Heidelberg & Frankfurt, Germany
Heidelberg welcomed us with beautiful blue skies, unlike other cities in Germany. We parked about three kilometres out from the centre and, despite the perfect weather, planned on catching a bus in. By the time we located the bus stop we were almost at our destination, so we ended up walking the rest of the way. It ended up being a good decision, as the picturesque route along the river was reminiscent of the stunning scenery we saw in the Black Forest.
Our first stop was Heidelberg Castle, sitting on a hill overlooking the city. A steep ascent led us to the entrance of the red brick ruins, where we had clear views over Heidelberg and the countryside. The most impressive feature inside the Castle was an enormous wine barrel, large enough to hold 222,000 litres of wine. And just for kicks, sitting on top of the barrel was a dance floor. I reckon that would make a fairly memorable party. The rest of the Castle was typically castle-like, the only other notable sights being an apothecary museum (which we skipped over) and the geometrically-designed gardens.
The city of Heidelberg itself offered a couple of pleasant squares, but mostly we just wandered around. Unfortunately Christmas souvenirs had popped up in every available space, detracting from the charm of the place. The best non-Christmassy store we came across was one selling dozens of different liqueurs, poured straight out of large oak barrels. The idea was to bring in a bottle (or several bottles) to fill up with your desired flavour and then be charged per 100 mL. This could have been dangerous for us - we have a weakness for inspired ideas like this one. We managed to score a tasting of the cherry liqueur, which was amazing, and we were disappointed we had no empty containers on us. Sadly, we bought nothing, but I would love to find something like this back home. Luckily, Danny has enough alcohol stashed away in the car to last us a while.
After a long walk back to the car we drove to Frankfurt, the distant skyscrapers lining the horizon acting like a beacon for us. All the tall, steel-and-glass buildings took us by surprise - I couldn't remember the last city we saw that was this modern. It was rare to see one structure taller than the city's cathedral, let alone a whole city of them. The scene reminded both of us of Melbourne.
To add to the Down Under theme, as we were walking along a nondescript street we passed by an Australian shop that displayed Vegemite in the window. We almost ran into the store to see if it was true. It was – they had jars and jars of it for sale. Of course it was ridiculously expensive, so we only splurged on the smallest size but we were over the moon about it. They also sold tons of Australian clothing, hats, boomerangs, Tim Tams, and even beer that wasn't Fosters. Danny was almost tempted by the Coopers beer but again managed to resist buying more alcohol. This store was the highlight of our day.
Frankfurt is full of museums, and this meant we had some tough decisions to make. We bought a museum card, giving us entry to several galleries, and picked a recommended contemporary art museum to start off. It turned out to be massive. The artwork was spread over six floors and two buildings, and it took us forever to wander through it all. As per usual when we view contemporary art, we hated about 80% of it (or didn't understand it), but found some appreciation for the remainder. On display was the largest collection of Warhols and Liechtensteins I had ever seen, making the never-ending visit worthwhile.
Afterwards, we were exhausted and thought a drink might revive us, so we headed over to the Sachsenhausen area, a bar district known for their locally made Apfelwein. I didn't know what I was in for, but it turned out that "apple wine" was basically a flat apple cider poured straight from the tap. There was a street full of small taverns all selling the drink, but the clientele (I could only describe them as local bogans) had us moving on after only two bars. At least the alcohol was satisfying.
Frankfurt felt like the most multicultural city we had stopped in on mainland Europe, which meant every style of cuisine was on offer for dinner. Our craving for Thai food led us to a tiny, almost hole-in-the-wall style restaurant, where the food was cooked in a big wok right behind the counter. We were lucky to nab one of only four tables in the place, and stared as our meals were prepared. The dishes were huge and arrived with heaps of garnishes, allowing us to make it as spicy as we wanted (this should be the norm with Thai cuisine). The food was exceptional, which of course meant we stuffed ourselves full and felt slightly sick for the rest of the night.
The following day we headed over to another museum, the State Museum for Art. The first entrance we came across was for a temporary exhibit, so we explored this first. It was two floors of artwork by one German artist, who we are not big fans of, so we sped through here. We then walked around the outside of the building looking for the entrance to the main hall, but found nothing. When we finally asked someone how we could get inside, we were informed that the whole place had closed for renovations. It was a disappointing start to our day.
Instead we ventured over to the Architecture Museum. Neither of us had been to a museum solely dedicated to architecture, but we thought, why not? The first two floors were full of designs and small models, which didn't inspire me much. As Danny had studied a bit of this at school, he understood far more than I did. The third floor was an exhibit on how dwellings have changed over time, starting several thousand years BC to the present. This section was much more layperson-friendly, and I surprisingly enjoyed it. The gigantic models for each time period were constructed with unbelievable detail, and we could see how the towns and cities we have passed through this year fit into this timeline. Who knew an architecture museum would be so captivating?
Lunch was pre-packed Vegemite sandwiches. They were outstanding, one of the best lunches we had eaten in some time. It appears as though our palates are as sophisticated as a five year old's.
Once the sandwiches had been scoffed down, Danny headed off to a Design museum (that he wasn't thrilled with), while I ambled around the city. The old town retained its pre-war, timber-framed buildings, differing wildly from the skyscrapers surrounding the area. The cathedral was an unusual salmon colour on the inside but otherwise unremarkable. We both managed to find the market hall independently, where we filled up on complimentary samples and tasty treats (we didn't really need this straight after lunch, but we can't say no to free food). Danny did make one purchase: raw guineafowl legs, which he took back to the van and stewed with veggies, thyme and fresh truffle for dinner (a first for both of us). The advantages of a chef are endless.