Last weekend was probably one of the greatest of my life. All of my friends went to Amsterdam, but I have already been there. So I opted for a few less popular cities: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Stuttgart, and Hechingen, Germany. I traveled entirely alone, which was a completely new and somewhat terrifying experience for me. My first train was delayed, so I missed my second train, and I almost made it to Rothenburg ob der Tauber too late to check into my hotel, which would have left me roomless for the night. After running and getting a little lost, I finally made it to my hotel just in time. As I was anxiously running through the streets, I immediately noticed how quaint and beautiful Rothenburg ob der Tauber is. It’s an extremely well-preserved medieval town, and although it is quite touristy, it also has an authentic feel to it.
I spent the whole next day walking aimlessly around the city, which is surrounded on all sides by fortified walls. Old painted scripture, gabled facades and adorable flower boxes abound, and I basically didn’t put my camera down the whole day. The buildings are all brightly painted, and every cobblestoned street I turned down had beautiful gardens, winding pathways and gorgeous views of the forests and houses beyond the city. I was so exhausted by the end of the day from walking for hours, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go back to my hotel room because there was so much I wanted to see.
Early the next morning I departed for Stuttgart, a city neighboring Hohenzollern Castle, which I would be visiting the next day. I stayed at a woman’s home through AirB&B, and she was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. It was really interesting seeing a typical German household. Their decorative style is definitely different than the typical home you would find in the U.S. It was very modern but homey and simple at the same time.
I immediately went straight to the city’s center, but once I got there I realized I was more interested in walking around than in visiting government buildings and museums. So I opted to explore the shopping and food districts. The first thing I found was a huge fish market that kind of looked like a carnival. There were colored tents and seafood-themed booths covering every inch of a block-sized area. Despite the fact that I hate fish, I walked around in sheer amazement that so many types of fish could be served in so many different ways in just one spot.
The day’s highlight was an awesome indoor food market I found. Food always makes me super excited, and I spent a long time walking up and down the aisles and browsing all the different foods for sale. I had so many exotic options, but I ultimately decided to be really crazy and just go for a cheese, pepperoni, basil and tomato flatbread sandwich. That sandwich was EVERYTHING. I will forever remember the absolute perfection of that sandwich.
The next morning I took an early train to Hechingen, where Hohenzollern Castle is located. I had read about this castle online months before my trip, and I was so excited that I was actually going to see it in person. The castle is visible as soon as you step off the train. It’s located at the top of a mountain, and the image is so perfect that it doesn’t even look real. I took a bus to the foot of the castle, and as I approached it I felt like I was getting closer and closer to stepping into a Disney movie. It’s absolutely massive.
From the castle’s walls you can look out and see the cities below, and you can see out for miles around. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed the take pictures inside, but the interior was magnificent. All of the castle’s visitors had to wear funny slippers over their shoes to protect the floor, so we were all scooting and sliding around.
I ran around the castle for an hour and a half, and then I rushed to take a train back to Innsbruck in time to see the World Cup. I showed my support for Germany by sporting red, yellow and black clothing, and I was so happy they won, to the chagrin of many Austrians, who aren’t the biggest fans of Germany’s soccer team.
The weekend turned out better than I ever expected. Many people were shocked that I decided to travel by myself. I was terrified, but despite a few minor drawbacks everything worked out really well. It would have been a lot fun to travel with my friends, but this experience allowed me to go at my own pace and see the places I truly wanted to see. It made me realize just how independent and brave this trip has made me become.