Tuesday, February 1, 2022 | Written by Claire
Our journey to Germany was hectic to say the least. For our first weekend at GTL, my friends and I decided to venture into the rustic German towns of Freiburg and Heidelberg, well known for their authentic foods and traditional architecture. The journey was a mere four hours away from Metz and a quick transit in several smaller stations along the way. After a quick dinner, we were bundled up and ready to face the blistering winter night. We expected nothing but smooth travels… Sike.
From the first leg of the journey to the very end when we arrived in Freiburg, we encountered numerous obstacles on the way. With the first train delayed 15 minutes and our next train having a transfer time of merely 12 minutes, we had little hope of staying on schedule. As we sat anxiously in our seats, legs bouncing and fingers furiously swiping across our phones every few minutes or so to check the clock, the train miraculously started to make up lost time. Somehow, we made it to the station on Platform 2 with four minutes to spare. Right as we were about to heave a deep breath of relief, we looked up at the departure board in dismay. There, shining brightly in the dark winter night, was a large 24….Platform 24. Time seemed to freeze for a split second. Then, as if we all knew what to do, all eight of us, sprinted down the dark corridor, backpacks slapping against our backs and boots thudding against the ground. We were a sight to see. Eight Americans running top speed across a small local train station to the furthest platform where we saw a small, local train paused on the tracks. Out of breath and sweating bullets, we managed to plow through the snow, collapsing into our seats right at the last second. I’d give us a pat on the back for that one.
After a few more hours, we made it to the outskirts of Freiburg where we checked into a quaint, modern-looking hotel that seemed to be in the middle of a construction site. It was 11 PM and the streets were dead. Not a single soul or restaurant light graced the streets. It seemed quite eerie, but after a long journey, we were famished. There were multiple restaurants and pubs that were opened according to Google maps, so we decided to try our luck. To keep the story short, turns out there was a 10:30 PM curfew and we ended up with a jar of pickled hot dogs and a bag of chips in our hotel room, courtesy of the hotel concessions. A great first meal in Germany indeed…
The next morning, we woke up to a nice dusting of snow on the ground and a delicious egg and turkey sandwich topped with pretzel bread from a famous German bakery. As we started to travel further downtown, the snow started to fall faster, painting a beautiful winter wonderland before our very eyes. The first stop was the Freiburg Cathedral, an ornate masterpiece made of marble and stone, decorated with huge windows of stained glass. The silence within the Cathedral itself added to the sheer beauty and divinity of the structure, creating a haven for those worshiping there. The most notable detail, however, was a map that showed the aftermath of the bombing in 1944. All of the buildings surrounding the Cathedral were completely obliterated but somehow, the Cathedral stood, unscathed. It was as if God had shielded the place from danger, a thought enough to bring goosebumps on my arms. Truly unbelievable.
As we exited the Cathedral, we stumbled upon a large outdoor market, filled with stands of vegetables and spices. What really caught my attention was the mouth-watering smell and satisfying sizzle of the sausage cooking right before our eyes. There, we found the gem of our entire trip. We all ordered a sausage topped with either mustard or curry and then we all ordered another, minutes after we devoured the first. The German Sausages, known as Bratwursts, were nothing like the usual American hot dog. My favorite was the Weisswurst. It was a white sausage, speckled with herbs and other spices inside. Every bite came with a mouthful of tender, juicy meat that had a springy yet crisp texture, unlike anything else I’ve tasted before. The most surprising was the variety of flavor it offered: it was savory yet sweet with its caramelized coating, mildly spicy yet zesty with lemon, and firm yet tender with grease. In fact, my mouth is watering at the thought of it at this very moment.
The rest of the Freiburg trip was filled with hikes and other scenic views. Right as we were heading towards Heidelberg, we were greeted with hordes among hordes of people chanting, waving flags, and beating drums. It was a full-blown protest as people held up huge anti-vax flags every few feet or so. The trams were completely shut down and roads were blocked. The beat of the drums and the thunderous chants made the streets vibrate of angry fervor, heated with political drive. It was massive. The rows of people stretched further than the eye could see, and the crowd didn’t pass until we were almost out of the downtown district.
We were now on to our next destination: Heidelberg. As the sun began to set, we could feel our stomachs gnawing itself in hunger. The streets at night were also emptier than expected in a large city. Yet somehow, we stumbled upon a Schnitzel restaurant, where all eight of us crowded into one giant table. Having never even heard of “Schnitzel,”, I was appalled when the menu had nothing but Schnitzels… Nonetheless, I ordered the traditional Jagerschnitzel and a bowl of fries just to give it a try. Best decision ever. The Jagerschnitzel came out on a huge plate with two slabs of pork doused in savory gravy. The meat was tender, melting away in my mouth. It was breaded to perfection and the gravy paired magnificently with the fries. On the side was a crisp German salad. Alternating between a bite of warm gravy, a tender slice of Schnitzel, and some cold salad, my mouth was experiencing an explosion of flavors. To add to the mood, the restaurant owner was highly accommodating, entertaining us with hilarious stories and even recommending some other places to eat in Heidelberg. If I could, I would definitely go back there to try another one of their delicious Schnitzels in a heartbeat.
Finally, to end our trip, we visited the Heidelberg Castle, a huge structure detailed with intricate carvings that also survived multiple bombings in the past. It sat upon a hill next to the city, granting us a beautiful overlook of the city below. The view can be better conveyed in pictures than in words.
If you ever find yourself looking for a convenient place to go for a weekend, definitely hit up Freiburg and Heidelberg. Although the journey there was a bit chaotic, the experiences and delicious foods we tried in Germany were unforgettable. Overall, a 10/10 way to start my semester at GTL.
Stay tuned for other travel stories soon!