The last 7 days I have had the pleasure of traveling throughout Germany. Starting last Sunday night, I took a train from Zurich to Mainz and made my way along the Rhine, across the country, and up to the coast. What follows are my miniature journeys.
Monday – Mainz
Mainz is somewhere I have had the pleasure of visiting before. The hotel I was staying in is located directly on the Rhine and I could see it from my window, even when lying in bed. Mainz is an extremely adorable and lovely place. When I think back to how I used to imagine Germany, pre-visits, Mainz resembled exactly what I pictured. Cute homes, ginger-bread looking buildings, cobblestone streets, blonde people smiling.
Wikipedia tells us that Mainz was a “Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire; it was founded as a military post by the Romans in the late 1st century BC and became the provincial capital of Germania Superior. The city is located on the river Rhine at its confluence with the Main opposite Wiesbaden, in the western part of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main; in the modern age, Frankfurt shares much of its regional importance.
The city is famous as the home of the invention of the movable-type printing press, as the first books printed using movable type were manufactured in Mainz by Gutenberg in the early 1450s. Until the twentieth century, Mainz was usually referred to in English as Mayence.” Well thank goodness they changed the spelling!
Coming back was a treat, especially with warmer and sunnier weather compared to the last time I was here. I was disappointed I waited too long to grab dinner because all of the stores were then closed (it was Sunday evening after all). But I was still able to enjoy a lovely meal outside while the sun set over the town.
Tuesday – Cologne
Tuesday evening I arrived in Cologne after a scenic hour and a half train ride. The entire voyage along the Rhine found me looking longingly out the window at multiple little towns. What was funny was that the layout for these little towns all looked very similar – cute house, cute house, cute house, church & steeple, cute house, cute house.
Entering the city I instantly knew this was very unlike Mainz, the very cute and quaint city I had just come from. The buildings were all covered in very cool, very bright and very much intended graffiti art. The gothic church steeples (more steeples) rising in the background from the Kolner Dom made for an interesting and oddly beautiful contrast.
When I exited the station, I was standing right in front of the Kolner Dom. It was absolutely magnificent. Based on the church’s website it has been around at least since 1170 and was hit by and survived 14 aerial bombs from WWII. It made up the entire square.
I very slowly walked towards the cab queue because I kept looking back at this stunning structure with my mouth open like I was trying to catch flies. By the time I got to the hotel only 5 minutes later, I realized I was just on the other side of the Rhine and was able to walk across a quick bridge to head back that way for more photos.
Now according to the marvellous Wikipedia, Cologne is the 4th largest city in Germany. I found it to be very urban and chock full of younger people and hipsters, which included hipsters that were rock climbing up the bridge itself. Never seen anything like that before but why not?
Unfortunately Cologne was also one of the most heavily bombed cities during WWII. Much of the original city center was wiped out, but thankfully the Kolner Dam survived the attacks.
As I made my way across the Rhine, I noticed hundreds of love locks on the fenced sections of the bridge itself. This continued along the entire length of the Rhine, which is much wider than the Seine, and some of the locks looked so old that I was convinced this idea of hanging love locks was invented in Cologne rather than in Paris. It was such an urban image, but amazing and eye-catching – the different colors, sizes and metals of all of the locks, again with the Kolner Dam in the background, made for some interesting pictures.
Cologne is a great city and one I would definitely visit again to properly explore.
Wednesday – Dusseldorf
The weather took a negative turn on Tuesday and started to resemble the Zurich weather from February – cold, rainy, and grey. My day went fine and I got to the train station early to head from Cologne to Dusseldorf.
Upon arriving I quickly grabbed a cab and by the time I arrived to the hotel, was pleasantly surprised at it’s beautiful location on the Rhine. My room even overlooked the entire river.
Sadly I wasn’t able to do much exploring given the weather, however, trusty Wikipedia has told me that is it an “international business and financial center” known for it’s fashion.
One of the best parts about Dusseldorf was of course, being in Germany for the Brazil vs. Germany World Cup Match, when Germany totally WAILED on Brazil! 5-0 in the first half?! What!?! Makes me feel better about all of the other losses experienced. I definitely picked a good week to be in Germany. 🙂
Thursday – Berlin
Berlin is one of those amazing cities that everyone in their life should visit once. I was so thankful Tony and I had already spent some time here last year otherwise I would’ve been very sad at how little time I had this trip. While Mainz, Cologne and Dusseldorf are relatively close together, Berlin is on the other side of the country. I went from close to Switzerland to close to Poland.
My blog post from my visit last year does a pretty good job summing up the things I loved about Berlin.
Wikipedia of course regales us with stories of the wall and how it was built and then torn down. I prefer to talk about the awesome Asian food, thrift stores, graffiti, leather, Doc Marten boots and Berlin Bear. Such is Berlin.
Friday – Hamburg
Hamburg was where I finished my trip, and the weather turned around just in time. Tony was meeting me here and I couldn’t wait because I had heard so many incredible things about this place.
Wikipedia says Hamburg is “a major transport hub and is one of the most affluent cities in Europe.” I call it nautical. It is on the coast of the Baltic and North seas and as a major transport hub, felt a bit overwhelming – like I was Ariel trying to find Eric on dry land with brand new legs.
However, Hamburg was an expected treat. Tony felt it was similar to Chicago in many ways, and I appreciated how close it was to water. Tony arrived late Friday night and we ventured to Schanzenviertel at the recommendation of some friends. This was the edgier part of town and we ate at a place called Harati. The quarter had graffiti covering most of the walls and the streets were lined with individual boutiques and liquor stores. The restaurant itself had a very cool vibe. There were actual cardboard cut outs of random images on the walls. The beers were delicious. However the hamburgers, for being in Hamburg, were just okay. They were yummy but I’ve had better. Maybe my expectations were a bit high? I mean, Hamburg, right?
We popped around to a couple different bars and were back at the hotel by 1am, ready for our noon boat ride the next day.
Hamburg itself is split in half – one part is all land with a “beach” coast (yes they have a beach) and the second half is more similar to Amsterdam with canals of water running through it. We boarded the boat at one of the docks and floated around the port. We saw a ton of ship loading docks and it was unlike anything I’d seen before. These ships were gigantic and watching the machines load heavy, heavy cartons was fascinating. More fascinating than I am probably making it sound. Guess you have to see it for yourself (shameless plug for Hamburg).
The boat tour was also a great way to see parts of the city. There were many church steeples (again, steeples – comes full circle) and cool looking buildings. It was so lovely, sitting in the sun and floating around the city taking in the sites.
We explored a bit more of Schanzenviertel to do some shopping before heading back to the hotel for dinner. It was a quick trip but relaxing and new, which is just what I was looking for.
I would definitely go back and recommend everyone to give it a try. What a wonderful way to end an already incredible visit to Germany. Danke, Germany!