HEIDELBERG, GERMANY

Our Visit to the Valley, Rich Paschall

For most of my visits to Strasbourg, France I returned home by going directly to Frankfurt airport for my flight.  It is about two and one half hours away by Lufthansa bus, slightly longer by Flixbus as they usually make one brief stop.  My friend from Alsace has driven me there as well. This year we had to change the plan.

Our return flight left early in the day so our options were to stay overnight near Frankfurt, or get to some place were we could make the journey in a short period of time.  We decide to go to Heidelberg for two nights.

Heidelberg

Heidelberg is a university town nestled among surrounding mountains in the Rhine Rift Valley.  The Nekar River flows through the valley with the town being largely on one side and the Heidelberg mountain rising on the other.  At just 48 miles from Frankfurt, it was a good place to be within early striking distance of our morning flight.

The population of the city is approximately 160,000 with a fourth of that said to be students at the renowned university.  Founded it 1386, it is Germany’s oldest and one of the world’s most respected universities.  It’s buildings are spread out over a large section of the old town.

Main street

The oldest streets are narrow, and making your way down them by on foot or by vehicle can be a challenge. Nevertheless, we found the city a great place to explore on foot.  Narrow streets may surprise you by opening up onto plazas or university sites that provide open spaces.

In our travels about town, we often noticed many flower shops.  For late October we found the abundance of flowers to be amazing.  The moderate temperature and somewhat longer growing season may be partly responsible.  The cultural interest certainly comes into play as tourists are not likely buying any.

Flower shop, Heidelberg

In all of the European cities we explore, we stop by churches of many denominations.  We often find structures of architectural and historical significance.  Many still operate as churches.  A few are no more than museums now.  Some are both actually.

Almost in the shadow of the largest Heidelberg church, seen at the end of the main street above, is the Parish Church of the Holy Spirit and St. Ignatius, or more commonly known as the Church of the Jesuits. Built between 1712 and 1759, the church steeple was added over a century later.

Church of the Jesuits

Throughout the oldest section of town are buildings of the Universitat Heidelberg.  One of the more impressive is the main library building, constructed between 1901 and 1905. It holds a collection of printed books counting in the millions, as well as paintings, maps and photographs, films and video.  Of course, they are up to modern methods, with e-journals and other electronic services.

While the “modern” library is early 20th century, the university library dates back to 1388.  It has enjoyed several locations around town.  The Bibliothek, or central library, you see here is one of many libraries in the university system.

Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg

While the tram system is a good way to get around, students as well as many locals know that the best way to travel about is by bicycle.  You will find that many of the university building are surrounded by bicycles throughout the day.  With automobile traffic being difficult, if not impossible, around many of the school buildings, the only ways to navigate the distances between buildings are on foot and by bike.

Bicycles

For the Heidelberg stop over we rented an apartment near a tram station. We found it on Booking.com as we searched sites for our stay. It was a bit more than a hotel perhaps, but the large space had a kitchen, large living room and large bedroom. It had a washing machine which was essential at this late part of our trip. One of the things that amazes me around Europe are the washer and dryers, as they are actually the same machine. I just don’t know why we continue to buy two machines, but I digress. The apartment had everything you would need to set up shop, although we did no cooking. We used the refrigerator, however, to chill the wine we brought from Strasbourg and there were wine glasses in the cabinet.

From our apartment location

Our brief visit to Heidelberg was just a day and a half, two nights. It did not give us enough time to see all of the historic sites. The autumn weather was mild and we were able to take many meals “in the streets” as my friend likes to say. Out living quarters were at the end of a quiet street in a beautiful old apartment building. Autumn would seem a lovely time to visit and we will hope we can add Heidelberg to our itinerary again.

ALSACE ADVENTURE – Rich Paschall

Strasbourg and Beyond, by Rich Paschall

For many years now Strasbourg has been a favorite vacation stop.  It is not just because of the wonderful historic sites and amazing food and wine, but also because of the friends who live in the region.  I am sure you will agree that any chance to visit one of your best friends is a good enough reason to head out on a new adventure.

In the northeast corner of France, right across the Rhine River from Germany, lies Strasbourg.  It is the largest city in the Grand Est (East). The metropolitan region is home to almost a half million residents.  It is an important city in the European Union as the location of several EU institutions, including the European Parliament.

Strasbourg, France

Despite the many visits to Strasbourg, I never really walked through the area known as “Petite France,” where they maintain the architecture of the Middle Ages .  Known for the many white and black timber buildings, it is a lovely throwback to an era long past.  Of course we have seen many buildings like this throughout the city and the region.

In 1988 the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.  This includes the famous cathedral, sitting on a foundation over a thousand years old.

Street of “Petite France”

Every visit to Strasbourg must include a stop at the grand Cathedral.  Built on the foundation of a previous structure, the current church was built between 1176 and 1439.  If you see the size and intricate detail of the building, and then consider there was no modern building equipment, you will understand why it took centuries to complete.

The street leading up to the cathedral might be a bit “touristy” for some, but I must confess that we stopped in the shops and purchased some souvenirs along the way.  I can never return home without the required refrigerator magnet, and my friend picked up several items to remember the occasion.  We also stopped near the end of the street near the cathedral for lunch at an outdoor cafe.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg

Literally in the shadow of the Cathedral is the Palais Rohan.  Built in the 1730s as the resident of the princes of the House of Rohan, French royalty who served as bishop and cardinal of the cathedral, it has been a museum in modern times.  It was seized during the French Revolution and sold to the municipality where it served for a while as the town hall.  Some of the original furniture and artwork were sold off or destroyed.

The site had been a bishop’s resident since 1262.  The courtyard and the area between the palace and the cathedral have been the scene of archeological digs throughout modern times, including some of our visits.  There they have found artifacts from ancient Roman times.

Palais Rohan

One of the joys of centering your trip in Strasbourg is being able to head off to regional sites of interest.  Whether you are going to other towns or villages by train from Gare de Strasbourg-Ville, by tour bus or have a friend to drive, you will find much to see.

Mosbach winery

With my friend as driver, we always head to a wine producer for a taste of the local vintage.  It might seem a bit odd on a Sunday morning, but we found Mosbach willing to open the shop and hand out samples.  Alsace is famous for their white wines and my French guide selected a bottle for each of us.

There are many places to stop along the famous “wine road.”  The region is filled with vineyards that climb up the side of the hills, and wine producers ready to welcome you.

From here we went to the popular Mont Ste. Odile, or Hohenburg Abbey, where Saint Odile (c. 660 to 720) served as abbess.  Legend has it she was cured of blindness as a child.  This is why she is known as the patron saint of the blind.  She is also considered the patron of Alsace.

From atop this hill, Odile is said to look out over Alsace as protector of the region.  When one enters the abbey, its church and its chapels, one wonders how they built this many century ago.  The modern-day road is narrow and winding and the hill has dense forest.  One is left to wonder how they were able to get all the materials used in the building to the top of the hill.  The view is worth the trip.

Alsace region from Mont Sainte Odile Abbey

Someday in the future, I hope I can make this trip again.  There is a great value to the discoveries that travel will bring into your life.  When you have a chance, hit the road for new adventures.They are not only educational, but rejuvenating in ways that are hard to explain.  As Rick Steves (PBS travel shows) will tell you, “Keep on travelling.”

Visit the photo gallery here.

EAT, DRINK, AND TRAVEL ON – Rich Paschall

Selfies, groupies, and foodies?

There are probably a few derogatory comments on social media about people who take food pictures.  OK, there are probably more than a few.

I may have even made one or two myself.  After all, these people are not writing reviews of the local restaurant for the New Yorker or Chicago magazines.  They are snapping pictures of their overpriced food from some overcrowded food court.  We, on the other hand, are snapping pictures of our excellent meals and truly excellent selves. If my brother were computer literate and online, he would probably be excited.

When I headed off on our recent adventure with a roommate who previously thought you could not have a meal without rice, we learned there are many things you can serve with your main course.  Below are just a few of from our gastronomic adventures.  You may even have seen some of this in our recent review of Frankfurt or will see soon in our Alsace travel report.

Be sure to click on any of the pictures to go through the full size of each.

Related: Frankfurt am Main

FRANKFURT AM MAIN

Our Latest Adventure, by Rich Paschall

Frankfurt , Germany, or Frankfurt am Main (Frank ford at the Main), is the fifth largest city, but home to the busiest airport in the country.  This is not only because it is home to Lufthansa airline, but also because many other airlines have major presence there.  Almost 65 million passengers pass through the airport each year, making it the busiest airport in Germany and the fourth busiest in Europe.

There are many direct flights to Frankfurt from major US cities, so finding a flight at good price and transit time is possible through most of the year.  If you are visiting Germany or a neighboring country, you will want to consider this airport.  Bus and train travel around the region is quick and economical.

Frankfurt

In the past when we have headed to Strasbourg, France, we have used the Frankfurt airport for its proximity to our destination.  Only once did we stay overnight near the airport with a brief stop in the city.  We had considered the city to be just a financial center, which it is, and an industrial center.  This time we stayed longer to explore the city.

I chose an airport hotel because we could easily take the shuttle back to the airport where you can catch the train into the city.  Looking back on this choice, however, you can pick a spot in the city for the very same reason.  Transportation by train to the airport is simple because of the major train station right across from the airline terminals.   If we would do it again, I would try to stay near Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof station.

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof

The main station in the city is a mix of old world charm and modern efficiency.  Upgrades to the rail system in recent years have upset the reputation of the German railroads always being on time, or “you can set your watch by them,” but they are still reliable and we encountered no delays.

You can stop at McDonald’s in the train station if you like, but we did not come all the way to Germany to eat in an American fast food restaurant.  Our motto for travel has been “eat local, drink local” so of course that is what we did.

Eat local, drink local

My travel companion on this trip, who is always hungry, needed a food stop when we arrived in the city. We chose a restaurant right alongside the station for convenience.  We ordered Wiener Schnitzel.  My friend is from Colombia so he has never eaten food like this.  He found it goes well with the local beverage.

Fortunately, the old world train station survives and is a good spot for pictures before you head off on your exploration of the city.  Plenty of tourists were busy taking pictures of the station and surrounding areas.  I took a picture of my friend getting a picture of himself.  “Selfies” are popular at all the tourist stops.

Selfie

Frankfurt is a unique blend of old and new.  I suppose that World War II is partly a reason for that.  Some areas of the city were heavily damaged. Somethings were restored, other areas were rebuilt. This allowed for modernization and planning that would improve the quality of life for residents and eventually tourists.

There are many good shopping districts and we made our way to one of them to see what bargains we could find. The outdoor malls our popular and we picked up some items I probably did not need.

Shopping (or selfie taking)

We also stopped by the Alte Oper (Old opera) to see the lovely old building.  It was heavily damaged in the war and carefully rebuilt through the 1970’s.  It opened again in 1981 as a concert hall.  The opera was already in a new building nearby.

The large plaza in front and along side is a nice stop for locals and tourists.  We took the necessary pictures before stopping inside.

I joined a few “friends” for an opera house picture.

Following our walk around the Opernplatz, my hungry friend needed food so we made our way to the cafe inside the opera house.  It was ornate as expected.  Aside from the modern elevator in the building, it was hard to determine which parts were damaged and restored and which parts of the building were original.

Opera cafe

Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne are all larger and may hold more appeal for various reasons, but Frankfurt has a charm all its own.  With the Main River running through it and a large city forest, it is beautiful tourist stop.  If your flight takes you to Frankfurt, it would be wise to spend a night or two to see the culture and entertainment offered here.

A blend of old and new

For more pictures from our Frankfurt Adventure, jump over to Sunday Night Blog, here.

WHICH WAY? THE GPS KNOWS, BUT I’M LOST – Marilyn & Garry Armstrong

Which Way Challenge: 11/29/2018

Not much traveling this month. Just one short visit to Connecticut. I don’t think the grocery store really counts, but maybe our driveway does?

It has been raining more days this month than it has been clear. Forget about sunny. If it hasn’t been raining or snowing, it has been gray and gloomy.

Not great photography weather and not very inspiring for getting out there and shooting.

Leave covered driveway in early November
Crossroads of Chestnut Street and the Worcester-Providence railroad
Photo: Garry Armstrong – The road from the elections homeward bound
Photo: Garry Armstrong – The last of autumn in early November
Chestnut Street as autumn ends
The wet and rainy ride to vote  – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Stuck in traffic on the way to Connecticut

ON THE ROAD AGAIN – THE WHICH WAY CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Which Way Challenge: November 22, 2018


Haven’t been out on the road much, but I did manage to take a few shots when we were on our way back from Connecticut.  I knew I would need some road pictures. And here they are.

We got stuck in a couple of hours of non-moving traffic which always gives me time to take a few shots. Not great shots, but … a little something.

ROAD TRIP! – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Tom and I are members of an audio theater company, VoiceScapes Audio Theater. We write most of the scripts for our live and recorded performances. We usually do our live performances in our area – within an hour or so from New York City, where most of the group members live (Tom and I live in CT).

Voicescapes performing live

But this weekend we did something different and special. A road trip! Or more accurately, an air trip. Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, invited us to perform a ninety-minute show for them in a beautiful theater that they rented for us.

They would pay all the travel expenses for all eight members of our group. On top of that, they would pay us a fee that was more than we’d ever been paid before. So accepting this gig was a no-brainer!

Members of the group at the airport

The planning of the trip turned out to be mind-boggling. Sande, our President, took care of the logistics. She said that it took 62 emails back and forth between our members, the university and the theater, just to come up with a date for the show! Kudos to Sande for her perseverance and stamina!

We’ve all been very excited about this trip. A week before we left, we had a rehearsal at our home studio of the pieces we would be performing. We felt good about our show. Now we just had to get to Ohio.

Hanging out at the airport

We met at our gate at La Guardia airport for our 5:15 flight on Friday, November 2, 2018. There was lots of schmoozing and chatting before we boarded the plane. The flight itself was quite choppy but otherwise uneventful.

Sunset from the plane

We landed, rented our two vehicles, piled in and headed to the hotel. By the time we met for dinner, it was late. But we were stoked that we had started our thespian adventure. So dinner at the hotel restaurant was loud and lots of fun. And also quite good. I had beef bone stock Vietnamese Pho soup for the first time and loved it. We shared a Banana Custard Pie with a pistachio nut crust for dessert and it was truly delicious. It was close to midnight when we got back to our rooms.

Tom and me (on the right) with others at dinner

We were supposed to get into the theater at 9:00 AM on Saturday so we would have all day to set up and rehearse. At the last minute, there was a scheduling problem and we couldn’t get into the theater until noon.

After that, it took three hours for the technical set-up. That’s because our show involves lots of microphones, wires, sound mixers, computers as well as live and recorded sound effects.

We usually have to do this set-up ourselves, meaning Tom has to do most of it on his own. But in Youngstown, Tom had a union crew of three professionals to help him. Tom was in pig heaven! The guys were nice, accommodating — extremely competent and knowledgeable.

Empty Stage
Tom with part of his crew

I particularly enjoyed watching the sound effects guy, Tony (a friend who drove six hours from Indiana to perform with us) set up his live sound effects table. He is awesome! One of our scripts calls for a gun to cock. So Tony brought several guns to choose from because they all make different sounds.

Tony doing live gun sound effects

We didn’t start to rehearse till 3:30 and kept going until 7:30. We still had time to repeat pieces or parts of pieces that required extra work or choreography.

The choreography comes in when actors have to switch mikes, handoff telephones, or cross behind another actor. We also realized that we had never rehearsed taking bows – which requires coordination and timing.

rehearsal

Dinner Saturday night was at a recommended Barbecue place that looked like a real dive. The front room had two pool tables and old arcade video games.

The back room had a tacky bar, wood tables, and generic chairs. But the barbecue pit master is an award-winner from Austin, Texas. The food, which you bought by the pound, was terrific. So was the beer. I usually don’t like beer, but I ordered my own beer and drank most of it!

Saturday Barbeque dinner

Sunday, the day of the show, we met for breakfast at the hotel and headed over to the theater at noon, the earliest we were allowed in. The performance was at 2:00 so we didn’t have much time. All we could do was a quick run through of the beginnings and ends of the pieces and the transitions to the next piece.

Sunday run through

We had to put carpets down on the stage to minimize feedback. One of the stagehands got out a vacuum cleaner and actually vacuumed the oriental carpet for us. Now that’s service!

Stagehand vacuuming our carpets!

The cast went back to the Green Room (the waiting area for actors backstage) to wait for their cue to go on stage.

We got a wonderful introduction from the Dean of the College of Creative Arts and Communications. And it was SHOWTIME!

We sailed through the show with our usual enthusiasm, skill, and professionalism. The audience laughed at all the right places and seemed to love us. The applause was prolonged and gratifying.

After the show, we had time for a quick toast before we had to head to the airport for our flight home.

Toasting ourselves after the show

Overall, it was a smooth and successful weekend. It was good to spread our wings professionally. We traveled together to a gig for the first time and we performed a ninety minute show for the first time in a while (our shows have generally been one hour). It was also a unique opportunity to hang out and socialize as a group over a two day period. And everyone had lots of fun.

So, here’s to the next Voicescapes road trip!