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Published: October 22nd 2017
Geo: 49.4019, 8.68024
Well, another bus day greeted us following our amazing day in Lucerne and I must confess some sadness in having to leave Switzerland. Although our bank account will feel better (Switzerland is expensive – One lunch of bratwurst and fries = 19CHF or about $25-$27!), I am sorry to leave the crisp air of the Alps, the stunning views of the surrounding mountains, the melodic jingle of cow bells, and the pending feeling of adventure from the trails we had not hiked. Switzerland has definitely lodged itself in my mind as a place we must return to explore more deeply.
So, once my melancholy subsided, we turned our focus to Germany once again with a stop at Rheinfalls (the tallest waterfall in Europe), the Black Forest, and a night's stay in Heidelberg. After logging another 1 ½ hours on the bus, we pulled into the Rheinfalls parking area and filed off the bus in expert fashion as we were becoming pretty accustomed to the routine. Manuel had prepped us with caution that we would not find the site awe-inspiring and he was correct. While the falls were beautiful with heavy flows cascading over skewed boulders, the falls paled in
comparison to the likes of Shoshone or Mesa Falls in Idaho. The total drop of the falls is between 50 – 60 feet, but is a serene setting with a castle flanking the right side and a small rock turret in the center that you are able to climb atop if you have time to take the boat ride out to it. We stopped for 30 minutes and then mounted our Mercedes stallion for another two hour ride to northern Germany.
This brought us into the depths of the Black Forest which we were informed stretches for nearly 100 miles in length and 25 miles in width. Here we were greeted with one of the commercial breaks in our tour where we watched a 5 - 10 minute demonstration on the construction of Cuckoo clocks. The craftsmanship was incredible with intricate wooden carvings, clucking cuckoo's, and even a moving water wheel with actual water on one clock that housed a pump utilizing solar power to move the water. The presentation itself, however, was underwhelming as it was brief and scripted.
As we had a 1 ½ hour break at this location, Erin and I treated ourselves to a rather American lunch
consisting of a hamburger with fries. We did add some German flare, however, with a German pilsner and a piece of Black Forest cake (of course!). Following lunch, we hiked a trail a short distance into the Black Forest where we found a beautiful stream filled with moss covered stones. The forest is true to its name as a small venture from the main path greets you with oppressive darkness due to the dense foliage surrounding you. I could not help but think of the opening scene in Gladiator as Maximus rides through the forest to vanquish the German Barbarians!
Again, we loaded the bus and pushed on for another three hour ride to Heidelberg where we would lay our heads that night. Heidelberg is impressive with a towering castle standing watch over the old university center in the heart of the medieval city. We first stopped at the castle and raced through in about 20 minutes in order to make our way down to the city center before the shops closed (something we were not entirely excited about since we had already had plenty of shopping opportunities on this trip.) The castle itself had a storied history with a number
of portions being destroyed and rebuilt over its history. We were able to view the largest wine barrel recorded in the world which Manuel explained was large enough to hold 60,000 gallons of liquid! Next, we walked to the balcony overlooking the city and took in the grand view from above. Manuel pointed out a foot shaped indentation on the floor surface and explained that legend has it an adulterous lover of the queen had jumped out of the royal bedroom high above and landed there leaving the footprint in the stone. Tale has it that if your foot fits the shape, you are a good lover, so some of our group sheepishly walked up to try it out.
After the castle, we descended the 300 steps down to the city market center and had a little more than one hour to take in the sites. We ventured to the historic bridge to take in the view from the water and visited the animal symbol of the city – the monkey. Then, we split up to check out shops, grab a snack, shoot some pictures, and ultimately return to the bus for the trip to our hotel.
Perhaps the most adventurous part
of the day, however, came as a surprise following dinner. As we were dining, Manuel surprised the group by informing us there was an indoor Go-Kart course near the hotel which we could try after we were done eating. After slicking up our food, 22 people from our party made our way down the street to an indoor track. The Go-Karts were essentially miniature race cars which I believe surpassed the speed of Fast Lanes in Boise – these things were seriously fast! The excitement level of the group was at a fever pace as our first group of 8 drivers took position on the track and we were soon greeted with squealing tires, the smell of gas and burning rubber, and the oohs and awes following crashes into the walls and each other. All 22 took at least one ten-minute round on the track and some tried up to 3 rounds. Driving fast and somewhat recklessly was a great way to reverse roles and wrap up a day that consisted of hours of riding passively!
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