Fairy Tales in the Black Forest

For two weeks, over Christmas break, I traveled across Germany. The first part of my trip included two small cities nestled in the foothills of the Black Forest called Heidelberg and Freiburg.

Heidelberg

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Heidelberg. WOW. Heidelberg is an old city on a river. This was my first destination in Germany, and the one night I stayed was not long enough. I arrived in the late afternoon, but it was already beginning to get dark, so I spent the first night perusing the stalls of the crowded Christmas markets.

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I could have spent hours drifting through the stalls admiring the woodwork and craftsmanship of all the handmade trinkets and ornaments.

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Towering over the Christmas markets was the majestic and crumbling Heidelberg castle.

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I tried my first brat and fell in love with German mustard. (sidenote- it was very perplexing to me the lack of mustard in most restaurants, even at Subway. I have to start carrying a bottle in my luggage everywhere I go. Apparently, having mustard in every restaurant is not a thing outside of America. Of course if you love the most vile food that ever graced this earth, mayonnaise, you’re in luck– pretty much the rest of the world is on your page.)

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When walking around the food stalls in the Christmas markets DO try currywursts. AND bratwurst with mustard. AND glühwein. AND anything else edible you see, really. Except for the 5 euro pork sandwiches. Those are bland and overpriced.

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The next day I headed straight for the ruined castle that overlooks the city. The oldest parts of the castle were constructed well over 800 years ago.

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It has held a deposed pope prisoner. It has been visited by Martin Luther when he went to Heidelberg to defend his Theses.

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Mark Twain said about it: “Misfortune has done for this old tower what it has done for the human character sometimes – improved it.”

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I was over the moon climbing in and around such an old castle. I loved how accessible it was.

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I would have loved more time to explore. I had not quite yet realized how short the days are in Germany, and daylight left much quicker than I had planned for. I wandered through the decorated and lit streets, and admired how well preserved and ancient the city was. With giant Christmas trees and lights, and the smell of gingerbread and Glühwein, it was the perfect setting to put me in the Christmas mood.

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Freiburg im Breisgua

On my second evening in Germany, I took a train two hours away to Freiburg. Freiburg really blew my mind. Mountains, Black Forest, the Brothers Grimm. Freidburg was a fairy tale. Walking through the dark forests, you can imagine Hansel and Gretel huddled together trying to find their way back home or Little Red Riding Hood being followed by the malicious wolf.

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I woke up early for a full day in Freiburg. I was Christmasmarketed-out after two days of them in Heidelberg so I decided to tackle a hiking trail through the Black Forest. The forest was so dark, quiet, and almost sinister. There were abandoned cottages and forts and forgotten monuments deep in the trees.

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To see a gorgeous sunset over the town of Freiburg hike towards Schlossberg, the remnants of fortifications, where there is a tower on the mountain that gives you a 360 view of the town of Freiburg. Schlossberg itself is ok, but the best part is the walk up and down the mountain through the forest.

The overall hike took about 3 hours. In late December, when sunset is at around 4:30, 1:30 was the perfect time to begin the journey. I hiked up to Schlossberg, the  tower, and walked a trail beyond it a bit further into the woods. When I turned around and hiked back down to the town, I got beautiful views of the sunset over Freiburg and the Black Forest that surrounds it.

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After sunset, I wandered from the hills back to the little city which was now brightly lit with Christmas lights and streetlamps.

frieburg The city of Freiburg is so romantic and festive at Christmas time. Bright lights hung crisscrossed above the cobblestone streets. Every alleyway offered sweet music floating from an old guitar or from children caroling. There was no street left unadorned in Christmas cheer. Crowds gathered at the numerous Christmas markets scattered around the city squares. It was like a dream.

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I walked along the open gutters into the Christmas markets for a peek at the goodies at the stalls and a bite to eat. There is a legend that if you fall into one of the gurgling gutters that line the streets you will marry a Freiburger. Maybe I should have given it a try. I could definitely imagine myself living as a Freiburger!

After a bratwurst and some chocolate covered strawberries, with frozen toes, frozen fingers, and a full belly I made the trek back to my one bedroom apartment for the night.

the view from the tower at shlossberg

Have you ever been somewhere that felt like a real-life fairy tale? Do you think you might enjoy Freiburg or maybe Heidelberg? Let me know in the comments!

Halloween Weekend in Lagos, Portugal

Halloween weekend 2014 started out with a scare. I decided to take my first spur-of -the-moment international trip to Lagos, Portugal. The trip began with my traveling companion and I sitting outside a train station in Seville for an hour thinking our ride from blablacar.es flaked out on us. Finally just when we were about to give up a big white van rolls up. At this point the words rapist and kidnapper came to mind. Luckily there were other travelers already aboard and all seemed well. It turned out that the driver was a surfer on his way to catch some waves, hence the big van.

Before we even made it out of the Seville we came upon a horrible inferno of a car crash. The column of smoke and flame was visible long before the site of the accident became clear. Traffic was stopped for nearly two hours. By the time we finally got past and on our way it was already dark. Three and a half hours later we finally arrived in Lagos. By this point it was late and worn down, and so decided to call it a night.

Dawn and a New Day

The next morning it was a different world. The bustling streets of Seville were long gone. The peaceful port city of Lagos lay before me. Our hotel was amazing. [INFO ABOUT HOTEL].

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We spent the morning wandering around the old towns streets and admiring the intricate chapels. [More description about the streets]. There was even a church with a chapel of human bones. Unfortunately this was closed while we were there.

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We ate at the same restaurant at least once a day, this inconspicuous burger joint that served up the best hamburger I have had outside of America. Name. It was an unexpected and amzing treat. IN the afternoon we hit up the beach for a bit, and then walked around the cliffs of the sea to different vistas. The coves and caves were gorgeous. Mesmorizing.

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At night we went back to the Old Town to find some tasty Portuguese food. We went to this local place at had a seafood stew called cataplana. [Describe blahblah]. It is a very popular restaurant where you usually need reservations. We got lucky and there wasn’t too much of a wait, probably because we were there in a low season.

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In my travels so far, I think this was one of the nicest trips I’ve taken. It felt so good to be away from the city for a few days. I didn’t realize just how claustrophobic I get being around this many people every day. That is the country girl in me for sure. I always crave the peace and quiet and tranquility of living in the country.

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I relaxed, ate good food, hung out with some really cool people and saw some breath-taking views. I had not been overly excited about this trip but Lagos definitely impressed. Now I cannot wait to explore more of Portugal.It still blows my mind that I am so near so many amazing locations.