Monthly Archive: February 2015

Wednesday

25

February 2015

4

COMMENTS

Rüdesheim am Rhein

Written by , Posted in Restaurants, Travel

I’ve finally made it to the last two days and final stop on our 2014 trip to GermanyRudesheim am Rhein. This was the only stop on our trip that I hadn’t planned ahead, I left the last two days of our itinerary open and flexible. We really wanted to see a bit of Germany’s wine country and Rüdesheim am Rhein seemed like the perfect place – close enough to our departure city of Frankfurt and we could get beautiful views of the Rhine and the area’s vineyards from the hills above.

As we drove up from Heidelberg, our first stop before getting into town was at Weingut Kaspar Herke. Germany’s wine country was much more difficult to figure out compared to places like Napa or Sonoma. There didn’t seem to be any structured day tours (at least that I could find), most of the winery websites were written exclusively in German, and many of the wineries required larger groups for tours. This is one of the reasons we chose to visit Rüdesheim am Rhein – they have wine shops throughout town where you’re able to try a variety of wines so we wouldn’t have to worry about navigating the vineyards.

Weingut Kaspar Herke is a small, family-run winery right outside of Rüdesheim am Rhein in Oestrich-Winkel. I read about this winery on Casey’s blog and it seemed like the kind of personal, unique experience that we look for when we travel. When we arrived at the winery the gate was closed but the hours on the sign out front told us that they should be open for tastings. We rang the bell to the side of the gate and were then immediately greeted by Josef, their beautiful (and very large) Swiss Mountain dog, and Franz Herke – the owner of the winery. Franz quickly let us in, Mike and “Joe” became instant bffs, and we were led into their kitchen to try some wine. Personal and unique does not even begin to describe this experience.

Rüdesheim am Rhein, Kaspar Herke, Oestrick-Winkel

Rüdesheim am Rhein, Kaspar Herke Weingut, Swiss Mountain Dog

Franz sat with us at the kitchen table and casually chatted with us as we tried each of his wines. We met his son, Luke, who has now joined Franz in the family winemaking business, while Josef sat nearby waiting for a quick scratch behind his ears. We had no idea how we were going to transport any wine we bought back home, but we knew we couldn’t leave here without several bottles. It was a packing challenge fitting the final haul of 10 bottles into our suitcases, but when I’m sipping a glass of their dry Riesling here in Chicago, I instantly return to this memorable day in Germany and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Rüdesheim am Rhein, Kaspar Herke Weingut, Oestrich Winkel

On we went to Rüdesheim am Rhein. We stayed at Hotel Rüdesheimer Hof, a nice hotel in a great location. We spent the rest of the day wandering around town and stopping into many of the shops. For dinner we ate at Rüdesheimer Schloss, a very popular restaurant with great food and live music in the evenings. Luckily we arrived early because when the clock struck 7pm an entire Viking Cruise ship showed up (pre-arranged) and there wasn’t an empty table in sight. We spent the right of the night pub hopping and trying to forget about the fact that we only had one day left in Germany.

Rüdesheim am Rhein

Rüdesheim am Rhein

Rüdesheim am Rhein

Rüdesheim am Rhein

Rüdesheim am Rhein

Rüdesheim am Rhein

Rüdesheim am Rhein schnitzel

Rüdesheim am Rhein schnitzel

The following day we took the cable car up to the Niederwald Monument. The views going up were amazing and we spent the rest of the afternoon hunting for more views at the top. We followed the trails through the forest for awhile and then found our way out to the vineyards. It was the perfect place to let ourselves get a little lost and see what we find.

Rüdesheim am Rhein vineyard

Rüdesheim am Rhein vineyard

Rüdesheim am Rhein vineyards

Rüdesheim am Rhein

Rüdesheim am Rhein

Rüdesheim am Rhein forest

Rüdesheim am Rhein forest

Rüdesheim am Rhein vineyard

Rüdesheim am Rhein vineyards

Rüdesheim am Rhein view

That evening we had dinner right around the corner from our hotel at the Winebar at Weingut Carl Ehrhard. We finished off the night with a cup of the boozy coffee drink that we saw all over Rüdesheim am Rhein, Rüdesheimer Kaffee. Rüdesheimer Kaffee is made with a German brandy called Asbach that is flambéed in a special cup with sugar cubes until the sugar dissolves. Coffee is added and then the whole drink is topped with a healthy dollop of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. We sipped this special drink at a café overlooking the Rhine and it was the perfect end to an unforgettable trip.

Rüdesheim am Rhein, Weingut Ehrhard

Rüdesheim am Rhein, Weingut Ehrhard

Rüdesheim am Rhein, Weingut Ehrhard

Rüdesheim am Rhein, Rüdesheimer Kaffee

Tuesday

24

February 2015

2

COMMENTS

Heidelberg

Written by , Posted in Restaurants, Travel

The second-to-last stop on our 3 1/2 week trip to Germany was in the beautiful university town of Heidelberg. We arrived mid-afternoon on a Sunday after our drive on the Schwarzwaldhochstraße. We were in Heidelberg for less than 24 hours, but we still had plenty of time to take in the highlights and were lucky to have some of the best weather of the entire trip.

After finding the nearest parking garage and hauling our luggage along the cobblestone streets, we arrived at Hotel Hackteufel to check-in. This hotel was in a great central location right in the heart of  the old town, just steps away from the very popular Alte Brücke (old bridge). We were very pleasantly surprised to find that we had a large, beautiful room (room 8) complete with a private terrace, mini Haribo bears on our pillows, and fantastic views of the castle.

Heidelberg, Germany, Hotel Hackteufel

Heidelberg, Germany, Hotel Hackteufel

Heidelberg, Germany, Hotel Hackteufel

Heidelberg, Germany, Hotel Hackteufel

After getting settled in we made our way to Schloss Heidelberg. There are a few ways to get up to the castle – a funicular and 2 different paths, one with steps and one a paved hill – we went with the paved hill up and took the steps on the way down. At the top we wandered around for a bit and checked out the German Apothecary Museum (a neat little place), but the view was what we were really there for.

Located alongside the River Neckar, this romantic little town really shines from above. Heidelberg escaped bombings in World War II so the beautiful buildings of the old town below have been around for quite some time. If you walk up the steps you can walk along the outside of the castle and take in these spectacular views without paying an admission fee for the palace (the way to go if you’re short on time).

Heidelberg
Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

After enjoying the view from all angles, we made our way down from the castle and back to the Marktplatz to sit back and enjoy the beautiful day. It was a busy day in Heidelberg and the square and surrounding streets were filled with tables of others with the same idea. We would grab a drink and enjoy a bit of people watching at one place and then move on to grab a bite and more people watching at the next, eventually making our way to the old bridge. I think that people watching along sidewalks in Europe with a drink in hand might just be one of my very favorite ways to pass an afternoon.

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

For dinner that night we had a reservation at Schnitzelbank, a cozy little restaurant with great food and wine just about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Although we did have a reservation in advance, the restaurant was small and had limited seating, so when we arrived we were seated at a table with two younger men that were studying abroad from South Korea and an older German couple from Frankfurt. It was a bit awkward at first, but eventually we all warmed up to each other and enjoyed our meals together.

Our server was very friendly and helpful, giving us some great recommendations of German wines and giving me a few tips on improving my German. Mike and I shared an order of the buttery, garlicky escargot before our mains of schnitzel and wurst arrived. My schnitzel topped with a creamy mushroom sauce was the BEST schnitzel I ate during our entire trip, and the side of käse spätzle made it that much better. Mike was very happy with his sausages, but I think my schnitzel was the winner that night.

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany, Schnitzelbank

Heidelberg, Germany, Schnitzelbank

Heidelberg, Germany, Schnitzelbank

Heidelberg, Germany, Schnitzelbank

Our stay in Heidelburg was short but sweet, and it’s definitely a town that we’d love to return to someday. If you’re staying in or around Frankfurt, Heidelberg would make a perfect day-trip, but you could easily spend a few days here before getting bored!

Thursday

19

February 2015

1

COMMENTS

Road Trip Germany: Schwarzwaldhochstraße, The Black Forest High Road

Written by , Posted in Travel

We had a very short stay in the Black Forest before we were back on the road again and heading north to Heidelberg. The Schwarzwaldhochstraße (Black Forest High Road, B500) is stretch of road between Baden-Baden and Freudenstadt that rises up to the main ridge in the Black Forest and offers incredible panoramas of the region below.

From our hotel in Schönwald im Schwarzwald we made our way to Freudenstadt to pick up the Schwarzwaldhochstraße. We set out early and had another perfect day for a drive. As beautiful as our drive was from Bavaria, it didn’t hold a candle to driving through this part of the Black Forest. We were one of the very few cars driving through the countryside and it felt so nice to have this peaceful morning to ourselves. Blue skies, green hills, lush forests, and quaint farm houses around every corner…it was absolutely impossible to not be inspired by such simple and natural beauty.

Black Forest High Road

Black Forest High Road

Black Forest High Road

Black Forest High Road

After making our way to Freudenstadt we navigated through the town to find the high road. As we wound our way to the top I wanted to stop and catch the view from almost every vista point we passed – the best way to enjoy the Schwarzwaldhochstraße is to give yourself plenty of time. It isn’t a long road but there are plenty of spots to stop and take in the view – pack a lunch or a few snacks and make an afternoon of it.

One of the popular tourist stops along the road is at Lake Mummelsee, a bit of a tourist trap in my opinion, but plenty of parking, food, a gift shop, picnic tables, hiking trails, and of course – a lake. By the time we were leaving there just before 11am on a Sunday it was already swarming with people, I can’t imagine what it would look like by noon!

Black Forest High Road

Black Forest High Road

Black Forest High Road

Black Forest High Road

Black Forest High Road

Black Forest High Road, Lake Mummelsee

Black Forest High Road, Lake Mummelsee, Kirschwasser

Black Forest High Road, Lake Mummelsee

After our stop at Lake Mummelsee we enjoyed a bit more of the Schwarzwaldhochstraße before picking up the busier Autobahn to make our way to Heidelberg. Even if you don’t make it to the Schwarzwaldhochstraße, I definitely recommend renting a car and driving around the German countryside, it is an absolutely beautiful place to explore!

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