European Road Trip Part I: Germany

After a personal and reflective post about life (here), I wanted to write more about the travel side of this blog. While we haven’t been doing much traveling in the present, we have certainly taken quite a few incredible trips in the past that are more than worthy of inclusion on this blog. One of our favorite past-times is to have lengthy and invigorating conversations (preferably over a bottle of fine wine and a cheese plate) about our plans and dreams for future travel destinations. Equally as fun, is to reminisce about our past adventures, and identify our top favorite trips, destinations, meals and moments abroad. During one of such conversations recently we both agreed our most favorite overall trip we’ve taken together was our first trip to Europe in 2014, when we drove through Germany and France. Everything about this trip was perfect, and even looking back 2 and a half years later, I reminisce with positive memories and an overall feeling of the magic and excitement impacted upon us. The itinerary was well planned, the destinations far exceeded our expectations and the experience brought us closer together. I had backpacked all over Europe when I was 21, so this was not my first experience across the Atlantic, but this second time around was completely different for me. On my first trip I was too young to truly appreciate the culture and history of the places I visited, and spent most of my time checking obligatory tourist stops off my list and partying with new friends I met in hostels along the way. This time, a decade older and wiser, and with my husband by my side, was an entirely new experience. Paul immediately fell in love with everything European on that trip, which made the experience so much more enjoyable and appreciative to me as well.

We started in Munich and caught the last weekend of Oktoberfest – there really are no words to accurately describe Oktoberfest, but I will try. In short, we had FUN. I’ve never seen so many happy, drunk, celebrating people congregated in one small area before. The festival was packed and chaotic and electric with joyful energy. Sometimes I don’t like to be in super crowded situations, but this was not one of those times. People watching was enough to entertain me all day – add in the delicious festival food and beer and it was the party to top all parties. We rented a room on Airbnb close to the fairgrounds (even though we booked months in advance, housing in this area was hard to come by and super expensive) and spent our first night in Germany exploring the festival and getting the lay of the land. We quickly learned it was next to impossible to actually gain entry to one of the famed beer halls at 5pm on the last Saturday of the festival, so we decided to leave and try again early the next morning, spending the rest of the evening touring Munich. We enjoyed the Old Town in the center of Munich, spent some time in a quaint outdoor beer garden and had a delicious and authentic first dinner at the Ratskeller restaurant in the city center.

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Off we go – at the train station in New York
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Channeling my early 20s backpacker days
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First night exploring Oktoberfest
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Festival food

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Beers in Munich’s city center
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Dinner in the Marienplatz

The next morning we fought the jet lag and headed back to Oktoberfest early – literally for breakfast. But our plan paid off and we quickly gained entrance and seats in one of the most popular beer tents, Hacker-festzelt. We knew once we were in, we couldn’t leave and so we spent the day drinking, singing and loving life with tens of thousands of other Germans and tourists from around the world. We made friends with a fun group of local Germans and Italian travelers who were also seated at our table, and as the day went on, the celebration only got bigger and rowdier. Time pretty much stopped inside that tent and we somehow became impervious to the effects of alcohol 🙂 Until we attempted to rejoin normal society early that evening!

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The big tents at Oktoberfest can literally hold tens of thousands of people and are only constructed for the brief period when the festival is held

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Don’t ask me how many of those beers we had

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Overall, Oktoberfest was a once in a lifetime experience – emphasis being on once in a lifetime. I’m not sure I would ever be capable to do again what we did on that amazing Sunday in Munich.

The next morning, which also happened to be our anniversary, we rented a car and set off on the next leg of our trip – first stop Castle Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. I’ve already dedicated an entire post to this magical destination, so I won’t repeat any details, but you can read the original post here.

Upon leaving Neuschwanstein, we spent an entire day driving north through the German countryside on the Romantische Strasse (translation: Romantic Road). This was the long way to make it to our final destination in the Rhine River valley, but it was scenic and exciting. Meandering in and out of small, picturesque German villages, we drove the road north, soaking in the sights. We stopped for lunch and to stretch our legs in the medieval village of Nordlingen, and marveled at the 13th century architecture, arriving at our hotel in Bingen, a small city on the Rhine river, by early evening.

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Nordlingen – fun fact, in the original Willy Wonka, Nordlingen is the town featured from the aerial view at the end of the movie

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Original city walls

The next day of our trip was spent exploring the quaint, fairy tale villages situated in the Rhine River valley. We drove up and down each side of the river, stopping in as many villages as possible and visiting some of the regions numerous castles and vineyards. The Rhine river valley is a beautiful place and one day there was not enough – we left so many castles and villages unexplored, and too much wine untasted! The highlight of this day was, without question, our evening in Bacharach, where we enjoyed quite possibly the best local and authentic meal of our trip. A few of the other notable places we visited were Rudesheim, the Loreley (where we pit stopped at a street side wine tasting shed), Boppard and Koblenz, where the Rhine and Moselle rivers meet.

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Rudesheim

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The Deutsches Eck (German corner) in Koblenz
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Our ride
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Quick stop for coffee and cakes in Boppard
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The Rhine river valley
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Villages along the Rhine
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The Loreley
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Castles along the Rhine

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Vineyards along the Rhine
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Exploring the tiny medieval streets of Bacharach

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After hiking to the vineyards outside Bacharach
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Evening in Bacharach

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The following morning marked our last in Germany, as we drove for the border of France. On the way, however, we made a special detour to the town where Paul’s mother’s family lived up until the 1970s, Ramstein-Meisenbach. Paul’s uncle Ron even gave us the old home address so we were able to visit their very house. Overall, I think being in Germany was a really special experience for Paul – he was able to revisit some of his heritage and test out his knowledge of the German language, impressing me with his ability to interact with locals and read road signs and menus. For me, the country completely blew me away – it was beautiful, clean and quaint. The people were friendly, the food was delicious and each stop along our drive was more picturesque than the last. At times it felt like we stepped into the past – other times felt like we walked into a fairy tale. But altogether we truly enjoyed every place we visited in Germany and will most definitely return some day in the future.

To read on about the second half of this amazing trip (France) visit here:

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