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Heidelberg, Germany

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009


Heidelberg was our last stop on our European trip. It’s a pretty city that actually reminded us of Salzburg – about the same size and population, a large castle with great views overlooking a river spanned by several bridges, lots of pretty churches…it really seemed a bit of a déjà vu (with the exception that buildings in Salzburg were mostly white with black roofs versus the ones in Heidelberg which have reddish roofs – actually everything looks reddish in Heidelberg).


Our highlight was the Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s way), a path on the hills on the northern side of the city. The path is lush with greenery and gardens and has great views over the Old Town and the castle. We walked it on our first day and thought Heidelberg must be a wonderful city to live in.


The next day we walked the old city and visited the castle, finding both pretty. If you sense a bit of disinterest in that description you’re probably right – on closer inspection Heidelberg didn’t enthrall us. Too many tourists and too many tourist shops and tourist restaurants. We found it didn’t have that “Germaness” that attracted us so much to places like Regensburg, Fussen, or Bacharach – it just got lost among the touristyness of it all (I think I just invented a new word there..). But I think my perception is also skewed by the fact that 1) Heidelberg was our last stop (I think our minds were halfway home at that point) and 2) we didn’t sleep well in Heidelberg (more on this further down). So maybe I should be more generous to Heidelberg, it is actually quite a lovely city…





We stayed at Hotel Hollander Hof while in Heidelberg. Perfectly located, beautiful hotel, amazingly friendly staff. But I’m giving it 2 out of 5. And that is being generous. Why? Again, like in Venice, they didn’t have AC – we had to open the windows to get some air in the room. Our window was 4 floors up over an Irish pub. 2 nights of shouting and laughing and smoke drifting into the room – it totally ruined our stay. For 125 euros a night there is no excuse: if you can’t get sleep (objective #1 for a hotel room) then there is no reason to recommend the hotel.


The primary reason we finished our trip in Heidelberg was logistics. Lufthansa has a shuttle service (“shuttle” – it was actually a mini van) from the Crown Plaza in Heidelberg directly to Frankfurt airport starting at 5:30 am. It got us to the airport in an hour and a half where we took our Air Canada back home.

* Air Canada is affectionately called Air Confusion. I call it Air Crap. If being: a) useless (and proud to be) and b) bad-tempered were qualities, then Air Canada and its personel would be the #1 in the world. On behalf of all Canadians, I apologize to all foreigners flying AC.

Auf Wiedersehen Europe!

Bacharach and the Rhine, Germany

Saturday, June 6th, 2009


Bacharach is a small town situated on one of the most scenic stretches of the Rhine river. It is about an hour and a half from Frankfurt, or about 15 minutes away from Bingen (the nearest “big” town). This stretch of the Rhine is dotted with castles and small towns that historically made its money from the tolls extracted from vessels passing down the river. The area is also know for its white wines which are harvested from the vineyards that line the hills along the river.



We absolutely loved Bacharach. It is a charming small town with friendly people, historic old buildings, cobblestone streets, and a big old castle with nice views on the river. Eating and drinking here were fantastic and a highlight of our trip. It is also a great base to take a cruise down the Rhine and take in the castles along it’s banks.

Photos from around Bacharach:



Eating and drinking in Bacharach


All the vineyards along the Rhine make Bacharach a great place to do wine tasting. We found 2 places that had wine tasting facilities – Fritz Bastian’s Weingut zum Gruner Baum (next to the Altes Haus), the most popular one, had a wine tasting carousel of 16 different Rieslings for about 10 Euros. The wines were very good. The 2nd option, Weingut Toni Just Hahnehhof, was even better in our opinion. Although you only get 6 wines (for I think 8 Euros) the glasses were bigger and – in our opinion – of better quality. But they are both really worth visiting and since they both serve their own wines, trying both out gives you more variety. We actually liked one of the wines at Toni Just Hahnehhof so much that we bought a bottle (4.50 Euros) to bring back to Montreal.


We usually had lunch at the restaurant of Hotel Burg Stahleck in the shadows of the church. They make great thin-crusted pizza – Alsatian Pizza – with feta cheese. Superb. We would have it with a bottle of one of our favorite wines (above – a 2007 Bacharacher Wolfshohle).


For super we would eat at the Altes Haus (above left), the oldest building in town (1368) and the best restaurant in Bacharach as far as we were concerned. Great food (they have a great vegetarian ravioli), the service is good, great decor, and fantastic wine (another of our favorites- 2007 Riesling-Hochgewachs Halbtrocken).




The Altes Haus holds special memories for us, was just a great place.

Castles along the Rhine:

We didn’t just eat and drink, we also took a cruise down the river (they serve Riesling on board as well) and saw some of the main highlights between Bacharach and St.Goar: Schonburg castle (below, partly red), Pfalz Castle (below – white castle), Gutenfels castle (in background of Pfalz), the Loreley (large cliff overlooking river – not pictured here).


Rheinfels Castle in St. Goar (about 10 km, or 45 min by boat from Bacharach)

German bathroom humour…

She must be worried about getting the Schwein flu – either that or she’s a superhero masquerading as an idiot..



We stayed at Hotel Am Markt in Bacharach – 65 Euros for a double room, the cheapest on our trip (Great being back in Germany after expensive Switzerland!). We stayed in Room 2 which is the only one with a balcony. Comfortable, clean, no frills but cheap – 4 out of 5 considering everything. And right accross from the Altes Haus!


Bacharach might not have been as WOW as some of the other places on this trip but it ended up as one of our favorite spots (along with Venice and Lauterbrunnen – all for different reasons). I would definately come back.

Next (and final) stop: Heidelberg

Lucerne, Switzerland

Thursday, June 4th, 2009
luc1.jpg Ah, yes, what pretty pictures. But Lucerne was like a vain woman - shallow, boring, self-important, and expensive. And if you look again it's not really that pretty. It gets worse when the lights go ... [Continue reading this entry]

Lauterbrunnen and the Berner Oberland, Switzerland

Monday, June 1st, 2009
lau1.jpg June 1, 2009 - Lauterbrunnen is situated in the Berner Oberland, an area in Central Switzerland containing some of the country's highest peaks. Lauterbrunnen itself is in a valley full of cascading waterfalls coming down ... [Continue reading this entry]

Geneva, Switzerland

Monday, June 1st, 2009
gen1.jpg Geneva is not a tourist town and doesn't really have to many highlights as such. It is a pleasant city though, situated on Lake Geneva (also called Lac Leman) with the mountains all around. More ... [Continue reading this entry]

Montreux, Switzerland

Monday, June 1st, 2009
mon1.jpg We stopped in Montreux for a quick stop on our way from Venice to Geneva. Highlight: Chateau de Chillon. We didn't see it though - all I have are pictures from our hotel room overlooking ... [Continue reading this entry]