Last weekend was the weekend of palaces, castles, and fortresses for me. It’s been one of my favorite parts of traveling so far, being able to see all the cool sights and beautiful nature of Germany. On Friday, our class ended at noon, so we decided to spend the afternoon at Lichtenstein Castle, only a short bus ride and a steep hike away. Lichtenstein Castle, not country. And in no way related to Heath Ledger as Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein. Sadly. But the hike was incredibly beautiful, like walking through a Tolkein novel, with moss-covered rocks and castle ruins on the way up. The castle itself was also beautiful. It was built only a few hundred years ago, and was based on the description of a castle in a book. Even though it was fairly small, it still held all the awesomeness of a castle. Really, they’re pretty dang cool.
When we got back to Reutlingen that night, I decided that I really wanted to go somewhere over the weekend, because we have German Rail passes that expire next week. Since it was the night before I needed a hostel, reservations were hard to find online, and I tried several cities before finding one that would work. The first one I found was in Würzburg, a town in northern Bavaria, so without really knowing what the town had to offer, I decided to go for it! And then after reading about the town and being there, I’ve decided that randomly picking a city on a hostel website can turn out to be an amazing weekend. Even if you do have to go by yourself because the rest of your group is lazy.
After wandering the city for a bit, I headed to the Würzburg Residenz, the palace constructed for two prince-bishops and finished in the early 18th century. The largest fresco in the world is located there, and actually is pretty funny. It depicts the four “continents” of the world, with Europe as the most modernized, and the Americas as this backwards place. Each nation had its own symbolic creature, and I found it amusing that the American scene depicted a native American woman riding an alligator. Pretty interesting stuff right there. But it was also a beautiful palace inside and out. It even had the typical palace mirror room, a room made entirely of mirrors with paint and embellishings on them.
I also hiked up a hill covered in vineyards for wine to the old Fortress Marienberg. I didn’t take a tour, so I didn’t get inside the buildings of the fortress, but even being on the grounds and in the courtyards was impressive. It gave a full view over the river Main and the downtown area of Würzburg. I also got to see the outsides of beautiful churches downtown and relax on a really old bridge over the river that had huge statues of religious figures.
By then it was getting dark, so I tried to find my hostel. Try being a key word. The map online definitely led me to the middle of a park. Across the river from where the hostel is. I have no idea how that one worked out. But eventually I got directions and made it safe and sound. And the benefit of traveling alone kicked in when I met another American study abroad student, because we felt a little safer walking around town and comparing our experiences so far and drinking wine with at least a hundred others on the old bridge. I think that’s one of the best parts really, getting to meet people from all over the world, or who are studying all over the world (this girl was in Luxembourg).
The next day I headed out to stop at Dachau to see the concentration camp before getting into Reutlingen. But since that didn’t have the same exciting emotions as the rest of my weekend, I’ll save it for another post. Moral of this story: travel wherever chance takes you, because you’ll never know what and who you’re missing out on if you don’t!