Hello! So we thought the best way to share our trip to Germany with friends and family (and our future selves) would be to each tell our own perspective.
Boricua included so many photos and is so hilarious when he writes - if you want to read his post in English, try opening the page in Google chrome, right clicking, and selecting "Translate to English." The translation isn't perfect, but it does a decent job for the most part! :)
I feel like it would be impossible to talk about this trip without sharing what a much needed break it was. It's difficult to express sufficiently with words, but my first term at LSE was a huge challenge. Surprisingly, in the academic arena everything was really quite smooth - I felt prepared in large part thanks to my economics and political science professors at BYU! The struggle has been accepting my own life - as I have been exposed to more and more depressing subject matter. The idealists in many of us in the program were given a hard beating this term. We learned about failures of development, failures of aid, the shortcomings of many of the most important institutions in the field, and learned more details about poverty, war, and corrupt institutions all over the world. Some might think, "didn't we know that already?" To which I would respond, I did have an idea, but the extent of my horror when I thought I understood the state of the world had only been a small fraction to what horrifies me now.
I'm not sure if this catalyzed the rapid decline of my emotional state or simply cemented it, but I was struggling to get up in the morning, trying not to cry after class, and generally skimming through material (if that) as I tried to cross the stormy sea of my feelings. Add to that a new-found wheat allergy to explain my on-going stomach pain, being far away from family and friends, continued grief at the loss of my dear mother (and my frustration, given the fact that I always thought it would get easier with time), the stress of every day life, Boricua looking for a job, being on the career hunt myself, and dark, rainy days, and you probably get the picture. It was time for a break, despite my conscious, objecting to spending money when other people don't even have food to eat. I know I sound extreme. There are many valid reasons to take a break, but still, I cannot study what I study and not question the incredibly huge amount of resources I use.
I have learned that one of my great battles is to learn how to live my ideals and at the same time not condemn myself for the life I have. Put bluntly, it's really just deciding what's enough. It was nice to get away and have such a full agenda and so much beauty to see, because it is good to stop thinking about oneself so much.
I've divided this long post up into 4 parts. Luckily, mostly it's just scrolling through a lot of full width photos recording our trip in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest)!
Altes Schloss Hohenbaden, Schloss Favorite, Rastatt
We stayed first at an Airbnb, and the family we stayed with were so incredibly kind. The mother was kind enough to pick us up from the airport! She had her 5-year-old daughter with her, who informed me that her favorite color is a sort of turquoise/aqua (her mom translated). The room where we stayed was so cozy, but interestingly, our queen-size bed had two sets of bedding, one folded neatly on each side. Talking to a friend from Germany and her husband after church yesterday, we realized that this is quite a European thing to do - different body temperatures and comfort requirements mean that many couples go with their own covers! The husband is an engineer, and he was quietly reading when we got back from exploring that evening. What a peaceful and heavenly place. Even more cool, the fact that they can live so beautifully and simply. They started opening their home to Airbnb users because their 11-year-old daughter gets very motion-sick, and they thought, if we can't travel, we'll bring the world to her! Hence the map that Boricua showed where all of their guests have been. We were both the first ones from Idaho AND Puerto Rico!
This is the second castle we visited, since the first was across the street from where we stayed! It's called Altes Schloss Hohenbaden - the Hohenbaden Old Castle.
Old is right - it was built in 1102! The Margraves are the famous family of this part of Germany. They built this, and a few others. Can you imagine living there? There are so many details, and so many stairs! All the way from a dungeon to bedrooms, lookouts to wells. What an incredible feat building something like that on the top of a mountain, so long ago.
This sign is in the parking lot to visit Hohenbaden. I love the word "Wanderportal"- it makes me feel as if we were in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
This is a hunting palace built by the same family in the early 1700s. Amazingly, they only lived here a few weeks out of the year as a summer residence. It is called Schloss Favorite, and was built for the wife to the Margrave named Sibylla, which is interestingly similar to my grandmother's name! The only difference is, my great-grandmother made my grandma's name up! We actually met another person named Sibylle in Germany while we were there. She was the woman managing our apartment rental for the week.
Next we visited another castle for the Margraves, the Rastatt residential palace, built between 1700-1707. This was another very pink castle! The word for pink is the same in both German and Spanish - rosa! I thought, what a funny color for these buildings, but later on when we were driving through the Black Forest, we saw a quarry with lots of pink stone - it is pink straight from the earth!
I thought Boricua did an amazing job photographing the statues, which you can see in his post!
Our first Christmas market in Rastatt blew Boricua away - for the taste of the sausages! They were accompanied with the most amazing garlic butter sauce...
This puppet had all the children laughing and yelling, you can't see them but you could hear them!
I loved all the life-size pyramids! I remember decorating our home with one or two of these at Christmastime! In German, Christmas is Weihnacht. These Christmas decorations are called "Weihnachtspyramide."
We saw this more than once - even construction workers want the Christmas spirit at the most high work spot!
Altes Schloss Stuttgart, Hohenzollern
We were so excited to attend church on Sunday and listen to people speaking German, but we failed in our attempt - instead we ended up driving around through a couple of different cities trying to find a ward that hadn't finished already - we were going by the posted meeting times online, but they had special services that Sunday because it was before Christmas! Although we were sad to have missed church, we were very grateful to cruise around on the autobahn.
More castles! Surprise, this castle had a Christmas market as well.
It's called the Altes Schloss Stuttgart, meaning Stuttgart Old Castle.
It's right in the middle of Stuttgart, which is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg. It was a humble water fortress in the 10th century, and was turned into more of a Renaissance palace later on. In the 20th century, it survived two fires and a World War II bombing, and was renovated.
Then we drove over the mountain and into a beautiful valley, where we found the Hohenzollern castle!
For some reason, Boricua really loves capes and swords. He was totally in his element. :)
We even had a tour of the inside of the castle - it was conducted in German, so we just followed other people's gazes as the tour guide talked. It was fun to pretend to laugh at the jokes, though!
This photo was a quick one Boricua shot on his iPhone - cameras were not allowed! The inside of the castle was so very beautiful. And WHAT incredible views! The first room was some an entry way that had an exquisitely painted genealogy. The last room we looked at was this drawing room, it had portraits of the royalty who lived there, including the daughter of Queen Victoria. :) The castle is still privately owned.
We saved a whole day just for Heidelberg. We were originally trying to stay there over Christmas but we found such a good deal on an apartment in Baden-Baden, so we settled for a visit. It's a college town with DEEP roots.
I was so in love with its ivy-covered buildings and green spots along brick paths.
It kept happening to Boricua - we would pack snacks for the day, and I would pick a few to bring with us whenever we were trekking about somewhere. Somehow he always ended up eating some sort of sausage snack AS we were climbing one huge hill or a long staircase (see above). It's an interesting way to exercise haha.
At this castle, which is Schloss Heidelberg, we spent a few euros for an audioguide, because I wanted to get the full scoop. Haha now everyone will pay, as I probably overshare! The king above, Ludwig V, was one who worked hard to secure this castle and make it a true fortress of safety during the early 1500s. The walls of this tower are up to 23 feet thick!
This young man is Frederick V. He married a very sought-after English bride, Elizabeth Stuart, and tried to turn the fortress into something more similar to an English castle. He converted something originally made for defense into a space for performing Shakespeare's plays, removed canons, and even filled in the moat. The gardens they made called Hortus Palatinus were considered to be one of the 8th wonders of the world.
This area is where the moat was, but can you see those archways? They help create divisions, which people of the castle used for trapping animals they were "hunting" in "sport." I'm not sure how sportsman-like that was.
This archway was built for the aforementioned Frederick V's new bride, and the audio guide mentioned that according to legend, it was built in one night. They had 13 children!
Inside the castle.
This was the side where women of the court lived, and also where there was a great library from the personal collection of Ludwig V.
This side was where young men stayed, as well as home to a huge kitchen, an apotheke (apothecary) - so apparently, apothecaries, the forerunner to pharmacies, are a big deal in Germany. When we went to get some cold medicine in downtown Baden-Baden, it was a completely different experience than a pharmacy like Walgreens or Boots! On the other side of that structure was where plays were held, I think? You can see how only the bottom floor remains! The audioguide pointed out that the windows are consecutively shorter from the bottom row to the top, giving an illusion of even more height. Now, I've been noticing that in England too!
An old apothecary in the castle.
I honestly don't know how to use a sundial like this, but how cool.
A very ornate facade of a building constructed in 1601. This is called the Friedrich building. You can't see him here, but in Boricua's post there is a photo of two statues with a lion in the middle. The man on the right is actually the man who commissioned the building, Friedrich IV, who died of alcoholism, apparently. He had the 16 statues of the building represent his ancestry, including Charlemagne!
This huge wine barrel was apparently filled only 3 times. I was reading that it took 130 oak tree trunks to build, and was used to collect wine as a tithe from the population. When Karl Ludwig took over the castle in the mid 1600s after the Thirty Year's war, there's a story that they fit a whole orchestra inside the barrel, who surprised the guests of a banquet!
The Rhine River and the town of Heidelberg in the Neckar valley - there has been a university there since 1386!
The destruction of this tower, called the Powder Tower, marks a turning point in the history of the castle. I was shocked to find out that the daughter of Karl Ludwig, named Liselotte, was married against her will at age 19 to Philip of Orléans, brother to French King Louix XIV. But she had to move to Versailles, from where she wrote up to 50,000 letters in her native German (rebelling against the style of the times, which was to write in French). When Liselotte's brother died, Louix XIV declared it French territory b/c she was the rightful heir, decimated Heidelberg and its castle, and blew up the powder tower in the picture above as he left! That was in the 1690s.
Father Rhine, the river god. He lays among the rocks of the river bed just in front of the ancient bath houses.
We finally turned in our audio guide and continued our explorations of Heidelberg.
I was reading that before it was protected, people actually used the Heidelberg ruin as a sort of quarry for their own homes, and one king even used the stone for his new castle!
The design of these streets was really interesting. It seemed as if the brick walls shored up the mountain upon which their homes are built.
The name of this place is Königstul - Boricua read about it and wanted to catch the view. I can't believe how Lord-of-the-Rings-y that name sounds! It means "King's Throne." We stayed for perhaps a total of 5 minutes because I was freezing! The hats are a trademark of my dear Aunt from North Idaho who knit them herself, and on some of them she even uses wool that she spun and sheared from her own sheep! I think we have begun a new tradition - recording where in the world these hats have been! Many family and friends have one made just for them. I like wearing them in my adventures, because it's like taking a piece of home with me.
Downtown Heidelberg is very old and very lovely. We were planning on meeting one of Boricua's friends from his mission and his wife, but before we got there two very interesting things happened.
First, we entered the Heidelberg Christmas Market in the car's navigation system, and it took us literally THROUGH the Christmas Market, which people usually do on foot. I imagine that must be what it feels like to be famous, driving in a car through crowds of people.
Besides that, a woman asked us to take a picture of her and her friend in front of this huge Christmas pyramid, and she was so nice and friendly that she wanted to make sure we had participated in the most German tradition at Christmas markets - drinking the mulled wine!
She led us over to one of the stands and ordered us a different, non-alcoholic drink, and then I found out that the girl she was with was not her daughter, but someone she was mentoring! She said it is a program that is similar to Big Brother Big Sister.
Once she retired, she volunteered in the program, which is administered through school and open for application to at-risk youth, such as those in one parent families, or children of divorced parents, and met Jessica when she was in middle school. Now Jessica was almost ready to graduate high school and they were still in each other's lives! I think that is so cool! I can't remember her name, but it was the most old-fashioned and beautiful German name you could think of.
We finally met up with Boricua's friend and his wife, and we had a great time eating German-Turkish kebabs (they pronounce it KAYbabs), walking around, eating more, and they even showed us the beautiful building where they had their civil wedding ceremony!
All of the photos we took with them are in Boricua's post :).
Baden-Baden, Schiltach, & Triberg
So Baden-Baden has its own orchestra, called Baden-Baden Philharmonie, and I e-mailed them to see if we could attend one of their rehearsals. They were so obliging, even enthusiastic, and so on Tuesday afternoon we went to listen to them! The address we found actually turned out to be their offices, not where they were rehearsing. What a beautiful place to have an office, no?
We finally found them playing downtown in Baden-Baden's upscale casino, right in front of the city's Christmas Market.
They played so beautifully. They were rehearsing for a concert on the 25th with a famous mezzosoprano opera singer named Vesselina Kasarova, but she wasn't there, so they were playing the orchestral pieces. I think it was Tchaikovsky? Anyway, this was definitely one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. It was like having our own private concert! There was even a harpist. The music was divine. They didn't even notice us when we walked in. It was cool to watch the conductor do his work, and the concert master voice his opinion!
The Baden-Baden Christmas Market, just outside the casino, was one of my favorites. So cozy!
My own life-sized Nutcracker en vivo.
Nutella on a fry-bread called langos. Yes.
That cheese, though!
Someone was selling the most beautiful nativities. They also had a live nativity and a nativity walkway at the market!
This is St. Nikolaus.
I loved this spot to drop off letters.
And more Nutella creativity!
It doesn't look like it, but this is no longer inside the Christmas Market! It's downtown Baden-Baden.
So many flavors of Ricola!
For our last day, we went on an adventure through the mountains of the Black Forest.
A pretzl and a berliner from a bakery along the way.
This is a town called Schiltach. It has preserved its medieval beginnings, and we literally felt as if we were walking through one of those Christmas villages people display on their mantles.
There is a woman I used to call Grandma B, and I took this photo in her honor.
Do you see that? Erhaut 1004!
Yes, this is another bakery. Don't judge. We had to try black forest cake IN the Black Forest!
You can see the town hall on the left, and an apothecary on the right!
Very kindly, our friend from Germany who lives a few blocks from us here in London roughly translated this sign!
"Poorhouse of the city" Yes, you are correct. Erbaut means built (in 1766). The city (Schiltach) bought it in 1875 to give their poor an accommodation free of charge. Hence the name poor house. 1910/11 the building was refurbished at which time they engraved the year 1910 and the coat-of-arms of Baden into the doorframe of the entrance. 1920 the house was still partly occupied free of charge. The other part was rented out for 8-12 Deutsche Mark per month. After some renovations the place has been in private ownership again.
There were so many of these huge-roofed barns!
We went to Triberg searching for an elderly man famous for his Nutcrackers, his name is Bruno Roth. But we only found his wife at their home, not a shop, and had to keep going! Triberg is perhaps more famous for being the home of the world's largest cuckoo clock! We found ourselves in the middle of a tour bus of elderly people!
You can even have a cuckoo clock bed!
To finish off our excursions, I was hoping to go on a hike to a waterfall. We found the waterfall, but it was only a 2 minute walk from the car! Sadly, it had so many gadgets all over it!
They have some sort of Christmas show there at night time.
in his eagnerness to pose posing in front of a cold waterfall.
Check out those sheep!
Another Christmas tree on construction equipment!
And that was our trip. For a person who loves old things, south west Germany is a slice of heaven. I am so grateful for and so in love with Boricua! Here's to another year full of adventures!