When in France…

6/26/2016

Another goal of mine has always been to learn French, but, even more than that, to visit the country. My family traces its roots back all over Europe, but I identify myself most closely with the French side of things. This was a milestone I needed to clear while I was here, and especially since I was already so close to the French border…

Mannheim’s really not that far away!

Mannheim’s really not that far away!

Today, I made it happen. Together with four of my fellow students at Goethe, all of whom were willing to face a pretty early start-time, we passed some pleasant morning hours on two trains that brought us across the border.

Into. FRANCE!!!

Into. FRANCE!!!

From the tiny, charming, historic town of Wissembourg, we hopped onto a bus that took us up into the mountains, past rolling valleys, pastures of sleepy cattle, and purple vineyards. Our real goal was not just to say that we’d made it to France, but to actually see something there—namely, a beautiful and ruined castle called Fleckenstein.

From the minute I saw the trailer, I HAD to make this trip happen! (Video courtesy of Fleckenstein’s website!)

The castle featured lots of stairs, stone with curves where the water had worn it away, and railed platforms where we could climb up and stare out at mountains, mountains, MOUNTAINS.

Everywhere I looked, I found something beautiful.

Everywhere I looked, I found something beautiful.

 

This must have once been a tower!

This must have once been a tower!

And these MOUNTAINS…

And these MOUNTAINS…

Once we’d seen all there was to see there, we grabbed a bite in the castle’s café and spent a little time exploring the nearby hiking trails, which also featured plenty of climbing rocks—and intrepid climbers! Upon arriving back in Wissembourg, we wandered downtown, just to see what we could find.

The answer? One of the most picturesque places I've ever gotten to explore.

The answer? One of the most picturesque places I’ve ever gotten to explore.

The town square was full of activity…

The town square was full of activity…

The church was quiet and cool and beautiful…

The church was quiet and cool and beautiful…

There were flowers everywhere we looked...

There were flowers everywhere we looked…

I had the best cheese of my LIFE, for FREE!

I had the best cheese of my LIFE, for FREE!

And of course we ate some CAKE!!

And of course we ate some CAKE!!

We could easily have passed the whole afternoon in Wissembourg, and then some, but due to the timing of the trains, we had head back after only an hour or two. Still, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. It was just a brief glimpse across the border, but it was enough! (And by that, I mean, enough to make me want to come back.)

Ciao, FRANCE!

Next time…I’ll speak FRENCH!

Xoxo,

Susan

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Adventure, Adventure

6/8/2015

Something that I’ve wanted to do since arriving in Germany has been to dance Nia. Just one time would be enough, I figured, but I had to make it happen. Today, after a lot of late-night Internet searching and planning on Google Maps, I decided to go for it—there appeared to be TWO Nia classes on Wednesday afternoons in Karlsruhe, and it’s not all that far away…

Right?

Right?

The train ride went smoothly, and the city was quite beautiful—but, unfortunately for me, there was no one at the Dojo when I arrived. After some more Internet searching, I learned that the 4:15 class doesn’t start until September! This discovery prompted further exploration of the city, since I had nothing else to do until 6pm, when the next Nia session was supposed to take place. But it wasn’t all bad—I saw a lot of pretty buildings, spent some time in the public library, and strolled through a really lovely city park!

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Turns out what I’d hoped was an afternoon Nia session was actually a 90-minute “yoga” class, but one that involved a lot of deep breathing and slow, gentle movements. On the dark blue mats of the studio, in the soft glow of pink salt-crystal lamps, with birds singing outside and rain pouring down onto green leaves, I spent a couple of the most relaxing hours I think I’ve had since coming to Europe. All in all, the adventure was totally worth it!

I’m still determined to find some Nia, though.

I’m still determined to find some Nia, though.

Xoxo,

Susan

Going Castling

5/21/2016

One of the things everyone should really do while in Germany is spend a little time exploring castles. I got a small taste of that at Heidelberg, but even though we spent all day there, we really only saw one castle in the end. Going around with a big tour group also made for a somewhat different experience than if I’d been there on my own, or with only a couple of friends. So, today, that’s just what we decided to do—my friends and I packed some lunch and got on a bus heading south!

Destination: Dilsberg!

Destination: Dilsberg!

After a few transfers and some slow morning conversation, we were dropped off in Dilsberg, a tiny “Dorf” or village up in the Odenwald mountains. It’s about 15 Kilometers from Heidelberg, and was founded by Romans, like, before the 1200s.

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We spent the morning in the castle ruins, staring out over green country and red roofs under the blue skies.

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After a short hike, we also got to explore a tunnel leading through the mountain to the well under the castle, which was once a cistern, but was expanded when Dilsberg came under siege. According to a tour guide, Mark Twain was inspired by the well, and the story he told then inspired someone in his audience to come hide treasure in a gap in the wall. Not sure I caught every word, though, so don’t quote me on it.

Anyway, the well was definitely loved by Mark Twain!

Anyway, the well was definitely loved by Mark Twain!

A little further down the mountain, we found a door leading back the way we'd came...

A little further down the mountain, we found a door leading back the way we’d come…

And we got to stand INSIDE the well!!

And we got to stand INSIDE the well!!

In the town across the Rhine, we ate a lot of pizza and then resumed our hike.

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All in all, the day was gorgeous, and it was nice getting out to explore. We were all wiped out by the time we got home…

But everyone was really glad we went!!

But everyone was really glad we went!!

Xoxo,

Susan