Classes in Wageningen do not begin until early September, so after orientation ended I had a week with no obligations – VERY RARE. Myself and three of my new friends jumped at the opportunity to explore somewhere new with that free time, so spontaneously decided at the last minute to go on an adventure for a few days!
In a small kitchen in Wageningen on Friday night, we prepared parmigiano from a homemade recipe that one of the girls brought from Italy. As the salted aubergine (sounds way fancier than saying ‘eggplant’) dried, all four of us pulled out our laptops and poured over possible travel destinations and routes. Europe’s nice public transportation network allowed us to easily have hundreds of options, which made choosing very difficult. But by the time we finished devouring the delicious dish, we had decided and booked a Flixbus for a mere twenty euros each. Less than twelve hours later, in the pouring rain, we boarded a train bound for Germany.
We managed to find an affordable and ADORABLE Airbnb for our first two nights in Cologne, which worked out perfectly. It even had a balcony! Saturday night we went out to see the town and experience nightlife in Deutschland the right way – complete with kebabs and pommes. Sunday was a whirlwind: climbing 507+ steps up the bell tower of the largest cathedral in Germany, strolling the colorful streets of the old town, visiting the chocolate museum, eating delicious sausage, watching a street performer create giant bubbles, and crossing the Rhine via the bridge filled with thousands of love locks.
Monday morning came early as we boarded another bus, this one bound for Heidelberg. Heidelberg is one of those picture-perfect romantic towns, with red roofed buildings nestled in between hills and a river. Above it all, a castle keeps watch. For our time there, we snagged a last-minute hostel situated in the heart of the city center. It had so much character – think piles of books, walls covered in maps, a chalkboard with the weather report, free coffee and tea in cute mugs, framed pictures on the stairwell – that kind of homey charm that makes you want to curl up on the couch and never leave. Well, we actually had to leave the hostel if we wanted to see what Heidelberg had in store for us, so Monday evening we headed towards the river.
Our first stop was at a cafe where we indulged in mouthwatering cakes and cappuccinos. After wandering the shopping streets we visited the church and the library, before meeting up with a friend who lived in the area. She took us to dinner at this AMAZING authentic German restaurant. I had schnitzel and roasted potatoes, and I loveddddd it! We spent the rest of the night playing card games and enjoying the locally-famous melonen schnaps. Tuesday the four of us woke up early and hiked up the hill across from the castle, which offered gorgeous panoramic views of Heidelberg below. We finished up our time in the quaint town by having a picnic in the gardens of the castle, followed by stops at both the bakery and the gelato shop.
Tuesday night our group split in half, with the other two heading back home early while we forged on ahead to Frankfurt. Our bus was an hour late picking us up, so we ended up rolling into the city pretty late. We found another hostel that, despite its sketchy location directly in the red light district, turned out to be very nice inside. With the little time left that night, we checked out the Sachsenhausen District – home to a variety of apfelwein (yum!) pubs. Wednesday was devoted mainly to the old town and to the botanical gardens. The botanical gardens were just absolutely BEAUTIFUL. We could have spent days meandering through the palm trees, blooming flowers, cactuses, fish ponds, and countless plants.
Unfortunately, our adventurous week had to come to an end. By Thursday afternoon I was back in Wageningen thanks to a variety of relatively cheap buses and trains. I loved all of the time on the road – I managed to finish two books, catch up on sleep, create a new music playlist, and fill quite a few pages in my travel journal. The days spent in Germany really gave me a newfound appreciation for the culture and beauty of the country. My overall opinion? Marvelous. I would rate Deutschland a 10/10! And despite how much I would rather travel all around Europe for the next four months (and the rest of my life), starting classes will definitely be good for me.