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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Out of the Schwarzwald again

6/12/2016

Well, after an exciting and drama-filled reunion at the youth hostel where we’d arranged to stay the night, my travel companions and I started off the day with a delicious—and complementary—breakfast. Our goal food-wise was to eat some Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cherry Torte cake) by the end of the day, but before that, our goal travel-wise was to pay a visit to the namesake of that most-delicious of treats…

That’s right—we were headed for the Schwarzwald itself!

That’s right—we were headed for the Schwarzwald itself!

My phone/camera was, unfortunately, very out of battery today—guess I used it up listening to music in the library yesterday—but it was honestly a bit refreshing, being cut off from the need to constantly take photos.

Despite that, I did get a couple of nice shots from our cable car on the way up!

Despite that, I did get a couple of nice shots from our cable car on the way up!

Hello, The Schwarzwald! Hello, mountains! Hello…France?!

Hello, The Schwarzwald! Hello, mountains! Hello…France?!

After a bit of hiking, we arrived at a beautiful observatory tower, where we braved the climb to the top despite one girl’s fear of heights. From there, we found ourselves looking down over blowing banks of fog, driven by rushing wind through beautiful, dense thickets of pines. Even though the day wasn’t clear—what a view!

Although we hadn’t hiked for very long at that point, we were all more than ready to call it quits and head back down the mountain. I’m not sure why, but everyone was extremely exhausted all day—myself included! Lucky for us, we had a recommendation for a spot where we could find the ultimate cure-all: CAKE. And not just any cake…

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte! (Photo credit europeantravelista.com)

Eaten right here in the region of the Schwarzwald!!! (Photo credit to www.cafeschmidt.de)

Despite all the ups and downs, the getting lost and putting my fellow travelers through a lot of unnecessary worrying, it was a pretty satisfying trip! And most important of all—I can now say that I’ve eaten Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte in Germany. I mean, clearly that’s been right at the top of the bucket list all along!

I’m always happy to come back to Mannheim, though.

There’s nothing quite like having a home-base.

There’s nothing quite like having a home-base.

Xoxo,

Susan

PIZZAs

6/4/2016

Sometimes you just have to take a day off, you know? Take it easy, sleep in, and make plans to eat pizza later that evening. Today, for example, I slept until almost 11:30—something that’s happened maybe two other times in my life! Despite another amazing and very filling lunch (potatoes and cuttlefish in tomato sauce!), Sophia and I were ready to meet up with her friends for some pizza that evening. Thing is, this wasn’t just any pizza…

Before that, though, we had something else on the agenda: a visit to Camposampiero! It’s Sophia’s hometown, and a really lovely little town with a lot of history.

For example, who knew St. Anthony actually lived here most of his life? Who knew this city hall was almost a thousand years old?! (Photo Credits!)

We saw some historic buildings, ate some ice cream, and sat in the sun. It was a lovely afternoon.

After getting ready, we were off to meet Sophia’s friends in the nearby town of Bassano, where I enjoyed Spritz, an Italian early-evening, lightly alcoholic, fruity beverage.

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Pre-Spritz fun times! (Photo credit Sophia Marostica. <3)

It was delicious, and, aside from that, the view from the big town bridge was SO AMAZING.

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There are NO mountains anywhere near this beautiful back home! (No mountains at all, for that matter…)

I know what you’re thinking: pizza, pizza. Where is the pizza? That was my question, too, and made more pressing by the fact that I don’t speak any Italian, so it was basically impossible to follow people’s conversations and to understand the evening’s plans. After a leisurely stroll, some time spent chatting, and an early-evening drive through the countryside with those amazing mountains in the distance, we arrived at the pizza place, waited in line, and spent about an hour figuring out what we wanted.

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I got a two-person pizza and shared it three ways…the other six or so people in our group ate a pizza meant for SEVEN! My pizza featured fried zucchini blossoms, burrata and another amazing cheese, olives, tomatoes, more cheese, and SWORDFISH!

And of course, we couldn’t forget dessert—especially not with it being my first chance to try some sorbetto!

And of course, we couldn’t forget dessert—especially not with it being my first chance to try some sorbetto! I got lemon 😀

We stayed late into the night, chatting and laughing, and drinking after-dinner liquor (strong, tiny shots—I had lemon!) in a beautiful garden out back of the restaurant.

What did I do to deserve such a PERFECT weekend? To be surrounded by such beautiful things?

What did I do to deserve such a PERFECT weekend?

However, I don’t think I can ever eat American pizza again…or ice cream, for that matter! LE SIGH. (It was WORTH it!)

Xoxo,

Susan