This is the fifth part of my Eurotrip 2009 Revisited series, a special edition of sorts in which I have divided the original post into smaller parts while incorporating minor copy edits and a few new (and reprocessed) images.
After our adventures in Lucerne we departed the next morning for the final leg of our trip. The hotel front desk was late with my wakeup call so I had to rush getting ready and packed to make sure I got downstairs for the bus on time, but I still had a few minutes to hit the restaurant and get some more of that awesome bacon.
Our first stop that morning was the Rhine Falls in Switzerland. While not on the level of Niagara, it is still quite spectacular and powerful.
We didn’t have long to stay and I had already wasted some time sitting on a bench and staring at the falls, but I wanted to get a closer view, so I ran around the far side of the river where a path and steps led to the top of the falls, climbing as high as I could while taking photos. However, time ran out before I was able to reach the top and I had to book it back to the bus.
Our next stop was in the fabled Black Forest of Germany to see the world’s largest cuckoo clock in action. It was kind of kitschy (it’s no Glockenspiel). I would rather have spent more time at the Rhine Falls than rushing to make the 12 p.m. cuckoo performance.
After the cuckoo performance we went inside the building for a demonstration of how the Germans hand-make their famous cuckoo clocks. We then stood in line for 45 minutes to get some crappy cafeteria food for lunch because we thought it would be faster than going to the sit-down restaurant across the way. In all, this was my least favorite stop of the trip, but the rest of the trip was so wonderful that it’s hard to complain about one little bump in the road.
After lunch we departed for our final destination: Heidelberg, Germany. The bus took us straight to the castle ruin that overlooks the city (we would not check in to our hotel that night until after 8:30 p.m.). While not as magnificent as the intact fortress in Salzburg that I saw two years prior, the Heidelberg castle is still very impressive and provides a nice view of the valley below:
Here are a couple of photos of the ruins themselves. The open window sections reminded me a bit of the Colosseum.
We stopped in the castle courtyard for a group photo, and then went inside to view the world’s largest wine barrel.
We then explored the grounds around the castle. Along the way, I snapped this photo of a nearby obelisk in my best attempt at a 2001-ish monolith shot:
After our tour of the castle we headed back to the bus, which dropped us off in the middle of town for an hour of free time before dinner. I took a few photos of the castle from down below.
I then did some shopping and bought a chocolate gelato. One of the stores had tons of absinthe of every kind imaginable. I had never seen so much in one place. I thought about getting a big bottle to bring home, but decided against it.
We ate dinner at a charming place called Zum Sepp’l, which has apparently been a hangout for university students since the 1600’s, complete with thick wood tables entirely covered in carved names.
This was the best dinner of the trip, and a nice way to spend our last night in Europe. The tomato soup appetizer was fantastic (and I’m not usually a fan of it), but this tasted almost like spaghetti sauce. The bread was great. For the main course we had these awesome large pierogi topped with ham and onion. They were so good that I didn’t hesitate for seconds when they offered them. Here’s a picture of our mini group at the dinner table:
After dinner, a group of guys from the New York group bought a giant three-liter beer boot, which they passed around and chugged down in rapid fashion.
I was finally able to settle into my hotel room a little after 8:30 p.m., but we were right back outside at 9:30 for an extended walking tour of Heidelberg. The castle looks beautiful lit up at night, though the night photos taken with my pocket camera didn’t come out too great.
After the tour, our Gateway group stopped at a pub for a final round of drinks. On the way home we stopped for our last European gelatos. That night at 12:30 I helped Uncle Kipp do a final room check.
The following morning we hopped on the bus with the Virginia group for a long drive to Frankfurt airport (the NY group had already left very early that morning because they had a different flight). At the airport we said our goodbyes to our driver, guide, and the people from the Virginia group.
Here’s a photo of our entire group (New York, Virginia, and New Jersey):
After a fairly short wait (especially compared to the 2007 trip), we boarded our plane. I had my seat switched from a window to an aisle, thinking that I would have a nice relaxing flight home. Little did I know that the girl sitting behind me would think that the touchscreen on the back of my seat was a punch screen, so you can imagine how fun that was for eight hours (I did finally get up with about 90 minutes left in the flight to show her how to use the screen without punching it). The movies really helped pass the time, even if most of them were mediocre, though I actually liked Marley & Me, a real tear jerker if you’re a dog lover.
We had a pretty rough landing in Philly, just as we had two years ago. Is there something about landing in Philly? We got the shuttle back to Gateway high school in South Jersey, where Jen picked me up. After saying our goodbyes we began the long drive back to central Jersey. I couldn’t wait to get home and get some rest, especially since I was beginning a new job in a couple of days.
Overall, I had a great time on the trip, though I would rank it slightly behind the one from 2007, primarily because on that trip we visited Salzburg (my favorite European city to that point), we did not have to share our bus with any other groups (which gave us plenty of room to stretch out on long bus rides and we didn’t have to worry about losing our seats every day), and we stayed two nights in every location, which made for a more easy-going trip.
On the other hand, we visited more cities on this trip and met some nice people from the other groups. It was also a blast hanging out with Amber, and some other aspects of the trip and flight were easier this time around since I had already gone through it once before. In the end, both trips were fantastic and left me with a lifetime’s worth of memories. One day I’ll write up my journal of the 2007 trip and the comparisons can begin. 🙂