Tag Archives: castle

Germany – a week in Frankfurt and Heidelberg

I braved the rather chilly climate of Germany in December. I have really enjoyed seeing more of Germany over the past two years and it’s a great opportunity to practice the language too. I like the variety of the places you can visit, the culture and love of art, the food (I grew up eating a lot of it) and the fact that everything and everywhere you stay is spotlessly clean and everything works!

First a visit to Frankfurt which I have to say is not the most exciting city to visit in Germany. It is very much a trade fair and convention town and lacks much in the way of personality.

However this was all made a lot better by two things – firstly, the Staedel Museum which unexpectedly had a fabulous exhibit of Van Gogh with a focus on how his works were bought up early in Germany (before he became a desirable artist) and also how he influenced subsequent German artist. I loved it.

Van Gogh portraits

One is a famous fake and one is the even more famous real thing – any guesses?

“Floating” (no shadows so distorted perspective) Books first by Van Gogh and then by Scharl

I also liked the Staedel as it has a Vermeer I haven’t seen before – the Geographer who is apparently staring out of the window imagining the places he is mapping out.

Vermeer’s The Geographer

Tischbein’s portrait of Goethe – there are very few of him so this is popular but not as popular as wondering why he has two left feet – it remains a mystery to this day?

The other plus was that I decided to stay about 20 minutes outside of Frankfurt in a place called Kronberg in a grand hotel that was formerly the home of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter (also Victoria) who built it after her German husband Wilhelm died. It was a lovely spot to be located and very different from Frankfurt.

Living in a grand royal house is good!

My second location was the charming town of Heidelberg – about an hour’s drive from Frankfurt. This town is often called the most beautiful in Germany and I can see why. It has everything you want from an old medieval town and is especially cute during this time of the year. As it is primarily a university town (oldest university in Germany) it is also lively with a strong international student body having a good old time as the semester was ending.

Heidelberg has an eclectic style castle (which was really a fortress) in the hills looking down on the town. It was started and added to at various time between the 1200s and the 1600s – thereafter it was captured in a battle and was no longer used and is therefore lacking things like roofs and windows but it is still very cool and beautifully lit at night. The wiggly path below leads up to another well known place – the Philosopher’s Walk. By the time I had staggered up the slope to follow the walk apparently completed by many famous writers (Mark Twain is said to have finished the Huck Finn book here) and philosophers I was thinking more about my pounding heart than things of great meaning. Then I read that these slopes used to terraces for growing grapes for making local wine so now I understand why everyone felt so philosophical! It is a wonderful walk though and gives a lovely perspective of the town.

Heidelberg Castle and the road up to Philosopher’s Walk plus this year’s Heidelberg Gluhwein mug

The castle up close and personal and views down to the river

The castle hosts the Pharmacy Museum – which i thought was great – love those bottles and jars – beautiful enough to cure you of anything without even sampling the contents!

A wooden cable car takes you to the top of the mountain you see behind the castle – it’s a long way up and I was wearing everything I had with me- nippy up there

Oh yes, and that Xmas thing was in full swing too – markets all along the Main Street of the old town with the flood lit castle in the background. Very authentic.

Portugal, Guimarães – a day a trip from Porto

On a very rainy day I took the suburban train from Porto Sao Bento to Guimares (the place where Portugal first began to exist – allegedly). If I thought it was rainy in Porto I was about to see a lot more of it in Guimarães.

Like all old towns – at least the ones I grew up with in the UK – this has a proper castle and a palace that used to belong to the Duke of Braganza (one of the most powerful nobles of the town).

Even though it was raining it was quite fun to clamber around ramparts and castellated architecture – kind of like some of the school trips I used to do (including the rain).

It is actually a “real” castle of its time and so I thought I would play around with the photos to show it off in different ways.

The Duke’s Palace was again typical medieval – large halls, heavy furniture and lots of stairs!

There used to be a very old and large chestnut tree by the palace which came down recently in a storm, so the authorities asked a modern sculptor to repurpose it for posterity. I think he did a brilliant job – it was my favourite thing that I saw all day.

The old town was what I was expecting with more rain – yes I am whinging a bit!

Finally I noticed that one of the good things about rain is that flowers look especially lovely afterwards and certainly Spring has sprung here so I discovered a few new tricks with my iPhone camera and took theses which I am quite proud of!

I think Guimarães is a perfect day trip from Porto – just over an hour away and Euros 7 return but because a lot of it is about being outside choose a sunny day!

Next stop my 104th country!

Slovakia, Bratislava – NEW country for me!

I am always thrilled to visit a new country ie. one I have never been to before – so the opportunity to take a one hour trip to Bratislava from Vienna was not to be missed. We took the boat from downtown Vienna and the train back – both trips just over an hour. The boat brings you right into the centre of town and is an enjoyable ride on a sunny day – and then it is an easy walk to the town centre and a steep climb to the castle but worth it for the views (and the steps!). A day is fine to see the town and make sure you find the well hidden Blue Church – pics taken through the window – well worth getting lost for.