An Epic Herbstferien Adventure


What a crazy week and a bit it’s been. Since my last post, I’ve visited 9 cities, 7 of which I’ve never been to before. Last week and this week is Niedersachsen’s Herbstferien (literally ‘autumn holidays’) which is kind of the equivalent to half term in England, but we get two weeks off. With Phoebe having the same Herbstferien as me being in the same Bundesland, and the fact we knew a load of people in other places, we thought we would have an epic Herbstferien Adventure, and here’s what it went like:

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Saturday 20th October: Bremen (Reunion, Freimarkt, and a very wet log flume)

The Bremen Freimarkt

On Saturday, a bunch of English language assistants in Niedersachsen, as well as a few French language assistants from Hannover, headed to Bremen to check out the Freimarkt. I wasn’t too sure what to expect before we got there, but on arrival I quickly realised it was another German-like festival, including fun music, beer, food, and lots of funfair rides including dodgems, as well as a log flume which went backwards for half of the track, and got 5 unfortunate FremdsprachenassitentInnen a lot more wet than expected, but it was definitely worth it.

It was really lovely seeing all the familiar faces, most of which I haven’t seen since Altenberg which was a month and a half ago now. And, of course, there was Phoebe, who I did admittedly see the other week on her random free trip to Hannover, but this time I had chance to properly have a nice chat with her, as well as get excited for our adventure which lay ahead.

Towards the end of the day after we chilled out in the café of Karstadt for over an hour, we decided it was time to head back to Hannover. Unfortunately for us, the train times didn’t work out too well, meaning those with a ticket had time to run for the train, but those who didn’t have a ticket (such as Phoebe) didn’t have time to catch the train. Thus me and Phoebe, along with a few others, stayed in Bremen for an extra hour, which I’m really glad we did because we went back to the Freimarkt, this time in the dark, and the colourful lights were fantastic. Though we didn’t have too long to admire the whole place, it was nice to have a quick dash through the Markt with all the colours from the various food stalls and massive funfair rides.

After finally catching a train back to Hannover, Phoebe and I made it back to my mentor’s house who kindly made space in her daughter’s room for Phoebe to sleep. Then it was pretty much an early night after buying a pizza from Lidl and splitting that, ready for our train to Münster the next day.

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Sunday 21st October: Münster – (Vapiano, Aasee, and a beautiful ISS view)

Sunday was our first long-ish train journey of the Herbstferien adventure, and saw us leaving Hannover around 10:30am, changing in Bielefeld (not much to see there when you have 51 minutes to try and find the Rathaus and fail miserably whilst carrying around bed covers in the scorching heat). We finally arrived in Münster early afternoon after making friends with a girl on the train who was studying for a big English exam, and met with Rae who had kindly made her way to meet us.

It may be difficult to see, but the star-like spot at the top is the ISS.

My initial thought of Münster was basically ‘bikes’. They were everywhere – being both ridden, as well as just parked up along the streets. Rae told us there are actually more registered bikes in Münster than there are people, which I wouldn’t not believe from what I saw. After a nice stroll through Münster carrying our tons of bags, we got back to Rae’s, dropped off our stuff, then headed out for another stroll, this time with our hands free. Münster is a lot more beautiful than I thought it would be. I’m not sure what my idea of it was, but it definitely wasn’t as beautiful as it actually is. We went to Vapiano (the really nice Italian place which is pretty famous here in Germany), followed by an Eiscafé (ice cream café) which are unbelievably popular here. I had an Amaretto ice cream. It was so good.

On our way home, we walked past the Aasee (Lake Aa), and decided to go take a closer look, which I’m really glad we did so. Sat with our feet dangling over the lake and a beautiful view right ahead of us after the sun had just set, Rae suddenly realised the ISS (International Space Station) was going to be flying over in any minute. Sat in suspense waiting, Rae spotted it out of nowhere, and there it was – the ISS slowly but surely flying right over us. It kind of felt magical in a way.

After being amazed by the wonderful sight, we headed back to Rae’s, got into PJs, and with a cup of tea we sat and watched How To Train Your Dragon. Because, well, YOHOYA.

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Monday 22nd October: Cologne(Dom, Currywurst, and a cable car over the Rhine)

How could we have a trip to Nordrhein-Westfalen and not go to Cologne for a day? We couldn’t. And so we went to Cologne where we met up with Shane, Emily and Joe. To start off with, me and Phoebe hit the Dom, whilst the others wussed out and stayed in Starbucks. Though with the heat we had, I don’t really blame them, but the climb up the Dom (despite having done it just 2 weeks before) was good fun.

Trying to be artistic with photography in Rheinpark.

After that, Shane came up with a really nice idea of going on a cable car which goes over the River Rhine, which turned out to be fantastic. We split into two cars, with only 4 people allowed per group, and before we knew it, myself, Phoebe and Rae were in a car going over the Rhine, as well as over a naked spa which was interesting to say the least. On the other side of the River, we got off and walked around the Rheinpark which was a brilliant sight due to the weather we were having. We walked down to the coast and I embarrassed myself a few times with my poor stone-skimming skills, after heading back to the cable car to pass back over the Rhine, and of course the naked spa, ready for some food.

And there was no better place to go than Culux. I mentioned Culux in a previous post, and it’s basically a pretty damn good Currywurst restaurant, which I suggested we go to so Phoebe could try it out. An Original Thüringen sausage, curry smokey sauce (spice level: mild) and thin chips down, and we thought we’d head to see if we could find the Rathaus, which I’d surprisingly not seen yet despite having been in Cologne 6 times. We finally found it after a good search, and, though it was quite pretty, I have to unfortunately say I was a little disappointed, but then quickly realised the Cologne does have the Dom, so I can’t really complain. There was also a Glockenspiel like the one in Munich which started to play as we headed back to the Hauptbahnhof.

Arriving back in Münster, we repeated the night before and got into our PJs with a cup of tea, but this time in front of the cartoon version of Peter Pan which was absolutely brilliant as I haven’t seen it in years, yet I could remember a lot of the words.

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Tuesday 23rd October: Düsseldorf – (Ice cream, sunglasses, and lots and lots of buildings)

As Rae had to be at work on the Tuesday, meaning Phoebe and I were left to fend for ourselves in the Nordrhein-Westfalen world, I suggested we hit Düsseldorf today, with it being the capital of Nordrhein-Westfalen (and thus my challenge of going to all the capital cities of each Bundesland in Germany began – that’s 16 in total, and to date I’m exactly half way there). After first leaving the

Trying to be as touristy as possible.

Hauptbahnhof, we realised how industrial Düsseldorf actually is. It seemed to be building after building, construction site after construction site, and we were starting to get worried that Düsseldorf is perhaps not the best place for tourists.

Luckily, we found the Altstadt which turned out to be wonderful, and we also passed a fantastic-looking lake/river/some other water containing hole with trees rowed along it either side. We even stumbled across a modern church, Johanneskirche, which played creepy music – the kind of music you’d expect to hear on The Legend Of Zelda when a bad guy was about to attack you (or at least that’s what it sounded like to me).

With the sun beaming down on us, it seemed necessary to buy ice cream, and I topped off the look with a map in hand, as well as cheap sunglasses which I bought from H&M a good few weeks ago, literally a day before the weather suddenly turned rubbish. So at least I got some use out of the 4€ beauties this year.

Düsseldorf seen and done and ‘bought the t-shirt’d (well, postcard), we headed back to Münster, where Rae actually managed to catch us dawdling on her way to the shops as Phoebe and I had gone out of our way to take more nice photos of the Aasee.

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Wednesday 24th October: Tübingen – (Train, pepperoni, and a self-tour in the dark)

Before we knew, it was time to leave Münsterland and Rae, and Nordrhein-Westfalen in general, and head down south to the state Baden-Württemberg, where Tübingen, a small and beautiful University town is. And it just so happens we know someone there (what a coincidence..!) and that is the wonderful Beth. The train journey was long, and involved a change in Stuttgart, but there was a small part of the journey I remember, and that’s just after Koblenz when the train track ran along the River Rhine – it was a pretty beautiful sight and made the, in total, 6 hour 50 minute journey seem that little bit more bearable.

Learning the hard way.

After arriving surprisingly on time (you just never know with Deutsche Bahn), we met Beth at the Hauptbahnhof and we went back to hers to drop off our stuff. Having a lecture at 19:15 (these Germans really don’t mind about having late lectures), Phoebe and I were left to discover Tübingen ourselves in the dark, and clever me forgetting to pick up the map Beth offered us didn’t help things. We did manage to see a few things, despite the light limit, and we ended up having food in a kebab shop (classy. But it’s quite common here in Germany) where I had a tasty kebab, and Phoebe learnt the hard way between the English ‘pepperoni’ and the German ‘pepperoni’. Basically, if you order a ‘pepperoni pizza’ in England, you get a pizza with salami on. If you order a ‘pepperoni pizza’ in Germany, you get a pizza with jalapeños on it.

Later, we met with Beth, as well as Stef who comes from Canada and also studies at the University of Tübingen. Due to being tired, we didn’t really get up to much, other than go out for a couple of drinks, where I tried my first Radler (basically beer mixed with lemonade) which was a lot tastier than it sounds. Returning back to Beth’s, Phoebe and I made our plans for the next day after realising we could see Tübingen fully on Friday, and we had a whole day to go wherever we wanted.

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Thursday 25th October: Reutlingen – (Coffee shop, hair brushes, and a night out with the Mädels)

Our random choice of destination turned out to be Reutlingen, purely because it was the closest thing on the map which stood out on a map as being a relatively big place. We soon realised after leaving the Bahnhof how big it is – and it was a lot bigger than we expected! Population-wise, it’s roughly the same size as Exeter, and it was absolutely beautiful. There were some wonderful buildings dotted around, and the autumn atmosphere definitely helped.

The Tübinger Tor in Reutlingen

At one point, me and Phoebe learnt that German dialects are definitely something different to English accents. We innocently headed into a coffee shop due to it being a little chilly outside, and the lady behind the bar looked up at us and said something along the lines of ‘Gedringee?’ which I was so shocked at I actually stupidly replied with ‘huh?’. After her repeating her two more times, we then realised she was saying ‘Getränke?’ (meaning ‘drinks?’) so we ordered our coffee and hot chocolate.

After somehow leaving both Phoebe’s hair brush and my comb at Rae’s, we also made our way to a D&M (pretty much German version of Boots) where we re-supplied ourselves with hair brushing accessories, and even brushed our hair in the high street of Reutlingen, just because we could. We also found the Rathaus. It was unfortunately the ugliest Rathaus I’ve seen in Germany so far, basically with the resemblance of dull, grey office blocks.

We headed back to Tübingen where we met Beth and had some Currywurst, and just before Beth went to a lecture, we bumped into Stef, so we helped her with her shopping ready for the Mädel’s Abend. Mädel in German means ‘girl’ (or at least it’s a colloquial form with the proper word being ‘Mädchen’), and I was told of the Mädel Abend the day I got to Tübingen, but was luckily also told I was allowed to join. We had Maultaschen which is a Swabian dish (which tasted to me like sausage roll meat tucked in pasta and was really tasty), which originated due to people not being allowed to eat meat on Fridays due to God, so they hid the meat in the pasta so that God wouldn’t see that they were actually eating meat (those sly dogs!)

We eventually made it to a club after a bit of hassle, and it was nice to go out on a night out again after it being a little while since I last did so. The music taste of the DJ gradually got better throughout the night, and even got to the point of songs like ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ which we all got rather excited about. A taxi home and lots of water and nutella on toast later, it was bed time, ready for my second chocolate factory visit in Germany.

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Friday 26th October: Waldenbuch/Stuttgart – (Chocolate, Phoebe’s twin, and a massive delay in Stuttgart)

No Herbstferien adventure would be complete without a trip to a chocolate factory, so on Friday we headed to a town called Waldenbuch where a (or ‘the’… I’m not quite sure if there’s another somewhere else in Germany) Ritter Sport factory is. Ritter Sport is a brand which basically does chocolate with so many different flavours. It was exciting to see that the price of the chocolate in the shop was actually very cheap, and we actually witnessed a fair few people stock up on their Ritter Sport, filling baskets up to the brim due to how cheap it all was.

The cool model which gave away free chocolate.

The museum part itself was alright, but surprisingly short, though it did have a free chocolate bit which was in the form of a small model which required you to press a button and watch a little toy truck go around a path with a chocolate in its trailer. That amused me quite a lot. There was also a big collage picture outside the shop, and one of the people on it looked exactly like Phoebe. At first I mentioned it thinking it looked a little like her, but it wasn’t until Phoebe herself was freaked out by the likeness when I realised she may well have a long lost twin out there somewhere.

We headed back to Tübingen with bags full of chocolate in hand, and Phoebe, Beth and I had one last walk around Tübingen after heading back to Beth’s to pick up our stuff, ready for the next chapter of our epic Herbstferien adventure, which took the form of Stuttgart to see Anne.

After just missing a bus, and then just missing a train, it didn’t look promising, but soon enough we were sat in an Italian restaurant (where we pretty much set up camp with all our stuff), and the waiter seemed amazed that our German was so good. In this restaurant, I also had the best pizza I’ve had since being here in Germany. It was fantastically mushroomy and salamiy, and I purposefully saved two pieces so I could take it back to Anne’s for breakfast the next day.

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Saturday 27th October: Stuttgart – (Snow, the TV Tower, and a life-threatening walk through a forest)

Waking up on Saturday was very excited due to what we saw out of the window – snow. It was hard to believe that just 5 days previously I’d been walking around Düsseldorf with my ice cream and sunglasses, and now down south we were waking up to snow, which didn’t appear to be settling.

Due to Stuttgart being so big, we decided to stay in it for the day rather than venture somewhere else in Baden-Württemberg, and together with Phoebe, Anne and Beth, we decided we were going to do the TV Tower. It was snowing quite a lot in the city centre, but it was more of an inconvenience if anything in the sense that it was definitely not settling and it was just making us wet and miserable. We then caught the tram up to the TV Tower, and that’s when everything changed. Out of nowhere, snow surrounded us – all over the trees, all over the road… everywhere. It was an absolutely amazing view, and also exciting due to more snow appearing the higher our tram climbed.

How can you resist such an exciting-looking trail?

We finally got to our destination and got off, immediately becoming very excited at the amount of snow surrounding us. We then headed towards the TV Tower, when we noticed a small trail through the forest which looked too enticing to simply walk past. Literally a second before we began to walk into the forest, a massive tree across the road behind us collapsed due to the weight of the snow. It was going to be a dangerous walk through the forest, but we did it safely. Branches were falling everywhere, as well as big lumps of snow (though unfortunately no snow fell on anybody’s head), and it was basically like a Winter Wonderland.

We made it to the TV Tower about 10 minutes later, and due to the bad weather, you couldn’t actually see the top of the tower which was extremely scary indeed. Regardless of that, we bought tickets to go to the top of the tower, where we could literally see nothing whatsoever, and we froze instead. Luckily, there was a café where we enjoyed cake, and I also enjoyed a coffee. We dared the top of the tower again, this time for about 20 seconds, before heading back down and reversing our route through the forest, where a tree in front of us collapsed in front of our eyes. It was so much fun.

After enjoying our second Vapiano trip of our adventure, as well as unsuccessfully hunting out a Sparkasse which seems to be impossible in Stuttgart, and not to mention the train delays, we finally made it back to Anne’s and went for an early night ready to discover yet another new city the next day.

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Sunday 28th October: Heidelberg – (Apfelstrudel, the Schloss, and even more Maultaschen)

Though it was a very early start to head to Heidelberg (though Beth and Stef had to get up an hour earlier to travel from Tübingen), it was definitely worth it. I’d heard of Heidelberg before – Belinda sent me a postcard from there when she came to Germany but I didn’t manage to see her, Ilka mentioned it to me, and even Rae recommended it to us, all of which were good reasons to head there ourselves to see what it’s like. And it was really pretty. We got the train to the Altstadt rather than just the Hauptbahnhof, and we discovered some lovely places during our initial stroll as we waited for some friends of Stef to meet us.

The view of Heidelberg from the Schloss.

We went into a café where Phoebe and I had more Maultaschen (with it being a southern German food we don’t think we’ll get much chance to eat it again up north!), and we followed that by a cheeky visit to the next door bakery where I had some delicious Apfelstrudel (and not actually burnt unlike Belinda’s special homemade version). Afterwards, we headed up to the Schloss (‘castle’) which was amazing. The Schloss is on top of a huge hill, meaning a fantastic view of Heidelberg from above. It was just a shame that the weather was so bitterly cold!

After seeing more pastry goods through a shop window, I bought myself a ‘Schneeball’ (‘snowball’) which is kind of a pastry/biscuit thing, and I got eggnog and marzipan flavour. It’s divine. I still haven’t finished it yet, but they apparently last for up to 6 weeks, so there’s no rush there (but I’ll probably finish it all in the very near future).

Heidelberg seen and many photos taken, we headed back to Stuttgart, where this time we had no problems at all with transport unlike the past two days where that had been delays. It was another early night job with Anne having work the next day, but I did manage to get a video of Phoebe singing ‘Baby Monkey!’. Facebook, you’ll be seeing that one soon, I’m sure.

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Monday 29th October: Ludwigsburg/Hannover – (A tour, more Maultaschen, and Scheiße Deutsche Bahn)

Due to Anne having work at around 9am, and our train not being until 15:30, we needed something to do, and this turned out to be in the form of meeting with Beth and going to Ludwigsburg to check out the big castle we kept hearing about. Making our way to the castle (as well as finding a Sparkasse which we’ve never been so excited about before), we saw some really nice areas of Ludwigsburg, but not the whole city due to the castle being conveniently not too far away from the Hauptbahnhof.

The entrance to the Rezidenzschloss in Ludwigsburg.

We spontaneously bought tickets for a tour which just so happened to be starting in 5 minutes. Long story short, the tour was a lot longer than we’d anticipated, but there were some really interesting bits. I can’t really remember much about the details of people who lived in the castle and stuff, but I’m sure you’ll find something easily on Wikipedia! We then went for some food (Maultaschen Cheeseburger) and headed back to Stuttgart.

All was going well in terms of travelling when we caught our train at 15:30. Then, we hit Mannheim at around 16:45 and shit hit the fan – the train stopped at the platform, and the train speaker man basically told us the train isn’t going any further due to a malfunction, so we had to get off, panic a little bit, then work out how we were going to get back to Hannover. Luckily, we spoke to a lovely man and woman who were also heading to Hannover, and they calmed me down a little, and I also plucked up courage to have a chat in German with one of the staff members of the train we were asked to get off of.

To cut things to the chase, we got on a train about 40 minutes later in Mannheim, then had to get off at Frankfurt to change trains where there was a further delay of 20 minutes, and then we finally got on a train to Hannover, and ended up back in Hannover a whole 90 minutes after we had planned, and this resulted in eggy bread for tea and bed. Due to me having to wash and dry my covers, however, I’m still up at this silly time in the morning, and I will be heading to bed any moment after I post this post.

But that was our epic Herbstferien adventure. Technically, it hasn’t quite stopped for Phoebe yet, seen as she’s staying in Hannover until Thursday, and we’ll be visiting the Zoo, as well as generally exploring Hannover in detail, but as for me – I am now back in my beloved Hannover (though admittedly still have another week off), which I honestly actually missed when I was away for just 8 days. It was an absolutely wonderful feeling of relief hearing and see all the familiarities in the Hauptbahnhof and on the tram home, and it was also nice to actually know where I was going, rather than guessing which we sometimes did throughout the past week. It just makes me dread the day my year abroad ends and I’ll have to leave Hannover for good.

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