitors have passed over this bridge. Literally thousands of locks! It is amazing!

  • The Flora, Zoo and Cable Cars: We took a walk along the Rhine River down to where the Cologne Cable Car begins at the Zoo. You can take the cable car from the zoo across the river to a beautiful park. There is also a stunning Botanical garden (the Flora) that we went for a walk in – the perfect way to spend a summers day with family and friends.
  • Bastian’s

    Bastian’s Bakery: Um… only the best bakery/patisserie in town! After a crazy long walk from the Flora, all I wanted was something delicious in my face. Oh, and a place to sit. Well, this café was the best answer! A really stunning simple café, an incredible selection of breakfasts and pastry’s to enjoy and a coffee to go along with it! Yup, I could spend all day enjoying it! I had a slice of Bee Sting (which was so big it could have been a cake on its own). Honestly, hands down the best one I have ever had (and I have had many, it’s a favourite of mine)! The top crust tasted of nuts and caramel, and it had the perfect sponge cake to cream ratio! Stew had a slice of apple pie, and all I got out of him was mmmmmm mmmmm. I assume words were not sufficient enough to describe it’s deliciousness.

 

Meeting up with friends

So after a morning of sightseeing, the reunion with our friends was imminent! We met up with 2 of our favourite humans at a restaurant called Haxenhaus (with delicious pork knuckle, meter long sausages, and an awesome history).

Seeing them was like the second burst of light and happiness for the weekend. We have been blessed to travel, see so many places and beautiful things, but family and friends are at the center of my heart. So seeing them just added the strawberry to my favourite custard tart!

Papa Joe’s

We caught up over lunch and walked through the city together, enjoying a pastry and coffee together as well.

They took us to another restaurant called Papa Joe’s. It has a crazy cool interior and these moving musician puppets that play songs you choose. The way their eyebrows move is hilarious! If you are ever in Cologne, do yourself a favour and check it out!

No matter how long you are away from friends when you reunite it feels like no time has passed. After some long hugs, selfies, and see-you-soons, it was time to head back to Siegen.

See you soon

What I have learned since moving to Germany and find incredible is that you can plan to see a few things, but you end up experiencing so much more. This world is full of beautiful hidden gems and experiences to be had. I cannot wait to enjoy as much of them as I can.

We had a fantastic weekend in Germany and made some unforgettable memories with family and friends. I would say it was a successful and a well-spent weekend, wouldn’t you?

Until the next adventure 🙂

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