Germany - First Solo Trip

Trip Start Sep 01, 2007
1
Trip End Sep 09, 2007


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Monday, September 10, 2007

Day 2 (St Goar): I met some really nice German old people. As this is my first time taking German train at St Goar, I am not too sure where to board the train. The group of German people lead me the wrong way but we were lucky that the station man saw us at the wrong side of the road and summon us back using German. Lucky I tag close to the group of German old people. I got on the train just in time. Good start! However, there are some things that I don't get it. First is that I didn't see any machine to validate my ticket for the train ride. I heard from the forums that the penalty for not validating your ticket can be quite an amount, when I board the train with the conductor checking my ticket, my heart was actually beating quite fast, worried that she will asked me to pay the fine for not validating the ticket. But she didn't say anything about that. Another thing that I don't understand is the timing printed on the ticket and the actual timing of the arrival of train. Perhaps the timing printed on the ticket is the latest time that I can board the train??
I went to Bacharach for the Marksburg Castle and I realised that each town has its own church and each were as unique as it is. Had a steep walk up to the castle. Not only am I blessed with good weather, I am also blessed with joining the guided tour which does not have too many people. Go in the morning is a good choice. This is quite crucial to me because lesser people will mean that it is easier for me to find spot and opportunity to self take photo :) I had my first lunch at the castle. The Brutwurst was delicious & the fries are not as oily as what you can find in UK. It only cost me 3.60 Euro for the sausage and fries. Although the food is cheap, the drink is expensive. I got myself a bottle of ginger ale and it cost me 2 euro (almost half of the food). The bread is nice too. They baked the bread until its crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Cruising on the Rhine River is actually quite boring and its very slow. Occasionally will spot some nice & unique buildings but most of the time there is nothing much except the river and the greens. I do hope that they can have either music along the way or more narration. The cruise that I took brought me to the town of Bacharach which has one of the most unique and beautiful buildings. The cuckoo clock is very famous here in Germany but they are quite expensive.
My first hiccup here in St Goar - I boarded the return cruise which does not goes to St Gauhausen where I need to board the passenger ferry back to my hostel in St Goar! It is frustrating because I confronted the person in charge asking what I should do next, they can't speak good english and in the end one of them told me to take the cruise with them till the next big town which is one hour away! I am angry because the person who checked my ticket when I board did not check carefully and let me board this cruise without realising that the end destination is wrong for me. In the end, due to their incompetence, I approached a family at Assmannshausen to check if there is any train station there. Luckily for me, the father know how to speak english! He is kind enough to bring me to the train station. I bought a ticket at 648pm to St Gauhausen but when the time came, the train did not stop!! I began to panick because the sky is turning dark and I have to wait for another hour for the next one (if it do stop). I went to a restaurant to check the train timing there. Only than I realised that it was a sunday! There is no train at 648pm on sunday so the next one is at 748pm. Right now, I felt like crying. What should I do if I missed the train again? What if I cannot find my way back to my hostel? Its scary especially I am travelling alone. I am also worried that there are no more passenger ferry to St Goar the time I got to St Gauhausen. Argh!! What a day!! I rushed for the ferry and luckily the ferry work till late even on sunday night. I hope that everything will be better from now on. I asked myself what could be worse than getting lost and the language barrier right?
Word of advice for people travelling alone, try not to plan the start of your trip on a weekend especially to town because practically the tourist office is closed and its hard to obtain a map than.

Day 3 (Koblenz/Trier): Rain rain rain... Early in the morning its raining! The clouds seemed like a passing clouds so hopefully in Koblenz/Trier will not rain. I was able to taste germany wine this morning. The wine is good to me because its a little sweet yet not so sweet and its easy and smooth to swallow. If I am not back packing, I might consider getting one bottle back to UK (I do recommend people to taste/buy the wine).
When I reached Koblenz, its still raining. If raining is not enough, the journey to the youth hostel make it more worse. First of all, the hostel can only be reached by a bus and secondly, from the bus stop, its another 1.5km up a steep slope (18 deg steep, got a photo as my evidence). It is possible to get a chair lift up but with my backpack and the rain, it is not possible at all. With the heavy rain to accompany me and the steep slope, I finally reached the hostel drenched and tired. However, the view up at the youth hostel is good. The hostel was built within a castle so you got to go through the castle to enter the hostel. Kind of amazing to me. I am staying inside a castle. Whatever it is, I do not recommend staying at this hostel for solo traveller. It does seemed safe enough but than its quite demoralising climbing the steep slope alone and also the walk in the castle seemed scary. Perhaps I have been staying in a safe country for most of my life that's why will behave like a little paranoid person. Haha.. Take note also that this hostel does not provide key to the room so if better to bring all valuables with you whereever you go. I had wanted to go to Trier and make my way to the Eltz Castle but according to the tourist information person, not only have to travel to Trier, from there still need to take a train to Moselkern and hike almost an hour uphill to the castle. The rain would have made the way muddy so I have no choice but to cancel my plan. In the end, I went to Trier and see the Porta Nigra which is introduced in the lonely planet as the 'blackgate'. The city gate has beenblackened by time. It's held together by nothing but gravity and iron rods hence it is unique. Time and weather was definitely not on my side today.
Oh yah, apart from my journey, I realised one thing. The train conductor do not check tickets often, perhaps only for long journey. Wasted so much of my money! But being a good citizen, rather waste a little money than to pay any penalties should I be caught. So far, I find that West Germany is really a green place. Comparing towns and cities in Germany, I think I prefer towns at the moment. It is also better to stay in a place for at least 2 days to orientate yourself and to really enjoy the moment there. It is hard travelling alone in the sense that a lot of things and details got to take note of. There is no one to share the burden or stress. At this point in time, I don't think I like travelling alone. I guess being not able to communicate is my greatest barrier over here. Felt kind of helpless at times. Amidst my complains, I have actually learnt a lot of valuable lessons which no one can teach or able to imprint lesson into your mind except for your own experiences. Things that I have to force myself to do in order to learn to be more brave and thickskin and independent all come natural now.
Back to the trip, Porta Nigra was not that fantastic at all. Trier is basically like a student town just like in cambridge or oxford. A lot more young people here. Its a pity that I do not have enough time to tour the maketplaz. It seemed like a nice area. Internet here is very cheap compared to St Goar. In St Goar, it cost 6 Euro for 1hour! Maybe because its monopoly, that's why the cafe charge high price. Here, the intenet cost 1 Euro for an hour! That is more than half time cheaper!
Seriously speaking, time flies. I have been in Germany for 3 days now. Another 5 more days and I will be back. I cannot believe that I am so brave. Give me a pat on my shoulder. :)
As I was taking the train back, I noticed that Tries-Karden is a place for water sport. There are sports like canoeing, boating, yatching. During this time of the year, a lot of caravans can be seen parking there. The river is lovely and peaceful. If I am not wrong, that river should be the Moselle River. Rhine River is more flowing. I would love to go back again to try cycling and canoeing. If cycling, I would cycle along the Rhine river. A lot of travellers actually do so. Met a couple who do that and she sounded fun. The route along the rhine river is straight-forward with no up/down. Just a long stream of road by the river side. That is my journey for today.

Day 4 (Cologne aka Koln): Start of the day, RAIN!! Did not sleep well last night because my whole body was aching! I think I will need to go for some massage when I am back in Birmingham & when I am back in Singapore, I think I will need to see a chinese SinSei, think there is some problem with my shoulder. A good backpack is really important. I think mine is not really that comfortable type so it add on to the pain in my shoulder. People, invest in one that is really good. The first thing that I noticed today is that why is it that some people do not have to pay anything or show any pass when they board the bus? They got up from the back door and that's it. Hmm... I could have saved some money if I have know the trick (if there are in the first place)? Another thing that I have learnt from this trip is that when purchasing train ticket and was given a few options and when you cannot understand a shit what was written on the screen, always goes for the first option. Well, so far it works for me pretty well. :)
Argh!! Now than I realised that Koblenz Ehrenbreitstein station was near to my hostel. So anyone of you who are thinking of staying in the castle youth hostel in Koblenz can consider taking train to Koblenz Ehrenbreitstein station and walk to the hostel. Might be able to save the 2.20 Euro bus ticket one way.
In the past 3 days, I have seen quite a number of graffities on the walls in the subway, on the trains etc. I must say that Germany graffities are actually very artistic and colourful. It is like a piece of art painted on walls. So far I have not seen one that is either ugly or dirty. Regret not taking the photos in the subway at one of the town that I visited. I can still remember one of it is a painting of a big fish. I don't know why I am drawn to this picture but it does leaves an impression.
The first thing that wow me when I reached Cologne is of course its DOM, cathedral. It is magnificent, majestic and unique. This architechture simply draws you towards it. I have read from Lonely planet that it is worth climbing one of the tower for its view (509 steps altogether and it takes around 30 mins to go up and down, all of it for 1 Euro for students). While I was climbing, I felt a little giddy because the way up is through a spiral staircase which goes round and round and round. Occasionally there are a few windows to look out but even so, being narrow and spiraling, it is giddy. When I reached the top, the view is really worth the climb. It is a pity though that the surrounding were all wired up to protect the building outside. At one point of time while I was climbing up, I am a little petrified because for someone who is slightly afraid of height, it is a challenge. The thing that I am most afraid of is to climb a flight of stairs which you can literally see through the metal steps. SCARY!! After the first few hundreds of steps, there is a "resting point" which is the bells chamber. Beware!! Because the bells will strike every half an hour or so. I must say something. there were 3 Japanese middle aged men climbing with me. They are strong! They can even surpass me and I don't see them panting too much!! Strong!!! Hee..
Next I went into the Cathedral but they were having a mass than so I couldn't walk into the middle to take photos or take a look. In the end, I tour the exterior and part of the interior and went straight to the Roman museum recommended by Lonely planet which is situated just beside the Cathedral. What Lonely Planet mentioned is true. Even if you do not fancy Roman history, this museum is interesting with lots and lots of sculptures to see. Amazingly, I spent almost 2 hours there (I can really spend my whole time in a museum). After this visit to the museum I decided to go back to the Cathedral again not wanting to waste my money and trip there. Luckily for me, the mass was over and I am just in time for the 230pm english guided tour. It cost 4 Euro for students and it is paid to the tour guide directly. The tour guide is a German and speak excellent English. The tour began with a walk into the history of the Cathedral which I shall not bored all of you here. To find out more about that, check internet. I found this website really good (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/germany/cologne-cathedral .htm ). She brought us into an area to see the relic of 3 Magi (only with the guided tours) It was said that this relic contains the skull with crown of the 3 magi. The bodies/skeletons have been wrapped up. Every year on the 8th Jan, they will open the relic and the gates to allow public to pray and take a close look. The container were made of gold and there are figures on the exterior. According to the tour guide who has confirmed what I have heard in Poros, Greece that in those medieval time, figures/statues/carvings are not suppose to have expression. They should not resemble any human beings, that is why almost all saint have the same expression than. She mentioned that it is not very christian to have the expression.
After this tour of the relic, we moved on to see the first glass window which is still in good condition after hundreds of years. That particular window is special because on the left side, its the old testiment while on the other side is the new testiment. You can clearly see the similarity and difference between the two. This window was placed on the east side of the Cathedral so that when the sun rises, it will light up that window and according to medieval time, the people believe that this is a way of god talking to them and making them see the light. Since olden day people do not know how to read and write, pictures and signs are what they look out for.
Another section that is worth mentioning here is the area which shows Jesus Crucification. That is known as Jesus moment of Death. The reason being that most cathedral and churches showed jesus being crucified with open eyes and blood on the wood and feets being nailed together while for this, it is his moment of death because his eyes were closed with his head bending slightly on the shoulder, the bleeding has stopped and the feets were placed side by side to symbolise that he has floated to heaven. I am able to appreciate better after the explaination. Isn't it amazing to be able to see Jesus moment of death? I strongly recommend joining the tour.
 After one last look at the Cathedral, I went to SHOP. However, I find it a bit uncomfortable to shop in a place where language is a barrier to me or maybe because I shop only to kill time and I don't really have things that I want to buy. Nonetheless, I did buy a fleece jacket which has the feature that I want and so far I think only Germany have. The sleeves at the wrist has a hole in which the thumb can go through and it acted like a glove. Its a pity that I do not have my German friends with me because I want to taste local food but due to language barrier its hard for me to order :(
Tomorrow I will be going to one of the loveliest place, ROTHENBURG!!

Day 5 (Rothenburg): Its lovely travelling in the early morning. Its 745am and the view with the combination of sun, low level cloud and a little fog makes the town look stunning. I am looking forward to Rothenburg. Some information on taking the EC train, if there are no reservation on the train ticket, you are allowed to sit in any of the 2nd class cabin. I got a hard time dragging my backpack to realise that (the walk way is really narrow and some people simply don't know the meaning of give way). Anyway, the first that greeted me in Rothenburg today is RAIN again. Cannot really trust Europe weather afterall. I got a map from the tourist information center and began my walk. Since its a small town, everywhere is walkable. There are no buses within the town anyway. Since I have two days here, I decided that I should visit any museums and take any tour tommorrow. Today is dedicated to knowing the town. When I reached here its 11am and the clock above the tourist center stuck and there are 2 little windows which open (like a cuckoo clock) to reveal two figurines. These two figurines speaks about the legendary "Meistertruck" (Master Draught). According to the brochure, "this legend goes back to 1631 when catholic troops attacked and occupied Protestant Rothenburg. The Catholic General Tilly threatened to plunder and destroy the city. On a whim, he promised to spare the town from destruction, if a Councilor managed to empty an enormous tankard containing 3and 1/4 liters of wine in one draught. The fomer mayor Nusch mastered this task and in doing so, he saved his city." 
A lot of tourists today (especially Japanese & Chinese). Its a little funny because when I told some Germans that I going to Rothenburg, they have never heard of this town before and yet so many tourists visit this town. I guess it happen in all countries, hence I am making it a point to know Singapore well enough when I go back. Everything in Rothenburg tells a story. The St Jacob's church is famous for its altars "Heilig Blut Altar" aka Holy Blood Altar. It is originates from a relic, a drop of Christ's blood. This relic turned Rothenburg into a major place of pilgrimage with a growing number of pilgrims in the Middle Ages. Another attraction here is the German x'mas shop. It is so nicely decorated, you will feel like a fairy tale come true. Believe it or not, I almost got lost in one of the xmas shop (that one with the German xmas museum). Perhaps I must admit that my sense of direction is really bad but well, I survived the German tour so far right? The churches in Rothenburg cannot compare to the Cathedral in Cologne. After seeing the Cathedral in Cologne and Rosslyn Chapel in UK, it seem like all other cathedral and churches are so plain and normal and similar.
Back in the hostel, I befriended 2 girls. One is from Japan and the other one is from Holland. I clicked really well with the Holland girl. She is one of my idol in the trip. She cycled from Holland all the way to Germany. She is the 2nd biker I have known from this trip. Maybe I will try that along the Rhine river for my next German trip. She is really brave. She not only cycle alone, she camp alone too. I believe if I want to, I will be able to survive pretty well too.
By the way, I have tried the town famous snacks called "Schenneze" (or something like that, can't really remember). Its basically biscuit roll into ball type. I bought the chocolate hazel flavour because I find the original a bit plain. However, I find it tasted a bit like Singapore chinese biscuit, those that twirl around and sugar coated. You will normally find it when praying. I also tried their sausages. Its delicious!! I can never get tired of sausages. Today quite tired so think will turn in earlier. My holland friend invited me to join her for a night tour but my calves are too swollen to walk anymore. Sigh, as much as I would like to join her, I can't. Okay, turning in now. More tommorrow.

Day 6 (Rothenburg): I have a personal alarm clock this morning although the timing is a bit too early for me. On the same floor as me are a bunch of students from Germany. They were shouting, banging the doors, running etc. Horrible!! I wanted a late start today but got to get out as soon as possible. First destination I had wanted to go is the "Detwang" which is the oldest part of Rothenburg but I got a little lost and in the end I ended up at the double bridge. The view is nice anyway. I did not venture to "Detwang" because I am not sure if I will get lost again. The route there seems like I have to walk past a forest so being alone, I decided to give it a miss. After the morning walk, I went to the Criminal Museum. Have been looking forward for that since yesterday when I reached here. Its really interesting to see how the law worked centuries ago. The tools that were used for torturing are really cruel. Luckily they only have paintings illustration and not real photos. Remember the japanese invaded Singapore and uses the water treatment where they would fill the prisoners with water and step on their stomach? Well, since medieval time, this method has already exist. There is one particular torture which leave deep impression is the one where the person was tied at the hand and legs and the guards will slowly pull him/her vertically, stretching him/her. Ouch!! I wonder if he/she will become taller after freed. Haha..  I spent almost 2 hours in the museum before I made my way to the train station to enquire and purchase my ticket to Heidelberg. Luckily I checked one day earlier. I wanted to purchase the Baden Wurttemberg ticket but it seemed that I am in the Bavaria region so if I were to travel to Heidelberg with the Baden ticket, I would need to purchase the Bavaria ticket too so in the end I bought the normal ticket which does not cost too much (33 Euro).
After that I went shopping in the town. I had always wanted to get the beer Stein for my sister and father. They are unique and its good in keeping away flies or anything of the sort because it has a cover but the price kept me away form buying it. However, in the end, I still bought two because I feel that if I don't get it, I will definitely regret it when I go back. Do not leave in Regret, that's my moto. Haha.. Now I am waiting for 8pm to come for the night watchman tour. This tour was recommended by Lonely Planet and also from a few forums. Well, time for the tour! The english night watchman tour has a lot of people (definitely more than 30). I didn't really expect that actually. Talking about Singaporean being Kiasu, wait till you join the tour. Those tall guys (when I say tall, they are tall, taller than the night watchman which should be aroung 1.75m) kept walking so fast to be in the front! Me being short, always got blocked by them! In the end, I have to walk in front of them to get a "safe" view of the night watchman. Apart from them, there are a few older couples too, walked so fast almost small jog to get to the front! So never comment tha Singaporean are very kiasu in a bad way!
Back in my hostel, I have another 3 room mates. All from JAPAN! WOW... There are so many japanese in Rothenburg. There is one particular Japanese who is touring the world for a year! This is her 4th month and she has been to Asia (Bali, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, China, Nepal etc), England and after Germany, she will proceed to Austria, Africa etc etc. I wish I have that kind of money as well. Travelling alone around the world is not an easy thing I feel. She is really cool. Another thing that I found out today that I don't really like is that those Foreign kids always have that kind of thinking that as long as you have an Asian face, you must be from Japan. What logic is that? I have encounter a few times now (in Germany and UK). They will walk past me and start saying "Konichiwa!" Although I know a little japanese but I am not from JAPAN! Don't get me wrong here, this does not mean that I dislike Japanese, its just that I have my own nationality and I am proud to be a Singaporean so for any kids out there, do not be so naive and do that to every asians you met.
Oh no, the kids are making noise again! When will this stop?? Sigh.. there is another which kind of piss me off. I think that staying in a hostel, everyone got to be more considerate and understanding, that's how hostel run isn't it? I went to bed early and was the first one to sleep. The lights were still on when I slept and I thought that my roomies needed the light to read or do their things so I didn't do anything. However, at around 12am (when the kids noise finally subsided after a few talks by me), the lights were still on and the mad thing is that everyone else were asleep!! The last person who needed the light cannot be bothered to switch it off!! My goodness!! Some of the rather sleep with the blanket over their head than to switch it off. Sigh.. what a night.

Day 7 (Heidelberg): This morning I am so sleepy. Maybe due to sleep too late last night (due to the noise and the light). Normally I will enjoy the view from the train but today I just sleep. Heidelberg new town is just like any student town. Feeling a little lethagic today so will not be going to the old town. I went to the Heidelberg zoo which is right next to the hostel. The only thing that I think the zoo has done pretty well is that you can come really close to the animals. Some only seperated by a glass (Gorillas section) and some are only a few feet away (at the lion and tiger section, of course they are still caged). Those who know me will know my liking for gorillas and family. I spent a long time just observing them. They are such "human" animals!! Simply like to look at them.
The youth hostel and around the youth hostel do not have any international phone so anyone who would like one will need to take the bus to city area for one. Also, the hostel charged 1 Euro for 10 mins of internet usage! Way too expensive (it is the same as in St Goar). Better to get to town for one. Throughout my stay, the best hostel I must say is in Heidelberg. The shower is superb (not extremely spacious but comfortable enough), the heater in the shower room was on too so when you get out of the shower area to dry yourself, you won't feel cold at all. They also have vending machine which sells hot water and soup!! That is so nice when the weather turn cold. Nothing major happen today so I will end here than.

Day 8 (Heidelberg): I got to know 2 Germans who came here individually to find accommodation before their school start in Oct in Heidelberg. Such a coincident that they came for the same purpose, staying in the same hostel, same room and in the same university. The only difference might be the course in which they are taking. One of them is taking the BA in Physic (5 years) and the other is taking master in Biology (2 years). At this point of time, I am quite determine that if I ever have my own children, I will let them choose which country and which course they want to take their Bachelor. I realised that unless you are form universities like Harvard, Cambridge, everywhere else the universities are similar. Not a lot of people has heard of NTU nor NUS unless they are in the education trade. 
Travelled to the old town in the morning and climbed the stairs to the castle. Seriously speaking, the castle does not have as fantastic view as the one in Scotland (Tantallon Castle) but it is still unique in its own way. The walls have statues in them and it does look spectacular. Unfortunately, I did not take any photos on that because taking photos all day so feeling a little tired to snap them. I just want to enjoy the view purely. While touring the castle, I got to befriend a photographer named Koby. He worked there and earn by taking group photos for tours in front of one of the wall with all the statues. This is his part time job only. He still have another permanant job. He is an experienced traveller and we talked mostly on things that happened to him during some of his trips. Its nice getting to know people especially those working in places of interest because he secretly let me into a chapel which is only possible with a guided tour. He also showed me the banquet room which will be closed down for renovation next year. How lucky am I!! However, our friendship end when he wanted to exchange skype detail and I am not one who like to chat on phone and he is one who cannot type well... haha.. so we did not keep in touch after that. I do appreciate his help in getting me to those places for free though.
It is true that when people travel alone, they tend to see more things, experience more and learn more. After the castle, I went to a few places. One of which is recommended by Lonely Planet. The "Brass Monkey". Legend said that touching the mirror will bring $$, the mouse should be children and the hand (I forgot what it means). Of couse for me, I touched and rubbed the mirror a few times. Hee.. Next, I went to the student prison. A waste of money. It is only 3 storey high with lots of graffities on the wall and ceiling. As expected, all graffitties are in Germans so I am not able to appreciate the humors drawn on the wall.
The street along the old town has a lot of cafeteria and departmental stores. I went shopping for a while before going for the 615pm organ musical in the chapel. For student, it only cost 4 Euro and lasted for more than 1.5 hours. Seriously speaking, I had set the expectation too high. I thought the music with the organ will be very grand and holy but I don't find it as fantastic. The piece is Bach's music. After a while, I start to notice people leaving and starting to doze off. I guess lots of classical musicians like to use sharp/flat notes that's why it sounded a bit odd (to me) and boring. I left in the middle of the music because I have to catch a bus back to the hostel for my backpack and proceed to the airport for the night.
At the airport, its another story. Unless you are one who are experienced, most of the people tried to sleep comfortably but not many are able to so do (including myself). There is a lady who slept on the floor and she seemed comfortable there. Actually I find a sleeping mat is very useful to use in this area. Sleeping bag is useful too but because it is more expensive, I do not want to dirty the exterior so in the end, I tried sleeping on the chair. The chair is definitely not a good place to sleep. In the end, I only catched a few hours (on off on off) of sleep. Felt so relieved and tired when I reached back home. 
That is the end of my Germany trip. Hope you have enjoy like I enjoy. Take care!!
 
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