After hours of pouring over trip-advisor and lonely-planet,”our do it yourself holiday” began . Last minute packing, changing the itiniery and worrying about the weather, vegetarian food, water… this wasn’t our first international trip , but the first to Europe. However we weren’t prepared for one thing . Language . English is not as universal as we think it is.

Day one : A journey that saw us fly across three countries, four cities in two flights and one super fast train. From Bangalore to Frankfurt via Dubai . It was extremely hot in Dubai as we stepped out to meet friends . And then to Frankfurt only to catch a train from the airport to Heidelberg via Mannheim . As we boarded the ICE – Super fast , little did we realize that our lives for the next fortnight would be ruled by these tracks .

Our first challenge was to reach the hotel at around 11 pm from the station . We had booked the hotel online and the instructions read that the front office would be shut around 8 pm , which meant that there was no one to call. We were told to punch in our confirmation number on a machine which will then drop in the key . A little bit of excitement and lots of nervousness, as the magical key dropped . Day one ended and the lights shut down on Hotel Rose in Heidelberg. .

Day two dawned and the drizzle started . There was a nip in the air as we made our way to the station .. Our lives were then ruled by a small piece of colourful paper – the map. Be it to the market, the station, or to another city, our eyes got trained to reading them.

A couple of trains from Heidelberg and we were into fairy tale land . Castles and fortresses standing atop lush green vineyards beckoned us as we cruised down the Rhine from Rudesheim till Koblenz. Folk lore from the Middle Age, stories of romance and treason and lives of countless counts, dukes, lords, kings and queens were narrated as we passed along every picturesque village replete with its church, clock tower , castle and cottages .

Cruising down the valley was like a dream, the kind of stuff fairy tales and picture post cards are made of . Even the names had a romantic allure… Bingen, Lorch, Bacharach …Each castle had its own story that dates back to the Middle Ages. Every village has a charming railway station tucked away and you can choose to explore the castle and hop onto a train or get back on the cruise …

We climbed up to see the Schonburg Castle perched atop a hill overlooking the Rhine . The Lords of Schonburg were one of the famous families of Rhein who date back to the 16th century and today the glorious castle is now a hotel . The village was ideal, Utopian like with a dreamy railway station, an old museum, a church and idyllic houses decorated brightly with flowers

Silent, charming and picture perfect- there wasn’t a soul as we walked up the vineyards, taking in the scenery and the beauty. We lost our way and came upon verdant greenery with a stud farm from where we saw the breathtaking view of the castle… For miles and miles around, there were just meadows with a few horses grazing

We returned to Heidelberg around 10 pm, where fireworks at the castle greeted us in the night . A colourful sky and an even colourful medley of people gathered around the bridge and soaked into the festivities. We were lost in the crowd , literally and were clueless how to get back –when we suddenly heard words in our native tongue being spoken . We chanced upon fellow Indians (Kannadigas from Bangalore) who were living there and they guided us back . Its amazing how we find Indians all over the world today

Day 3 was a beautiful day..bright , warm and cheerful as the sun seeped in . A brisk walk down River Nectar showcased one of the most charming cities where art and nature merged .. Wooden bridges across the river flanked by mountains. …. A student town that boasts of the oldest University built in the 14th century, a castle built by Prince Elector Ruprecht III in the same period, it has been restored thrice . Besides the glorious sculptures, it houses an ancient royal cellar and a brewery which gives you an amazing high!

Almost 30,000 students study in this city of contrasts, where you can feel the vibrancy of youth , set in the beauty of the ancient past . There is a certain charm about the old town as you stand transfixed gazing at the sculptures and the carvings . Even the cobbled pathways filled with shops and restaurants add to the feel. If Bismarkplatz, the city centre is pulsating with energy, the old town is steeped in history where time stands still…

It was time to leave .And we walked … The sheer efficiency and punctuality of the public transport and the politeness amazed us wherever we went. There were so many people we asked for directions and almost everyone went out of their way to assist tourists like us. Especially at the information centre of DB at every station. Its amazing how safe and secure we felt in Germany, even at late hours .as we changed tracks to the next destination.


  1. GMG 19 September, 2007 at 04:05 Reply

    WOW! Great pictures, interesting text, superb travelogue! Recognized some of the places, and the buildings look as glorious as ever. The castles are also stunning. Glad to see that you had a terrific experience on your first visit to Europe. One day you should travel south and west. When the land ends, you’re here: Lisbon, Portugal!

  2. Kalyan 19 September, 2007 at 09:53 Reply

    I guess you had an wonderful time in Germany as well as Europe. It was lovely reading the description of the places. Language does create a problem & in our country only, so many times we have to face this problem….and the Pics- just too good as usual…very Beautifully captured shots…lovely reading!

  3. Smita 19 September, 2007 at 11:35 Reply

    Great snaps – Relived those days at Heidelberg – just few weeks ago. No picture of the city centre? It was quite pretty with the castle at the back. Remember to buy the miniature houses typical of the Rhine valley

  4. Pijush 20 September, 2007 at 02:47 Reply

    Nice shots and narration. Language is always a problem in non-eng speaking nations, but some of them are quite good as well. I think the weather was bit cloudy which took out bit of the color from the pics. But still they came nice.

  5. Bendtherulz 20 September, 2007 at 11:54 Reply

    Hey Backpakker….so you are still reeling under the too much travel syndrome… 🙂
    Good to see Germany under different light, I am so sick of seeing only the Industrial towns…lol….one day when I am through with Himalaya’s then yes Bavaria woods will be my destination….!!
    Till then I see world through your eyes !!

    Safe travels ~
    Tk care ~

  6. Bendtherulz 20 September, 2007 at 12:01 Reply

    I am not sure if my comment would appear….lol….anyways once again trying !!

    Safe travels and yeah thanks so much for visiting my blog. Sorry my visit is bit delayed….! I really admire all your travels and easy narration….!

    Tk care ~

  7. backpakker 21 September, 2007 at 09:57 Reply

    Stephanie-Welcome to backpakker.I am sure you will have a great trip.Waiting to read about Spain and Morroco.
    Mark-thanks..more to come..but I think the first few days were the best
    GMG-Your posts were so useful when I planned the trip…the castles were straight out of fairy tale books. Hoping to visit Portugal when I travel down to europe again .
    Kalyan-thanks for your words…Indian languages are not so difficlut to understand especially if you know a couple of south indian languages and Hindi of course, but true-if someone speaks to me in Bengali, I wouldnt understand :)but I always thought English was universal and I was quite surprised when it wasnt
    Smitha- waiting to read your post am sure you had a great trip .. Heidelberg is still fresh in my memory..yes bought the houses . I was so ” trigger hungry” that I just kept clicking snaps – have just selected 40 out of 200
    Pijush – The weather was constantly changing-rain , cloudy and then sunshine …the contrast in my settings was very stark in fact I touched a few of them up- but in some screens it looks a bit drained of colours
    Gopal – Thanks…I am just a vagabond for now… literally too -:)
    bendtherulz-thanks for both your comments.I consciously avoided the big towns- even I was amazed that Germany was so beautiful

  8. bluemountainmama 21 September, 2007 at 21:12 Reply

    looks like a positively delightful trip! i am not a world traveler, only having been to ireland and scotland.

    you are so lucky to be able to explore like you do….and that your husband loves going along.

    i enjoyed the photos and narrative…

  9. backpakker 22 September, 2007 at 23:31 Reply

    Smitha -just went through the posts..Im already nostalgic..I was in heidelberg on sep 1 and hence missed your post..coming up next-freiburg and the black forest

    Lorenzo-Have a great holiday and I hope to read your post as well .

    Bluemountainmama -Thanks …Im sure you would travel too . Your trips must have been wonderful . Travelling is like an obsession and I just want to see as many places as possible

    Mridula – Thanks .It was a wonderful holiday- sad its over ..

  10. Leigh Russell 18 October, 2007 at 13:31 Reply

    Hi, amazing photos. You’re right, Rome is full of art, everywhere you look. I’m in awe of your adventurous spirit. All my adventures are fictional, I’m afraid. I sit at home and write…. Do you read crime fiction?

  11. Sandeep 9 October, 2010 at 09:24 Reply

    Good to read this.. Brought back my memory of going along the river Rhine in an ICE 🙂
    Have to say DB Bahn is simply the best for travel across western Europe!

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