Mannheim, Germany and the Charming ‘Petite France’ in Strasbourg

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the fairytale-like village of  Bacharach. It was such a magical little village, and I was hesitant to leave.

bacharach to mannheimWe had a train to catch at 10:46, however, to get to our next destination, Mannheim. We leisurely made our way back to the Tourist Information Office on the main street from the park to retrieve our stowed luggage and then waited patiently at the train station platform for our train to arrive and whisk us away.

The journey lasted about 2 hours and traveled about 100 miles south. The train tracks followed the Rhine River for a while affording us some scenic views of several of the towns along the opposite banks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the big turn in the river known as the Loreley, a large rock on the bank at a narrows of the Rhine River near Sankt Goarshausen, however, the train tracks turned away from the river and traveled through the non-descript countryside until we reached Mannheim.

We eventually disembarked the train at the busy train station in the center of Mannheim and began the process of trying to get our bearings. We needed to figure out how to exit the station on foot heading in the direction of the river. We knew that the hostel we would be spending the next couple of days was in a park-like setting nearby between the train station and the water. To gain some assistance, we approached a man who looked like he worked at the station. He didn’t speak very much English, however. Luckily, the older gentleman he had been talking to did, and he began providing us directions.

Before he finished, however, he seemed to be thinking to himself and then said, “If you don’t mind, I think it would be easier if I just walk with you and show you how to get you where you need to go. There is a lot of construction going on that makes it hard to explain.”

That was such a kind gesture. We were extremely grateful for the offer and accepted it. He was right; it was a somewhat convoluted path to try to follow, but eventually, at the end of a tunnel, we found ourselves outside again and at the entrance to the park we were looking for. He pointed in the direction of the hostel, describing which park pathway to follow to get us to it.  We thanked him profusely for his assistance and began making our way in the direction he proposed.

We had barely started walking, however, when a very kind person, this time, a middle-aged woman who was walking nearby, approached us and began talking to us. “I couldn’t help but hear the conversation you were having with that gentleman. The directions he provided to you will get you where you want to go, but it’s actually the long way round. I think I can show you a more direct route if you prefer.”

She proceeded to show us another path to follow instead, and we could see the hostel through the trees as she pointed out the way to take. After thanking her profusely, we started following the route she proposed instead.

It never ceases to amaze me how helpful total strangers can be. Often they seem to appear out of nowhere to assist a traveler.  I call them ‘guardian angels.’ As we made our way, we could see her walking through the park off in the distance but always in view. We surmised that she was keeping an eye on us to make sure we got where we needed to go. When we arrived at the hostel, we waved to her to say ‘Thank you,” and she happily waved back assured we had made it. We entered the bright and cheerful modern environment we would be enjoying for a couple of days and were quite pleased with what it had to offer us.

IMG_9740

 

Their accommodations were excellent, and after having had a few days in a row of continually being on-the-go, we were ready to kick back and relax, catch our breath and recharge our batteries.  They had very tidy facilities, and they also served delicious and affordable meals.  The staff on duty were extremely professional and helpful, as well. The rest of the day, we enjoyed walking in the park, watching little kids play in the playground, and just hung out.

The next day Grace still needed a bit of downtime to finish recharging her batteries, although Errin and I were raring to go and see what Mannheim was all about. While Grace hung out at the hostel on her own, Errin and I caught a bus into the central part of the city to have a look around. The helpful young women at the front desk of the hostel provided us with a city map, showed us what bus line to catch and where to catch it nearby, and happily brought our attention to the various sights we might enjoy seeing.  Armed with this great information, we set off.

We took the bus route that made a complete loop to serve as an overview of the city, allowing us to familiarize ourselves with the layout of the town. After completing the loop, we started from the beginning and began checking out each individual sight one at a time using the city bus like a ‘hop-on, hop-off’ tourist bus you see in most major cities.

Our first stop was the bustling and colorful marketplace in the city’s center at Marktplatz. It was full of all manner of delightful sights and smells!

There were wonderfully aromatic fruits and vegetables; yummy looking locally-made cheeses too!

IMG_9755

There was delicious looking fungi and all sorts of flora!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bordering the square was an impressive old Catholic church called Saint Sebastian, so we ventured inside to have a look around.  On the other side of the tower is the Old Town Hall, but we didn’t go inside that, however.

During WWII, air raids on Mannheim completely destroyed the city center. Mannheim was heavily damaged by aerial bombing raids conducted by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the U.S. Air Forces. The RAF razed the city center of Mannheim with night-time aerial bombing, which also killed thousands of civilians. As we sat in the market square, we tried to imagine how terrifying it must have been for the local inhabitants of this city while being so heavily bombarded and to watch their treasured buildings and way of life crumble before their eyes.

Mannheim is unusual among German cities in that its streets and avenues are laid out in a grid pattern, leading to its nickname “die Quadratestadt”- “The City of Squares.”  After visiting Market Square, we visited another one complete with a fountain containing some unusual and quirky characters.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_9772

The eighteenth-century Mannheim Palace, which was the former home of the Prince-elector of the Palatinate, Frederick IV (and only surviving son of Louis IV), now houses the University of Mannheim.

 

IMG_9771

The city’s tourism slogan is “Leben. Im Quadrat.” – Translated as “Life. Squared.”

The civic symbol of Mannheim is “der Wasserturm,” a Romanesque water tower completed in 1886 that rises 200 feet above the highest point of the nearby art nouveau area called Friedrichsplatz.

IMG_9775

We wandered around this monument for a while and enjoyed its water features and carvings.

When I climbed the stairs of the tower and went around to the backside of the tower, the view that splayed out before me was surprising! Quite stunning!

IMG_9779

Needless to say, we spent quite a while enjoying its charms, cooling our feet and soaking up the beautiful scenery all around us! 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_9793

 

Mannheim proved to be a lovely spot to relax and recharge our batteries.  The following day, Wednesday, July 31st, we were back on the road again, heading a little further south to a town called Karlsruhe. We were just about finished with our week-long tour of the Rhine River.

Karlsruhe turned out to be a total disaster! It was horrible! Without going into much detail, and getting into negativity, suffice it to say that the independent hostel we had booked called Guesthaus Kaiserpassage left A LOT to be desired!  I usually stick with the sanctioned and official YHA hostels. Still, this time, I was willing to try one that wasn’t because there weren’t any YHA hostels available in that particular area.

To make a long story quite short, the hostel was very poorly signed and extremely difficult to find. Besides, it was in a kind of a ‘seedy’ neighborhood. The rooms and facilities seemed ok inside and were acceptable upon the first inspection, but we soon realized that the ‘shared restroom and shower facilities’ weren’t just shared with other women as is the case in most hostels, but we had to share them with men as well! We didn’t like that at all!  We were not accustomed to having strange men walking into a bathroom or a shower area while we were naked and showering.

We also became aware that there weren’t other fellow travelers staying there with us. Instead, it appeared that the other guests were people who actually lived there temporarily. That makes for a whole different dynamic altogether.

We spent one night, and an uneasy one at that, and adjusted our schedule accordingly.  I strongly suggest that if you ever consider staying at that particular hostel – DON’T!!!!!!!! I actually contacted Hostelworld afterward and filed a formal complaint, which I have never done before, it was that bad!

Instead, we headed for the train station to catch a ride to our next destination, Strasbourg, where we had planned to rent a car from Enterprise Rent-a-Car for the following week while we visited Bavaria. Luckily when we arrived in Strasbourg, Enterprise was right next to the station, and they were able to provide us with a rental car a day ahead of schedule. We had to wait for a couple of hours for the car to be available. What a beautiful place to have to explore while we waited – Petite France in Strasbourg!

It is the historic quarter of the city of Strasbourg in eastern France. It is located at the western end of the Grande Île, which contains the historical center of the city. The River Ill splits up into several channels that cascade through an area that was home to the city’s tanners, millers, and fishermen in the Middle Ages. It is now one of Strasbourg’s main tourist attractions as part of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We started walking around this delightful quarter and found it quite intriguing and abundant in charming and colorful buildings.

IMG_9820

We hadn’t eaten for a while, so our first stop was at a quaint little outdoor cafe with great food and some delightful gelato to enjoy while we soaked up the scenery.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was a good thing that we had something to eat because pretty soon, the shop windows were tempting us with all manner of scrumptious treats!  Oh my goodness, it makes my mouth water just looking at them here. Imagine how I actually had to wipe drool out of the corner of my mouth when I could smell those freshly baked goodies!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_9847

IMG_9848

We walked along the peaceful canals in the warm sunshine, taking in all the sights and smells of this lovely little corner of heaven-on-earth until we found a sweet little shady spot under a weeping willow to quietly rest under as our explorations were coming to an end.

IMG_9842

IMG_9844

IMG_9823IMG_9841As we worked our way back to the train station, we continued to encounter all manner of fun sights like tourist trains, children’s carousels, and all manner of creative pieces of art in shop windows and on the sides of buildings.

IMG_9849

IMG_9850

We eventually made it back to the beautiful glass structure of the Strasbourg train station, got our rental car and were soon on our way later that afternoon to the town of Singen in southern Germany.

IMG_9851

We had made reservations online with another hostel in Singen called Art & Style, and unlike our last hostel, we were quite pleased with what we found.

It was a colorful, artful, welcoming, and genuinely warm and inviting and an absolutely delightful experience.

IMG_9900There was funky and quirky art murals on the walls, and the staff was so welcoming and friendly. The breakfast in the morning was outstanding, and the service remarkable. There were a lot of families and young people staying at this vibrant location, and unlike the previous place, I highly recommend you stay at this quirky and fun hostel. It’s an experience in its own right!

IMG_9904

We finished off the day with dinner at a local Mexican Restaurant called Bandoleros. We were quite happy with the decision we had made earlier in the morning to change our plans. We were content that we had trusted our instincts and found something more suitable and to our liking.

The following week, as I mentioned before, we began exploring Bavaria. Stay tuned for those adventures! There will be many more posts to follow with all the details of that lovely land!  Until then…

 

 

Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s