5 Reasons Why Tübingen is a Must See in Germany

Author’s Note: Fresh off a trip to Dubrovnik and the Bay of Kotor, I’m reeling and already excited for my next trip. My cousin Christyn, an adventurer in her own right who climbed Kilimanjaro on her 28th birthday in February, is now working and living in Bann, Germany, so we’ve been making plans for a German Road Trip. I started doing research and was floored at the wealth of options we have in a country I’ve already gotten to know, through Cologne’s Carnaval to a chilly, sans-camera trip to Berlin. I’ve long been fascinated with German history and have loved beer and sausage, growing up close to Milwaukee. I devour books on the country regularly. So when Live Like a German contacted me about collaborating and helping out with my trip, I couldn’t say nein. My requisites for a trip to Germany? Castles, countryside and currywurst, which make Tübingen their first choice for my trip.
 
 
A trip to Germany is a must for any world traveler. While in this wondrous country there are a few towns that are a must see, and Tübingen is one of them. Its stunning surroundings, coupled with its authenticity due to surviving wartime unscathed, make it a town that remains historically intact.

Although Tübingen is traditionally known for its university – about one in every ten students attends classes there –  there are many interesting things for tourists to experience.

Hohentübingen Castle 

 
No town is complete without a castle. Hohentübingen castle is first noted in the 11th century and is now a part of Tübingen University. Feel free to explore around the castle and afterwards gain more information about its history in the castle museum.
 
Holzmarkt
In German, markplatz is a word for market place. The Holzmarkt , one of the two in Tübingen, is in front of the Collegiate Church, the town’s landmark and another fine place to see in this town. Depending on the time of year you may be able to experience vendors selling seasonal specialties that you can enjoy. Markplatz is a place one can also sit in an outdoor cafe and also enjoy the view of the town hall and the ambience of the quaint town.
 
 
Rathaus
The Rathaus is Tübingen’s stunning town hall and is another piece of history, built in 1435 and being continually expanded. Its Astronomical Clock is something to watch. Go inside the Rathaus and take a ride on the elevator to get great views of the city, or just relax outside, take in its beauty and watch the locals and tourists walking by.
 
Holderlinturm
There once lived a poet that was not so famous when he was alive called Friedrich Holderlin, who lived in Tübingen. After his death his works became widely known in Germany and are in fact considered to be some of best writings produced in the country. You can tour his 13th century home, Holderlinturm, and the tower where he lived for 36 years, slowly going insane. The house is great to see which nice views of the Neckar River. There is a museum on site with more information on the writer’s life.

Cistercian Monastery

Another place that should make your itinerary while in this town is the Cistercian Monastery (Zisterzienzerkloster), a well-preserved medieval monastery that can be accessed by a short nature walk. There is an admission to go inside, but just the walk outside with its spectacular surroundings of the structures may suffice.
 
This Germany related travel article has been written by Bettina Kraft, who likes to write Germany related travel articles on Live Like a German,  a site for exploring Germany, learning more about its culture and language, and finding a great Germany vacation rental or holiday apartment. Bettina likes to help visitors from all over the world to experience Germany in a different, more personal way, and to make it easy for them to do so by providing detailed travel tips and advise.

Three Great Day Trips from Barcelona

I’ve said recently that I don’t like Barcelona (and it sparked a big debate on my blog and Facebook page. Turns out even people who love the city think it has a dark side and that its people can be unfriendly at first, though many were shocked with my confession). So when my parents suggested it as our Christmas travel destination, I was initially disappointed, but figured a seven-night stay would guarantee we’d use Barcino as a springboard into a region that others tout as gorgeous and cultural.

Three places you can't miss on your trip to Barcelona. Medieval towns, funky architecture...and another country?

Thankfully, Barcelona is capital to a region with multiple encantos, even if I’m not a fan of its capital city or politics. During our stay, we were able to break out of the city thrice, discovering the beauty of Catalonia in its interior.

Montserrat

Upon my family’s last visit to Spain in 2007, the holidays presented us with the problem of what to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We hiked a mountain, attended mass in English (Thank you, Costa del Sol and your guiri enclaves!) and had dinner at the hotel. This year, we were in a heavily touristed area, but had three days of festivals to counter.

You know the saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”? We became Creasters cum Holy Rollers on the day of Jesus Christ’s birth by driving to the Monastery of Nuestra Senora de Montserrat in the mountains of the same name.

My mom and I made the last cable car for the day and were its only occupants, affording unparalleled vistas of the strange mountain range that the monastery and its various hermitages can be found in – it jutted up from the plains like an upside-down saw. My dad and sister drove the car up, snaking through alien rock formations and curbside offerings. Because it was Christmas, the parking was free, but the cable car ran my mother 6€ and me 5€ with a carnet joven.

The monastery, apart from its surroundings, is also known as the home of the Montserrat virgin, whose face is black, earning her the local nickname of La Moreneta. The place was crawling with tourists, similar to my experiences at Covadonga and Santiago de Compostela, but we were in for a treat: the all-boys choir, L’Escolonia, would be singing at the noon mass.

The whole place was opulent, lined in limestone with marble floors, statues of saints and an impressive art museum. I could barely see anything but on my tiptoes once inside the church, but the slight breeze and commanding views of the area were all I needed to consider myself holy on that day.

If you go: Montserrat can be reached by car, bus or train from central Barcelona. I used this page to plan our trip. The basilica itself was free, and many pilgrims choose to bring picnic lunches and enjoy the views, rather than picking over sandwiches in the cafeteria.

Girona and Besalu

For ages, Girona to me was little more than a Ryanair hub with a direct flight from Seville. On my way back from Karnaval in Cologne, Germany a few years back, I had a seven-hour layover. Not willing to sit in an airport, I hopped a bus to the city about an hour north of Barcelona and explored it on a sleepy Sunday.

It surprised me, quite honestly. Humbling beautiful, historic and lively – even on a Sunday!

I told my parents it was a must-see, and my dad’s love of medieval architecture made a trip to nearby Besalú to see the famous stone bridge. The town is teeny, cut through with cobblestone medieval roads and small, family-run shops.

We stopped in the tourism office, which was open but unmanned, and found that practically all roads led to the river Fluvià and the magnificent bridge. Many of the people we met told us that they were from elsewhere in Spain and had fallen under the charm of its Romanesque streets and history.

Girona was a quick drive away, and I remembered the city well – the soaring spires of the churches, the cobblestones under our feet, the street life. The clear day shone over the city perched along a river and its bright buildings, and merchants reopened after a few sleepy, glutton-filled days. We stopped for cupcakes on the main shopping street, beers in sun-drenched plazas, pintxo moruno in a bustling restaurant. Sadly, the smack-in-the-face Independence flags and signs got in the way of the beautiful buildings in the old Jewish quarter.

Even a horrible tummy ache (I later got sick) couldn’t prevent my sweet tooth from getting the best of me. I took my parents to Rocambolesc, the brainchild of the Hermanos Roca, famous Catalan chefs. The whimsical interior of the small place, which is a Catalan word for fantastical, was something like out of Willy Wonka, from a wall display of the six types of ice cream, a cotton candy machine and pinstripes.

I have to say that the hype, much like Barcelona’s, didn’t live up to my expectations. I let the attentive and sweet (ha!) shopkeeper chose baked apple ice cream with butter cookie crumbles and sweet apples, but could barely plow through half of it – it wasn’t sweet or even that tasteful! I agonized over the orange sherbet the guy parked on the bench next to me.

If you go: Girona and Besalu can be reached by car or bus from Barcelona, though there is a toll on the C-33. Rocambolesc is right near the red iron Eiffel bridge (Santa Clara, 50). The walk along the ramparts above the city are also not to be missed.

Andorra

This minuscule principality wedged in between mountain peaks of the Pyrenees range separating Spain from France welcomed me with a text message from my phone company. If Vodafone thinks it’s another country, it is in my book, too.

We snaked our rental car up through the Montseny and Costa Brava area of Catalonia before reaching the border. The signs were only in Catalan, but from the looks of it, we’d need to take just one road into the small country’s capital, Andorra la Vella. Upon parking, I felt like we were in a glamorous ski town – all mountains, clear skies and ski bunnies bustling up and down the city’s main shopping streets. Christmas sales had already begun, so we took our time browsing duty-free stores and brand name shops.

The day was leisurely, with the only hiccups being stops for a coffee or lunch. The city doesn’t offer much by way of culture, and our tour of the historic part of town – stretching back 800 years – took a mere five minutes. The tourism office claimed that hot springs, ski resorts and outdoor activities keep the country’s economy afloat, but I have a feeling it’s the tax-free cigarettes and perfume.

Andorra is a three-hour car trip from Barcelona, or a four-hour bus journey via ALSA bus lines. Part of the highway has tolls. Don’t miss the breathtaking mountain views and the duty free shops!

Have you ever taken any day trips outside of Barcelona? Where do you recommend visiting?

If you’re looking for a guided tour or discount tickets for attractions, check out TicketBar. Or if you’d like to take a Spanish course while in Barcelona, I’ve got top tips and language schools – get in touch!

Seville Snapshots: Who’s That Nazareno?

Smell that? It’s incense. Feel that? That’s some sevillano whose trying to push his way past you.

Yes, amiguitos, Holy Week is upon us, the stretch of time between Viernes de Dolores until Easter Sunday where sevillanos dress in their finest, women don enormous combs and black lace veils and pointy capirote hats dot the old part of town. The faithful spend all day on their feet, parading from church to Cathedral and back with enormous floats depicting the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

I’m not much of a capillita, but ten days of religious floats means ten days of travel for me.

That said, I’m off to Dubrovnik, Croatia and the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, country #30 on my 30×30 quest. Where will you be during Semana Santa? Do you like Holy Week, or would you rather get your fix in a Holy Week bar?

Tapa Thursdays: Bar Zapico

Let me just say this: I do not live in Seville’s city center, under the shadow of the Giralda. I live in a working class neighborhood where I’m just known on the plazuela as “esa chica guiri,” where rent is cheap, transportation options are a bit scant and no one really knows what barrio I live in.

When I mentioned to Ryan and Angela, the duo behind Jets Like Taxis and Freshism, that I wanted to do a tapas crawl through my neighborhood, they jumped at the chance. Many of my friends have never been to my house because it’s simply too far, but these two adventurous eaters braved the 32 labeled POLIGONO SUR and joined me for lunch on a perfect Sunday.

The neighborhood adjacent to mine, Cerro de Aguila, is known as being typically sevillano. Low, squat duplexes line the streets shaded by orange trees, and the place abounds with the old man bars that I so love and small, family-run businesses. I did a quick google search and found one of the top-rated places was Bar Zapico, on Calle Pablo Armero, just two streets off of the thoroughfare. Its famous dish is its battered and fried shrimp, gambas rebozadas.

Our original plan was to have just one tapa and one beer in each bar, slugging along Calle Afan de Ribera until we couldn’t eat or drink anymore. Turns out, the bar packed full of old men, lined with azulejo tiles and where your bar bill is still tabbed in chalk right in front of you kept us there for more than just the food. In two minutes, enough time for us to toast our beers and have a sip, a shrill CAAAAATTTIIIIIIIIIII rang through the swinging doors and we had nine shrimp served up with alioli sauce. And this was simply a tapa! I read that Americans consume an average of two pounds of shrimp a year, which I could do in a month. These little gambitas were the best I’ve had.

 

We couldn’t just leave after a perfect introduction to my barrio’s culinary pride! Ryan and Ang are adventurous eaters, so nothing on the menu was off-limits. We chose stewed bull tail, cola de toro, which came right off the bone and was full of fat. There were hints of spice and we soaked up the broth with french fries and bread – my lunch guests are now full-fledged sevillanos. After chowing down, the bill came to just 13€ with drinks, and we had satisfied our food fix.

So much for a tapas crawl.

five beers 5,00€ // one tapa of gambas rebozadas 2,00€ // one media of cola de toro 6,00€ // total 13,00€

Bar Zapico is open daily, save Tuesdays, on the corner of Tomas Perez and Alvaro Benavides. Do you like old man bars, or do you prefer gastro bars?

 

My Favorite Holy Week Bars in Seville

Danny and I decided to make one last stop for the night, mostly fueled by our bladders than our ganas for another beer. I ordered a Coke and dipped into the bathroom while Danny paid.

Two minutes later, as I left, the lights had been lowered, and Danny looked pale under the glow of a projector. He pointed to a screen, which showed an image of a bloody Jesus from a black-and-white film.

“Oh, you get used to that,¨I cooed, but he had already downed his beer and was halfway through the door. Novatos.

“Not cool, Cat. We’re no longer friends.”

For me, the week-long revelry that surrounds Seville’s Holy Week has meant just a ten-day travel break for me. Living in Triana’s vortex of cofradías meant that braving Semana Santa, locked inside my house while life-sized depictions of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ passed below my window. Paso de pasos, quite frankly.

Still, I have become more and more fascinated in the pageantry and culture of Holy Week, and often take guests to bars full of musty busts of the Virgin Mother, spiderweb-covered chalices and black and white photos of anguished Christs to explain the parts of the cofradía and their symbolism. Plus, I kinda love having Jesus watch me have a cold glass of beer and snack of olives, I guess?

Bar Santa Ana – Calle Pureza, Triana

Far and away my favorite of the bunch is Bar Santa Ana. It’s the typical old man bar around the corner from your flat where you feel intimidated to walk into, but secretly have always wanted to – dozens of images of the nearby Esperanza de Triana and San Gonzalo brotherhoods. Bullfights are run on TV while you sip your beer, tabbed up right in front of you on the bar, and the countdown to Palm Sunday hangs over your head while you eat from a huge tapas menu.

La Freqsuita –  Calle Mateos Gago

With a name like the fresh one, La Fresquita has a lot to live up to with its beer. Still, it’s served cold and often accompanied with olives or even a pocket calendar. The small space – its biggest downside – is covered floor to ceiling in pictures of processions and a countdown to Palm Sunday. Since the bar is right off of the main tourist sites and centrally located on Mateos Gago, many patrons spill out onto the sidewalk in front of the bar.

Kiosko La Melva – Manuel Siurot, s/n (at the cross of Cardenal Ilundain). Hours depend on the boss, Eli.

My weekday bar is always Kiosko La Melva. Once a shack used to provide workers from the ABC Newspaper offices with their midday snacks and beers, the small structure is unbeatable for cold beer (which only costs 1€!) and small, delectable fish sandwiches. Eli and Moises, the wise cracking buddies who man the bar during the mornings and evenings, collect memorabilia from Semana Santas past to fill the bar’s small interior. Their favorites? The Jesus del Gran Poder and la Macarena, who are associated with the Real Betis football club! You can take the 1 or the 3 bus to the bar, which is located near the Virgen del Rocio Hospital. Closed when raining, Saturday nights and all day Sunday.

Garlochí – Calle Boteros, 26, Alfalfa.

Seville’s tackiest bar deserves a mention here, although it’s become a bit of a tourist attraction. Wafts of incense arrive to the street as a lifelike Virgin Mary, eyes towards the heavens, guards the door. The plush decor and aptly named drinks – like Christ’s Blood – make it a favorite among tourists, but there’s a “Garlochi Lite” next door with cheaper drinks and not so many eyes starting at you as you pound your cervezas.

As a non-capillita, I had to ask my dear friend La Dolan for her top picks for Semana Santa bars around the city. She told me of Carrerra Oficial, just steps from Plaza San Lorenzo and the Basilica del Jesus del Gran Poder that has put a replica of the famous church’s facades as part of its decor. The bar is on Javier Lasso de la Vega, 3.

Have you ever experienced Semana Santa in Seville? Or been to a Holy Week bar here?

Seville Snapshots: The Life, Death and Rebirth of an Orange Tree

A round lump rests each year at the bottom of my stocking. This gift, a California orange, is something we get every year from my grandfather, who signed us up to get a huge crate every December, even though he’s been gone for years.

It’s hard not to think of him when I see the beauties growing on the trees just outside my door. A dull smack, and one hits the ground rolling. While they’re not to be eaten in Seville (they’re used to make bitter marmalade), we often pick them up and make a cheap air freshener out of them. Just like a bullfight is characterized by three acts, culminating in the final faena, so is the life and death of the naranjas, whose final rebirth is a fragrant flower called azahar.

Orange trees enjoy the temperate, rainy winters in Seville. Come mid-February, the thunks become more frequent as workers use metal poles to dislodge the naranjas from their trees. The fruit is then gathered into large crates or burlap sacks and shipped off to Merry Old England.

Within days, the springtime rains bring along the small, silky buds that pop out amongst the waxy leaves. Sometimes they open early, filling the nighttime with a clean scent. My Irish friend claims they always come up around St. Patrick’s Day, so my nose has been upturned for the last few days, waiting.

Like all things springime in Seville, the azahar petals fall to the street within a few weeks, and the tempratures shoot up into the high 20s. The azahar is overpowered by incense from the Holy Week parades, and then by fried fish and sherry during the April Fair.

My friend told me that if I liked Seville during the Autumn and Winter, I’d swoon in the springtime.

She was right.

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