All good things must come to an end, and my trip with Amanda was no different. Our last stop was to visit her friend, Charlotte, in Darmstadt. Many people asked me “Why are you going to Darmstadt?” It’s a fair question. Darmstadt is a college town near Frankfurt. It seems like a good place to live, but it is not exactly a tourist destination. As usual, that did not stop Amanda and me from having a good time.
Charlotte met us at the train station on Saturday and took us to her apartment. She then took us on tour of the downtown area. As a born and bred Darmstädter (person from Darmstadt), Charlotte made an excellent tour guide. Did you know, for example, that the French destroyed Darmstadt during World War II for no reason other than to practice bombing Dresden? Neither did I! (Back then, Dresden and Darmstadt were comparable in size.) After our tour, we had beer at the Ratskeller. A Ratskeller is sort of a generic name for a restaurant in the Rathaus (city hall). They are usually pretty good, and Darmstadt’s Ratskeller didn’t disappoint. Next was dinner at Charlotte’s favorite place on Earth, Grohe Brauerei Darmstadt. We split the meat platter and an order of hard-boiled eggs in green sauce (a Frankfurt specialty) between the three of us. Luckily, the meat platter also came with “Groher Geist,” a schnapps that is drunk for medicinal purposes after gorging oneself silly on various animal products. It is quite possible that I have never been that full in my life.
Glassy-eyed and glistening with pork grease, we decided it would be a good idea to go for another walk. We headed up a hill to the park with the Russian Orthodox Church on the Hill. It is a beautiful building, but since it was dark, my photos didn’t turn out. Next to the church stands a building called the Hochzeitsturm (Wedding Tower), but everyone calls it the Five Fingers Tower because it resembles a large glove. Again, darkness = no photo. Luckily for us, we were ready for another beverage after our long hike up and down the hill to the park. Charlotte to us to a bar in the student area called Hobbit. This was obviously a good sign. At Hobbit, we tried a real Hessen specialty: Äppelwoi. Äppelwoi (pronounced “eppel voy”) means Apfelwein (apple wine) in the Hessen dialect, and is basically hard cider. Amanda and I had both heard about Äppelwoi and definitely wanted to try it. Charlotte did us one better and ordered us each a Lanternchen. Lanternchen (lit. “little lantern”) starts with a Mass, the giant glass beer mug everyone associates with Oktoberfest. You take a champagne flute, fill it with cherry wine, and put the whole thing into the mass. Then, you fill up the whole mass with Äppelwoi and enjoy. It’s called Lanternchen because the finished product looks like a lantern. We sipped our Lanternchen, learned that you NEVER use two hands to drink from a mass, and walked home. It was a good day.
The next day, Charlotte took us to Heidelberg. Heidelberg is a really cute city on the Nekar River. It boasts a university, an old castle, a lovely pedestrian zone and an incline. I had been there once already with my cousin and was happy to return again. We took the Bergbahn (incline) to the Kaiserstuhl, the highest point in Heidelberg. The Kaiserstuhl offers an excellent view of the city, the surrounding area, and the paragliders. After taking in the sights, we rode the incline down to the castle. We took approximately one million photos and then took the incline back down into town. Once in town, we went to the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge). A brass statue of a monkey sits at one end of the Alte Brücke. It is designed in such a way that your head fits into the statue. The monkey holds a mirror. Heidelberg legend holds that a visitor who touches the monkey’s paw will return to the city again, while a person who touches the mirror will become wealthy. Since I touched the paw in 2004 and did return to Heidelberg, I am convinced that the legend is true. To err on the side of safety, I touched both the palm and the mirror. The funky, brass monkey!
We experienced another Heidelberg legend that day, namely the Studentenkuss (Student’s Kiss). Back in the days when female students could not be around men without chaperones, the chocolaterie Knösel developed this candy so that men could show women their affection without being vulgar. In lieu of a real kiss, ladies received the chocolaty Studentenkuss. Amanda, Charlotte and I are nothing if not ladies; hence we had to try the Studentenkuss for ourselves. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t buy another one. It was, however, a nice treat to end the day in Heidelberg.
On the drive back from Heidelberg, we stopped at Schloss Frankenstein. That’s right- we went to Frankenstein’s castle. It was pretty much your standard castle: a tower, a chapel, a functioning catapult and knights. Yes, there was a knights’ camp happening on the castle grounds. If you have never seen a knights’ camp, just picture the campsite for Civil War reenactments or a mountain men encampment and replace the soldiers &/or mountain men with knights. While I was taking photos, the knights invited us down to the camp and offered to torture us. Chivalry is, in fact, dead.
We spent the rest of our time in Darmstadt having coffee with Charlotte’s parents, eating Döner at Lapping (DEEEElicious), playing Looping Louie, watching Two and a Half Men and going for walks. We visited Rosenhöhe (the city rose garden) and the Waldspirale (The Forest Spiral), which is an apartment building designed by the architect Hundertwasser.
Darmstadt may not be a tourist destination, but we had a great time. I got to eat southern German cuisine for the first time this year (hello, Käsespätzle) After Darmstadt, Amanda and I parted ways. I think I speak for both of us when I say we had an excellent trip. We ate, drank and were merry. We saw as much as we could and got along swimmingly the whole time.
Ich möche mich bei Charlotte noch mal herzlich dafür bedanken, dass wir bei euch pennen durften.
Thanks for traveling with me, Amanda!
- Grohe Brauerei: home of the meat platter and brewers of Charlotte’s favorite beer
- Darmstadt Ratskeller und Hausbrauerei: restaurant and brewery
- The Russian Orthodox Church
- Rosenhöhe: Park and rose garden
- Cafe Chaos: crazy food offerings, including Flammkuchen, and a vending machine museum!
- Hobbit: student bar with Lanternchen on the menu
- Heidelberg: official site
- Bergbahn: incline going all the way up to the Kaiserstuhl
- Studentenkuss: student kiss
- Schloss Heidelberg: Heidelberg’s castle